The two titles reviewed here are publications that will delight many readers, more particularly armchair historians, battlefield enthusiasts, Overberg lovers and travellers who like researching their holiday destinations both before and after their visits.
Guide to Sieges of South Africa by Nicki von der heyde. Published by Struik, 2017.
Not only is this the perfect pocketbook for the legions of battlefiedl buffs who plan their trips around battlefields of Southern Africa, but it's written with such professional enthusiasm that it will surely draw new supporters to the fascinating stories of the sieges that accompanied wars over two centuries.
This guide is a companion volume to van der Heyde's Field Gjuide to the Battlefields of South Africa which proved a highly successful publication. This specialist guide presents detailed descriptions of 17 sieges that occurred during the Cape Frontier, Anglo-Zulu, Basotho and Anglo-Boer wars.
Some are well-known to most South Africans - such as the sieges of Lydenburg, Mafeking, Kimberley and Ladysmith. Others less so - I didn't know that Durban had been besieged in 1842 nor had I read about those at Mount Moorosi in what was then Basutoland or the sieges of Fort Cox and Fort Armstrong in the Eastern Cape.
As public fascination with sieges continues, it's good to have a well-qualified historian who is also a woman in the male-dominated battlefield-guiding fraternity turn to writing on her subject. Not only does she present a very readable text, but includes personal stories of heroism and heartbreak that are part of every battle and siege. As the writer points out, with sieges civilians were freqently involved, and some of them kept diaries recording their hardships and personal experiences both tragic and humorous.
The pages are brought to even greater life by maps, timelines, many old and some new photographs that accompany human interest stories gleaned from diaries and letters and records of the time.
The detailed and professional index compiled by Emsie du Plessis adds considerably to the book's usefulness as a reference tool.
HERMANUS by Beth Hunt. Published by Struik Travel & Heritage, 2017.
With a subtitle listing Whales, Wine, Fynbos and Art, readers get an immediate picture of what to expect in this appealing hardback with its front and back cover photographs of the town's iconic old harbour.
As one expects in a publication like this, the gallery of fine photographs by Johann and Kobus Kruger play a major role in illustrating both the natural and manmade beauty of the town and surroundings, its people and many attractions.
Chapters on tourist drawcards like whales and sharks are given much space, as is the art scene which thrives there in all its diversity.The cliff path, and the equally famous Fernkloof Nature reserve and other sources of floral wealth are featured,
as is the equally lovely Hemel-en-Aarde valley which not only stirs the aesthetic senses but also offer fine New World wines from a number of farms that form one of the most bewitching wine routes in the Cape - and the world.
The fascination of the the past is well-captured taking us back to the time when the Khoi met the first Dutch settlers and a teacher and shepherd made the clifftops near a freshwater spring the site of his summer camps for his sheep. Hermanus Pieters died in 1837 and was destined to lend his name to the site which became known as Hermanuspietersfontein.
The stories of the shipwrecks on the coast, of the famous long-established hotels also make fascinating reading, as does the lure of game-fishing. Current tales take in more recent developments, around new suburbs that have sprung up and new communities settled there, adding to the enormous diversity that makes the town and surrounds so attractive to both permanent residents and holiday visitors.
Well-researched and written this is a charming and informative title for both locals, visitors and those planning to make their way to the whale capital of the world.