Although Calvinia is actually in the Northern Cape, it is relatively far from most sights in the north, and therefore usually visited as part of the Western Cape. It is a typical hot, sleepy Karoo town that most people just pass through, perhaps stopping for petrol and a cool drink. It has a beautiful setting though, at the foot of the Hantams Mountains. It’s also an important sheep-farming centre, though, given the vast size of the farms, chances are you won’t see any sheep. It also has clear star-filled skies at night 80% of the time, and attracts many South African astronomers.
The tourist office T027-341 1043, is in the Calvinia Museum 44 Church St, T027-341 8500, Mon-Fri 0800-1300, 1400-1700, Sat 0800-1200, small entry fee. The mildly interesting museum is located in an art deco synagogue built in the 1920s, and relates to the early history of the region, made up of photographs and farming implements and stuffed sheep. In the garden is a horsemill, which are still in use on farms in the depths of the Karoo.
Calvinia’s best known quirky attraction is the giant red post office box that stands in the main street. It’s 6.2 m high and is actually a painted disused water tank. If you post a letter in it, it will get a special flower frank, but to do this you somehow have to reach the slot at the top.
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