I have lived for years on Florida’s Gulf Coast, just a mile from the city limits of a little Scottish namesake town of Dunedin, Florida. It has always been one of my pleasures to walk along Clearwater Bay, or down the shady Pinellas Trail to the cute little heart of that small town, where I bank or eat at Kelly’s or one of the fine seafood restaurants.
Dunedin was settled by homesick Scots but the only authentic mark they left behind was the annual Scottish Games and the name, of course. Now, I am visiting a much more authentic city of Dunedin, here in New Zealand, which surely looks and feels a whole lot more like the parent city. First, it’s very hilly. Baldwin Street has even been designated “The World’s Steepest Residential Road” by Guinness Book of World Records because of its nineteen- degree gradient. Even the ordinary downtown streets are plenty steep in my estimation.
Secondly, the local boulevards are named after the Scottish town’s streets; perhaps even some of Edinborough’s avenues might be included in that mix. Plus, here are grey stone cathedrals, courthouses and public buildings on every hill, as well as a big brewery and the Cadbury Chocolate Factory. All of this leaves Florida’s wannabe in the dust on all counts.
As if that isn’t enough, I’m staying in a very antique grey stone former Bishop’s Manse on a wooded hilltop accessed by sixty winding cement stairs. It’s now an accommodation, very aptly named Hogwartz Hostel. My six-bed, mixed dorm is set up within the stately Bishop’s dining room. There’s even a floral strip of wallpaper and a plaster frieze at the high ceiling level.
And yes, I’m watching Harry Potter episodes every night to truly get a feel for where I am. Never mind that Harry’s Hogwarts was in England. After the Chalice of Fire, the other night, we watched a Lord of The Rings movie: The Two Towers, right here in the mountains where it was filmed. Has anyone else noticed the uncanny resemblance between J.K. Rowling’s and J.R.R. Tolkien’s mythology? I’m getting my characters mixed up: Harry looks and acts like Frodo. The same is true of Dumbledore and Gandalf. If only it was J.R. Rowling… (i.e., J.R.R.) His name was J. R. R. Tolkien, and I would have taken that as a bald-faced clue to his Reincarnation.
Anyway, this is a fine Scottish-New Zealand town to ruminate about all this literary business. Next, I travel down to the city of Invercargill, the last large town of this nation. From there, I will ferry even farther south to the small and bird-filled Stewart Island for my last seven days in this country. It’s been a wonderful and varied three months here in New Zealand. Next up: Australia.