Well, we have been here in Melbourne for the past few days and it is definitely a different Australia to the Australia that we have seen up to now. Our first impression of Melbourne is that it is a metropolis. It has a nice skyline with sky scrapers, office buildings and a victorian era train station. It is especially impressive at night with all the lights. Melbourne in its look outside the CBD is distinctly English. The buildings, the houses, the shops, if I had to guess I would have thought I was in a suburb in London. The constant rain that we had in the past few weeks may actually just helped a bit as well.
The life on the streets is a totally different matter. It is colorful, very ethic and chic at the same time. The streets are lined with boutiques, street side cafes, restaurants, hotels, etc. There are so many
different neighborhoods and they tend to be distinctly different. You may have heard of St. Kilda or S. Yarra, the shopping strip of Chapel Street. It is rumored that Melbourne has the most cafes per capita in the world and I can believe that. What makes this even more fun to enjoy is that there seems to be a leisurely atmosphere, sure people hurry and rush but somehow it feels very different to a city like Dusseldorf or London. Maybe it is the Aussie no worries attitude, maybe time on this side of the world passes slower. Whatever it is, it is wonderful and it is one of the things we have really enjoyed.
Melbourne is also the sports capital in Australia. In a few weeks they will host F1 here, there is Tennis and other sports but it is mainly Australian Rules Football that makes them crazy. I hope to be able to go see a match. Cricket is of course very popular and very difficult to understand. Cricket is so popular in so many places but I do not understand one thing about it, it has not gotten better after watching an hour on TV.
One thing that Melbourne is for sure is very Greek. Melbourne is supposed to be the third biggest Greek city after Athens and Thessaloniki and after a week here I can attest to that. Wherever we have gone we have heard or seen Greeks. In Oakleigh, a suburb, there are streets that are purely Greek, hairdressers, library, cafes, restaurants, butchers, pharmacies, etc. It was crazy, I have seen Astoria in New York and it is very much like that. There hasn’t been a day that we did not hear strangers talk Greek. We have impressed a few with the fact that are Greeks from Greece (or Germany close enough:). These people love their country like nothing else. They long for the day that they will visit or go back to Greece.
Another thing that we have noticed about Melbourne is that it rains… let me repeat that it rains…. sorry if I have
to repeat that because it is important as you will see in the video below. It rains… …a lot. It is much greener than anything we have seen until now but that was to be expected. The amount of rain though is surprising. We have not had a dry day yet. The first outing in the city we walked around Flinders St. in the center of the city and took wonderful pictures of the skyline. We walked around and wanted to visit the aquarium to end the day before heading back home. The visit started quite well, we wend through the first section up the escalators and there out of the window we saw hail coming down the size of golf balls! People got really excited, they do not see much snow or ice here… So people started taking picture of the hail, themselves standing on hail and other peculiar shots. Then came the rain. The aquarium is situated on the bank of the river the other side is say about 30 meters away from where we were standing, right in the middle of the river there was a tourist boat, well we could not see that boat. The rain was so thick and dense that the boat disappeared in front of our eyes, sure it was there but we could not see anymore. Then all hell broke
loose rain started pouring in the building, the power went out, the alarms went off! This all happened in minutes but I had realized that there would be problems as the roof started leaking and water was everywhere. The problem is that the way through the museum is one way, you follow a specific route and come out on the other side. People started rushing towards that side, I looked back at the escalator we had just come up onto and decided, although it was flooded to get back down and out that way. It was a quick decision, Beth grabbed Ben and I folded the stroller and quickly made our way out. It was an exciting five minutes but outside on the street the situation was worse. You can see the video and judge yourself. There were many things that I found odd but the one that topped it off is that after the fire brigade came stopped and then moved on, a police car came. They were driving along the tram lines and the one cop in the back rolled his window down and started taking pictures! I guess we were an attraction, a bunch of people stranded on one side of the street surrounded by a mini flood. Beth was worried I just could stop laughing! We went down to meet friends
and have dinner the following day and we got soaked wet on our way to the car park. I was told that Australia is a very dry continent, second only to Antarctica, I guess 2010 is an exception. It is good though for the locals, as there risk of fire is significantly lower than it was last year and the water reservoirs are also filling up, although Perth from what I hear had an exceptionally dry summer.
So we have to go back to the aquarium, we have ended up doing little things in Melbourne as the weather has turned surprisingly cooler and as I mentioned it rains. We did go down to Portsea and Sorrento and drove back up the coast on the Mornington Peninsula, it is beautiful country out there. There are parts of the road where you think that you are going to drive right into the sea and there are look out spots that show some nice cliffs and wide beaches. Of course we had rain but not as bad as the one in Melbourne. It is a funny thing again with the Greeks, I was looking for a fish
and chips place and found one in the seaside town of Rye. We walked in and it was Greek owned, same as the coffee place a few doors down that we stopped for coffee and the same goes for the pharmacist another few doors down. It is incredible, although there are many around here that are third or fourth generation but they do speak the Greek language and keep many traditions alive. I have had the best Greek food ever here in Melbourne. There is a restaurant called the Hellenic Republic owned by the Cypiot-Australian celebrity chef George Calombaris, it is awesome. My description of the Hellenic Republic is simple, authentic, tasty and with attention to detail and a great service, awesome in a nutshell.
We have taken a few frequent drives down town especially in the evening and at night and the city seems to be
alive at most hours of the day, it is clean and it feels very safe. People I have talked to seem to all be very proud of this city and most people I had talked to in Adelaide seemed to prefer Melbourne over Sydney. We are going to Sydney on Friday for a week, I will let you know what I think when we are back here. Melbourne’s population is projected to grow to 5 million in the next 15 years and you can feel the change. A lot of new places have gone up just the past few years, the Docklands is a good example. The city seems to have come out of the crisis relatively unscathed and the real estate market seems to be healthy as ever, sure it went flat for a bit but in a city that is projected to grow so much it is certain that things are looking up in most regards.
The one thing I really love about Melbourne is all the little shopping streets with its specialty shops, second hand bookstores, coffe places, etc. They make the city more interesting, more exciting. It is not sterile and boring as it is in most towns in back in
Germany, where the shopping streets are confined in a few distinct centers scattered around in a city. It is also not as in the US with all the nation-wide brands of stores. Of course you can find McDonalds, Borders Bookstores and Athlete’s Foot (the most terrible name for a shoe store ever!) but they are a few among so many other small privately owned store. Then you have the tram that drives through most main streets in Melbourne and its suburbs, which adds so much to the character of these streets. It reminds me of Germany of 20+ years ago, when times different and this madness of unifying everything to a few brands that make life more monochrome than we like was not as prevalent as it is today.
We are hoping for good weather on Thursday as we want to drive down the Great Ocean Road, on Friday we are leaving for a week to Sydney. Ben is doing great, he now has three teeth with a fourth one on the way. He seems to enjoy meeting people at least as much as we do. In the next few weeks there will be a lot of flying, I sure hope that he won’t mind them.