Sydney – Part 2

Beth at the South Head, the Pacific waters in the back

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

South Head again with Sydney in the background

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.

We spend a week in Sydney and took in all the major sites, we saw the magnificent harbor and all its major sites the first day but we of course returned a couple times and even did a ferry ride to Manly late in the evening and were treated to an awesome sunset.  There is a single entrance of Port Jackson, the entrance is protected by two big rocks called the Heads.  We went to the South Head, through some wonderful little suburbs.  The view from the Head to the west is the city and the Harbor Bridge and on the other side the Pacific Ocean.  The views are grant and the suburb of Watson Bay is really pretty.  The zoo with its sky safari, new elephant baby, an excellent Outback area and many lookout points at the city across the harbor is one of the top ten destinations within Sydney.  The zoo itself is very good but its location and its proximity to water, plus the fact that you can reach it by ferry make it incredibly beautiful.  There was a lot of areas that they were working on, and that took out some of the fun but overall one of the better zoos we have seen.  The suburbs

Coogee Beach

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.

As always I have to visit the memorials and in Sydney the ANZAC memorial is in Hyde Park, close to the Museum Station on Liverpool St.  There is a “Lake of Reflections”, very similar but much smaller than the one in front of the Lincoln Memorial in DC.  Here I met Tony, a New Zealander veteran of the ANZAC forces in Vietnam.  You would not have guessed looking at the guy but he had done two tours in Vietnam in the late 60’s.  We talked about war, memorials and cowards (…sorry I meant politicians), it was another chance encounter that has made this trip so much more interesting.  It also confirmed that there is always pain and much sacrifice for us to get to where we are and we need to honour that… …remember them and learn to avoid the same mistakes in the future.  We cannot let their sacrifice be in vain.

Ben on Bondi Beach

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.

Another must for any visits in Sydney is the Blue Mountains.  We took the train from the central station in Sydney and travelled west through the suburbs like Parramatta for about two hours before reaching Katoomba, the gateway to the Blue Mountains.

Bondi Beach Ben and his mum!

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 The ANZAC Memorialthat 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.

I would like to also thank our hosts Rita and Tony Vitalis, who took us in for a week and showed us Sydney.  We appreciate their hospitality and hope to reciprocate soon.
So long…

Ben, Beth and Kyriakos on the ANZAC Memorial

Elizabeth on Elizabeth St.

Sydney Tower and the Monorail

QVB, wonderful building!

Ben and Kyriakos on our way to the Apple Store in Sydney

A Memorial

Chillin' in Sydney.

Yeah, Bondi baby!

He is incredible

In Taronga Zoo

Darling Harbor

Ben the bird whisperer

At the zoo

For Ben's profile pic

My BBs

View from Taronga

Magnificent

Bondi Beach

Candid moment

with my mate Rick.

Awesome!

The three sisters

Enjoying the outdoors

Landscape galore...

Our hosts, Rita & Tony Vitalis

Melbourne

Flinders Station

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

Flinders Station

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.

Federation Square

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

My BBs!

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

My BBs again!

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

Melbourne Skyline

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

Another view of the Melbourne skyline

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

Ben and me, the Aquarium is in the background.

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 Ben and dad having fun!

Ben and Beth at Portsea

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.

So long…

Our car was in there!

Ben and me on the beach at Rye

...and a family pic!

A beach on our drive

The place we are staying, it is called Marysville

My BBs again... ...more to come 🙂