Saturday, January 1, 2011

Dunedin, NZ: Done Eatin'

With something like 123,000 people, Dunedin is the second largest city in the South Island.  So what would be a forgettable small town in the States is anticipated by our current New Zealand reference point as going to the "big city".  Our plan was to stay just one night, get what we need, and head to a more remote section of the coast to hide from New Year's revelers. 

While treating ourselves to a rare lunch in a restaurant, rain began to fall...and fall...and fall.  So we decided to further indulge ourselves to a night in a hostel with a bed and a solid roof.  Dunedin is a blob of volcanic cones on an island of mostly sedimentary and metamorphic rocks.  So the topography, as we found coming into town, can be very steep if your road happens to go up the side of one of those cones.  And the hostel was on one of those roads.  No problem pushing the bikes up the last 100 meters.  But these 50-year-old muscles had a problem when we ventured out later on foot with our umbrellas to acquire foodstuffs.  Walking down the hill, I felt a pain on my right shin, and it persisted so I could barely stride normally.

One night turned into five as I nursed the injury.  A visit to a physiotherapist verified a muscle strain.  Lucky for us, the injury occurred while traveling in New Zealand, so the government kindly picked up most of the tab.  The treatment cost us only $21.  And we learned of this magic cream, which helped ease the pain remarkably.

So a bit of bad luck gave us a chance to explore some big town charms...

Claiming to be the "most photographed building in New Zealand", the still operating train station shows the prosperity of the city when it was build in 1906.

The lobby with its elegant architectural details.

Detail of the stained glass window on the second level.

Pillars fashioned from the same whitestone we saw in Oamaru, contrasted with rough-finished basalt.
Museums are also good diversions, and we visited both the Otago Settlers Museum and the South Otago Museum.  And sitting in the library sucking up free wi-fi, drinking cappuccinos, and finding the perfect wholemeal date scone made time pass quickly enough.  Dunedin is a university town, which accounts for 25,000 of those 123,000 people in the city. But the students were all gone for the holidays, so the town was very quiet, with none of the New Year's partying that we had feared.

Only a small exhibit was open at the Settlers Museum due to renovations, but the Art Deco building was a historical treasure in itself.

The buildings of the old core of Otago University share the same style as the railway station.

Appropriate that the Geology Department is housed in a building of basalt.

Whimsical gargoyles of various disciplines of study.
The pronunciation of the city name was tricky to remember at first.  Just looking at it, we would say "done-uh-din".  But it is correctly pronounced "done-eden".  And on our last day we visited the Otago Farmer's Market, adjacent to that old train station, and filled up our bags with those summer fruits just coming into season -- cherries, apricots, pluots.  And when we were finished there, we truly were "done eatin'".

Fresh picked "veges".

Stone fruits by the heaps -- with apologies to our friends buried in winter snow at home!

Kiwis are never far from a caffeine fix.  This truck-mounted cafe did a brisk business all morning.
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