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Ghosts from the past

Our visit to Dunedin can be divided into three parts - the visit to Port Chalmers, the visit to New Zealand’s only castle and the visit to the city center. Ferrari opted to rather stay and look after the motorhome and just maybe fit in a little snooze, while I ventured off.

Port Chalmers serves as main port of Dunedin and has a population of about 3000 people. The maritime museum close to the port is small, but absolutely spectacular. As I went through it, I literally got lost in time. The equipment used on boats in the 1800’s especially fascinated me. They must have been so brave to travel in difficult conditions with such limited technology (compared to what’s available today). There was also a replica of a cabin with bunk beds that gave a glimpse into how people would have lived for months on board a ship before reaching their destinations. On the outside of the building there is a plaque describing how Port Chalmers and Dunedin were significant during the Second South African War (1899 – 1902) also known as the Anglo Boer War. The British Empire and two independent Boer states fought over Brittan’s influence in South Africa.

I had some coffee in a lovely gallery café in town and wondered around to take some photos of this charming town.

The view down the main street in Port Chalmers

The United Church of Port Chalmers (Presbyterian parish) - Iona Church

Lovely house opposite the church

These two riders on their horses in Port Chalmers didn't look out of place at all.

Beautiful old buildings everywhere

Port Chalmers Maritime Museum - definitely worth a visit.

Plaque outside the museum explaining the Port's role in the Anglo Boer War in South Africa.

Larnach Castle has a very rich and slightly tragic history and is currently privately owned by the Barker-family. The original owner, William Larnach (of Scottish descent) was born in 1833 in New South Wales, Australia. He was a successful banker who followed the goldrush. Gold was discovered in Otago in the 1860’s and Larnach built a merchant empire, was involved in banking, shipping, faming, landholding politics and speculation. He married three times and had six children (his first two wives and eldest daughter passed away). Larnach committed suicide in 1898 and died intestate. The family sold the castle in 1906. The Barkers bought the castle in 1967 and is committed to restoring it to its former glory – an ongoing process.

On display inside the castle is one of the Larnach daughters, Christine’s wedding dress. I was totally surprised to see she was about my height (maybe a little thinner around the waist though). Everything of the original house that could have been saved, was and it all works together to create and amazing atmosphere that once again put me in a different time. The gardens are equally spectacular with pamphlets explaining how it is set out. Definitely worth a visit.

New Zealand's only castle.

Impressive front entrance

The tower right at the top. To get there you have to climb a very narrow spiral staircase from the inside that is bound to give you claustrophobia if you don't suffer from it already! The view is worth it though.

There are numerous structures in the garden around the castle.

View from the garden

Dancing figures in the garden.

Above and below - exquisite glass panels on the inside.

Top floor - this is the are that most shows to be in need of more care and renovation.

I love old wooden stair cases

Guests at the castle get to enjoy dinner here.

Where possible original items were kept like this silk and embroidery craft set.

One of the ceilings in the castle.

My favourite area of all, peaceful, light and spacious.

Central City: My Uber-driver to the castle, Kristen, was the first female Uber-driver I’ve come across. Originally from California and having grown up in San Francisco, she and her family lived in Queenstown for a number of years before moving to Dunedin. We had a great conversation about immigration, being homesick, the whole Covid-situation and the opportunities New Zealand offers, relating to people, interests in life, education, etc. She offered to pick me up again and drive me through the city centre on the way back to the motorhome park. One of the highlights was the Ralph Hotere exhibition in the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Besides the actual size of his artwork (which is so much bigger than what it looks like in art books), they also exhibited some of his planning sketches. His work is amazingly meticulous and precise. He is hailed as one of New Zealand’s top artists and I can see why. We also had a look at the portrait photos and paintings of early settlers in The Smith Gallery at the Otago Settlers Museum. What a beautiful historical city full of reminders of the 1800’s.

Part of the Otago University campus.

Above and below: The Dunedin railway station dates back to 1906 and was designed by George Troup who also designed the Lower Hutt and Petone stations. It was thought the Dunedin station looks a little like a gingerbread house so the designer was dubbed Gingerbread George. The style is Flemish Baroque-inspired. He was responsible for a plan book revised standard station types in New Zealand and also designed bridges and viaducts for railway housing.

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