*Apologies to The Mighty Boosh for mangling their opening.
Hey peeps! I just got back from a trip to Sovereign Hill and I’m all ready to dish on the particulars!
For those not in the know, Sovereign Hill is an open air museum in the goldrush town of Ballarat, about an hour north of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Frozen at 1856, Sovereign Hill celebrates the time in Australian history when the streets of Ballarat ran with gold, when the world’s two largest gold nuggets ever were discovered and when well known names such as David Jones were first coming to prominence.
When my friend invited me to come to make the eight hour (gulp!) drive to Ballarat to hang out at Sovereign Hill for a few days, I readily accepted. Due to Secret Squirrel Project, the potential for research gold (haha, see what I did there??) was astronomical. So I packed my brand new Samsonite suitcase, gathered six of my ten cameras, and joined my friend for a jounrey through time and space…unfortunately, not in a TARDIS or with the Mighty Boosh in tow 🙁
After the eight hours (gulp!) had passed, we arrived at Sovereign Hill just in time to enter the park for half an hour. As my friend has membership, I was able to pay a ridiculously small amount for unlimited entry into the park during our stay there, as well as super cheap accommodation on site. It was dorm accommodation, but I’m not going to argue when it was so economical! Anyhoo, we made it into the park for a little squizz before they shut the gates at 5.30pm.
The next day, a Saturday, it was Sovereign Hill extravaganza! We visited all the shops, including the boiled lolly shop (sweets made on site and with an hourly demonstration), the mercantile with lovely embroided tablecloths and doilies as well as ladies bits and bobs, the tin smiths with wonderful cooking implements, the apothecary, the foundry, the candle maker…I could go on and on! But I won’t 😀
The first full day we were there was the last day of the School Holiday programme, so they had a lot of things on that aren’t part of the normal schedule. We spent a lot of time in the Victoria Theatre, where they had everything from an abridged reading of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to a Pantomine entiled “Little Red Robin Hood”.
Sunday was a celebration of Chinese New Year. At one stage during the Goldrush, Chinese immgrants made up a quarter of the population of Ballarat and, as you can imagine, they weren’t treated very well. However, it’s an important part of our history and Sovereign Hill have chosen to celebrate that history with a programme of Chinese-inspired events, the most spectacular of which was the Dragon and Lion parade down Main Street
Our final day, the programme was back to normal and, being a Monday and the first day back for school kids, it was very quiet. However, this made it a real delight to wander through the shops, purchasing at will, safe in the knowledge it wouldn’t be elbow to elbow. The last day we saw the gold pour, where a blacksmith melts a 3kg block of gold down and pours it back into a mould, demonstrating the smelting process for us. Then, somehow, I got to hold the gold! $140,000 worth of gold in my hands! It was a lot heavier than I was expecting, and surprisingly smooth.
Then, as all good things must do, it was time to pack up and go home. The eight hour (gulp!) drive home.
I had immense amounts of fun, gained some invaluable insight, and spent a bit of money 😀 If you have the means and the opportunity, I highly recommend a visit!
Photos below, from begining to end:
discarded iron at the blacksmiths, a lady’s undergarments, narrow laneways, a chair at Victoria Theatre, Charlie Napier Hotel Gentlemen’s Parlour, a sign on the street, just-poured gold creating sparks with a wooden stick, dragon and lion parade, the dragon