The World Around Us

Christchurch: British, tourist watching, earthquakes and the French

Country: New Zealand by Lisette

18-03-2005

Christchurch is a very, very, British city. Just lovely! The Anglican Church is amazing in spite of the huge amount of tourists trample through it everyday. The downtown core is beautiful; I loved just walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. The area is quite well set up for pedestrians and I just moseyed around all day. Saint Patrick’s Day was naturally celebrated in an Irish Bar with a couple of people I met along the way and at the youth hostel.

The city is cut in half by the Avon River, with large parks on either side (the banks) in the city centre. A couple of Europeans settled here in 1840 – they left and the Deans brothers took over the buildings in 1843. The first pilgrims arrived on 16 December 1850 and as more batches arrived the idea to build a city modeled on Christ Church (Oxford) were born.

Avon River, photo credit Commons Wikimedia

Avon River, photo credit Commons Wikimedia

Shortly after the first of many big events happened. Many structures were built in the gothic revival architectural style. Then, in the summer of 1856, Christchurch became a city, the first in the country! New Zealand’s first public railway line opened in 1863 and connected Ferrymead to Christchurch. A railway tunnel was added in 1867 to alleviate the difficulty of traveling over land at the time.

Besides walking every day, I visited the public Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu. If you have any time, make your way down there, it has a substantial art collection.

To chill, I sat down on one afternoon on a lovely patio and chatted with Richard. We drank liters of tea and cider. We guessed the countries where tourists are originally from as they walked by. And then one person caught Richard’s eye – a man waiting for company on one of the public benches.

As time went by we felt sad for this man who obviously became disillusioned sitting there alone. Yet, we were intrigued by the fact he would not leave. He checked all streets ending at this central square and then came back to the same bench. His shoulders started to slope, his look desperate. We wondered what was going on. As much as we wanted to stop watching him, we just couldn’t. Mesmerized we were.

Today, I called my dear friend Suzanne on her wedding day as a surprise! I had arranged it with her mother, so I knew what was the best time to call and whereto. It was so great to talk to her, no matter how short the call was (they were taking the official wedding pictures).

Banks Peninsula

Banks Peninsula

I took a day trip to French Akaroa – the tiny village is preserved well and the French atmosphere has never left. In addition to this, many arts and craft and boutique cafes opened up. It is adorable to find after the gorgeous drive through the Banks peninsula. The nature in this country never seizes to surprise me and entrance me, and today was certainly a highlight. In hindsight, it would have been a great opportunity to hike in this area.

Update 2014: Earthquakes

On September 4th, 2010 an earthquake struck the city and surrounding. The earthquake had a magnitude of 7.1 and cause major damage to the Christchurch.  Six months later, a second earthquake struck the city mid-day. Though lower in magnitude (6.3), the intensity was worse and 185 people were killed.

The Christchurch Cathedral lost its spire (I still cannot imagine seeing the building without it) and more buildings were damaged because they were already weakened due to the first earthquake and its aftershocks. Five months later, the city was startled once more with two large aftershocks and building damages.

More earthquakes took place in December 2011 and January 2012 causing major outages. Wikipedia mentions, “4,423 earthquakes were recorded in the Canterbury region above a magnitude 3.0, from 4 September 2010 to 3 September 2012.” More than a thousand buildings (almost a third of the total buildings in the city centre!) were demolished.