Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Edinburgh of the South

As we continue our tour of the South Island, we move back towards the coast passing through Twizel and Oamaru both for one night before arriving in Dunedin, the second largest city on the South Island. It wasn't a good start to our drive as I broke the tail light on our beloved Lancer reversing into a barrier which was below my line of sight in a car park...

The car did get fixed in the end after a lot of chasing around

Dunedin was originally founded by Scottish settlers in 1848, taking it's name from the Gaelic word of it's Scottish counterpart - as a result it is affectionately known as the "Edinburgh of the South". In the centre of the city is a statue of Scottish poet Robert Burns, many of the streets and suburbs carry the same names as the Scottish capital and the city even has it's own tartan. To be honest that's pretty much where the similarities end, but what Dunedin lacks in similarities to Edinburgh, it make certainly makes up for with steep hills boasting the steepest residential street in the world - Baldwin St.

At the heart of this historic city is the Octagon, which believe it or not is an octagonal shaped public space. Laid out in 1846, The Octagon holds together modern and historic buildings with some green spaces and trees. Robert Burns' statue presides over the area (although his head is mainly covered in bird crap!), symbolising the city's Scottish origins. The Municipal Chambers building dominates the Octagon, built in 1880 it is the handiwork of renowned Scottish-born architect Robert A. Lawson, whose work can be seen across the city. Beside the clock tower of the Municipal Chambers rise the twin spires of St Paul's Cathedral. This impressive Gothic Revival structure is entirely constructed from Oamaru stone (local limestone) and was consecrated in 1919. The twenty-metre high stone-vaulted ceiling is the only one of its kind in New Zealand.

St Paul's Cathedral and the Municipal Chambers

Not far away stands the 54-metre stone spire of the First Church of Otago. The church is recognised as one of the most impressive nineteenth-century churches in New Zealand, also designed by Robert A. Lawson. The neo-Gothic style church opened on 23rd November 1873, just 25 years after the first settlers arrived in Dunedin, and is built entirely from Oamaru stone. The spire, being the most dominant feature of the First Church, had an interesting construction history. Just before the opening in 1873 Lawson realised that the spire was 15ft (4.5 m) too short, and had a slight lean. As a result it had to be dismantled and rebuilt to the correct specifications and was finally completed in 1875. In all, the church remains both a memorial to Thomas Burns's mission (the nephew of Robert Burns) – who was the first minister – and a significant landmark of Dunedin.

The graceful spire can be seen across the city
This is regarded as Lawson's masterpiece 

The Scottish influence can also be seen in other fine churches such as Knox Church and there are plenty of Victorian and Edwardian buildings dotted throughout the city, fashioned from volcanic bluestone and pale limestone.

South of the Octagon is the stunning Dunedin Railway Station built in 1906, it is considered to be one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand. Designed in the fashionable, Edwardian Baroque style, the architect George A. Troup (nicknamed "Gingerbread George") experimented with a collaboration of Classical and Neo-Gothic imagery, to create a grandiose building with a mixture of towers, turrets and minarets made from dark basalt and Oamaru limestone.

The 37-metre high Italianate clock tower at the south end of the station

The station platform for the Taieri Gorge Railway

Inside the main foyer of the station is a huge mosaic floor made up of almost 750,000 Minton tiles that celebrates steam engines. The majolica (tin-glazed pottery) on the foyer walls was made especially for the New Zealand Railway by the internationally renowned Royal Doulton stoneware and ceramic company.

An ornate Royal Doulton frieze runs around the ticket booths

This mosaic design portrays a locomotive on train tracks

On the upstairs balcony at both ends of the station there is a stained glass window that depicts an approaching train whose headlights beam from all angles.

The stained glass window celebrates the glory of steam trains

Dunedin Railway Station and ANZAC Square at night

Standing downwind of Rattray St you get an occasional waft of yeast from the historic Speight's Brewery, which is one of New Zealand's oldest breweries, occupying the same site since 1876. Beside the entrance is a water spigot fed by the same artisan water used to brew the beer. More often that not there were locals filling up several water bottles and containers, although the brewery asks you to make a small donation (see the photo below). Adjoining the brewery is the Speight's Ale House, which serves up excellent meals with its brews all within a relaxed pub setting.

If only it was beer!
All proceeds from the tap go to charity 
A copper dome schist fireplace is similar to the kettles in the brewery

The Ale House is an iconic venue within a unique historic brewery setting

As it happens we are in Dunedin for the Cadbury Chocolate Carnival where there are a series of chocolate themed events being held across the city over the week. At the Wall Street Mall there were chocolate portraits of former New Zealand Olympic athletes as part of the build up to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The chocolate Olympic Hall of fame!

No one's going to mind if we broke a piece of chocolate off, are they?

Seeing as it's a week of chocolate related activities it would have been rude not to have taken a tour of Cadbury World. The Dunedin site is home to where all the New Zealand favourite chocolates are made: Pinky bars, Pineapple Lumps, Moro bars, Pebbles, Jaffas, etc - it's a chocaholics dream!

The entrance to Cadbury World on Cumberland Street

Moro Gold or Boost in the UK

Most chocolate made in Dunedin is only available in NZ

Might Perky Nana!

Unlike Cadbury World in Birmingham, which is more of an educational experience, you can go on a guided tour of the manufacturing area of the Dunedin factory. Donning a hairnet (it felt like being back at the kiwifruit packhouse in Kerikeri) we were given a 75-minute tour of the factory by an over-enthusiastic tour guide in his purple overalls. Following the scent of chocolate round the factory, we watched some videos on the history of the company and the production of certain products such as Jaffas, Roses and madly enough easter eggs for next year! Apparently, the colour purple they use (Pantone 2865c) for their packaging and branding is a registered trademark, which Cadbury has been using on it's chocolate wrappers for over 100 years!

At various stages we were given free samples of the chocolates only available in New Zealand. Once we reached the end of tour we saw a one-of-a-kind waterfall located in one of the old storage silos - the world's largest chocolate waterfall dumping a whopping tonne of liquid chocolate!

Lizzie at Crunchie mountain!

Vintage 1919 Model TT C-Cab Ford delivery truck

"Stop poking me!"

Located in the suburb of North East Valley 3.5 km from the city centre, Baldwin St is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the steepest street in the world. The street runs up the northern side of Signal Hill and is just 350 metres long but rises from 30m above sea level to 100m at the top. At it's maximum, the slope is approx. 19 degrees or 35% - so for every 2.86 metres travelled horizontally, the elevation rises by a metre. It is so steep that the steepest part of the road cannot be sealed with asphalt as tar would flow down the slope on a hot day.

I wonder if it bothers the local residents when people stop to take photos of their homes or if they just find it amusing?

The same view with the horizon straightened - now the house is slanted!

Lying flat in the road demonstrates how steep the street is!

It's hard work getting to the top...

The walk to the top was fairly forgiving and only took 5-7 minutes, there's even a drinking fountain at the top if you get thirsty! You can get an official certificate to say that you either ran, walked or even crawled this testing incline, however, the tourist shop was closed by the time we got back down to the bottom.

The dramatic view looking back down Baldwin St

Apparently the record for running to the top of the street and back down again is 1 minute 56 secs! This was set in 1994, during the annual "Gutbuster" footrace - the name speaks for itself! I was tempted to have a try to see how quickly I could do it but when I saw how steep the street was, I had second thoughts... I wasn't even sure how easy it would be to get back down without losing your balance and doing a faceplant!

Every year Baldwin St is the venue for an annual charity event where over 30,000 giant Cadbury's Jaffas (spherical orange candy coated chocolates) each printed with a number are released from the top of street and first one to the bottom is the winner! Unfortunately, the Jaffa race is at the very end of the chocolate carnvial and we'll be moving on to the Catlins before the end of the week.

On a completely different note, I was pleased to find out that my Persian cat friend "Puffy" (or George, as I've finally found what he's properly called and that he's also a lad) who we met at Elm Lodge Backpackers is still the resident cat living at the hostel with his friend "Socks" or his more sinister name, Killer!

"Mr Bond, I've been expecting you!" - Blofeld with George or "Puffy"

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