Santa Christina is the second-largest city in Georgeland. Formerly (1891-1911) the country's capital city, Santa Christina is the state capital of West Mainland and is a cultural and bohemian city with a vibrant atmosphere and a strong tourism industry. It is the city most overseas visitors think of when they think of Georgeland, and considers itself Georgeland's 'civic ambassador'.
Santa Christina was established as Weston in 1843 by British settlers. Like the rest of Georgeland, Santa Christina was settled only be free settlers, and convicts were never sent to Georgeland except in rare cases. Weston grew to become a large and cosmopolitan city by the end of the 19th century, and in 1891 was chosen to become Georgeland's capital city. It had already served as the administrative centre for Georgeland's colonial government from 1865-1891.
Throughout the 20th century, Weston (renamed Santa Christina in 1911), remained Georgeland's premier city. While Doubledance to the east concentrated on heavy industry and manufacturing, Santa Christina became known as the business and commerce centre in Georgeland. From 1891 until 2000, Santa Christina was also the state capital of the state of Mainland - since 2000, it has been the home of the government of the state of West Mainland.
Santa Christina is the busiest seaport on Georgeland's western coastline, and is a harbour for many ships coming from the west. Sea traffic to and from India, Pakistan, the Middle East and Africa all end their journeys in Santa Christina. If you are on a cruise ship from Australia or South East Asia, you will probably enter Georgeland in Doubledance, however.
Santa Christina is served by two airports - the largest, Santa Christina International Airport, is located in the city's west and is some distance from the city centre. SCI is one of the world's busiest airports; though Halliway Airport in Doubledance is actually larger and busier than SCI. SCI is serviced by a shuttle service, and there are two hotels close by, the Santa Christina Airport Hilton and the Wingspan Hotel, that accomodate guests. Be warned: getting a taxi from SCI is not easy, and the taxi companies charge high flagfall fees around the airport. The traffic near SCI is unbearable in busy periods.
Georgeland's second airport, Owens Airport is located in the eastern suburbs, and is much smaller than SCI. Owens accepts only smaller, domestic flights. If you are flying in from elsewhere in the state, it is more likely you will arrive at Owens rather than SCI. Owens Airport is not serviced by many amenities like hotels or shops, but there is a taxi rank (much cheaper and easier to catch than at SCI) and a shuttle service.
Flight times vary, but Santa Christina is in quite a central location in the Indian Ocean. Few airlines fly directly long-distance, though direct flights now operate to/from London (via both Air Georgeland and British Airways and Sydney (via Qantas). Direct flights between Santa Christina and Paris, Los Angeles and Berlin are scheduled to begin around 2010.
Most flights 'stop over' in either Cairo, Bombay, Johannesburg or Jakarta first before flying into Georgeland. Many flights also arrive in Doubledance (particularly from Asia and Australia) and require a domestic service into Santa Christina. The table below will give you some idea of rough flight times to/from these various locations from/to Santa Christina:
|Destination||Approx. flight time|
Federal Highway 1 is the oldest highway in Georgeland, and runs directly between Santa Christina and Doubledance, with exits to several cities along the way. If you are driving to Santa Christina, chances are this will be your route. The highway, also called the Weston Highway, is dual-carriageway all the way and littered with tourist stops and roadside attractions, as well as regular rest areas and service stations. Driving from the north, the main route into Georgeland is the Northern Peninsula Highway (Highway 11), which travels from Santa Christina up through Chipwich and into the mountains. Driving from the south, the Great Southern Highway (Highway 5) is the main route into Santa Christina. Because it is such a major city, the route to S.C. is well signed no matter where you are driving from.
The drive from Doubledance to Santa Christina (or the reverse) is roughly 2,200 kilometers and will take the average driver about 22 hours of travel time, presuming they stick to the speed limit (usually 100 kp/h). A common route is to travel from Doubledance to Lylecity (about 40% of the distance) on Day 1, then from Lylecity to Zigit or Romphumburg on Day 2, before ending up in Santa Christina on Day 3. Due to the this long journey, many people opt to travel by air or train into Santa Christina.
One of the most popular methods of travelling across Mainland (and to a lesser extent the other islands) is the railway, and Santa Christina is well-served by rail travel. The states of East and West Mainland operate a joint railway authority to see the track remains in good condition, and there is a single company, TransML, that provides the trains themselves. Train travel is comfortable and affordable. In 2001 the new high-speed rail link opened, linking Santa Christina and Doubledance via a new high-speed rail system, also operated by TransML (along a seperate track). By a regular train the journey between the two cities takes about eighteen hours; the high-speed journey takes about ten. Both varieties of trains have sleeper varieties available for overnight journeys and dining facilities on board. The first-class coach on the high-speed link is a fantastic experience, and includes a bar. It does, however, cost about $400 to travel this way.
Santa Christina has a railway system that is mostly underground. The system, called CivRail, is a joint government-corporate venture; the government pays the costs of infrastructure and the private company runs the trains. CivRail's service is good, and trains are never very crowded (except during very busy periods); the only drawback is the cost - to travel from Point Freeman to Cheltenham can cost more than $20 in tickets. The trains are clean and very safe during the day. At night, it is strongly advised to travel in the coaches closest to the engine - these coaches have armed security guards inside them. Attacks have been reported in the small hours of the morning, especially on Friday and Saturday nights, so be warned. In general, follow normal safety precautions.
Day passes are now available for CivRail, and an agreement between the public transit sectors now allows for a joint travel pass, usable on trains, buses and ferries. These are expensive if you aren't going to be travelling a great deal; if you are, they are well worth the cost.
Santa Christina's buses have a reputation as being always late and not very clean. In recent times these problems have started to disappear, but the bus service still suffers due to the popularity of the railways. Buses are much cheaper than trains, but you get what you pay for, and bus journeys can take a long time in Santa Christina's famous peak hour traffic. A typical bus ticket costs $1, or more if you will be travelling outside the three 'transit zones'. The bus service is entirely government operated, though there are plans for privatisation.
There is a saying in Santa Christina: "Your feet make the best cars." Traffic in the city is not actually unbearable, but in peak periods (usually between 7:30-9:00 am and 5:00 to 6:30 pm), it is not uncommon to be stuck in traffic for long periods. Some enterprising university students have recently started operating coffee carts and hot food stalls on major roads, wandering up and down the sides of the road selling food and drink to drivers.
There are two competing cab services in Santa Christina - BlackCab and CabLink. Most people have a preferred service - in truth, both are pretty much the same. Taxi fares are probably no more expensive than anywhere else, but in peak hour you will spend a fortune because of the traffic.
Ferry transport is limited to the harbour area. Regular trips between the five ferry and water taxi jetties at Northbay, Garretty Island, Cobble Court, Westgate and Central (in the CBD) leave every hour, and are popular with commuters who don't mind the cost and the water. These ferries are quite comfortable and well-designed, but they are privately operated by a firm called Baywater Transport and are quite expensive. If you don't mind boats and spending a bit of money, the ferry is definitely the best way to get across town quickly, because it is a direct route.
Santa Christinians speak English, and people from English-speaking nations will have little difficulty understanding what is said to them. There are few regional phrases or words, and the dominant accent in the region deviates little from the 'standard' accent of Georgelanders from the Mainland region. Due to its cosmopolitan culture and high immigrant population, languages like Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and Swahili are common second languages in Santa Christina. A small minority of the white population speak Afrikaans; Georgeland was a destination for some of South Africa's white elite after the end of Apartheid.
It should be noted that while the name Santa Christina is a Spanish name, Spanish is not a common language in the city.
For fast-food lovers or those on a budget, Santa Christina will not disappoint. As with most Western cities, the large American fast-food outlets are here in abundance. The Golden Arches of McDonalds is ubiquitous, while KFC, Pizza Hut and Burger King are almost as popular. Not all the cheap food available comes from American chains, of course, and neither does all fast food.
- Larry's is a nation-wide institution. It is a fast food chain that blends Asian cuisine, both from India/Pakistan and China, with more "western" types of fast food that creates a unique taste and flavour. Visitors from the UK will appreciate their curries, which are very like those you would be served in England. Of course, being fast food the quality is not gourmet-standard, but it is the perfect symbol of Georgeland's famed multiculturalism. Larry's started in 1947 in Santa Christina and now has more than 50 restaurants nation-wide, as well as one in Perth which recently opened.
- Street vendors have become increasingly common as foot traffic has increased, especially in the CBD. Health inspectors are strict and fierce, so you shouldn't have to worry about hygiene. Almost all the street vendors are ridiculously cheap, and with many of them it's pretty obvious why. That said, there are some fantastic, more-or-less permanent vendor stalls which serve food well above the quality you'd expect. Many of these are located close to either of the universities - students, as you can imagine, form a huge part of their customer base. One of the best is Frankie Kay's, which operates out of what is esentially a caravan near the Collins Theatre at U.S.C. Visitors looking for cheap but tasty eats should look no further than his bacon sandwiches.
Most budget accomodations in Santa Christina are of the hostel variety. These range from the slightly seedy (though still reasonably safe and clean) to the upmarket variety which is still cheaper than most hotels. Some of the standouts are:
- The Old Hospital Hostel: 420-430 Eton Bridge Road.
A small former hospital converted into a cheap but clean and pleasant hostel, the Old Hospital is a unique experience. All bathrooms are shared as are kitchen and dining facilities. The rooms are quite small but generally host between one and four people. Room prices vary but average about $60 a night.
- Garretty Island Youth Hostel: 121-125 Barton Street
Modern and quite upmarket, the hostel caters for the young, trendy backpacker set. There are plenty of private rooms but also many shared ones. The hostel is located close to the Garretty Island Science Centre and just around the corner from Chinatown, which provides a unique experience. Room costs average about $70 per person per night, meals included (though you kind of get what you pay for).
- The Santa Christina Hilton: 340-362 Edward Street
The Hilton is a typical example of the worldwide chain, though it is not actually as expensive as you would think. The Hilton is right in the middle of busy Edward Street, just opposite City Hall and very close to the state parliament. The views from the upper levels are fantastic, though only the very expensive suites on the upper floors are high enough to see the bay.
- The Sheraton Hotel Santa Christina: 12-20 George Street
Another expensive international chain, the Sheraton is recommended for those that can afford it. Consistently rated as the best hotel in the city, the Sheraton is right up close to Mulligan Bay, affording spectacular water views for those that can afford to stay there.
Some local attractions include:
A beautiful Beaux-Arts building in the very centre of the city, the City Hall is the headquarters of the Mayor and City Council, though in reality most of their work is done out of the executive office building behind it. City Hall is now open to tourists year-round, and the tour is not to be missed. The building has some of the most interesting architecture in the city, and it has a collection of artworks and historical memorabilia all its own. In many ways City Hall functions as a civic museum. It is also used as a function centre and has a first-rate restaurant and bar on the premises, though it doesn't open Mondays to Thursdays. Not to be missed.
- West Mainland State Legislature
The building that houses the state's parliament is an Art Deco structure built in 1929. The building was never quite finished due to the Depression, and today serves as both a museum and a functioning government building. Unlike many parliamentary buildings, the feeling is very opened and relaxed - though security is certainly present. On sitting days, visitors can watch the proceedings in the Debating Chamber but access to parts of the building is restricted. On non-sitting days, public access is greater and you can even go and sit in the chamber itself. The building is a beautiful structure both inside and out.
- The Garretty Island Science Centre] is a world-famous attraction that brings in more than a million visitors a year. The entry fee is not as cheap as it once was, but still affordable, particularly for families.
The entire building is a massive museum and monument to science, technology and discovery. The galleries are jammed full of activities for the young and old. It is a very "hands on" museum - rather than just look at things, visitors participate in scientific demonstrations. The technology used is state-of-the-art and is constantly being renewed and improved. One of the highlights is the "journey through space" ride where visitors sit in a mock-up spaceship as a three-dimensional display of some of the wonders of the galaxy is shown around them. Almost everybody who visits the Centre comes away enthused and never disappointed. Your kids will love it and want to come back - the museum prides itself on making science fun and it succeeds wonderfully.
Santa Christina is home to several tertiary institutions, including the two oldest and most prestigious universities in the country. The University of Mainland West and the University of Santa Christina have long and rich academic traditions and are welcoming environments in which to study. University accomodations are extensive throughout the city. The big university campuses have their share of night life and cultural experiences as well. There are several smaller universities in or close to Santa Christina as well, notably the older Weston University, the 1960s-era Frankston College and the more recent Birmingham University.
International students make up large sections of the city's university population, especially from Africa and South East Asia, and all will find themselves welcome. Te student population are politically active; if you decide to study in Santa Christina, the chances are very good you will be dragged to a protest rally sooner or later.
Santa Christina is one of Georgeland's safest cities, but as with all large cities around the world, it is not without its share of trouble spots. In general, exercising common sense and caution will prevent most problems.
The central business district is very safe at night, and there is a very visible police presence. Most of the city centre is also covered by CC TV, which some citizens opposed initially but has now come to be an important crime-fighting tool.
Crime in Santa Christina is usually of the petty variety, largely theft and vandalism. When walking through the city, it is advisable to ensure your belongings are secure just to be safe, although 99% of people will experience no problems. Street vendors are usually honest and can be trusted, unlike in some cities.
At night, travel in the guarded cars on trains and avoid buses if you can, although again, most travellers will not experience a problem. Gang violence, once a major problem in Santa Christina, has largely been curtailed and has been eliminated altogether in the tourist areas. It is usually safe to walk the streets at night, particularly in the CBD, as the area is well-lit and regularly patrolled.
As with many large cities, Santa Christina is ethnically diverse and multicultural. Most people from the many cultures in the city's makeup are tolerant of the ways and traditions of other cultures, but respecting their own traditions and cultural practices is advised. For instance, in the city's Chinatown, respect Chinese customs and practices as much as practicable.
Having said that, Christinians are by reputation a tolerant and welcoming people, and will do their best to respect your own cultural traditions, up to a point.
Avoid talking to anybody about religion or politics unless you are sure of the company you are in. Also, remember the Point Freeman incident of 1995, in which the Point Freeman Nuclear Power Facility suffered a serious technical failure and brought the city to the brink of disaster, is still a recent memory for many of the city's population. In general, Christinians do not like being reminded of the incident and they particularly resent jokes made about it.
A recent project made the entire CBD wireless. If your computer has access to a wireless network you will be able to access the internet anywhere in the city's CBD. Local residents pay for this through their taxes, but visitors can consider this service a free bonus. There are hundreds of places to access the internet through a wired connection - internet cafes are ubiquitous, and all public libraries (and some other public buildings) also contain internet terminals that are accessible for free. There are usually restrictions on internet access in these places to prevent access to pornography or 'dangerous' websites.