Saturday, October 10, 2015

Christchurch

Central Christchurch, New Zealand (May 27, 2008)

Christchurch is a nice little city. With a population of ~350,000 people, it is actually the largest city in the South Island, and the second largest in New Zealand. It seems however much more livable than similar sized cities in the US. Despite the comments of my taxi driver it still has the character of the traditional-style buildings that survive in the center. It was a pleasure to walk leisurely around, and to look at the architecture, the people and river crossing its center. Even though it was the beginning of winter, the temperature was just right. One thing that I immediately noticed was the large amount of young Japanese people roaming the streets. It turns out that they are mostly students practicing their english. New Zealand is cheaper than the US, not much farther away from Japan, and certainly at a more convenient time zone for Japanese people. This makes it a practical destination for the Japanese youth that wants to study the english language (and that can afford the trip).

The Cathedral in 2008
If you travel to Christchurch now, you won't recognize many of the buildings in the photos of this post. Between September 2010 and January 2012 Christchurch has been hit by a sequence of strong earthquakes, two of which among the strongest ever recorded in urban areas. A total of 185 people lost their life, and over 1,000 buildings (one third of the total) in the center of the city had to be demolished. One of them is the Cathedral pictured at the left, that was severely damaged and lost its spire. The damage was so severe that it is currently being demolished, even though this sparked a controversy between the diocese (that would like to rebuild an entirely new building) and organizations (like the UNESCO World Heritage Center) that would like to preserve as much as possible the historical building. The city has now been experiencing a rapid growth thanks to a comprehensive Christchurch Central Recovery Plan, with over 50,000 houses that are being reconstructed in the greater Christchurch urban area and many projects for the revitalization of the historical center of the city. We stayed in the city for 5 days, while Mayli was finishing her meeting, during which I visited the city and its environs.

Avon river, Christchurch, New Zealand (May 27, 2008)

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