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JOBURGPLACES is open for virtual storytelling experiences during Level 3 of the COVID-19 lockdown! For more info, click on the link below:
Virtual_storytelling_sessions_2020_06_02
(On the next page, click on the link again to download the document.)
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new book by Gerald Garner on the future of Johannesburg will be published in electronic format before the end of June 2020. To order your copy of Johannesburg 2020 – and Ahead, click  on the link below:
2020_and_Ahead_Promo_2020_06_01
(On the next page, click on the link again to download the document.)
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We are resuming inner-city walking tours as of 1 June 2020, but only on a private basis for up to 2 people at a time. Click on the link below to read the brochure:
JoburgPlaces_TOURS_brochure_2020_06_02
(On the next page, click on the link again to download the document.)

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JoburgPlaces is world-famous for its Johannesburg inner-city walking tours, curated foodie experiences such as storytelling dinners and the staging of exquisite events.
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JoburgPlaces is also the operator of the astonishing and historic Thunder Walker venue in the heart of ‘old’ Joburg. The Thunder Walker comprises the following spaces:
Zwipi Underground (event space and dinner restaurant with bar)
Scatterlings Arcade (event space and Town Treasures shop)
Town Square Banqueting Hall (event space)
Balcony Gardens Boutique Hotel (future space still to be renovated and activated).
The Thunder Walker will remain completely closed to the public in the interim. We will consider reopening as soon as it is clear how and when this will be possible in terms of lockdown regulations and other logistical considerations.
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>DIRECTIONS TO OUR VENUE, THE THUNDER WALKER ON GANDHI SQUARE:
All JoburgPlaces tours start at the Gandhi sculpture, in front of the Thunder Walker on Gandhi Square

If you come by metered taxi, Uber or Bolt simply get out at Nando’s in Rissik Street, next to Gandhi Square. Walk onto the square past Pizza Hut towards the Gandhi Sculpture.

If you come by Rea Vaya bus, get out at the Library Gardens station and walk towards Rissk Street and then Gandhi Square.

If you come by Gautrain bus from Park Station, get out at the third stop in Marshall Street. Walk east in Marshall until you get Rissik Street, turn left in Rissik Street and Gandhi Square is one block up on the right.

IMPORTANT:
Do NOT walk from Park Station to Gandhi Square or from Maboneng to Gandhi Square, there are unfortunately still some street blocks in the city that are problematic and not safe to walk past.

Do NOT try to call an Uber or Taxify/Bolt from Park Station. There is no parking for these services at Park Station and as they are at war with the Metered Cabs you can get yourself easily into an ugly situation by calling Uber or Taxify from the station. If you get to Park Station by Gautrain, take the escalators up immediately in front of the turnstiles where you exit the station. At the top of the escalators you will see the metered cabs parked. Take a metered cab from there to Gandhi Square (expect to pay around R70 or R80 for the cab).

If you come by car:
PLEASE FOLLOW THESE DIRECTIONS AND DO NOT JUST TYPE IN AN ADDRESS ON YOUR GPS as it may take you right through the middle of town where one-way streets, bus lanes blocking intersections etc can send you on a mad journey of driving in circles!

NOTE THAT WE DO NOT HAVE PARKING AVAILABLE, BEST IS TO LOOK FOR STREET-SIDE PARKING IN FOX STREET.

From the north, take the M1 South and then the M2 East.

Take the Rissik Street offramp.

Once in Rissik Street, cross 4 traffic lights (in close succession).

The 5th traffic light is just after Gandhi Square was on your right. Turn RIGHT here at the Homechoice store into Fox Street. Find parking along Fox Street and walk a block back to Gandhi Square to meet us at the Gandhi sculpture.

If you need directions or help on the way to tour phone, text or WhatsApp me Charlie Moyo on 062 121 6188.
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THE THUNDER WALKER’S FASCINATING HISTORY
Built in 1904 as the head office of the then United Building Society, Somerset House took pride of place in Fox Street among other financial and law offices in Marshalltown. On the southern side, the building overlooked Government Square where the actual court building was situated and where Mahatma Gandhi practised law among others.

Somerset House was built as a typical Edwardian building with some Victorian and Art Nouveau influences. It was one of the smaller arcade buildings in the city (but the only remaining one from that time). Visitors could walk through the glass-roofed arcade from the square to Fox Street. The banking hall was on the western side of the arcade with the bank offices upstairs and the vault downstairs.

The United Building Society occupied the building until 1930 and then moved to a bigger building further along Fox Street. It later became United Bank and much later amalgamated with Volkskas, Trust Bank and Allied Bank to become Absa (Amalgamated Banks of South Africa).

After United left Somerset House, the building became the home of Bowman’s – the law firm that was founded here. At the same time the vault was sold off into private ownership and became a private vault that still operated until 1978. The vault apparently closed down after the ‘great bank robbery’ which caused the businesses’ bankruptcy.

In later years the building became the home of a family-owned property empire and the caretakes of other buildings in this property stable lived in Somerset House while a few cafes, take-away shops and a greengrocer occupied the retail spaces, opening to Fox Street and the then Van der Bijl Square. Around 2015, the property was auctioned and sold to City Property and then immediately bought by Olitzki Property Holdings (OPH). Gerald Olitzki is known for having invested in the city since 1989 when everyone else abandoned their buildings in town. Today, OPH owns a whole gamut of buildings in the Gandhi Square Precinct and it just made sense that Somerset House became part of their stable. OPH successfully renovated the facades of the building while preserving its heritage value and attracted top tenants such as Sanlam and Hollard Insurance.

However, it was impossible to move a franchise retailer into the historic arcade and office spaces as this would not have suited the heritage characteristics of the building. For this reason, JoburgPlaces as an inner-city tour business got involved. It made perfect sense to use this historic building as a base for city tours and as a tourist attraction itself. What started out as a plan for a small café and tour hub, quickly grew in something much bigger.

Today, the building has become the base for JoburgPlaces with a series of different spaces under already operating and more under development. Collectively, these spaces are known as the Thunder Walker. Named after a mythical migrant woman who lived in Johannesburg, the Thunder Walker comprises four different aspects, all developed and operated by JoburgPlaces. These are:
– Zwipi Underground (dinner restaurant in the bank vault)
– Scatterlings Arcade (lunch restaurant)
– Town Square Banquet Hall (first floor)
– Balcony Gardens Boutique Hotel (still under development).
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ORIGIN OF THE THUNDER WALKER NAME
Our building was previously known as Somerset House but has been renamed by JoburgPlaces to reflect the diverse, dynamic, energetic City of Migrants that Johannesburg has become. The new name, Thunder Walker, is based on a poem written by Gerald Garner  that pays homage to the migrant woman of the city:

Myth of the Thunder Walker
The Thunder Walker came from far-far away,
from the remotest outposts in South Africa.
She arose from Ngcobo, Nkandla, Prieska, and Koekenaap.
She walked for days on end.

She traversed the Mpumalanga Escarpment and the uKahlamba Drakensberg.
She journeyed through the Great Karoo and the Kalahari.
She rested at Mapungubwe and atop the Soutpansberg.
The Thunder Walker was trekking to the City of Gold.

The Thunder Walker did not know the route.
She simply chased the rain.
For the City of Gold was situated atop the African plateau,
where lightning struck the quartzite hills.

Where the earth rumbled from deep inside its veins of gold.
Follow the thunder.
Chase the lighting.
It would lead you there.

Past a thousand lightning strikes she strode.
Leaving everything she knew behind.
Until high above the grasslands, towered the city skywards.
She arrived, settled, made friends and called the city her home.

She walked proudly and independently in town.
She marched ahead of protesting crowds, pick-axe in hand.
She ‘toyi-toyied’ to the City Hall.
She was jailed on the hill.

But she also danced the pata-pata in the streets.
Her voice echoed through Sophiatown.
She ambled along the sidewalks with regal beauty.
She marvelled at Jozi Maboneng.

The Thunder Walker became a city slicker.
She was revered by thousands.
Yet, she yearned for home,
for the tranquil hinterland where the hills knew her name.

When it rained in the city and lightning struck the quartzite hills,
the Thunder Walker stood outside,
breathing in the aroma of rain on dusty African soil.
But for all the longing, she could not leave to return home.

For her home was never rural.
Her destiny instead the origin of humankind.
The City of Gold – everyone’s abode
City of Migrants. Jozi. Joburg. Johannesburg.

Next time when it rains in Johannesburg,
look up and you will see her standing atop a building.
Just after the thunder had rumbled through the concrete muddle.
Revelling at the City of Migrants, she is the Thunder Walker.

– Written by Gerald Garner, with inspiration drawn from Ingrid Jonker’s ‘Die Kind’ and from a myth dreamed up on a city sidewalk years ago in conversation with a friend, the late Reuben Cresswell. 

 

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CONTACT US
Best is to contact Gerald Garner via e-mail on gerald@joburgplaces.com. Gerald can also be contacted on his cell number + 27 (0)82 894 5216. However, Gerald is often busy with tours or staging events, so it may be more effective to send an email or a whatsapp message.

Email: gerald@joburgplaces.com

 

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