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Australia, Melbourne
Magdalena Shaw   


Every time someone asks me what I think of Melbourne, I can never answer that with one or two sentences. It’s not only because of my compulsive need to talk, it’s also because it’s a city which doesn’t offer anything special at first sight. I’m not sure if its specific character – which is so difficult to convey -  is something that a tourist to Australia really wants.

If you’re there for an adventure, you have the entire continent to explore and for gods sake why would you sit longer in any of the 8 main cities; if you’re there for sightseeing…please…what sightseeing, we have too much history behind here in Europe to get aroused by a church from the late 1800s, right? Sydney has the opera and the bridge and everybody thinks it’s the capital of Australia. Melbourne, I recon, holds a weird spot in common consciousness here…nobody thinks of it too much. My problem is I don’t want to be a tourist in Melbourne, I’ve been there twice already ... I want to live there.

Apparently, not only me, almost 4 mln people live there, it is a huge place (to compare: London with its 7,5 mln people is 5 times smaller), and it was voted the best place to live in the world by the Economist in 2002 and 2004. And honestly, I’m not surprised.

Even as a tourist I could feel it’s…organised… the way it should be. It’s also interesting on the top of being easy to operate in, just not in an not obvious kind of way. It’s both spacious and populated, depends what you need or where you are. Every suburb is a bit different and has its own character. It’s got many good (and huge) universities and it’s also one of the most popular place to study in this part of the world which adds to its funky character. Its both very Australian and very international. Amazing nightlife. The architecture and layout of the city is a fascinating mixture of old and new. It’s green. It’s industrial. It’s got both palms and sky scrapers. It’s everything you want.

When I came there first in the winter, it was rainy grey place. 15 degrees felt wet and cold and I was a bit lost in a maze of train tracks and streets. I was running around CBD (a grid-like centre, all streets are straight and cross at the right angle) in a fear of getting lost anywhere else….I would sit in a state library and read books when it was raining and I was hunting for Polish donuts in Queen Victoria Market. I went to the party at Fitzroy and got lost in Brunswick. I was shopping at night for goon at Elizabeth Street and was chasing 1 am train going to Carlton. I was watching a mosque from my bedroom window and I took part in a catholic mass at St. Francis. I ended up at a quilt exhibition and witnessed all the noise of the Australian Open. I was about to discover that Melbourne is bigger than I could even start imagining it to be. In many ways, bigger.

Eventually, I learnt that it’s not that easy to get lost for good, because transport there is a bit expensive but very efficient, trams, trains, taxis, all very good. One has to be careful not to get run over by a tram (no tram stop “islands”, you end up in the middle of the road getting off the tram) but that’s all. And the summer 2009 gave me the experience of the absolute heat and, oh joy, the chance to be stuck in a traffic jam in my own rented car. Also, I’ve seen the smoke-covered morning sky and unusually focused faces of people who had just witnessed the tragedy of fires.

If you need a tourist information on Melbourne, buy a lonely planet guide on Victoria or even better, on South-East Australia. Very useful and very accurate. Yeah, yeah do all the touristy stuff. Go to museums and galleries, check out the immigration museum, and Aboriginal art at NGV, the Royal Botanical Gardens, the Federation Square, the Aquarium, the Eureka Tower – oh gosh, the tallest residential building in the world. Take the free tourist tram going around the centre and talking to you about all the attractions. Do all that quickly. Find a club, a pub, an opera, a shopping centre, a casino, a zoo or whatever you like, there is always something going on out there. Rent a car and go down the Great Ocean Road (oh, that’s another story). And then come back and sit down at any restaurant, café or a park bench. Sit down and look at the people’s faces: they are truly amazing.

That’s what get me thinking about this place: people. People there don’t look like and don’t behave like they were living in a busy place. The pace of life there is surprisingly slow for a 4 mln city, or rather less hectic than I expected. It’s not irritating slow, even for my Slavonic temperament. As I said, there is always something exciting going on… in an relaxed stable atmosphere of normality. Maybe my judgement as a visitor is limited and I tend to generalise a lot, however, I noticed that “we” tend to look down at the society which has been forming for a fraction of time comparing to “us”. Personally, I’m so envious. They have been living there, more or less in peace, for a bit less than 200 years in this user-friendly place, where you can do and have and be who- and whatever you want to be. That’s the feeling I miss about many other places I’ve been to and lived in. That’s the feeling that Melbourne might give you, if you are not in a hurry too much.

Oh, yes. It also smells beautifully, especially in the summer. I don’t know what exactly with, but I hope to find out that one day. My Australian journey, which started a while ago and is not yet finished, always begins and ends in Melbourne.


*the title is stolen from my friend’s friend, Izzy


Komentarze (7)
ops indeed
7 wtorek, 14 kwietnia 2009 10:45
Oh the LIBRARY:)) Its great, even design-wise. Mel is the answer really! Its not snobbish at all as the city I mean there are snobbish places there and probably rubbish people too, but as a whole there is a space for everyone, regardless the needs really. Yeah, just don't make any, like ANY decisions based on my point of view, please:)) It's extremely un-objective.
6 poniedziałek, 13 kwietnia 2009 19:17
So, I have to visit Melbourne!

ps. Maybe extremely un-objective, but really attractive!
5 sobota, 11 kwietnia 2009 14:50
Well, I was thinking about this library which you were writing about;):P
I meant that in the city are always many places to go; e.g. gardens, parks, clubs, pubs, libraries, exhibitions...but there's also noisy and snobbish:> Melbourne seems to be much friendly:) Based on the article and your point of view, at least:)
4 piątek, 10 kwietnia 2009 21:58
Im not sure what you mean by ENTERTAINMENT but Im sure Mel has it all. I havent been to that many places (house parties, you know) but from what I heard from ppl, it has it all.
marry me too!
3 piątek, 10 kwietnia 2009 14:33
such a place! I almost fall in love...I always have a dilemma where I want to live: in a calm, good-smelled ;) place or in the town, with all its cultural backup...(cause you know,I NEED ENTERTAINMENT;)) Maybe Malbourne is the answer:)
2 piątek, 10 kwietnia 2009 09:42
Great article!! And now I just want to go there...and experience Melbourne:)
1 piątek, 10 kwietnia 2009 09:36
I like it:))

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