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Australia: Bendigo, Blue Mountains, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Great Ocean Road, Melbourne, Mornington Peninsula, Sydney
Bendigo, Australia: Legacy of Gold
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
Just 150 kms from Melbourne, is a cosmopolitan atmosphere that has set this gracious city on a path that in many ways reflects the excitement of the days gone by. One of the world's most spectacular gold rushes took place here in the mid-1800s, giving rise to this beautiful city, its elaborate and awe-inspiring architecture.
As a guest of City of Greater Bendigo, I was sure to see the best of what Bendigo had to offer… in just about a day. And a night. A comfortable bus from Bendigo Coaches got us to the city in about 2 hours. Our first stop for the morning was at Bendigo Pottery - Australia's oldest. Celebrating 150 years of successful existence, visitors can explore the history of pottery in the Interpretive Museum that has a fascinating exhibit of wood fired kilns.
Whilst prospecting for gold, George Duncan Guthrie noted significant amount of clay deposits. The chance discovery of clay encouraged George back to his trade and the first pieces of pottery were made. From making acid jars (much in demand those days because the process of filtering gold called the use of sulphuric acid) to high quality designer ceramic works of art, this pottery has made them all. After a walk around their Interpretive Museum and the showroom, we were shown the craft of turning the wheel to shape the clay into things of desire. I tried my hand at the creative art. While I thought I had created a nice bowl, everybody around thought it was a mess. Divided opinion. Visitors to the pottery can create pieces of ceramic art and take it home as a lasting reminder of Bendigo's artistic spirit.
For lunch, we were at Gallery Café that offered stunning views of Rasalind Park. It was a perfect venue for experiencing fresh modern contemporary food. The Gallery Café is part of the Life's a Dish concept which is a collector's series of 12 hand-painted plates designed for 12 of Bendigo's finest restaurants. The café, as the name suggests, has a gallery that exhibits works of art.
Prior to 1851 the Rosalind Park area was a grassy woodland with large River Red Gums lining the creek that was a chain of deep, permanent fresh water pools. The story of Rosalind Park is about the transformation of a goldfield into an important public park. There's a designated route that one can take to explore the beauty of the park. Since time was short, I created my own shortcuts to experience a little.
Bendigo has a rich culture and is a great lover of art. Local artisans can be visited in studios across the region. Post lunch we proceeded to Bendigo Art Gallery ranked as one of Australia's finest regional galleries. Exhibits include Australian Art from the 1850s to the present day, a special collection of art from the Bendigo goldfields and 19th century European paintings, sculptures and decorative arts.
Adjacent to the gallery is the Capitol Theatre - convergence of magnificent Victorian architecture and state-of-the-art technology.
After digging deep into art, it was time for some recreation. And what could be more fun than trying your hands at Lawn Bowling - a favourite Australian game especially for the retired! The Bendigo Club has good greens and equipment for the sport. The president of the Club and her husband were kind enough to teach us the basics of the game. Quite simply put, one has to roll the special balls as close to the target. Looks simple but my attempts were nowhere near. The game reminded me of my childhood when I played marbles in my little hometown Solapur, India. I enjoyed the afternoon tea at the lawns.
Thereafter, it was time to check in our allotted hotels to freshen up for the evening engagements. I was hosted at Fountain View Hotel, just next to Rosalind Park and stone's throw away from the iconic Alexandra Fountain - standing proud on the Pall Mall - Bendigo's most popular and indeed the most happening street.
Instead of waiting for the bus to pick me up, I chose to walk the Pall Mall to Shamrock hotel for dinner. The hotel is a Bendigo Landmark. As Bendigo's wealth grew, so too did the visions for this new city. Founders set out to recreate London, giving Bendigo a distinctive European feel to this day. The Shamrock hotel was rebuilt three times. Each transformation was more lavish than the last. For over 100 years The Shamrock has presided majestically over the heart of Bendigo. Its five storeys of grandeur offer entertainment, great dining and luxury accommodation. Our table was laid out on one of its lavish balconies. Sipping cocktails, overlooking the Pall Mall, the Post Office, the Visitor Centre, the Military Memorial Hall, The Courts and parts of Rosalind Park was sheer delight.
After dinner I set out to explore Bendigo by night - essentially walking past illuminated monuments.
The next morning I was to meet the group at Wild Mint, on the High Street, for breakfast. The restaurant is located on the ground floor of Bendigo Bank - a very modern building that compliments the architectural landscape that adds a contemporary edge to the city. Before reaching the restaurant, I did a little detour and walked on the Mitchell Street to view the majestic St Pauls Anglican Cathedral. After a hearty breakfast we boarded the bus to visit the Bendigo Jockey Club.
The racecourse ranks amongst the best in Victoria. In fact the Bendigo Cup was established much earlier to the now famous Melbourne Cup. At the Race Course we were privy to a fantastic Lion Dance performed by the members of Bendigo's LionTeam. Just so you know, Bendigo is home to Australia's oldest running festival; the Bendigo Easter Festival. At the time of my visit the City was celebrating 140 consecutive years of festive presence.
Leaving the beating drums behind us we moved to the Central Deborah Gold Mine which indeed is one of the key things to do when in Bendigo. Gold undoubtedly placed Bendigo on the map more than 150 years ago. Around nine billion dollars of gold was found here, making it one of the richest gold fields in the world. Like a miner of the times, I donned a hardhat and miner's lamp and travelled 20 storeys underground to a real gold mine. The tour guide did a great job showing us around tunnels of the mine and the operation of various tools of the trade.
From the dark underground mines we went over to the bright Town Hall. The structure is prolific work of German Architects Charles Vahland and Robert Getzchmann. The Bendigo Town Hall has been described as one of the most remarkable boom time buildings in Victoria. It has a stunning interior featuring plasterwork and extensive hand painted decoration.
For lunch we were the guests of Balgownie Estate that is one of Bendigo's oldest wineries. It provides an authentic wine experience. Post tastings, we enjoyed a leisurely lunch in the peaceful surrounds overlooking the picturesque vineyard. My kudos to their chef for preparing a fabulous multi-course lunch.
It helped me doze off all the way to Melbourne.
Bendigo Image Gallery Photo viewer
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