Friday, August 21, 2009

Bendigo - "La Ville-Lumière"

Who would have thought that when Margaret Kennedy and Julia Farrell found gold in Bendigo Creek in late spring 1851, that it would help found one of Victoria's & quite possibly the country's, finest rural cities.

After the burst of the initial gold rush & the exploitation of the alluvial deposits fell away, Bendigo's
city forebears quickly embarked on the creation of a city that would not look out of place in any
European country. When the first town plan was drawn up, the name of the city was originally known as Sandhurst, but then in 1891 the citizens, after a plebecite, decided to rename the city Bendigo, after the creek where the city's fortune was originally found. The creek was named Bendigo Creek after a English prize fighter William Abednego Thompson, or 'Bendigo' Thompson,as he was better known.

In k
eeping with the English/European feel, places of significance were given names such as Pall Mall, Charing Cross, Sandhurst, Ascot & also the most of the city's prominent ornate buildings were built in a late Victorian colonial style, contributing to a picturesque "French" cityscape. Many buildings are on the Victorian Heritage Register & registered by the National Trust of Australia.Prominent buildings include the Bendigo Town Hall (1859), 1883-85), Post Office, Law Courts (1892-96), Shamrock Hotel (1897), Institute of Technology & the Memorial Military Museum (1921).

Not only do the buildings add that European feel, but also because Bendigo still has it's trams that
continue to trundle along the city streets, that creates this wonderful feeling that you have stepped into one the the great cities of Europe. However, these trams are not part of the cities public transport system, but they now only run as a unique tourist venture that takes the sightseer on a 20 minute 'talking tour' between the Central Deborah Gold Mine & the Chinese Joss House (the oldest one in Australia built in the 1860's), with plenty of opportunities to disembark & explore the other unique sites at your leisure.

One of the great things about Bendigo is how they cater for the tourist, you can buy a a 'Bendigo Experience Pass' for $45.00 & that one ticket allows you to take The 'Talking' Tram Tour, go on the Central Deborah Gold Mine Tour, entry into the Golden Dragon Museum & entry to the Bendigo Pottery Interpretive Museum. Plus you don't have to cram it all into one day, the ticket is valid for up to 3months!

The highlight of my trip to Bendigo, besides visiting all the wonderful museums & cultural centres, was just walking around the city at night, every building of significance is lit up, giving the city a golden glow, since given that the city was founded on gold, perhaps it is deliberate!

So if you are visiting Bendigo make sure you have more than a couple of days to explore this wonderful region, but more importantly, make sure you take your camera & embrace those photographic opportunities that abound in Bendigo - The City of Light

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