The New Zealand Diaries: exploring Dunedin (18/01/16)

DSCN7446Comfortably seated in my cosy van with a hot chocolate and a prime view of my drying clothes (too wet outside to put up my make-shift washing line. Did mention that the weather has been pretty foul for the past 4 days.), I have a few minutes before heading off on part 2 of the “encounter dolphins” chapter of my trip to write and digest my discoveries today.

My drive today to Dunedin was made fun by the presence of many very old cars……apparently there is a gathering of old car owners in the town (or even a sale) so there were many on the road here and in Dunedin, too. I actually overtook some cars today!!!!

I have now safely arrived in Dunedin which, due to the discovery of gold in the Otago region during the early days of European settlement in the 1860s, was for some time New Zealand’s commercial capital. Judging by some of the picturesque old buildings in Dunedin, the area must indeed have been wealthy; today, it makes for an odd juxtaposition of modern buildings and nightclubs with very European/British looking churches and buildings. The latter is of course due to the fact that the first European settlers in Dunedin were from the Scottish Free Church, which also explains the names of many of the roads.

I loved the Anglican St Paul’s cathedral. A quirky bit of history for a Selwynite was discovering that it was Bishop Selwyn, the first bishop of New Zealand, who, after a visit in 1848 when he discovered that there were a few Anglicans amidst the Scottish settlers, appointed Revd Fenton as the first priest on donated land in 1852, with the first St Paul’s built in 1863. The present building has undergone many changes and additions, and its 20m high stone-vaulted ceiling is one of only two of its kind in New Zealand. My favourite part of the cathedral, however, was the stain glass Dunedin window, installed in 2012 and which, with its various depictions, has several interwoven themes, with Christ at the centre above them all:

1. Saint Paul and Saint Cecilia
2. The joint role played by both Maori and European settlers in bringing christianity to Otago
3. The history of early Dunedin and the gold rush
4. The physical beauty of the hills and harbour and its wildlife.

I doubt sea lions can be seen on a stained glass window anywhere else in the world 😀
I also loved Otago museum. Once again I was unable to explore all of it in depth due to time constraints but I spent considerable time in the section on Maori culture on the South Island. My two favourite artefacts apart from a giant waka (canoe) were the beautifully carved store-house which Maoris used for their valuables (fishing gear, clothing, weapons), as well as the wooden figure depicting Rangi (sky) and Papa (earth). Legend has it their embrace was forced apart by one of their children, Tane the forest God, allowing light to come into the world and to separate the sky and the earth. As photography-without a flash-was allowed, I was able to take some pictures.

Dunedin railway station , built of two types of Otago stone, in Flemish Renaissance Style, was, of course, also one of the highlights-such beautiful architecture, with so much detail including a stained glass window, mosaic flouring and old crests decorating the ticket windows.

Well I must get ready to go and see the penguins-am so excited. Each day holds so much and I feel so very privileged to be here.

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