I have spent 4 days in Melbourne in order to recover from the journey, get everything set and tuned for the bike trip and of course also to visit the city.
On my first day I did not manage to do much except a short walk to the open-air mall on Victoria street and to a supermarket to buy some food. In the afternoon I could not resist to a “short” nap that happened to last 4 hours. Yep, changing from 25°C and + 7 hours time shift (Mexico) to 25°C and -10 hours time shift (Australia) within 10 days, with a one week “pit-stop” to my homebase (-2°C in Belgium at that moment) is not easy for the body!!
Hopefully during the second day I managed to avoid the “nap trap”: I attended a free walking tour of the city, during which I learned a lot of interesting things:
- Melbourne was elected “the most liveable city in the world” by an American journal. I must admit that the city seems nice to live in.
- It is a very cosmopolite city: more than 1 third of its inhabitants are non-Australian. It is also a very dynamic city: lots of new skyscrapers are currently being built, there are lots of cultural activities happening, a lot of animation in the streets,…
- Australia is in fact the reunion of 6 old English colonies that sometimes were rival before the reunion. For example, there is an old rivalry between Melbourne (Victoria State) and Sydney (New South Wales) for which city si the biggest, the wealthiest,… This rivalry is the reason why they chose Camberra as capital for the country: a small town without pretention that’s located more or less between Sydney and Melbourne.
- Melbourne was founded a few decades after Sydney and other English settlements in Tasmania because the first navigators did not realize that it was a good place to settle. The fist person to understand the financial interest of settling in the Melbourne area was a farmer and businessman of Tasmania named John Batman. He ripped of the local aborigenous people: in exchange for a few knives and blankets, he bought a gigantic surface of land. But when the British auhorities learned it, they took everything away from him. Eat and be eaten… The name Melbourne was given much later to the city, in rememberance of some obscure British prime minister of that time. But before, the city was known as Batmania, which would have been a much more funny name nowadays!
As you can see on the pictures below, the city is a patchwork of very different architectural styles and the result is not always a success. The best example is the Federation Square, a complex of buildings that was erected in 2001 to commemorate the 100 years of the formation of Australia as a country. They made a worldwide architecture contest, but the result is particularly ugly! If you are an architect and are ready for a working experience in Melbourne, no doubt there will be a job for you!
I also rode my bike along the Yarra river, wich was a very pleasant ride. Then, I went to the Royal Botanical Garden. It was really worth the visit, as the diversity of species and atmospheres is very great. They really managed to create a peaceful place inside the city, with many beatiful place to rest and walk and romanesque landscapes.
Tonight, I am taking the ferry towards Tasmania, to start the real stuff!! Stay tuned! 🙂