Bohemian rhapsody

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Atlantic Gull, West Coast, Riebeek West
LAID-BACK RIEBEEK WEST HOLDS ITS OWN IN TERMS OF UNCONVENTIONAL CHARM.

It might be somewhat overshadowed by its more popular sister town 5 km to the south, but Riebeek West has an appeal of its own, underscored by sweeping vistas over vineyards and rolling wheat fields against dramatic mountain backdrops. Its drawcards are beautiful Victorian houses, tranquility, a free-spirited lifestyle and easy vineyard access.

Established as a parish of the Dutch Reformed Church in 1858, the town is the birthplace and cradle of two successive South African Prime Ministers. General Jan Smuts was born on Bovenplaats, part of the original Ongegund farm, on 24 May 1870 and Daniel Malan at Allesverloren on 22 May 1874. As can be expected, Riebeek West became a political hotbed during the 1948 general election with these leaders of the two main parties in contest.

Today Bovenplaats belongs to PPC Cement, but Smuts’s childhood house has been preserved as a national monument. Allesverloren has become a renowned wine estate.

Anchored by the imposing Dutch Reformed Church, most businesses flank the Voortrekker Road main drag, while the delightful olden world Riebeek Valley Hotel sits prettily on the edge of town.

With 4 350 souls living here, Riebeek West doesn’t attract as many tourists, which pleases residents. Here it’s all about a relaxed, somewhat bohemian lifestyle, bread, olives, wine and ample sunshine.