Parys with a ‘Y’? – stories from the road by Ruan
Somewhere along the Vaal River on the Northern side of the Free State lies a little town that speaks a different language. This language is shown through a whole Saturdays worth of antique and art shops. You almost find yourself in a different country at a different time where red wine and discussions on art are at the order of the day. In the background of this little town you hear the calm flow of water that will at some point reach the Atlantic Ocean.
My first meeting with the little town of Parys is a saloon type bar a few minutes outside of town. My bike becomes a horse as I stable it and enter the scenery as if part of a wild west movie, but instead of being an outsider I am immediately treated as a friend. This sets the trend for a town that thrives on weekends and rests during the week …
Parys itself has an antique or art shop every few steps. I step into the first one and find a world long forgotten by most of us… a French oak dressing table stares at me and I can almost hear it whisper a story of beauty as it has helped many generations of girls before being courted by a young gentleman. In the next corner is an enormous yellowwood treasure chest. I open it and smell the toys that once made children happy, a lifetime filled with excitement and hours of play can be found in this little piece of history.
There is a door with the most intricate detail that allows you to view paintings of women sitting still and staring into the unknown, I try and find out what they are staring at only to find more pieces of history that create more stories.
A man stops me as I leave this world of centuries past and shares his pride with me. His pride is this collection that he sells and is more than willing to share the stories of. He shows me a piece of furniture that dates back to the early 1900’s and an engraving at the bottom that was left by a father to his son. The chest becomes a person, a part of a story that I can only imagine.
I sit down at one of the numerous coffee shops and even before the waiter arrives I am welcomed with a smile and a question. “Have you seen our Eiffel Tower?” I have heard that there is a miniature replica here in the small town of Parys about 12000 miles from the original. They direct me to the two replicas that I would later find and appreciate for its sheer presence here.
I am then treated to a beer tasting at small pub that only serves beer from local micro breweries. The town is shared with me from the perspective of three people that involve me in their stories and I cannot help become a part of this place for the remainder of their stories.
Andre and Leandrie are locals that prefer to stay here and drive the 50km to Vanderbijlpark to work. They understand that quality of life is of great importance and they can find that here. The river makes its presence known again as I settle down outside with a late dinner. There is no traffic, only the odd retired couple walking with their dog. Much different to the Parys that you would find on a Saturday when this becomes the playground of Johannesburg. On Saturdays you’ll find jazz bands and elaborate breakfasts all served in a little piece of history.
I cannot help but wonder how many histories are kept within the walls of the antique shops and how many stories are hidden in every piece so neatly placed on endless shelves. I can only hope to find the pictures and sounds of times past in the gramophone in the window sill or the old school film camera on the wall…
Parys with a here in the Free State shares the history of her bigger brother but it is served with true South African flair. A town where the Cape Dutch buildings are part of designer furniture and Free State veld. That is ‘Y’ …
You are reading Explore South Africa Cycle Tour Series Read more from this series of articles.
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