Free State DestinationsWelkom, Lejweleputswa
Reputed to have grown at much the same rate as the major metropolis of Johannesburg, Welkom, South Africa’s youngest town - it received city status only in 1955 - is the hub of the Free State gold fields about 160 kilometres northeast of Bloemfontein.
Directly translated from the Afrikaans or Dutch, Welkom means 'welcome', and the town emerged after the discovery of gold in the area. Ernest Oppenheimer, at that time the chairman of Anglo American, played a significant role in its development.
Welkom has an idiosyncrasy, for want of a better word: it is one of few cities worldwide that was completely pre-planned. As a consequence, it benefits from an ease of flow and a city that functions well - suburbs each have their own shopping and commercial centres and residents seldom have more than a 10 minute walk to reach them.
The traffic flow in the city has attracted much attention and experts from all over the world come to study the clever use of traffic circles and minimal number of stop streets in the absence of traffic lights in the centre of the city that contribute to an effortless flow of traffic - the envy of many cities and the reason Welkom is known as the “circle city”.
Welkom has also earned itself the reputation of being a “city within a garden” due to the number of parks and cleverly designed gardens that lend Welkom an extraordinary number of shady trees and pretty surrounds, making it a more than welcome place to visit.