Sunday, January 15, 2012

Australia Part 10 - Bendigo

We woke early, excited to explore the city of Bendigo. A wonderful mix of old and new, presided over by Queen Victoria, a multitude of churches and cathedrals and the very visible remnants of the gold mining history that is the reason for the founding of this city. We parked at the top of the hill and wound our way through the streets of downtown Bendigo, exploring stores and churches alike.

The architecture is rich and ornate. The buildings well preserved and beautiful. The people friendly and open. The arts were well represented here, as well.

An old mailbox stands on the corner, looking like a lonely sentinel in its bright red coat of paint.

The Cathedral stands at the heart of the city. Stunningly beautiful inside and out.

Carved wooden angels trim the arches of the ceiling above high arched windows.

A large stained glass window and organ fill the balcony section.

The ceiling is stunningly beautiful with the stark white contrasting with the rich wood construction.

I could have spent hours in the cathedral, but my time was limited and I was eager to see more of this city. For the next few hours we explored the little shops that lined the streets. A bookbinder, a milliner, and antique stores and more.

We stopped at a gallery and explored a local artists beautiful paintings of Greece.

Tired and hungry, we finally stopped at a Thai restaurant where we had red curry for lunch. After lunch, Margaret and I headed for the the White Wedding Dress exhibit at the local art gallery while Eva continued to browse the stores.

Unfortunately, no photos were allowed at the show, which had traveled to Bendigo from England, and included dresses and other wedding garb from the early 1800's forward. The dresses were covered with handmade lace and pearls. The oohs and ahhs were audible throughout the exhibit.

Many of the stores had related window displays that celebrated the museum show with dresses made in a variety of mediums.

A tour of a local park turned up trees full of flying foxes. Used to the small cave bats in the Western U.S., I was amazed these "bats" could fly, so large they were. Chilling to look at too!

Then we were off to historic Bendigo pottery, established during the original gold rush days and a working pottery manufacturer to this day. The complex included studios of local artists, as well as the old kilns and working demonstrations of pottery making. You could almost hear the hustle and bustle of the old as you toured the now unused kilns and viewed the pottery of old mixed with new.

We took to the road again and stopped at a local park and pond where I took photos of birds standing in the grass by the water.

This purple swamp hen was one of my favorite birds with it's blue purple plumage.

A bit further down the road, was an old graveyard filled with ornate graves. I wandered around looking at the ornate iron work and beautifully carved statues and headstones and wondered who these brave people had been that created such a beautiful city from the bare earth with only the barest promise of a rich future ahead...

When we arrived at the house, we sat down to another delicious dinner. The hospitality in this country is impressive and I am filled with gratitude for all that was selflessly offered to me during my time in Australia!

After dinner, we drove back to town to take photos of the old cathedral under the light of a full moon. The gargoyles took on a more menacing light at night and the bushes seemed to whisper of the past. The bare tree branches framed the moon and, although spring here, my thoughts are of All Hallows Eve.

The next morning is our last here and we start with a tram tour of the city starting at the old gold mine. We see many of the sites we walked the day before, as well as some of the residential area. I loved the wrought iron lace that decorates the eaves of many of the houses. It's clear that the gold rush fueled both the success of the city and its occupants from the opulent architecture of the older buildings.

After the tram, we traveled to the Joss House, in continuous use since the 1800's. Although the Chinese were also a big part of our gold rush days, I believe this is the first time I have seen a Joss House that dated back to that era. The temple was well preserved and the proprietor very knowledgeable of its history.

We return to town and, while Eva and Margaret wait, I climb the tower on top of the hill to get a 360 degree view of this beautiful town. The view was magnificent, as were the decorative mosiacs embedded in the concrete and stone around the tower.

We reluctantly say our goodbyes as we leave this city that has been my favorite of all and head back to Melbourne. A bittersweet return as I know that I have only a few days left before I must return home.


Jen Crossley said...

Glad you had a great time in Bendigo your photos are just beautiful Jan.

Lucy said...

So pleased you got to visit Bendigo. It is one of my favourite places in Victoria.
Ahhhh, the Joss House! Always go to vist there & light a joss stick!
Red is of course my favorite colour!
What a wonderful time you had here in Oz with the lovely Eva showing you around!
You never know Jan, you may return!
Hugs Lucy