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The Citizens’ War Memorial beside the Cathedral
The striking monument north of the Cathedral – to the left, if you stand in front of it – is the Citizens’ War Memorial. It is 18.3 metres high and made of bronze and Portland stone – the latter was left over from the building of the Auckland Museum. As it stands on the grounds of the Cathedral it had to fulfill some requirements of the chapter, as for example, include a big central cross (that sprouts over the six allegorical figures you see on my photo; see the cross on photo 2).
The proposal to build the monument came in competition with plans for the Bridge of Remembrance. As the council did not support the project it took 17 years until the War Memorial could be unveiled on 9 June 1937. It was designed by the local artist William Tretheway, and he worked on it with the architect G.A. Hart.
The allegorical figures symbolise youth, justice, peace, sacrifice, valour and victory. The special thing about those figures is that the are based on people the artist knew, like his daughter (peace) or a workman (youth).
- Arts and Culture
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The Alternative: A Guided City Tour
For people who are still weak from their long trip to NZ or do not want to read maps (or who do not get the opportunity to know me... LOL) there is a comfortable alternative to get around the city centre: On the southern side of Cathedral Square, at a red kiosk, is the start of guided walks which depart daily at 10am and 1pm (15 minutes earlier from the Visitor Centre) from October to April. From May to September they offer the 1pm tour only, and you should book before 12noon at the Visitor Centre. The tours take approximately two hours.
Although I do not join such guided tours very often, wherever I am, I must admit that the guides normally offer a lot more interesting information than guide books. And even more: If you hear such stories, garnished by little anecdotes, you normally remember the facts and figures more easily and for a longer time than if you only read them in a book. And if you want to know more you can ask millions of questions and normally get an answer.
The Personal Guiding Service is a non-profit organisation. The members are citizens who enjoy meeting people. Cost of a tour is NZ$ 10.
- Hiking and Walking
Play Chess on Cathedral Square
Not a lot to add to this photo.
Although I do not play chess as I only have some superficial knowledge about this brain game, I love to watch the chess players on Cathedral Square. I think it is already hard enough to be prepared for all eventualities on a common chess board. So I am deeply impressed how people can think forward moving the figures on such a huge square and not lose the overview.
Cathedral Square Market
Most days of the week in the centre of Christchurch, there are a number of stalls in Cathedral Square. The stalls sell all sort of items from jewellery to clothing plus there are a couple of food vendors.
Prices vary greatly with the stall owners often the makers of the item (esp. re the jewellery) so willing to talk price and able to tell you about the item you are looking at.
The stalls come and go depending on the number of visitors and the time of year with the busiest period from January to March.
- Arts and Culture
Town of the Festival
Christchurch has a multitude of festivals. Ranging from the International buskers festival to the Christchurch Arts festival there is often something special going on in Christchurch.
The festival list includes - Buskers in January, Global Extravaganza in February, Flowers in march, Jazz & Blues in April, Music in July, Film Festival in August, Cultural festival in August and Writers in September. There is also the Festival of Romance which is part of the flowers.
Currently the Cathedral Square is adorned with giant flowers, a mini tent city and UFO building all in the name of art.
- Arts and Culture
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
Kate Sheppard Memorial, Reflecting Women's Rights
It is remarkable that in a country with macho and rugby culture so many important positions are held by women, with the most outstanding post, of course, by Prime Minister Helen Clark. Many guys complain about this dominance of females. The truth is that in total far more men than women hold executive management positions. And very personally I have to say that Helen Clark with her masculine attitude seems to be much more a leader than her opponents - which does not mean that I would think everything she does is right. It is just about her leader's skills.
After this little detour into actual politics let me come to the core of this tip which is about the Kate Sheppard Memorial on the banks of the Avon River. It is not far from Kate Sheppard to Helen Clark - as Kate Sheppard once fought for the women's right to vote, and as a consequence, to be elected into political positions.
NZ was the first country in the world that granted women the right to vote in 1893. To the 100th anniversary the Memorial on Oxford Terrace - mentioned in my tip about the "Stroll along the Avon - was erected. It is a 5m wide and 2.1m high bronze screen, created by the artist Margriet Windhausen.
Kate Sheppard (1848 - 1934) was a fighter for women's rights, and subsequently for their right to vote, because she knew only this would lead to social reforms. So she became a member of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and took up national office as the superintendent of its franchise department in 1887. The fifth petition to Parliament in 1893 contained 31,872 signatures. This was a third of the number of women living in NZ at the time. Due to this effort, on 19 September 1893 the Electoral Bill was passed.
The funny thing about the memorial is that critics said the choice of the artist put gender before merit. The old-fashioned proposal was regarded as dull. But the memorial committee favoured the work because it would be easily understood.
So you will see a life-sized bronze relief sculpture, with Kate Sheppard flanked ...
- Arts and Culture
- Historical Travel
Victoria Square, an oasis in the city centre
There is tourist hustle and bustle nearly everywhere in the city but Victoria Square seems clearly underrated. There are never big crowds, and people lying on the grass in the midday sun are mostly locals, although this beautiful small park ist only two blocks from Cathedral Square, and on one side is a stop for tour buses which spit out huge amounts of tourists.
The park is, of course, named after Queen Victoria, and a monument at the corner of Columbo and Armagh Streets is sign of this.
Flower beds, lawns, benches and a fountain give the square a relaxing touch. On two sides the Avon River borders the park, Town Hall with its famous water feature is on the other side of the Avon. A carved totara reminds of Maori culture and history. Some metres right of this ochre pole you can see a young kauri tree BTW.
There are some very interesting historic features (and more monuments than Queen Victoria's) in the park, for example Captain James Cook. Go to the bridge left of Town Hall which is a kind of double bridge.
The cast iron and stone Victoria Bridge was built in 1863/64 at the place of a wooden bridge called "Papanui Bridge" from 1851, and was the first of this kind in NZ. In 1875 and 1885 it was widened to its present form by adding wing piers and wooden outrigger footpaths. It was renamed in 1989 and is now the Hamish Hay Bridge, named after a former mayor of Christchurch.
In the middle of the bridge is a big gap under which you see the Avon River, and over it several rails. They commemorate 74 years of public tram services in Chch and mark the Papanui and Fendalton routes which first operated from 1880, first by steam locomotives, then horses, and by electricity from 1905 until 1954. To me they are a symbol for the stupidity of the Christchurch City Council because they abolished a transport system which is much more effective and punctual than buses because it is independant from traffic volumes.
The miraculous Survival of Shands Emporium
You might pass a lot of times at this unique building in Hereford Street and not notice it because you would mostly walk on the busy side of the street where it is situated, and eventually have a look at the windows. But you only recognise its uniqueness in the row of historic buildings from the opposite side of the street from where you have an overview. And from there it stands out like a Maori chief in a row of Pakeha (Europeans), or the only black sheep in a white herd. It is sandwiched between two massive heritage buildings.
The Shands Emporium is a simple utilitarian building, one of the very few survivors in Central Christchurch from the very early days when the first wooden houses were erected on the open Canterbury Plains. The building was first used as a solicitor's office and then continuously housed professional offices until it was converted into a shop in 1977. Only then it was named Shand's Emporium. Actually it houses an antiques shop. They even would buy your vintage watch if you run out of money during your visit... ;-)
It is remarkable that this building has survived whereas all the other surrounding buildings have been replaced by stone buildings at later dates.
The house was built in 1860 on land owned by farmer John Shand. That is where its name comes from.
On the library's heritage website you can see how much air once was around Shands Emporium, and how rural the area looked, and learn everything about its history and owners.
Oyez! Listen to the Towncrier, he Knows what's on
He is a colourful appearance on Cathedral Square. And not just that. He is loud. He does not need a microphone to be heard over the whole place. Every weekday when the Cathedral's bells are silent after the noon bells have told, the Towncrier takes a handbell to attract the people's attention, and shouts: "Oyez, oyez", which sounds like the Spanish word for "Listen"", and that is exactly what it means, although its origins are anglo-norman. Then he opens a big scroll and reads out what's on in the city - which BTW is good information for locals and tourists who do not have plans for the day or the evening yet.
The tradition of towncriers dates back to the Middle Ages, and like then their job is to make public announcements, but the innovation of their costumes somehow stopped in the 18th century. So you will spot the Christchurch towncrier in his spectacular historical costume rather easily. He wears a rich red robe, black breeches, white stockings, and a black cocked (or: tricorne) hat.
Like in the days long gone by, the towncrier is employed by the City Council. Stephen Symons is the man who has been doing this job in Christchurch for 18 years (as June 2007). He is on Cathedral Square on weekdays from 11am to 1pm - but not like the Wizard who has reduced his freelance work to summer and sunny days, he shouts his information over the Square year-round. On normal days he works three hours but during special events he also guides tours and has official tasks, so it can happen that he walks around in his spectacular costume up to 40 or 50 hours per week.
Of course he is a great object for tourist photos. He also talks to tourists. But whereas he knows everything that's on in Christchurch I would not believe everything he tells you about other regions. When I was there the other day he told American tourists they should not walk on the glaciers of the West Coast because every now and then a visitor would die there, falling into crevasses. Which, of course, is absolutely not true if you go on a guided tour.
- Arts and Culture
Christchurch takes about a days total time to see if you want to go to the four or five sights. There is nothing spectacular to do or see. Don't take the tram unless you cannot walk. You can see every site and walk the whole center in less than a full day.
If you see the museum in Auckland, then there is no need to see the one in Christchurch. The Cathedral takes five minutes tops.
Citizen's War Memorial
In and around Australia and New Zealand, you will see monuments dedicated to fallen soldiers of their countries. These ANZAC troops have travelled the globe to fight for the freedom of other countries.
This memorial was erected in 1937 to commemorate the fallen NZ soldiers of World War I.
Do not Stumble over the Corgis in High Street
I do not walk down High Street every time I am in the city - but every time I go to the fabulous furniture shop McKenzie & Willis at the corner of Tuam, Manchester and High Streets, I am so pleased to nearly stumble over the three life-sized bronze Corgis next to a bench before crossing Tuam Street.
Somehow I never think of them, not even when I start to walk down High Street. When I happen to see them they always come as a nice surprise. They put a smile on all people's faces.
The three dogs are sneaking around this street corner since December 2003. A local artist named David Marshall created them. Their installation coincided with the 50th jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II who is the world's most famous Corgis lover, and as we are still a kind of British colony... LOL... At least the Queen is still the official head of state, so it is ok. And apart from that those bronze dogs are great, a pinch of humour is included. One corgi is licking on an ice-cream cone thrown on the footpath, another one is carrying the leash in his mouth. So real-life scenes with life-sized dogs.
- Arts and Culture
Cathedral Square at Night - no Place to Stay
Christchurch has missed a big chance to use Cathedral Square as the heart of city nightlife. I think of Italian cities and their squares, like Piazza Navona or the the square next to the Pantheon in Rome, or the city centres in France which are full of outdoor restaurants and cafés. All this transforms those squares into buzzling and joyful meeting places.
Here the Square is more or less dead at night. The places to go to are in the streets that lead away from the Square which is strangely empty. This gives nice views of the Cathedral and the other buildings which are nicely reflecting in the spotlights, but you would not want to stay longer than necessary.
Also during daytime the Square could be much better used for hospitality, with two or three more cafés than just Starbucks.
The Wizard is a man who hasn't worked for years, but doesn't get money from the government either. He stands at the Cathedral Square every day between November and March at 1 pm to tell every one who wants to hear it about his philosophies. He's been declared a living work of Art and is a fictional character, he has no wife or children and doesn't pay taxes, so he's one of the most free persons in New Zealand. It's fun to listen to his amazing theories, but don't get upset with him, I saw one woman trying to engage in a discussion with him and she was shredded to pieces by him. Apparently the wizard has retired now, but I'm not sure.
- Arts and Culture
Hang out and get info on Cathedral Square
The Square and the surrounding area are perfect for hanging out, get information brochures at the Visitor Centre (i-site), browse the shops for souvenirs and clothes, contact home in one of the several internet cafés, buy a phone card for cheap calls or a SIM card at the Vodafone shop around the corner in Colombo Street, watch street artists or chess players at the giant chess board near the police pavillion, listen to the Wizard if the weather is fine, browse the craft and food stalls, or have a coffee at Starbuck's where you will meet locals only around lunchtime and other tourists later on.
There is also a kiwi house at the Southern Encounter which you can access from the Visitor Centre. Take your chance to see our iconic bird there if you do not intend to visit the wildlife parks like The Willowbank and Orana Park. Southern Encounter is operated by Orana Park.
Absolutely do not miss to browse the Visitor Centre. You will find kilos of free brochures and maps, and accommodation guides (Jason's and AA) for the whole country as well, and you can book trips.
The Akaroa Shuttle and Airport Bus depart from the Square, and the Tramway has a stop. Most regular buses start or stop at the Bus Exchange around the corner in Colombo Street.
Or just sit in the sun and watch other people. There are many benches and tree surrounds where you can sit.
If you want to be more active climb up the stairs in the Cathedral Tower and have a look over the city to the Port Hills and the foothills of the Southern Alps.
The Square is really the heart of the city although there are nearly no restaurants or pubs in the buildings that surround the Square - which is a little strange. But in all the streets leading away from the Square, and on the Strip and especially in Manchester Street you will find an incredible lot of good eateries.
Just at night take care on and around the Square. As soon as young idiots get drunken they seem to hang out there and assault people. News about this problem are in the papers constantly.
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