As many of us know Apple does some great products, recently I fooled around a bit with trailers on iMovie ’11. Here is an interesting trailer for our upcoming immigration to Australia.
We are done, the household is on route to the warehouse where it will spend the next 6 months away from us. We are sad… very sad… we loved our place and this was our home for a decade. I am sure that in two weeks we will be excited and smiling but today is a day for reminiscence.
Every beginning has an end… and a middle… We loved every minute in this place, it was our first real home. While I am sure we will have a new one soon enough, it still painful. It is here that we grew into a family and where our son, Ben, took his first steps… …well here and during our Australian vacation in 2010.
Ronsdorf we love you, we did not think that this would ever be the case but it is. Australia we love you too and we hope you are everything we hope for…. …see you in two weeks!
It is no secret that I despite the fact that I am Greek by birth I feel more at home in an anglophone world. The irony is, I spend most of my life in the German world and I carry a German passport, indeed it is my “main” passport. I am at home here. My wife holds two passports, my son holds three, despite his young age of 3 he seemingly understands three languages. A lot of people here find it peculiar and in many countries the law does not even allow such things. A lot of people frown upon it as they do not seem to understand how or why that is possible.
I understand that sometimes it is hard to comprehend but I always felt at home wherever I went and I believe we will feel at home in Australia. I have no doubt that once we have settled down in place that we will have rent or bought we will feel that we had been around for much longer than we actually have. I have travelled so much and there are many countries where I feel I could settle without any major issues. This obviously is not a talent, it is just reality that has grown from years of experiences with people from all over the world. I have family and friends in many places and I can relate to them, I know what routine looks and feels like for many of them and funny enough I have myself been stuck in traffic in many cities around the world be it New York, be in New Delhi or Tokyo.
I believe though that there is a deeper underlying reason for this, I believe people everywhere are very similar in so many ways. The basic needs of providing for your family, the sense of belonging, the need for recognition, etc. are the same everywhere. Obviously, there are big differences on how some of those needs are fulfilled and the only thing that I can say is that I have been very respectful and mindful on those differences. People have a tendency to complicate things but once you can go past that and see the simplicity, there is a lot of beauty. At the end of the day you get out of most anything whatever you put in, and we are going to put everything in our new lives in our new country. Hope….
It has been two years since we were on that trip to Australia. I have been meaning to write this post ever since we got back from Oz but so many things have happened and so much has changed that I have taken my time with it. I have refreshed and updated the look of the blog and I mean to do regular updates on the subject of Australia, on our imminent move to the Lucky Country and in general my thoughts on some of the more interesting (to me) current events.
Australia had been a dream for a very long time, it has taken us a long time to finally make it and what we saw, what we experienced is difficult to put into words. It was an experience extraordinaire, a life changing experience in certain ways. We saw so much of Australia and yet only a very small part of this huge land, what we saw we liked… …a lot! We liked it so much that we actually started thinking seriously of moving there permanently. After our return home and my decision to leave my employer the way opened and it was mostly a matter of time.
I have not come across one person that was not enthusiastic or at least positive towards that far away island nation. I have travelled a lot and lived in different places, I believe that I am not naive. I know that there are, there must be, things that are not as perfect as they seem in Australia. I will find out in due time as I am going to spend the rest of my life there. That of course does not mean that I will go hunting to find the negatives but it goes to show you that Australia is seemingly a very exciting place with a positive outlook on life in general. That is in stark contrast to Germany, the quality of life here is at the highest level, yet the people seem to be more on the negative side of things, more on that though in a different post.
So here I go again, I will be again posting regularly hope you will enjoy and follow my posts.
- Why do immigrants do better in Australia than Canada? (blogs.vancouversun.com)
After a nice flight during which Ben made lots of new friends and a great impression on a cute air hostess (is that the politically correct expression for a stewardess now days?) we landed in Melbourne and picked up our rental. It took us a little longer than we expected as they gave us a big Japanese SUV, as with any non-European car we had difficulties with the baby seat and thus had to wait for a VW to get ready.
When we arrived home in East Hawthorne it was almost dark and we made ourselves comfortable. We were slowly realizing that our stay in Australia was about to end. While we were happy with the thought of going home and stop living out of a suitcase we were also more than a little sad. For the past two months we were in a state of quasi trance, we did not really know what day or date it was, we did not care if it was the weekend or not, the only thing that we looked forward to was our next destination. There was a lot of excitement about the whole trip and there was nothing routine about it.
We still had three days though and we wanted to make use of them, we decided to visit the Dandenongs. The Dadenongs are the Melbournian answer to the Blue Mountains, at least that is what “they” say. The Dadenongs are not that far from Melbourne but it was a stark reminder that driving in Australia is not really as pleasant or quick as what we are used to back home. We finally reached the forest and after a quick stop at the visitor’s center we took a stroll through a beautiful forest, the trees were huge and looked like they came from the sets of LOTR. We drove through towns with names like Ferntree Gully, Safrasssas, Kallista, Olinda, stopped for coffee and enjoyed watching people go about their lives.
This was also the weekend of the Formula 1 race in Melbourne, the Greek Festival Antipodes and the start of
the season for Aussie Rules Football! Melbourne was bustling with frenetic activity of all sorts. There were closed roads and whole areas cordoned off to an exclusive clientele, especially around Albert Park where the F1 race was on. Fortunately, I received a pass from a friend who lived in the area and I could move around. We had gone to the Antipodes festival the night before and it was fantastic, there is something very special that makes you very proud when a world city like Melbourne stops to celebrate its Greek population. The celebrations are extensive, there is a mini Luna park that they set up, there are stands that offer original Greek food, there is live music, there are local politicians and some that come from Greece, they hold speeches and go on a publicity roll through the mass of people. It was what the Greeks call a “panigiri”, in its truest sense.
On Saturday, I went to my first and only AFL game, the Bull Dogs were facing Collingwood. Australians are sports crazy and there is no other sport that can perfectly illustrate this craze. The sport is full of action, there is no stopping, they run, they shove, they kick and not always the ball for 4 quarters each about 30 minutes! The game is physical, quick, fun and exciting and the crowds were wonderful, loud and full of energy.
On our last full day in Australia the weather was beautiful, clear blue skies and warm. Unlike most of our time in Melbourne it looked like we would spend our last day outdoors, enjoying the day as Aussies do. We decided to go to the Botanic Garden and the Shrine of Remembrance.
It is a patch of green and quiet, just south of the city center, an excellent place to take a walk and enjoy the skyline. The Botanic Gardens are very beautiful, serene and as good a place as any to relax and in our case to reflect about the time that we spend in Australia. The Shrine of Remembrance was a very special place to me. It was build as a memorial for the fallen soldiers of Victoria during WWI, later it was dedicated to all fallen soldiers of the ANZAC forces. The Shrine was more spectacular than any other that I have seen. Walking through the building with its high ceilings, the war torn flags, the registers with the names of the fallen, the eternal light in front of a monument in the courtyard, it was overwhelming. It is also possible to get on top of the shrine where there is a balcony with breathtaking views of the city and St. Kilda just to the south.
The weather was beautiful and we did not want the day to end so we drove to St. Kilda and just sat there watching the sunset and loving every minute of it. That was the last day of a magnificent trip, we saw so much and experienced a lot. We spend countless hours together as a family and drove many ks through this beautiful, magnificent country.
The next day we checked if all was ok said our goodbyes to Beth’s uncle, who had been a graceful and wonderful host. We drove to the airport, taking in the sites, the city, the sky that seems to be so different down under. We dropped off the car and made our way to the gate….
We were sick by now of the rain so we decided to find a place that we at least did not get wet. It was a bit difficult as the whole region between the
Fiji Islands and most of Northern Queensland was heavily influenced by a series of cyclones, the radar showed covered skies everywhere. The only exception at least for the highlands. You see a few miles inland along the coast there are a series of hills that lead to the highlands, the climate there is very different than the coast, it is a lot drier and mostly cooler. So we decided to head inland to the Atherton Tablelands. The Atherton Tablelands are a plateau that is part of the Great Dividing Range. The plateau is named after John Atherton who sttled near the town that now bears his name in the late 1870s. The region is well suited for farming as the soil is very fertile due to ts volcanic origins and it is also well suited for dairy and grazing. The region though was originally developed for its tin that was discovered near the present town of Herberton. It is not an easy drive, especially with the car we had, the road up through the mountains onto the plateau is full of tight curves, there were lot of look out points but the only thing
we could see was a white nothingness as the clouds were hanging very low. It was raining all the way up but once we reached the plateau the weather turned favorable, we even saw some sun. We did not come prepared as we were not planning to visit this area, our idea of Port Douglas and Queensland was sun, beach and tropics but in life you do not always get what you want or even what you paid for. So we just looked at the map and drove to Mareeba. Mareeba is the biggest town in the region with a population of about 7000, as always Australia is just way to big to fill with 22 million people. Nevertheless by now we were accustomed by now and found the town to be bigger than expected. The town grew with the arrival of the railroad in the late 19th century and also during World War 2 when the Australian army used the town as a staging area for the battles in the Pacific. According to the tourist guide the town gets 300 sunny days a year and that was a reason enough for us ti explore the town a bit. We headed for coffee at the Coffee Works. A delightful little place that was packed and offered some very tasty desserts, the Mississippi Mud Pie (I know it is not Australian) was the best and of course excellent coffee from local coffee beans. As with all places in Australia the town was trying to project a sense of history, to somehow tell a story and prove to anyone willing that there is more to the place than meets the eye. Australia is so young though that
to us it did not seem very significant in the big scheme of things, maybe only in the Australian scheme of things. Mind you that this is not a criticism, just an observation. The drive had taken us longer than expected so we decided to head off to Cairns with a stop at Kuranda. The road was better, we also got to see some huge termite mounds, they can be huge! It started raining again, it was pouring like there was no tomorrow. That was to continue for the rest of the day, which was still half the day. We drove to the town of Kuranda, 25 kays from Cairns. Thousands of tourists visit the town either with the skyrail or the historic Kuranda Scenic Railway. The rain was so bad that we did not stop to get out but just drove through the town that was devoid of any tourists. We managed to find our way to Barron Falls were Beth and me took turns to run to the lookout platform to look at the -only in the wet season- spectacular falls. It was a pity that we did not get to spend more time but it was uncomfortable so we decided to get on to Cairns and hope to find some respite. The road turned nasty again as we had to drive down from the highlands, I wish we can visit again sometime when the weather is better the views must be breathtaking. We went into Cairns looking for food, we were hungry as we only had had breakfast in the morning but it was not meant to be. The restaurant we wanted to go to was closed and would not open until 5pm, so we took a little walk at the Cairns Esplanade in the
rain and went into a couple of souvenir shops. Before long we took off to go back to Port Douglas. I cannot stress enough how beautiful the drives were, the scenery despite the gray skies were breathtaking, we stopped at Palm Cove and while the beach was closed for swimming the place looked very beautiful.
This was our last night in Port Douglas and we decided to try Thai food, Beth did not allow me to give prik (Thai for chili) to Ben but we had fun and enjoyed a very nice evening out. We also started talking about the return trip and we wondered where two months went. We only had four more days in Australia, we had so much fun and we done so much that we did not realize that our time here was almost up. We went back to the hotel and packed, we had a flight to Melbourne to prepare for….
It has been a few weeks since we are back home but there are a couple more posts at least to complete our trip to Australia. The last week we were there we went up to Port Douglas, fully aware that a cyclone had devastated Fiji and
Whitesunday but we had booked and organized everything so we went head and hoped for the best.
This time we flew with Virgin Blue and it was a much more pleasant experience than Quantas. Everybody from airport staff to airplane crew were very friendly and helpful both on the way to Cairns and on the return flight. At the airport in Melbourne we also met Joseph Pouliotis, our friend from Adelaide who actually had just landed in Melbourne. We could not see anything on our approach to the Cairns International Airport as the clouds hung low and there were heavy rains. We quickly made our way to the rental company, everything seemed to be a bit more chaotic than at the airports we had seen in Australia and this was low season. We picked up our Suzuki Vitara, I would never recommend this car to anyone. Port Douglas is about 60 kays north of Cairns and the road, named after James Cook, is beautiful. The windy road takes you close to many beaches and the view is just plain spectacular, it would have been even better if the skies were not gray. On our way we past well known beaches like Palm Cove, Trinity Beach, Turtle Beach and others.
Port Douglas was established a little over 100 years ago as a mining town and it was almost deserted at the beginning of the 20th century after the completion of the Kuranda Railway in Cairns and a devastating cyclone in 1911 that left only two buildings standing. In the 1960s the town had a population of less than 100. It wasn’t until the 80’s when the town started to develop into one of the best towns in Australia, it currently ranks on the #3 spot on the 100 Best Towns in Australia. It certainly is a great town. It is a
tropical little heaven with very good beaches and although in high season it doubles in size the town is very small and you can walk it in a couple of hours. On its north side there are very nice homes on a hill that overlooks the Four Mile Beach and the tropical forest that extends all the way to the beach. We stayed on Macrossan Street in a place called Reflections of Port Douglas and Carmel, the owner, made everything possible to make our stay comfortable. Her apartments are great but what I found outstanding is her hospitality and easy going manner, Ben will miss her. Reflections is about two minutes from the beach and five minutes from the center of town so its location is great especially if you have a baby with you.
We only had three full days in Port Douglas so we had to make the most out of it. The main reason for going to Port Douglas was for Beth to go the Great Barrier Reef, one of the two world heritage in the area. So we organized for her to go on a boat on Tuesday, the only day where the weather was going to be half-decent. As Beth gets seasick we had very
little choice as we had to choose the biggest ship that went out there. We chose Quicksilver and if you ever have the chance avoid them. The crew seemed very rude before they even left and from what Beth described they were not very helpful or nice. Anyway, we suspected that it might be that way but we had to choose them. It was already late afternoon so we quickly went onto the Four Mile Beach and took a stroll down the beach. The beach was closed for swimming and the sea was rough but what made this visit to the beach memorable were the warning signs around it. Crocodiles, stingers, slippery rocks, strong currents, tides and we shall not forget the stingrays, Steve Irvin the “Crocodile Hunter” was killed by one off the shores of Port Douglas. So as with most places in Australia dangers lurk around but we adhered to the quintessential Australian adage of no worries and walked on the beach, to be fair we were not alone. Macrossan St. is really the center of town and we headed out that way when we came back from the beach. We found good food, good desserts and as always great coffee, prices were fair with the exception of ice cream which is very expensive everywhere in Australia and not
really as good as our gelaterias here in Germany. Of course all shops were closed and that is really I never understood about Australia, why do shops close so early? We were forced not to spend any money, which is not bad after all. Most liquor shops though are open until very late, I guess work little drink a lot is the motto! That is not bad, not bad at all.
The next day Beth went on to the Great Barrier Reef with Quicksilver and the day did not look good at all. Skies were gray, clouds hung low and it was windy, which means that out in the open sea the waves would be rough. There are hundreds of people that fit on the quicksilver and looking at them board I was wondering if they had read the weather report. There were people with strollers, families with toddlers, elderly people that needed assistance to walk, did they know what they were in for? Ben and me waited for mum to board and we sat at a bar at the marina to have a coffee and Ben his milk. We then got into the car and headed north towards Daintree and Mossmann, I could not wait to get to into the rain forest. We were disappointed, this area has been cleared long ago
for the production of mainly sugar cane and sugar cane fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Mossman is also known for its 2-foot gauge tramways, these trams that look like small trains run along the fields and were crucial for the development of the regional economy and Mossman was bigger and richer than Port Douglas for many years. We then took to the back roads through tiny towns and sugar cane fields, Ben in the mean time was asleep and did not seem to mind the constant opening and shutting of the door as I had to get out to take pictures. This region is so
far from anything and there are just not enough people so the infrastructure is not as great as one would expect but it is a beautiful place to live. It is always green, there is the proximity to the highlands and of course the awesome beaches make this region very attractive. There is always Cairns about 80 km south of Mossman that provides for anything anyone would want. We drove through some streets where houses were literally in the jungle, it is difficult to imagine how you can live so close to “uncomfortable” nature. The low clouds provided for some dramatic scenery as the surrounding hills were engulfed in them. In the afternoon we went to pick Beth up and watched as the Quicksilver catamaran approached the marina and people disembarked. It to
ok a while but then we saw Beth all wobbly, the first thing she said is food but she pale was as pale as alpine snow. They encountered rough seas and well over half the people on that boat became seasick, Beth unfortunately was among them. On the way out she had great difficulty and the pills that they gave her did not help as they did not have time to kick in. Ben was happy to see his mum, we sat at a restaurant at the marina and something small to eat. It was still early but Beth had to relax so we drove to the apartment.
We spend four nights in Port Douglas and we went out all four nights, Macrossan St., the main street in Port Douglas is very nice. It is lined up with small boutique shops (that we never saw in operation) and many restaurants and hotels (remember hotels in Australia are not necessarily hotels in Australia rather they are pubs that may or may not offer rooms to let). We tried a different restaurant each time and once even tried Mexican (my Burritos are better;), the food was good and prices surprisingly down to earth considering that Port Douglas is considered a high end tourist destination, in Europe prices would have been much higher. It rained every night but as during the day it was warm. We decided to drive up to Cape Tribulation on the next day, the route would take us through part of the route that I had just done but we would push on farther north take the ferry over the Daintree river and then drive through the jungle onto Cape Trib as local call it. The road ends at C
ape Trib and there is dirt truck that is impassable for most cars during wet season for I believe about 100km to Cooktown. Cooktown is the place where Captain Cook was stranded for a few weeks on the natural harbor after sustaining heavy damage on his lead ship. It is also in Cooktown that the name Kangaroo came to be as it was one of about 50 words that Cook learned from the local Aborigines, the tribe of Guugu Yimithirr. It was not until the mid sixties that any kind of road actually reached Cape Trib, it proved to be a lively road with loads of
tourists, especially back packers and the younger crowd. The road took as through field of sugar cane to the Daintree river. Once we crossed the river we found ourselves in the rainforest, the windy road was very narrow and the trees were towering over the road, there were only a few spots where we could see the gray skies. It rained almost non stop so we did not have the opportunity to get out of the car for pictures but we nevertheless enjoyed the majestic beauty of one of the oldest forests on earth. We never got see a Cassowary but we saw plenty of spiders a
nd many warning signs to keep off any creek or river banks because of crocodiles. We stopped at the Daintree Discover Center, an excellent little center in the rainforest with skywalks and different displays, signs and information explaining and pointing out the peculiarities and uniqueness of the forest. As it is the rainy season the mosquitos are on overdrive and let
`me tell you if you are ever in this situation wear bright and shiny colors as they are the best defense against them, as fate had it I had a navy blue t-shirt on which attracted mosquitos like you never seen before, they like to hide in the dark. We did visit the center and did walk around for about an hour, we even went up the tower that takes you higher than the tree canopies for a breathtaking view (it was cloudy). It is also here that we saw the tree called the stinging tree or better known locally as “dead man’s itch”. According to the guide book if you are stung you will believe all the stories that surround this tree, there were signs to warn us. Well besides the humidity, rain, toxic trees,
ferocious mosquitoes we also saw spiders that were bigger than the palm of my hand and supposedly there were snakes around. It is an experience to say the least but soaking wet with Ben complaining in his pouch I started dreaming about all that snow that we had back home in Germany! We decided to cut our visit in the center short and head farther north to our destination, Cape Trib. I found it amazing that there were houses scattered about in this so densely forested region. I cannot believe that there are people that voluntarily live on in this place, it is one thing to visit or stay for a little while but to live there forever, hmmm!?! I guess you have to love insects and uncontrolled growth of all sorts of weeds…
After Sydney we flew back to Melbourne for a quick weekend before we headed out again to Port Douglas in Queensland for a week of R&R. After all when you are on vacation for two months you do get tired of it and an R&R in the tropics is the way to go.
The weekend in Melbourne was easy, no worries as they say. We were not sure of what to do and Beth was not up to driving hundreds of kilometers to go to the Promontory, the southern most tip of Australia. A very nice National Park with nice beaches and good trails for hiking. So we decided for something that was closer, Ballarat was the destination. A city west of Melbourne, we drove through it on our way from Adelaide. What we did not realize at that time was that Ballarat is the
biggest inland city in Australia and has played a pivotal role in the history of Victoria and Australia as a whole. So we headed back the way we came on the Western Highway for about 100 kays to the city of Ballarat. The next biggest town west is Ararat, go figure!
Gold was discovered in Ballarat in 1851, this discovery spawned the Victorian gold rush and within a year became the biggest city in Victoria. It was not too last tough as fortune seekers followed a trail of gold discoveries that went around the coast to the north in Queensland and on to Western Australia. The story of gold is told very well at the Gold Museum in Ballarat. More large gold nuggets have been found in the goldfields of Victoria than anywhere else. The world’s largest gold nugget “Welcome Stranger” weighing in at 64.5 kg was found in these fields in February of 1869 by two miners laying a mere 5 cm below the surface. The second biggest was found three years earlier around Ballarat, from the 47 nuggets weighing over 18kg found around the world 40 were found in this area. And gold has not disappeared since then, there are regular discoveries of nuggets worth well over 50,000$. The city of Ballarat and the surrounding region named officially the Goldfields region of Victoria have also found that tourism can also be a gold mine of sorts. There are many things to do in this area but as we only had a day to spare we decided to spend our time in Ballarat. The city has about 80,000 people and it has many fine victorian buildings that have changed little in the last 150 years. Looking down some of the streets with these grand structures bar the cars and bitumen was like looking though a window 150 of history. We headed to Sovereign Hill an open air live gold mining museum that is the most popular attraction in the city. The museum depicts the first ten years of the gold rush, the 1850’s, you can pan for gold just like back then, there are volunteers walking the streets in period costumes happy to pose for pictures and answer questions, mines to tour and spend a few hours in a place that might very well have been a movie set for a western. It was an amazing place and one of the best I have seen, well worth the $40+ that we paid to get in. It is also a sort of place that children enjoy a lot as they can discover and learn a lot by “living” history.
Ballarat turned out to be a nicer city than I had expected, so besides the Gold Museum that we enjoyed where we saw some of the larger nuggets found (replicas & originals), we also walked in some of its parks and wondered aloud about how easy going Australians are. They are outdoorsy and they make use of their many parks. They barbecue, walk, bike, laze in the sun or whatever else they feel up to and they seem totally at ease. Despite the crowds in some of these parks -not only in Ballarat- there is some tranquillity about in the air. The fair weather surely is a factor but it also their general “no worries” attitude towards life that give us that impression. It is also something that our Greek cities can surely learn from, instead of just cementing every little patch they should make sure that citizens can enjoy the outdoors by providing parks like they have here. That is a different discussion though for another time. The parks and barbecue/picnic in Australia go hand in hand and are as simple as it gets but a wonderful combination. The Wendouree Park is worth mentioning because it also has a memorial to POW (Prisoners Of War), a wonderful memorial that resembles the Vietnam Memorial in DC and a nice little Tram Museum. There is also a very nice Victory Arch on the main entrance of the town from the west.
Ballarat is also significant as it is the place of the only civilian uprising in Australia. In September 1851 the Victorian government introduced a Gold License in order to raise money for services and also as a way to discourage people from leaving their jobs to become gold miners. Most of the miners though lived in absolute poverty in the hope of striking gold so they resented this measure which they saw as unfair taxes. It did not help that the local government and police were corrupt as well. They regarded this as taxation without representation, much like the Yankees did in Boston about 80 years before, as they could not vote for the people who governed them. In November of 1854 the diggers appointed an Irishman Peter Lalor as their Commander in Chief and vowed to defend their rights and liberties and build a stockade, made a flag and burned licenses. On December 3, 1854 about 300 soldiers and police officers attacked and massacred the diggers, ove 30 killed and many more wounded. More than 120 diggers were put on trial but none where ever found guilty. Public opinion sided with the diggers and finally Australia introduced major reforms among them the most important the right to vote for parliament. The diggers had finally won. Well, I get easily carried away but this also shows how many hidden gems there are in Australia besides all the known sites and cities.
On that weekend we finally managed to get back to the Aquarium in Melbourne from which we were evacuated a couple weeks ago because of the storm. I had expected more from the aquarium but Ben certainly enjoyed watching all the different fish, including sharks. We then went to Oakleigh, the Greek neighborhood, to meet with relatives on my father’s side. So for the first time I met my aunt Parthena and her three children Coonie and her husband Jan, Varvara and Ari and her grandchildren. We first had to entangle how we are related but then we had fun catching up. On the weekend we also met Maria Mitropoulos and her husband Darren Favretto, Beth’s friends from Adelaide who now live in Melbourne.
Everything in Sydney is about the harbor. As one non-Sydney (how do you call someone who lives in Sydney?) resident told me Sydney is the harbor with 5% that have a view of it and 95% who want to have a view of the harbor. Any property with view of the harbor gets an instant premium on its value. Talking about property value, what is going on in Australia is putting me off. The quality of the housing is terrible to not so terrible but the prices are through the roof. I was not sure if the quality of the housing was substandard or if it was just the houses we had visited but after talking to recent immigrants to Australia from Europe they all say the same thing. I cannot believe that this country has forced the light bulbs off the shelves around the globe but otherwise live in highly inefficient houses waisting water, energy and precious resources. House prices through are really high, even in suburbs that are half an hour away from the CBD a decent place can cost you a million! The same goes for all major cities in Australia. It is crazy and stupid, the discussions about property and property values remind me of discussions I had with friends in the US back in 2007. Is there a housing bubble looming in the horizon down under? I do not know but I like the
German restrain on these matters, we do not get excited about this stuff and we do not like artificial wealth nor much credit. As usual I tend to trail off so lets get back to the subject at hand.
on the north side also looked a lot better and more exclusive that the ones in south but we only drove through and did not linger much. Closer to the city and next to the Rocks is the Darling Harbor and Chinatown, two parts of the city that are very interesting to visit and tons of stuff to do. Especially around Darling Harbor there are a lots of restaurants, clubs and cafes.
Of course visiting Sydney without visiting the famous beach of Bondi is like drinking a milkshake without the ice cream. Bondi beach was crowded, there was also a contest of surfing that was being filmed. The commotion was incredible, and the weather perfect. We also visited Coogee and other beaches like Cronulla around Botany Bay. Botany Bay is also the spot where Captain Cook actually made his first landing in Australia, there is a small memorial in the Botany Bay National Park to mark the spot. It is incredible to just stand at that spot, look around and see all the development that has taken place in the last 200 years. I am sure he would not recognize the place today.
We walked down to the lookout and then the short hike to the Three Sisters, the main landmark in the Blue Mountains. We loved the landscape and we would love to have more time to hike through some of the trails and spend time in this National Park. Throughout our travels we have enjoyed mountains and forrest parks the most and this one was really very pretty. The air had a pleasant smell as the Eucalyptus oil that the trees emit permeates the air. It is also the reason why the mountains look blue from the distance. This place is a mere 200km away from Sydney but it is so dense that only in the mid 1990’s did they find a pine tree that was thought to be extinct for 90 million years. This country is so vast that there are still things, species, organisms that have yet to be discovered. Sydney is where Beth and me fell in love with Australia. We have seen so much in the past two months but we were awestruck and dumbfounded. Sydney maybe a city that is very far away from other big cities, Melbourne does not count (at least not for the people of Sydney) but there is a reason why so many people want to come to Sydney.
When one mentions Australia there are two things that come to mind, especially after the Olympics of 2000, Sydney and beaches. Well it is all for a good reason. If there is one place that you can visit in Australia it has to be the state of New South Wales. I wondered why it is called New South Wales as there is no other Wales than the Wales we know in the UK, would it not be simpler just to call it New Wales? Well, name issues aside NSW is the most populous state and it has a bit of everything that we associate with Australia. A trivial fact is that New Zealand was briefly part of NWS in the mid 19th century. Sydney is the biggest city in Australia and its trademark is the Sydney Harbor but besides the city which has a lot to offer there are beaches in and around Sydney and within a couple hours drive you can reach the outback, see the Blue Mountains and drive north on the Pacific Highway to Hunter Valley, the oldest winemaking region of Australia. We flew to Sydney from
Melbourne on the 12th of March, the flight was uneventful until we reached the city where we flew over the city and had grant views of the city and the harbor with the dominating Harbor Bridge, locally known as the “Coat hanger”, the Quays and the Sydney Opera. What a view! It was and will be one of the greatest approaches that we have ever experienced. The city looks big and I remember reading somewhere that the area of Sydney is about 7 times bigger than Paris! So you get the idea, there were a lot of expectations and Sydney did them all justice.
the morning news show is New York. We walked through the Domain and the Botanical Gardens. While the Botanical Gardens are not as spectacular as the ones we saw in Singapore, they are still very very good. The city skyline in the background and the general setting, the lush green and the many birds make this a wonderful place to picnic, jog, stroll or even just sit on the grass and enjoy the warm sun. From the distance you can see the roof of Opera House and once you hit the water the views are just amazing. Behind us on the left was the skyline of Sydney, while not as big as New York or Chicago it is very nice and with the Gardens in the foreground and the water it is just amazing! Now to the main attraction, the Sydney Opera house and the Sydney Harbor Bridge, there is no much one can say. It is stunning, it is a view that is just breathtaking. I
have seen it so many times on TV or pictures but nothing can do it justice, you just have to be there. It was a sunny and very warm day but Ben was enjoying the outdoors, he loves being outside – I know we did not give him much choice but still. We just stood there and took in the scenery, while all around us there were tourists and locals alike strolling through the park or just having a picnic. The warm wind and the sound of the water just enhancing the whole experience. We took many pictures as you can see and wondered loudly why it took us so long to get here to see this. We walked towards the Opera House. The Opera House is not really as nice when you are close up, this is a building that you have to take in and admire from a distance. When you are walking along it you do not see much and what you see seems a bit outdated, a bit old… …the brown glass does not help the appearance either as it looks like the windows have not been cleaned in a while. From what I hear it is not the best of theaters and the indoors is rather mundane.
The Sydney Harbor is actually part of Port Jackson. Port Jackson is the natural harbor and it is location of the first European settlement in Australia. The first European to discover Port Jackson was Lt. James Cook in 1770 and it was named after the Judge Advocate of the British Fleet. Although, Cook’s first landing with the HMS Endeavour was on 29 April 1770 (230 year in about a month!) in Botany Bay, slightly south of Port Jackson. The sight is marked within the Botany Bay National Park near Kurnell. In 1788 Governor Arthur Phillip returned and established the first British colony, later to become the city of Sydney.
continued our walk through the SydneyWriter’s Walk, that honors Australians and foreign writers. The plaques start somewhere near the Opera House and go all the way around through Circular Quay (pronounced key for some reason) to the International Passenger Terminal west of the Quay. It provides an overview and interesting quotes. The Quay is a bustling ferry, bus and train terminals where commuters and
As far as coffee places is concerned, I stand corrected, I actually have seen a Starbucks it was empty and it is the first one after driving for about 8000km since we got here in the beginning of February and that is fine by me. The drive on the Great Ocean Road was planned from the beginning and it was among the Top 10 things to do in Australia. Unfortunately, the way things turned out with the weather and all we cut it short by only taking a day to enjoy the drive. So we decided to take the Princess Highway west and then turn south when we reached Terang and reach Port Campbell, which is at the west end of the Road. This was necessary as the Road itself is quite narrow with many curves and although the whole length is about 250km it takes more than 4 hours to drive it all. So we took a shortcut, on the highway to Terang we could drive fast (for Aussie standards) and reach Port Campbell in about 2 1/2 hours. Again, we drove through some very nice towns, towns like
Colac, like Camperdown. The highways in Australia dissect many towns, actually the highway usually forms the main street, so it does make an interesting drive. Most of these towns are like very much like towns in the US, in the 50s or 60s. There is a main street where cars park at an angle, there are the occasional McDonalds, KFC or Subway but these sleepy towns are mostly left in peace. There many shops and combo shops that cater to the needs of the local community. This is a stark contrast to my personal experience back home or back in the US where, for whatever reason, people tend to shop in national or international chains, where the shops look the same no matter if they are in New York or in Dusseldorf. As soon as we reached Port Campbell we stopped at the Grotto, basically a sink hole with an awesome view. We got our first taste of what the Great Ocean Road is all about. It is full of magnificent views, awesome landscape, waves, wind, a dramatic sky and the great wide open ocean, green hills, nice little sea-side towns and National Parks. It is probably one of the finest roads that I have ever driven on. We stopped at a few of the look out points and the pinnacle of our trip was the 12 Apostles. The formations that have been shaped by the unrelenting waves and wind that have hit the limestone formations for millions of years. South from of here there is nothing but Antarctica, about 5000km. The waters are
cold and the beaches of Victoria although spectacular and great for surfing are not great for swimming, the same actually goes for most beaches around Australia. I still believe that the best beaches can be found around the Mediterranean. We then stopped at the London Arch (formerly London Bridge) and then at the 12 Apostles. At the 12 Apostles there were hundreds of tourist, not sure where all these people came from, as most of the other spots along the route were not nearly as crowded. I dislike these huge crowds, all these package (or as I like to call them packaged) tourists that go on a well beaten path laid by thousands before them dictated by special interests that do not allow for any interesting side trips and to me is he most boring form of tourism. Anyway, we had to weave our way through the masses, it was always a hassle to get the pictures we wanted. There was the constant roar of helicopters and planes flying overhead, carrying tourists. You cannot convey that in the pictures, the pictures look great but the masses and the noise did distract from the beauty, the
awesomeness of the formations and the sounds of the ocean. So while it is the most popular spot we enjoyed the other spots more as you could just sit there and marvel in peace and quiet. The Road also took us inland through rolling hills with spectacular views, we drove through the Great Otway National Park. This park, while relatively unknown, contains ancient rainforests, tall wet forests, waterfalls and a rugged coastline. It is also here that we saw the only Koalas that we have seen on all our travels. We had to pick up our pace but we were also hungry so we stopped at Apollo Bay, a nice little town that is much quieter than Lorne. It sits at the edge of the Great Otway N.P. and it has a nice little beach. Of course we went for fish and chips, which this years celebrates its 150th birthday. I am not sure if we are attracted or somehow it is coded in our DNA but we walk into one of the places and it was owned by Greeks. Throughout our travels we have met so many Greeks, it was
really nice as we are Greeks from Greece and not Greeks from Melbourne, that automatically elevates us to a special status and we do occasionally enjoy better prices but always excellent hospitality. We had to try their own homemade Greek deserts and had kataifi, gianiotiko, etc. while looking out at the sea. Ben as always did put up a show and he was adored by everyone. This stop lasted longer than we had anticipated and hence had to get going as everyone was getting tired and still had a long way to go. So we left the Great Ocean Road at Apollo Bay and headed north the way we came.
It was and probably will be for a long time the best and most scenic route we have done. There is something for everyone and the combination of water, rugged coastline and very nice vegetation is a eyesight to behold. We will have to return and take more time to explore and hike along the coast, maybe when Ben is at an age where we would not have to carry him.
This will be a short post as we are at the airport right now and we will board our flight to Sydney shortly. So I will start with the important things first, got to keep our priorities straight. Coffee! I have yet to taste bad coffee here in Australia and there are coffee houses everywhere. They are so crazy and proud of their coffee here that Starbucks, that coffee imperialist from Seattle was kicked out or never set foot here. I do not know which but it does not really matter, they do not seem to have made to shore yet. I had to learn what to order, there are different kinds to order, long black, flat white, etc. exciting stuff. It is wonderful just to be able to have a great mug of coffee at a nice side street coffee place and to just observe the people go by about their business. It is a great combination of good weather, a lively city, “no worries” people and excellent coffee. How many times did I say coffee in this one paragraph?
Melbourne’s weather has been quite awful for the past week so we had to be careful when to do what. So we kept delaying our trip to the Great Ocean Road but yesterday was to be the day as our days in Melbourne are counted. Kyriakos, Beth’s uncle accompanied us during the trip, keeping with our traditions we keep showing Aussies their country :). We drove south west to Geelong and from there we took the Princess Highway west, they do choose fancy names for their roads all the way to Terang and drove south to Port Campbell. Port Campbell is almost at the start of the Road when you approach Melbourne from the west. We did stop and see most of
the major lookout points along the route but had to skip the last part of it as we were running out of time and had to get back. It take at least a couple days to really enjoy the Road, better if you take three or four days and do some of the hikes. It is very pretty country, the landscape was probably among the best we have seen here in Australia.
I will write another post about our impressions of the road as I know have to get on the plane I have to cut this short.