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Surviving the Streets of Melbourne

(Reprint from News: March 1, 2002)

February 23, 2002

 

After spending a day with the pushy kangaroos at the Grampians, I drove into Melbourne on a Saturday morning.  Melbourne and Sydney are the largest cities in Australia, each with about 3.5 million people, and apparently have something of a rivalry going.  Melbourne, I guess, thinks of itself as more refined and cultured than Sydney, while folks in Sydney, known as "Sydneysiders," think people from Melbourne ("Melbournians?") are pretentious and snooty.   It's kind of like a "New York - Boston" thing. 

 

I’d heard a lot of good things about Melbourne so I spent most of Saturday walking around the city, stocking up on film, and visiting a few interesting places.  Definitely the creepiest place I visited was the Old Gaol (or prison) where Ned Kelly was hung back in 1880.  Afterwards, I walked through the new shops along the Yarra River then rode an elevator up 56 stories to the viewing deck of the Rialto Tower, the highest building in Melbourne, where I got a great view of the city.  Yeah, Melbourne is a bit pretentious but it’s also a pretty lively place, even on a Saturday afternoon.  I wouldn’t want to live in Melbourne – too many people there for my tastes – but it’s an interesting city and there's a lot going on.

 

As I discovered, though, driving around Melbourne can be a nightmare, mainly due to the small trains (or "trams") which constantly run throughout the city.  Normally when you're driving, you turn right from, of course, the right lane.  In Melbourne, though, because of the trams, you turn right from the LEFT lane, which means you have to cut across several lanes of traffic in the process.  They call this maneuver the “Melbourne Hook Turn."  I just call it “screwy.”  Needless to say, I didn’t make any right turns while driving around Melbourne and, after several left turns, got on the freeway and headed south.

 

For some reason, I’d stayed in a lot of towns starting with the letter “B” during the previous week, including Bega, Bright, Bendigo, and Ballarat, so I spent that night in Belmont, about an hour's drive south of Melbourne.  At US$50 a night, the motel was a rip-off but this being late on a Saturday afternoon during the holiday season, I didn’t have much of a choice since all the other motels were booked solid.  At least the owners there were really nice... and I got to watch some more Olympics on TV that night.

      

2-2349_DT_Melbourne.jpg (52068 bytes)    2-2335_Flinders_Station_with_Tram.jpg (43101 bytes)    2-2333_Hyatt_Hotel.jpg (60061 bytes)

Above left:  Downtown Melbourne from the Rialto Tower, the city's highest vantage point.

Above center:  The most beautiful building in Melbourne is the Flinders Train Station.  That's one of Melbourne's trams in front.  

Above right:  The old and new in downtown Melbourne. 

      

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Above left:  The Southbank area, a new development along the Yarra River.  Melbourne was pretty crowded, noisy, and a bit pretentious, but it's also interesting.

Above center:  Melbourne's creepy Old Gaol (or prison), no longer used except to empty the wallets of tourists like me.  

Above right:  The Gaol was Ned Kelly's last home.  Here's his body-armor, which he was wearing when he was captured in 1880 after being shot 29 times (notice the dents).  Ned "hung" around in the Gaol for a while.

 

 

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