Did I really think that New Zealand was only about beautiful landscapes?
Christchurch grabbed my shoulders, shook me, and opened my eyes.
Yes, New Zealand’s scenery is breathtaking, but there is much more than that.
The funny thing is that I had already been in Christchurch, that is where I landed in New Zealand. But that first time I stayed only two nights, and I was more concentrated on organizing my trip and replacing my broken hand bag than visiting the city itself.
It was only after I came back from the west coast that I felt in harmony with the city. I was sad and disappointed, heart broken that my long dreamt New Zealand, the country for which I had sacrificed a longer stay in Australia, had received me with clouds, cold and rain. I felt like an internal earthquake had crushed my illusion and motivation, and I needed to heal.
Christchurch welcomed me with warm and open arms, and a moving story of destruction and reconstruction, creativity and hope, which I discovered by walking in its streets.
Christchurch suffered a series of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. The worst one, at the beginning of 2011, destroyed the city, which is still under reconstruction.
On my first visit I found a room with Airbnb in a family’s house in the suburbs, and they told me the house had suffered only minor damage and it was already repaired.
“After the earthquake we had to take photos of all the rooms to send to the insurance company. In all rooms it was obvious that there had been an earthquake… except the children’s toy room. That one looked as usual!”, laughed the mother of the family.
The center of the city, on the other hand, suffered major damage. Part of the 19th century gothic cathedral and some buildings broke down, and many others had to be demolished. Nowadays there are still plenty of empty spaces and reconstruction works ongoing.
Reconstruction and creativity
To bring back life to the center, and to brighten up the empty spaces during the long rebuilding period, a lot of creative and innovative projects are being developed. They are all in the center, at walking distance from each other.
Even before I learnt about the projects that temporary fill the city, I noticed that there was plenty of street art. Huge, beautiful art filled the uncovered walls that had no longer a neighbor.
New Regent street and tram
Originally opened in 1932, New Regent street has been totally reconstructed in colorful little houses that look like a charming village. The tram lines were also damaged during the earthquake and the service is being resumed as the rebuild goes on.
Re:START is a new shopping experience, consisting on retails and cafés constructed in renovated shipping containers. A colorful, innovative area full of life and creativity.
Transitional Cardboard Cathedral
Designed by a Japanese architect as an “emergency architecture building”, and opened in August 2013, the Cardboard Cathedral is substantially made of cardboard tubes and framing.
185 empty chairs
The 185 empty chairs is the project that touched me most of all. It is a temporary memorial for those who lost their lives on the earthquake, and all chairs are different to represent the uniqueness of each person. When I saw the baby chairs I felt a lump in my throat.
Christchurch showed me that there is much more in New Zealand than beautiful landscapes. It is a city that suffered a terrible loss, and it is reconstructing itself in a new and different way of thinking, with innovation and creativity, inspiration and hope.
It showed me that New Zealand, as any other country, is about attitude towards life, culture and people.
** USEFUL INFORMATION **
- Bus single ticket NZD$3.5 (information on lines and schedules on metroinfo.co.nz)
- Supershuttle from/to the airport NZD$26
- Normal bus from/to the airport NZD$8 (tip: if you take the same bus outside of the airport, one stop further, the price is the usual NZD$3.5)
- Canterbury museum (maori history, colonial past and more): free entrance
- Quake city (story of the earthquakes): NZD$10
- Internet & printing: the public library offers 30 min of internet for free, and printing at NZD0.20 per page
Enjoyed this post? Follow my trips on Facebook or sign up to get notifications of new posts