Postcard from Genadendal

I was born and breed a Moravian since the day of my existence. I visited this tiny town back in 2010 during my confirmation camp; only this time I wanted to explore this quaint little historical village known as Genadendal which means Valley of Grace.

Throughout my confirmation classes we were taught about the history of the Moravians and this man, Georg Schmidt who arrived in the area to evangelise among the Khoi people as far back as 1738, only to be thrown out by rival Cape Dutch Reformed clergy who did not believe he had the right to baptise converts, after only eight years of being in the region.

According to them, Schmidt was not an ordained minister and therefore had no right to administer the sacraments. In 1743 Schmidt was forced to return to Europe.

The mission station was then abandoned for almost 50 years when three missionaries finally resumed Schmidt’s work, where Genadendal grew into one of the largest settlements in the Cape Colony.

With an hour and a half drive from Cape Town along the N2 before turning onto the R406, you realise the difference between the busy city life and the hectares of dry terrain in and around you.

The roads are long yet bearable so prepare yourself for a long journey that has no turns to take. Once we enter the village, you’re immediately aware of the poverty-stricken 300-year-old town with still that timeless charm of history. Today Genadendal, with its 3 500 registered occupants, is a forgotten, remote, underdeveloped and degraded village.

The signs along the lamp poles lead you to the infamous Mission Station where the ochre buildings with white trimmings invite you in is bolstered with tourists.

We made our beeline to the Museum which still had the wooden miniature gate since I’ve last been there but you had to pass the original Moravian mission church which houses the oldest pipe organ in South Africa. In front of the church stands the old bell and a collection of oak trees that would have granted shade to those attending church.

The museum has three layers that house 25 exhibition rooms filled with unique collections ranging from household equipment, musical instruments, medical equipment, tools, books, printing and a family tree of where I and many other families come from.

Courtney read every timeline and interesting facts presented. It’s fascinating to see all the collectibles dating back from the 1700s and how times have really evolved.

We made our way to the printing and pottery museum where we briefly strolled through various artifacts.

In the courtyard, you surrounded by the original little thatched and predominantly white-walled cottages that first housed Georg Schmidt; the German missionary of the Moravian church who founded the village, with horses and cows roaming around.

Once we passed an angry looking cow who kept death staring me, I showed Courtney the original Water Mill where he could actually drink the fresh water running down the canals.

At first, he looked at me wearily and then reached out and scooped his hand into the water and, drank from it. We then sat on this cute little footbridge and soaked in this unsurprisingly beautiful town.

Here are a few things you can do in Gernadendal:

  • Try out their cuisine at their restaurant
  • Visit a group of weavers
  • Stay over at one of their accommodations situated opposite the Museum
  • Hike the Genadendal Hiking Trail

Until the next adventure.

Stephanie Marthinus Blog