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NNaval Hill in Bloemfontein forms part of the Franklin Game Reserve and earned its name from the two naval guns that were on the hill by the British during the South African War.
It is the only game reserve situated in the middle of a city and its rich indigenous plant life adds to the beauty and attraction of this space.
TThe 250-hectare reserve was established in 1930 and has a wide variety of wildlife and a rich and varied bird population. The reserve does not have any predators and as there is no entrance fee, many joggers make full use of the reserve as well as local residents and many tourists.
AAn iconic feature on the east side of Naval Hill is the 'White Horse', a sculpture of a white horse created from rocks painted white. It was declared a national monument in 1982. The horse was laid out during the South African War as a landmark for the British cavalry who could see it from afar.
A remount camp was stationed here after the British captured Bloemfontein from the Boers on March 15th 1900. The White Horse was most likely the handiwork of men of the Second Battalion of the Duke of Edinburgh's Wiltshire regiment, and is said to be the only Wiltshire white horse that is not in Wiltshire.
OOne of several urban legends about the White Horse is that every time a maiden is kissed on Naval Hill, it moves a step forward.
But the star of the show on Naval Hill, and the reason for so many visitors, is the majestic statue of Nelson Mandela, erected in December 2012. Measuring eight metres high, a larger-than-life replica, Mandela stands with his fist raised in the air, overlooking Bloemfontein and facing the birthplace of the ANC.
The 3 million Rand statue faces the Methodist Church in Waaihoek, which was the location where the ANC was established in 1912; the oldest liberation movement in Africa.
As beautiful as the Free State is, it’s equally interesting and dynamic. It’s centred around traditional African cultures, as well as influences of the early European settlers.
The Oliewenhuis Art Museum may be called a “museum”, but it's really an art experience – gallery, restaurants, gardens and all!
If you’re looking for that raw mix of South African culture and breathtaking scenery, then you have to visit the Basotho Cultural Village in the Free State province.
If you’re a history buff, particularly military history, then the Battlefields Route in the Free State province will take you on a journey through the sites of some of the fiercest battles in South African history.
Are you a creative soul? Does the great outdoors fuel your artistic spirit? Visit the charming town of Clarens in the Free State and you’ll discover why we call it an artist's hideout.
TThere is also a digital planetarium up on the hill, on the opposite side from Mandela, for astronomy lovers, here since November 2013 and the first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa.
The Lamont Hussey Observatory at Naval Hill was opened in 1928 and was owned by the University of Michigan. It was revamped in 1974 and partially reconstructed as a theatre that is currently known as the Naval Hill Planetarium Theatre.
At the top of the hill is a huge wooden viewing platform from which you can appreciate 360 degree views of the city.
You can also enjoy the views while indulging in a delicious meal at the Edge Restaurant.