Thursday, 16 October 2014

Dunedin, New Zeeland - a historic town with a scottish touch.

No other place in the world is so closely connected to Scotland as the town of Dunedin in New Zealand.

Founded by Scottish immigrants in 1848, Dunedin was born a humble settlement until it started prospering with the discovery, in 1861, of a gold mine in the vicinity. The gold rush made Dunedin's fortune.

Since then the town became the country's leader as an economic, commercial and industrial centre: there were born many of the largest companies in the areas of manufacturing, transportation and  trade in New Zealand. The University is the most prestigious in the country, and being an University city is one of the strongest values of Dunedin.

Dunedinis located in the south-east of the main island.

Coordinates: 45.9° S, 170.5° E
Population:   ~ 125 000

Dunedin became a cosmopolitan and sophisticated vitality that you would hardly expect in such a place, away from the rest of the world. And probably it's also the most elegant in the country, with many buildings of the Victorian and Edwardian eras.

The Octagon, central square and lively meeting place.

The Scottish founders wanted to make of Dunedin the 'Edinburgh of the South'. Its name, in fact, was inspired by the castle of Edinburgh (in Gaelic 'Dun Eideann', Mount Odin). Moreover, there is an annual Dunedin Fringe Festival !


Stuart Street, the main street of the city centre, with the buildings of the Court and the station.

The traditions of the colony's founders homeland and the pride of parenting with Scotland remain so alive that the main statue in the central square is the locally venerated poet Robert Burns.

The world's southernmost statue of Robbie Burns, in front of St. Paul's Cathedral (from 1919).

One of the most interesting things in Dunedin is the  architectural unity. Many buildings - especially institutional ones - are constructed in local basalt (volcanic breccia) and white limestone, plus lush decoration and wrought-iron work.

The famous Railway Station:

A 1907 masterpiece, built without budget (" just build the best ! "). The Scottish architect George Troup sent Italian mosaic and granite columns from Europe by boat. The Flemish Renaissance-style façade alternates dark basalt and limestone, creating an wedding-cake like effect, common to other buildings in town.

Gold fever has its demands; the station was needed to connect the nearby port with the rest of the country and guarantee an effective transport of cargo and personnel. But new money goes with luxury, the station was to be special.

Now the building is an icon of the city.
I can't help but wonder how the British exported to the other end of the world the best they had learned in terms of railroad building architecture.

The 'Taieri Gorge Railway' is one of the scenic train journeys departing from Dunedin's Railway Station (see below).

Some other examples:

The Cathedral of St. Joseph, a Catholic, completed in 1886.

The Fortune Theater  occupyies presently a deactivated church built in victorian revivalist gothic style, in bluish basalt and limestone. One of the most active and frequented cultural venues, with a resident company.


OBHS, Otago Boys High School, gothic revival of 1855.

The entrance to the Otago University.

The Law Courts, from 1899.

Perhaps the most accomplished of the Gothic Revival buildings in the city.

Larnach Castle, New Zealand's only one, erected between 1871 and 1887 for the Minister of Mines (gold, of course), who had an unfortunate end of life.

Larnach Castle, a Scottish baronial style mansion, open to the public.

One of the most prestigious institutions is the huge Cadbury factory:

In the shopping streets, George Street and Princes Street, there are colourful façades, with cast or wrought-iron work.,_Dunedin

Cafés, Europe's mark, are also present.

Good Earth Café, Cumberland St.

An originality that no visitor misses is the steepest street in the world (Guinness Book), Baldwin Street, with an inclination of 1 to 2.8, i.e. 36% :

Levelled house, sloping street...

...levelled street, sloping house.

Some images inside the Station :

Italian mosaic floors.

Art Nouveau stain-glass window.

The Railway Station is the departing point for the most amazing scenic journey around Dunedin:

The Taieri Gorge Railway

Departing from Dunedin’s unique railway station, the Taieri Gorge Railway travels through the Taieri Plains and then climbs into the Taieri Gorge, a narrow and deep gorge carved out over aeons by the ancient Taieri River.

The railroad connects Dunedin to Middlemarch, a distance of some 60 kilometres.

The train negotiates the gorge with ease as it travels through ten tunnels and over countless bridges and viaducts.
The natural wonders combined with the challenge of man made engineering are truly amazing.

Some spectacular scenery along the banks of the Taieri River.

Crossing the Deep Stream viaduct.

Most of the carriages are fully restored heritage carriages of the 1920s.

The gorge as seen from the train.

The trip is worth in any season.
Even in winter !

Dunedin is situated in a coastal area of great beauty; therefore another railway line - the 'Seasider' - from the central station runs south through magnificent shoreline landscape.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Haines by the Lynn Canal, a small border town in Indian Alaska

There may be more challenging places in Alaska, more rich in History or pioneer exploration. Haines is hardly a candidate for Ultima Thule, so this is just a small report of a civilized place where peace, beauty and nature can be fully enjoyed.
I mean, really breathtaking beauty and nature at its best.

An intermezzo for adventures in more distant lands.

Haines is a small port community in Southeastern Alaska, located on the shores of the Lynn Canal - the state's longest fjord - and surrounded by glorious glacier-covered mountains of the Coast Range.

Coordinates: 59°14′ N, 135°26′ W
Population:  ~2000

The small town of Haines lies where the Chilkat River empties into the waters of upper Lynn Canal.

Haines town center offers two museums, a prize winner library, a coffee shop and a couple of restaurants, and a few galleries.

'Main street' slopes downwards to the port, in the inlet waters of the Lynn canal.

The Lighthouse Restaurant occupies the old fishing port's building.

The 'Fogcutter bar' and the 'Rusty Compass' coffeehouse, on Main Street.

The Bear Den, Gifts and Bakery.

On Main Street near the boat harbor, Bear Den is a large store with Alaskan gifts - carvings, hats, clothing and food products.

The prize-winner library, a touch of modern culture in Haines.

The Hammer Museum

A local curiosity, maybe unique in the world !

Hammers can be surprising.

Glass hammers to break sugar cubes :)

Haines has a few art galleries, displaying traditional Indian crafts as well as local resident artists; this one is unmissable:

The Seawolf Gallery

Tresham Gregg displays his works at the Seawolf Gallery.

A few old houses remain on upper Main Street, a reminder of the gold rush era:

The grey one in the middle has been recently demolished for hazardous. A garden will take its place.

Haines started as a small fishing village. Presently the small harbour is mainly recreational, but fishing remains an important part of the local economy.

Cruise ships and the daily fast ferry dock at the Fort Seward pier:

Fort Seward, Heritage site

The community of Fort Seward was built since 1902 around the first Fort in Alaska, on a hill overlooking the waters of the fjord.

Served by a fast ferry from Skagway, Fort Seward community is now part of Haines.

From the ferry pier, you access the town amidst flower vases.

William H. Seward was the U.S. Secretary of State who negotiated the purchase of the Alaska territory from Russia in 1867.

Fort Seward was Alaska's first US army fort, built during the gold rush era and during a time when there was tension between the US and Canada over the border.

The buildings were all the same style and the fort was carefully laid out.

This community loves flowers !

A Gift shop for tourist offers local crafts.

The fort was deactivated in 1946 and sold. The new owners called it Port Chilkoot. In 1970, Port Chilkoot merged with Haines into one municipality.

An increasing number of restaurants, lodges, and art galleries are installed in the original buildings; the Fort's hospital, for example,  is now the Alaska Indian Arts Center.

The Center makes totem poles, many are to be found in the parade ground area.

Around Haines and the Lynn Canal

1 Letnikov cove, an old salmon  Cannery.

Perched up on wooden pilings over blue water with mountains all around, this old cannery is in a beautiful location.

The historic cannery was originally opened in 1917. It is currently in operation and, in addition to the packing plant, has a gift shop open in the summer months.

2 The Eldred Rock lighthouse

In the stormy waters of the Lynn Canal, some miles southways from Haines at 58º N, 135º W, sits a small island surrounded by majestic, snow covered mountains: Eldred Rock.

Definitively an Alpine view.

Eldred Rock island had been the location of multiple maritime incidents. So there was built an octagonal lighthouse in 1906, the last of ten lighthouses constructed in Alaska in the first years of the 20th century.

Lynn Channel is often under fog or stormy gales.

With light and fog-signal apparatus and keepers' quarters combined in a single structure, the lighthouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.