November, 2007

Australia flag

Because we were out in Abbotsford it took us a few days to get into Melbourne proper. Our first excusion we didn't even stop: we drove into and through the CBD and onto the Botanic Gardens. Doing so we discovered the imposing War Memorial Shrine and spent all of our time there, exploring the Art Deco building and its museum. A week or so later we came back and saw the Botanic Gardens, or at least half of them, as that was all our alloted time allowed us. The Gardens are marvelously landscaped and manicured in a way that is much more pleasing than a continuously changing series of plants.

On Novemember 11, Remembrance Day, we went back to the Shrine, this time by bicycle. We sat on the lawn as the Australians remembered their dead and their sacrifices, an act we very much appreciate. As an extension of the ceremonies there was a concert on the lawn and we enjoyed that too. Then, as we were about to leave we passed another group, just starting their own ceremonies: a special memorial to Nepalese Gurkhas who had served with Australia forces was being dedicated. We stopped to watch and consequently got involved in a conversation with some of the Nepalese and were happy to continue the conversation when we were invited into the Shrine museum where refreshments were served.

Of course we went to museums. Our first was the Melbourne museum, in the Carlton district. It is housed in a very modern glass building on the grouds of the old Exposition center. (We intially made a mistake and tried to enter the 1880s (?) Victorian style Exposition building.) The museum is jammed packed and we saw less than half of it. One part was the Aborigine section and the biased presentation, presenting all things done by colonists as bad for Aborigines. got our dander up.

South of Flinder's station is the International Gallery of the NGV - National Gallery of Victoria. We loved it. Our time there was primarily spent in the 16th-18th century European paintings and they have a wonderful collection. Some two weeks later we visited the Australian Gallery of the NGV in nearby Federation Square. We liked the works by Europea Australians and, as usual, didn't think much of the native "dot-style" Aborigine works. The museum did, of course!

Incidentally, we came by bicycle and on arrival Jan somehow just collapsed on top of her bike. Another couple rushed over to help her before Gerry could. That resulted in a coversation and the woman said to Jan "I've seen you before." We thought it unlikely but in fact a rather strange coincidence was unfolding: a week earlier (see below) we'd been in Mansfield (200 km away) and the woman had seen us in a restaurnt; when she'd heard our American accents her ears perked up.

It was only near the end of our stay that we really got to know a bit about Melbourne's CBD. We'd been on the edge four or five times when we'd gone to the closest branch of Aldi, our favorite supermarket, that we'd learned about in Berlin and been delighted to find in Sydney. In our last week we really started to visit the CBD. One morning we went to the Victoria Parliament and sat in on debates in the House and in the Senate. While less consequential in political life, the Senate chambers were much more attractively decorated and the debate was more interesting. The same afternoon we walked around a good part of the CBD, going down to the Southern Cross station and back and still having enough time for a repeat visit to the Victoria State Library.


December 15, 2007