When I look back at the new destinations Ruth and I visited during 2018, Bendigo is in 1st place. This is a modern, well-preserved 19th century town north of Melbourne, Australia. Bendigo experienced a gold rush that resulted in the creation of a cathedral, luxurious homes, a first class art museum, etc. The evidence of one-time great wealth is everywhere in Bendigo.
Before European settlement, this part of Australia was known as Jaara Jaara country because it was the home of this Aboriginal tribe. Between 1850 and 1900, Bendigo was the world’s richest city because of a gold discovery that attracted the usual furor and yielded great wealth. According to Bendigo’s official visitor’s guide, 700 tons of gold were removed from the Deborah Goldmine that placed its first shaft in the 1860s and is now opened for tours. Due to its wealth, this town had Australia’s first tram fleet. George Lansell, the wealthiest man in the world for a time, built Fortuna Villa here. We didn’t see it but it’s opened every month for high tea and a tour. We also didn’t get to see the Joss House Temple, The Great Stupa, and the Shamrock Hotel, a Victorian wonder that used to have to wash its floor regularly to collect gold dust. The temple was built by Chinese migrants in the 1870s and is one of the few original buildings of its type in Australia. The Great Stupa is the largest Buddhist pagoda not in Asia. These are only 3 of the reasons to go back to Bendigo, which is easily accessed by train from Melbourne.
We did get to see the recently restored Vahland fountain, the Golden Dragon Museum, Sacred Heart Cathedral, and the Bendigo Art Gallery. The Golden Dragon museum honors the once large Chinese community here. Many of the men who emigrated to Australia to work in the gold mine had sons and grandsons who served in the First World War, the major global conflict that involved Australia. There’s a fine tribute to these men in Golden Dragon. Sacred Heart is a traditional, huge hilltop cathedral with stunning stained glass. The art gallery had an excellent exhibit involving the creativity of the Finnish company Marimekko. This is a cutting-edge museum that mounts shows you would only expect to see in much larger cities. A new international exhibit featuring Frida Kahlo just opened last month.
I was not surprised to find an ongoing campaign in the Bendigo Art Gallery to raise $50,000 to restore a 1761 painting of King George III of England. Shown in his coronation robes, this royal portrait of King George was acquired by this gallery thanks to a generous benefactor. The current Queen, Elizabeth, is the longest reigning monarch in English history. Queen Victoria is #2. King George III is the longest serving King of England. He reigned for 60 years beginning in 1760.
My favorite quote of the year comes from one of the best books of the year, Our Towns. It’s on page 118 of this interesting travel book and expresses my life philosophy, “Live every second as if your ass is on fire.”
The painting at the bottom is by noted Australian artist Arthur Streeton. It hangs in the Bendigo Art Gallery and is called “The Canyon, Blue Mountains”.