On Monday we took the 3 hour coach ride to Australia’s capital city - Canberra - and met up with my mate Dave who’d moved here a few months ago. Canberra is a designed city, with massive wide streets and huge monuments and as such completely soulless. We did the obligatory tour of the war museum, the parliament and the national museum. The first was very good except for the strange quasi-religious central dome where stained glass windows depicted soliders wielding weapons and gas masks with saintly halos. This idea that nationhood stems from war (hence the common opinion that Australia wasn’t a proper nation until its participation in WWI) is disturbing. Certainly, wars should be remembered but the primary reason is to examine the causes to prevent their re-occurence not to glorify slaughter. We’ve been to alot of war museums in various countries and the causes of each war are invariably glossed over and the displays centre mainly on the glorification of native troops and demonisation of the enemy.
The parliament proved to be an exceptionally un-impressive building from the outside, built as it is into the hillside. Inside, however, it’s nicely designed and there is a copy of the Magna Carta on display (one of only 4 existing).
The national museum was sited in a controversial, ultra-modern building which I actually liked but the displays were fairly poor. And that my friends is Canberra. There’s precious little nightlife or atmosphere in general.
On Wednesday we flew to Melbourne where we met up with Rich’s mate Shane. Wandering the streets was a vast improvement on Canberra. The city is very European in style and architecture with plenty of historic buildings lurking between the modern skyscrapers. The next 2 days were spent exploring the streets, cafes and pubs of which there are many fine examples.
On Saturday I flew back to Sydney and began exploring this famous city. It’s bigger than Melbourne and there’s more cash floating about but the city centre is still very nice and the harbour areas beautifully designed. I met up with Dave and we headed out to explore the nightlife. unfortunately we started at 6pm whereas no Sydneyites come out until 11pm so we were written off before the night got started. We did sample the Rocks, Kings cross (nowhere near as seedy as it’s made out to be) and Oxford Street before stumbling home though.
A tour of the opera house on Sunday was surprising. From a distance the building looks like you’d expect from the photos, with the sail-like roofs gleaming in the sun. From close-up, the first thought I had was “it’s not even finished yet”. The concrete infrastructure of the building is left undressed apparently to show off the engineering and as an example of neo-brutalist architecture but undressed concrete is not a pretty material visually and the huge brownish slabs which make up the base give a very 60’s towerblock feel. Once, you get over the shock though and get inside, it’s a great building and thankfully the interior areas cover the sight of most of the concrete. A walk around the botanical gardens gives a great view of the city and the cheery entrance signs telling you to walk on the grass, hug a tree and sniff the flowers is a welcome change from the usual, no dogs, no football, no breathing signs.