Christchurch is a distinctly English city in New Zealand located on the eastern coastal side of its South Island, but it also has European influences with much Gothic Revival architecture. However, Christchurch is much more than its façade. To really know Christchurch one has to examine its people especially in light of their fortitude, tenacity, and perseverance.
A River Runs Through It
A river runs through Christchurch called the Avon, but it wasn’t named after any of the three Avons in England. Instead it was named after another one in Scotland, the River Avon. Apparently, New Zealand has a lot of Scottish people who migrated here in the 1800s, who fled Scotland for religious purposes. The city itself, though, was named after Christ Church, Oxford, in England.
By the way Avon is a welsh word which basically means river, so the translation of the River Avon or Avon River is simply ‘river river’.
The Earthquakes of 2010 & 2011
Christchurch suffered a series of earthquakes between 2010 and 2012, with the worst a magnitude 7.1 in 2010. Six months later another one at 6.2 struck the city, and over 185 people were killed when thousands of its already damaged buildings collapsed. There were several more earthquakes which followed.
Since then, an ongoing recovery took place, and Christchurch continues to rebuild. The city is a true phoenix rising from the ashes.
Many of its Gothic Revival buildings were destroyed but many survived and are being reconstructed or rebuilt. Even now seven years later all over the city we saw cranes working to put back what was lost.
At the centre of the city is Cathedral Square with its iconic Anglican church which was also greatly damaged during the earthquakes.
Temperatures on our day there averaged about 65 degrees and our evenings in the low 40s. It is October but it’s spring here and like early April back in the states. Flowers were everywhere.
A College Town
We observed several campuses initially believing these were universities but learning later that they were state and high end private boys and girls high schools. They have names like St. Thomas of Canterbury College and St. Andrew’s College. Also in Christchurch is the University of Canterbury.
A True Remembrance
On the Avon River is a small park with an interesting piece of structure by the river’s edge. We learned that New York City sent a piece of our Twin Tower’s wreckage as a gift to the city of Christchurch. The memorial at water’s edge commemorates the 343 NYFD firemen who lost their lives. Both cities experienced major disasters and feel a bond.
Finally, we visited their botanical gardens before leaving for Mt. Cook.
Springtime in New Zealand is beautiful especially in these gardens which were founded in 1863.