Saturdays at Salamanca
SATURDAYS AT SALAMANCA Place are crowded and busy. Amid the old stone buildings and beside the park, locals rub shoulders with visitors as they crowd the alleys between the stalls of Salamanca Market.
The market has become something of a tourist attraction but this has not deterred local people from shopping here. Walk the alleys between the stalls and you find local food, local arts and crafts including photography, seeds and more. There’s fresh fruit and vegetables, soft and sweet Bruny Island fudge, Gillespie’s fizzy ginger beer — another local product — and the products of local craftspeople who specialise in working with Tasmanian timbers, as well as sellers of unique clothing and second hand books.
Development with authenticity
The Tasmanians have taken advantage of one of Australia’s still-intact heritage streetscapes. Three to four storey stone buildings, once warehouses where goods from the nearby wharfs were stored, have been repurposed as art galleries, cafes, bookshops and other enterprises specialising in Tasmanian-made. For the bibliophile, there’s The Hobart Bookshop situated in Salamance Square, behind Salamanca Place. It’s a crammed place with narrow aisles selling new and second hand books where the staff shelter behind a counter so encroached by books that it seems more like a barricade.
The alleys, streets and Salamance Square behind Salamanca Place are a labyrinth populate by small shops with intriguing products. Strangers to the city might find them a somewhat confusing network to navigate, however this merely adds to their charm and interest.
Although the link is not made, the old warehouses stand as testament to the prominence of the sea in Tasmania’s history. As an island and as the second place to be settled in Australia’s European history (Hobart is a mere few years younger than Sydney), the sea and shipping have been crucial to the development of the state. Take a short walk from Salamanca over to the docks to see some vintage ships, including tall ships and a few engine-powered. There are even operating fishing boats that tie up at Constitution Dock, something unique for most city centres.
Best of all, Salamanca Place’s repurposing has been accomplished without making it tacky. All too often, historic precincts are ruined by being overdone and by selling low-grade, low-quality junky products. They become charactertures of themselves and, in doing so, lose any authenticity they might once have had. Not Salamance Place.
Finding local foods
Having an interest in the way that cities can increase their resiliency through developing an industry based on foods that can be grown, processed and marketed locally, I naturally gravitated to the food sellers. At the Salamanca Market, market gardeners are grouped together although food sellers are found throughout the marketplace.
Here, like the Evandale market near Launceston in the north of Tasmania, the dominance of Asian faces suggests that the market gardens that feed the city are dominated by immigrant families or their descendants. This accords closely with the Sydney experience where not only Asians, but Lebanese and others feed the city with much of its fresh produce.
Let’s hope that the Hobartians don’t follow the example of the NSW government and plan to pave and build over the gardens that feed its people.
Exploration by foot
Despite being promoted in tourism literature, Salamance Place is worth a few of your hours or more when you’re next in Hobart. Find it adjacent to the city centre and just to the west of the city’s watefront.
Travel by foot remains the best way to explore a city and Salamanca Market can form the starting point for a walk that takes you into the nearby residential precinct of Battery Point.
For those with an interest in architecture, the Georgian buildings are sure to be an attraction, however there are buildings from other periods too. It’s not a long walk and there are side streets to explore as well as Arthur’s Circus, a ring of Georgian houses around a village green. Continue through Battery Point to the shores of the broad Derwent for the long view down the estuary and, when the weather is right, to feel the wind and to see, in your imagination, those nineteenth century clipper ships tacking their way upriver to the docks, then, after unloading, sailing north to China to load up with tea for the English market all of a world away. Battery Point’s main street has a number of cafes clustered at the Salamanca end.
Standing again in Salamanca Place’s busy Saturday market, you look up to the ramparts of Mt Wellington that so dominates this southern city, then your gaze returns to the line of old stone buildings and the busy scene surrounding you. Then you realaise that one of the ideas you will take away is that the Hobart local foods scene is an active and innovative one that, even by itself, is an asset to the people who are fortunate enough to live here.