Posted by , 30 January 2016

Wellington marks the end of our New Zealand holiday.

We arrived in the evening and easily found our hotel on the southern side of the city. From up high, you get a real sense of the city built around the harbour and wedged under the tall hills behind. It reminds of how I saw Hong Kong from the air once (but not quite as populated!).

As with Auckland, the really surprising thing about Wellington is the presence of a working port in the heart of the city. In fact, it blocks your ability to completely walk around the waterfront. Wellington doesn’t feel quite as modern as Auckland – to be fair, the weather was overcast and rainy in contrast to the sunny start to the week but the buildings seemed older and there wasn’t the same level of redevelopment around the harbour with modern apartments, cafes and restaurants.

Te Papa, Gallipoli gallery

Our first place to visit was the fantastic Te Papa. The building is truly magnificent – from the outside, it’s a visually striking building with different shapes and angles confronting you depending on where you stand. Internally, the exhibition spaces seem to flow naturally in to each other without a sense of entering different ‘rooms’. It also has a great outdoor viewing area with great views across the habour.

The first exhibition we wanted to see – and queued for – was the Gallipoli exhibition. Growing up in Australia, we have such a strong sense of the Australian contribution to the campaign that we tend to think of it as uniquely Australian despite celebrating ANZAC Day each year. So it’s good to have a reminder that others also own ANZAC Day. We also tend to think of the disproportionate impact of Australian losses on such a young country – compared say with the mass casualties of larger populations in Europe – and forget that New Zealand too suffered greatly.

The Gallipoli exhibition is a really creative one. As with many such exhibitions, it tells the story of New Zealand’s involvement from the start of the war, the stirrings of patriotism and sense of duty, through embarkation to Gallipoli and then touches on the impact for those who came home. It centres around the stories of real people and rather than celebrating war it tells about the impact at the individual level, both for the fighting soldier, the medical staff supporting them and the people back home. It features oversize and incredibly detailed and life-like figures depicting the main characters. For me, the saddest story was of a soldier who had been court-martialled for falling asleep at his post, sentenced to death and then given a reprieve only to be killed in action two days later.

Te Papa itself is massive and you could lose yourself for a day in it. Instead, we headed for the gallery which tells the story of the Treaty of Waitangi

Cable car and botanic gardens

It’s hard to go to Wellington and not hear about i’s famous cable car so off we went. Let’s ne quite clear – this is not a cable car in the way that Switzerland designs and builds cable cars – it is fact a railway with a cable pulling the carriages up the hill, like a furnicular.

The journey starts in the middle of town, under an ordinary looking building. There was a bit of queue for the cable car – I can never get used to being a tourist among other tourists. Like a furnicular, the seating in the car is at the angle of the incline. The cable car emerges from under the city and stops at three stops on the way to the top. There are great views at the top looking out over the city and harbour towards the high ground on the other side. From up here, the sense of a city built into the narrow strip between mountains and the sea.

We then wandered back down to the city through the botanic gardens and down past the Bolton Street Cemetery where we emerged yet again in the city.


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