'Agree With Everything - Deny Nothing - Embellish All

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Great Railway Theme Park

Prize for the oddest place visited in South Africa (& believe me the West Coast provides some serious competition for that title) undoubtedly goes to Maatjiesfontein, a wind-blown railway halt in the Karoo where the Johannesburg - Cape Town Blue Train stops. The 'town' is a single 200-yard street of rather grand Boer War era buildings which have been quaintly preserved in a run-down version of their original state and are manned by staff dressed in period costume and some rather unconvincing waxworks. It was as if we had stumbled onto the set of Young Winston and I half-expected Simon McCorkindale to charge down main street at the head of a squadron of cavalry irregulars.
The mayor wore a threadbare bowler hat and could have gone on as Oliver Hardy without rehearsal. For some reason he was very excited about an imminent 'lesbian night' the town was about to host. Or at least that's what we think he said. Quite what the economic reality of this bizarre theme park may be I cannot imagine, but perhaps the pink rand keeps it afloat.
But there was one really cherishable feature: the station waiting room houses an Aladdin's Cave of curiosities and wonders, the private collection of a deceased resident encompassing 19th Century agricultural equipment, Union Castle Line menus, Victorian surgical instruments and 1950s cine cameras. All thrown together without any concession to taxonomy or interpretation and in its own slightly mad way quite magnificent.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Weirder and Weirder could be your theme for this leg of your trip. We'll have to remember to take you to the Cheese Factory in Ashe County for sure. It's the ONLY one in North Carolina you know, quite the attraction.

19/1/08 12:55 pm  
Blogger Ray and Gill said...

He must surely have said a "Thespian night" - it's the accent.

21/1/08 8:33 am  
Blogger Nick said...

Ray - I'm sure you're right. Personally, I've always thought of myself as a thespian trapped in a ham's body . . .

25/1/08 9:13 pm  

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