Thursday, 1 October 2015

Melbourne: a first impression

I've been quite quiet these days, not because there's been nothing to say. I mean, it's mid-semester break, usually I'd be surfing the internet for no reason until another day has miraculously passed. I wouldn't blame you for thinking I had nothing to do these days. But nope, not this time, because last night I just came back from Melbourne. This means that there's a lot of catching up to do, since I survived these days with less than 100 mb internet and foolishly forgetting to bring my journal with me. Let's hope my memory is nice to me today.

So on a Friday morning, I stepped into a Tigerair plane with my beloved Aztec backpack and some carry-on luggage that hopefully weighed less than 7 kg. I slept through most of my 1.5 hour flight, but the arrival was already quite pleasant as the weather was less cold than I expected it to be. Apparently, it was one of the best times to come to Melbourne. Going to the city was easy, I had two options: take a taxi or take the so-called Skybus. I opted for the latter. For 18 dollars I got transported from Melbourne's Tullamarine airport to the Southern Cross train station. From there, I got to make use of the free shuttlebus service that would bring me to my hostel.

Say hello to Melbourne

And the Yarra river with its aluminium sculptures called 'The Travellers'.

My first thought of seeing Melbourne was: a reflection of Europe. The Hague, to be precise. It's a big city, with the necessary amount of modern buildings to store business men into, but also enough classical buildings to show off its prestige. The city is kept alive by the sound of trams passing by, the amount of people rushing to work, much more cyclists than in Sydney and a healthy amount of street art. A combination of these things is what makes Melbourne feel as authentic as many European cities.

This definitely reminds me of home, perhaps a bit prettier. Trams, bicycles and classical buildings. This, dear readers, is Flinders Street Station. The closest railway station to Federation Square, which is probably the brewing heart of the centre.

The steps that lead you to Federation Square. This building is definitely iconic, as it is build next to the Saint Paul's cathedral, which makes for some contrast with its obvious modernistic influences.

Saint Paul's Cathedral.

Do not expect to see graffiti littered all over the place, because these are hidden in lanes. It's hard work finding them, but the first one you'll definitely get to see is the one next to a building called 'The Forum'. After relishing at its beauty, you can sneak into Hosier Lane, where you'll be surrounded by graffiti. Most of it is endless tagging, but if you look up you'll find some prettier pieces. Then again, I wouldn't have known this if I didn't do a walking tour: Visitas Guiadas Melbourne. More about this is yet to come, but it was my guide into the graffiti that makes Melbourne memorable. For now, I'll be an ass and show you no graffiti at all. ;)

Another example of excellent architecture in Melbourne: The Forum. I believe that this building was supposed to be a movie theatre. The gap between the buildings is where you'll find some graffiti.

But even without the graffiti, the buildings and its people already make it an artistic place of its own. The street musicians already show how talented this city is, and the visual artists are no disgrace to the city either with their live-work.

The music on the streets will vary. Not just your average guitar play or accordions, but also violins or cellos, even chinese violins. This definitely keeps the streets more cheerful than they already are.

You will also find a lot of visual artists, varying from those spraying on canvases, graffiti artists decorating the walls, or people who are more talented with chalk/pastels, as is the case in this picture.

Needless to say, just walking around the city will make you open your eyes. No need to spend on far-too-expensive tours, and don't bother to spend money on the internationally popular Hop-on-Hop-off buses either. Because the trams in Melbourne are free in a certain 'free tram zone' which gets you to most touristic attractions. Similar to Sydney's Opal card, Melbourne has a Myki card which you can top up to make use of Melbourne's public transport. However, I did not purchase one as I mostly walked through the city or made use of the free tram zone. Furthermore, there is a 'City Circle Tram' which is also free and takes you in a neat rectangle around the city centre.

Just its appearance makes you want to sit in the City Circle tram.

Or you could go by horse but I reckon it will take a bit longer and it's not free.

If you're not sitting in a tram, be sure to keep your head up because you will never know what you'll see. Melbourne is the kind of city that slowly unravels itself. I thought I had seen most of the touristic things within two days, but sometimes you suddenly find yourself in a lane full with graffiti, or facing a random building that makes you stand still for a few seconds just to stare at it. This building, for example, oddly reminded me of a mix of Rotterdam and Zaandam. It has a Dutch feel to me:

No idea what it is but I like its geometric simplicity and the use of colours.

And just when you think you've seen it all, people decide to build a tower within a mall near Melbourne Central station.

I have truly missed keeping my face up while walking with curious eyes. Melbourne is more spacious than any Dutch city, which kind of takes away from the intimacy that's felt when you walk along the small cobble-stoned streets of Delft or Amsterdam. Yet there are a lot of gems that make up for this and I definitely do not regret coming here.

View from the Eureka Tower.

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