Melbourne was the first new world city I have ever been to. Here, on the old continent, we have business districts with sky-high glass monsters but they are not part of the cultural identity of the city. We built them because all those hundreds of corporations need to fit somewhere but, honestly, who goes to London for the sky scrapers?
So when I stepped out of Flinders train station on a crisp Monday morning I was stunned for a second and had my first cultural shock. All the buildings around me were shiny and new and so very tall. I stretched my neck, popped my eyes and burnt my brain to process it. Good thing it was 7am and traffic was light otherwise crossing the street safely might have been an issue. This was my first roaring moment in Melbourne.
Next to this one I have loads of other moments that made me fall in love with Melbourne. Alert! This post may be cheesier than my usual posts as I’m having a serious case of Austalgia (pun intended).
Yarra and the skyscrapers
I must say that a walk on Yarra’s Southbank is quite a show. Skyscrapers left and right run a competition to win your attention. The battle of steal and glass is tight but the cup goes to Eureka, without a doubt.
Eureka with its 297m in height, is Melbourne’s giant. The name comes from a 19th century rebellion during the Victorian gold rush. The symbolism is pretty straight forward: the gold crown at the top represents the gold and the red is the blood spilled during the rebellion.
Besides the skyscrapers, it’s a place where a lot is going on: open air magic shows, joggers, business men, colorful tribal art thingies. Melbourne is actually famous for its colorful street art. They do mix well with the business buildings, taming down the austere corporate feel.
Then the night falls…
…Melbourne lights up and the Southbank becomes even prettier. There are several ways to enjoy Melbourne by night. One of them is to go up to the Eureka Skytower.
The view from the 88th floor is jaw dropping but might not be comfortable for someone who is afraid of heights. Neither is the 60 seconds elevator ride to the 88th floor.
Just as any respectable skytower, it has one of those glass boxes that comes out of the wall. I did not try it, mainly because there was a 40 min que and I’m not that patient. I also believe that, for the sake of the thrill, this is a must do in daytime.
In the neighborhood of Eureka is the Crown Casino, the first proper casino I have ever been to. Security at the entrance were funny enough to ask for my ID. I’m pretty sure that he was younger than me but lets face it, if you get ID-ed after 24, it’s a celebration.
I tried my hand at the slots machines, won 5 dollars which I lost at the same slot machine. Not much of a gambler, am I? I then proceeded to watch one of my aunts win 30 dollars. So I tried again and lost another couple of dollars. That’s that for casinos for me.
To end the night perfectly there’s a little bar on the river. A very cool, chill place where you can enjoy a drink and gawk at all those sky scrapers around you.
Victoria Evening Market
Victoria Market is the place to go for souvenirs and true- blue jumbo UGG boots, made in Australia not China, thank you very much! Every Wednesday Victoria Market is open until late for its evening market.
It was total madness. I believe half of the population of Victoria was there. Lots of people cramped up in one place that it was absolutely impossible not to see something interesting or funny. Like the silent disco.
So…there were a bunch of people with headphones on, dancing to whatever music only they could hear. They were enjoying the vibe in the middle of the market. Have you ever seen people dancing without hearing the music? They looked like confused sleepwalkers.
People aside, there was a lot of food. Food stands with specialties from all around the world. Needless to say, I totally ignored the busy European food stands and went for the Asian ones. In Romania, decent Asian restaurants are rare and usually overpriced.
As desert I tried my first ever cronut. Not impressed. Old school cream filled donuts are far better.
There you have it: for a pleasant evening in Melbourne: Victoria Market, Eureka Sky Tower, Crown Casino and drinks at the nameless bar on the Yarra.
Old Melbourne Gaol
The old prison in Melbourne turned to be one big surprise. I was expecting something similar to my visit at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin: tour of the prison and a lot of tragic stories. But the gaol in Melbourne is actually fun.
First you get to re-enact the trial of Ned Kelly, an Australian outlaw and hero.His story is rather shady and he ended up hanged on the 11th of November 1880. How did I remember this exactly? I was Ned Kelly in the trial. I have to say, my defense attorney did a lousy job so, inevitably, they sentenced me to death.
The Tour of the prison itself is very entertaining.It may not be on top of the must see in Melbourne but it’s too entertaining to miss it.
Read about my first encounter with Australia here: Girl Meets Australia
The Red Tram
Melbourne has a vintage looking tram that stops at every touristic landmark in the center of the city. It’s also free of charge therefore packed with people. I love crowded places so the tram turned to be a great opportunity to
stare at observe people and try to guess their country of origin.
This was an odd thing about Australia: nobody knows anymore who is a local and who a visitor. So being asked where are you from is just as regular as G’day!
But back to the tram: you can either use it as means of transportation or as a touristy thing in itself. Either way it’s a lesson of cultural diversity.
One of my aunts is really into sports and likes to attend various competitions. And Melbourne sure ins’t short of those.
Australian Open may be one of the biggest sport events in Melbourne and besides the arenas there’s an entire outdoor complex build. You have terraces, sports gear shops, ice cream stands. For those who haven’t succeeded in buying tickets there are big outside screens. You can sit on the grass, outside the arena and enjoy the game.
I am not big on sports and it was at that Australian Open that I finally understood the rules. But even for an innocent of tennis like me, seeing Djokovic and Serena live was a big thing.
…and the not so glossy: St. Kilda Beach
St. Kilda was the only thing that I found rather disappointing in Melbourne. I expected a lively atmosphere with colorful beach houses. But I just saw a semi deserted beach that smelled funny. Maybe the Mornington Peninsula beaches just raised my standards too high but St. Kilda was a no,no
Oh, well! Even Melbourne is allowed a little flaw!