Sydney might be the smart, pretty, popular girl who liked team sports growing up and is now hiking up the corporate ladder on her way to being a VP in a bank. Melbourne on the other hand, leans more to a girl who preferred books, cigarettes, and sketching art in coffee shops as a teenager and now works as a graphic designer for a web company.
Broad strokes, I know – but I found the two cities definitely had their own distinct identities. This is fuelled, of course, by a friendly rivalry between them – or as is often mentioned moreso by Melburnians who, like any good underdog, enjoy poking holes in Sydney’s #1 status. (As a Canadian living above the US, I can empathize.)
However, things weren’t always this way, and signs suggest they’re headed for a change. In 1865 Melbourne had a higher population than Sydney and a mere 15 years later was one of the richest cities in the world, 2nd only to London, England.
This was all thanks to the Gold rush that also buoyed Sydney, higher North in the state of New South Wales, but in the state of Victoria – of which Melbourne is the capital – there was an even wilder time.
Eventually the high times levelled off after a Depression a decade later, but Melbourne stayed prosperous – and now is poised to have the largest population of any Australian city by 2050, as its currently growing 18% faster than the rest.
I’m not sure how that will change the city. For the time being, Rose and I could only see Melbourne in 2014.
Here’s how it went.
We rented an apartment on the edge of the business district, which put us almost right next door to the first spot we went: Queen Victoria Market. It was a neat spot – where we saw a huge group of people lining up in front of a Turkish deli, clamouring for a specific food that I can’t remember – but was a bit like Pide ( breaded meat or cheese and meat).
Seeing a huge crowd we basically acted according to crowd-think, and lined right up with them, not really knowing at the time what we were getting in line for.
As it turns out, while I forget the name, I remember the taste being a bit disappointing – however the price was great: $2 per – which probably explained the large crowds.
Anyway, our next move was to do what everyone suggested: walk the laneways in the downtown core:
Passing between graffittied walls:
we invariably popped out to see another coffee shop – something we learned Melburnians are very proud – and a ton of cafes along the alleyways.
We settled on a Greek spot for dinner, which, I later learned was not all that difficult as Melbourne has the largest Greek speaking population outside Europe.
The food was awesome and we carried on our way. In total we were in the city for a week and we got into a bit of a routine, wandering into the core, finding some alleyways then a spot to eat and roaming around some more.
Another spot that was hard to miss was Chinatown, which again thanks to el oro – is one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world as immigrants arrived in the thousands to find them shiny yella nuggets 150 years prior.
Sadly, our photographs are limited because I erased some by mistake thinking I had already saved them elsewhere. I know, not helpful to a blog.
Instead, you know that concept of a picture being a thousand words?
Can you think of it the other way? It’s asking a lot, I realize, but think it will make this go a lot better.
Next we wandered out of the core and found the nearby neighbourhood of Fitzroy – which again, fellow travellers had recommended. It reminded me a lot of an area in Toronto: Queen West West and the Southern stretch of Ossington street. Cafes, art shops, bookstores, restaurants, stores big enough for rows of clothes but seem to only have six T-shirts, and brew pubs.
We wandered in to a brew pub – and who was at the door greeting us with samples of a beer? A fellow Canadian, happily perpetuating the stereotype of Canadians and beer of which our presence alone was also doing the same.
In principle we were trying to eat on a budget, but as in Sydney, costs weren’t necessarily the cheapest. Still, we did our best, often treating our cultural experiences as walking through the streets and avoiding the cost of the big museums like the National gallery.
However one splurge we did do was go to the Australian Museum of Moving Image (ACMI), which seems like a long title to get across the point that we won’t see any books on display.
Within, Mad Max’s car was on view (here’s an example I “borrowed”).
Plus a history of the Australian film industry and some of its big actors including Melbourne’s own: Cate Blanchett.
I also learned in the museum that this video was shot in the city:
I like Ac/Dc. I’m not a diehard that’s combing newsgroups for 70s bootlegs and Ac/Dc dollars from their Razor’s Edge tour. But I plan to see them summer 2015 in Canada, and I’m fan enough that I wanted to see the lane dedicated to them in the city, which we walked past (again a borrowed image):
Later on we saw a comedy show with headliner – Tom Gleeson – who, later on we’d learn was a friend of another Australian we met in Thailand. Different concert, but here’s some of the same material we saw:
Type in “Melbourne things to do” in Google and one of the biggest things that comes up is something that you have to drive outside of the city and carry on driving for 234 kilometres to get the most out of it: the Great Ocean Road
It’s a pretty drive that we took four days to drive up and back on, which culminates in this popular view of what’s called the Twelve Apostles (one of the rocks over my shoulder):
Maybe one of the biggest highlights was driving off the route into a group of eucalyptus trees. As we went, we kept spotting koalas one after the other. We must have driven six kilometres into the woods, keeping our eyes on the trees:
“Look there’s another – that’s 12”.
After coming back in our finally tally was 16 of the furry guys. It was pretty amazing.
Soon this would be the last cuddly looking thing we’d see for a long time. Our next stop, Kathmandu Nepal where we set off on a walk one day, and came back 20 days later.