Sunday, July 19, 2009

Australia Part 1: I'm in Melbourne!

Saturday and Sunday Tung was off work and he graciously showed me around his city. It's a nice place. Melbourne isn't so terribly different from a US city, so I feel like maybe I can pay more attention to smaller things. People do seem friendlier than average, and I enjoy the various little "g'day"s and other greetings that I'm not used to hearing. I'm pretty sure a little kid called me "boss" in a supermarket. Tung claims that's not normal and that the boy probably thought I was actually his boss, but I think he's just jealous.

After celebrating Tung's birthday all night on Saturday, Sunday we spent some time exploring downtown and riding on Melbourne's cool street cars.

I think it must be a rule that street cars look completely different in every country. Remember what they look like in Hiroshima or in Hong Kong?

The first place we spent time at was the Queen Victoria Market, which Tung calls "vic market". The few paragraphs in the history section of its website say that the market is 130 years old and that at one point it was extended onto the land of Melbourne's first official cemetery. The cemetery was resting place for many of the city's early settler's including John Batman. Mr. Batman, whose name I will someday steal, did something like "discover" land that's now Melbourne, only he wanted to call it Batmania. That's way catchier. In 1917 over 900 bodies were moved from the cemetery grounds, but most "of the other 9,000 bodies remain buried beneath the existing car park. Unfortunately, there are no records of those buried there. Following its closure, the Cemetery fell into disuse and many of the red gum head stones were stolen for firewood. Official records for the cemetery were destroyed during a fire in one of the wings of the Melbourne Town Hall." Note to self, don't buy a wooden gravestone.

The Vic market was a whole lot like an American street market. The most interesting part for me was the fresh produce section. It's far above anything I've found in an American equivalent. It had its own little building while most everything else was outside.

The meat and cheese area was especially fancy with all the meats hanging from above European style.

"American Jam Doughnuts" seem to be a popular stall food. I didn't want to wait in line here, but I had one a few days ago. It was a usual jelly doughnut. Here "jelly" means "jell-o" and "jam" means "jelly". It's a bit confusing.

Every souvenir I buy here gets carried back to Japan and joins the immense pile of stuff that needs to be expensively transported to the US, so I've been avoiding the purchase of things I can't eat. I had a few varieties of apple I haven't had before though. They were tasty.

We moved on through the city and made a stop at the State Library of Victoria. Melbourne is the capital of Victoria, so it sports all of the fancy state buildings. This day in particular was luckily some sort of open house, so I think I got to see more than I would have otherwise.

The land in front of the library had a nice college campus atmosphere, with quite a few people sprawled out on the grass, reading or chatting with friends. If a librarian in Japan walked out and saw this scene, he would probably call the riot police.

This must be a very well funded library. There were no fewer than five statues out front. This one is St. George having words with a dragon.

Charles La Trobe was the first lieutenant-governor of Victoria.

Even the bases of the light posts were really fancy.

I think a big part of what people aren't usually able to see is the Queen's Hall.

The coolest library room I've yet seen is the La Trobe Reading Room.

Desks for library patrons to read at extend out in this radial pattern. The room is several stories tall with a dome at the top. Each level of the surrounding stories was filled with all sorts of cool artifacts.

Melbourne in 1836

In one highlight the library showcased some of its old/rare books.

This is a cuneiform tablet from Southern Mesopotamia, c. 2050 BC. "This tablet records the delivery of taxes, paid in sheep and goats in the 10th month of the 46th year of Shulgi, second king of the Third Dynasty of Ur." And that's why you should always shred your financial documents before you throw them away.

Ned Kelly was an "Australian bushranger, and, to some, a folk hero for his defiance of the colonial authorities." Kelly and his gang wore these awesome homemade suits of armor in their last showdown with police. He was caught and hung in Melbourne in November 1880. The whole story is pretty interesting (wikipedia page here).

Kelly's death mask

These are called firemarks. Before the fire department became a public service, insurance companies employed private firefighters and engines. I think how it worked if a fire was spotted was that everyone would rush to the scene but only the group you were paying would actually then help you extinguish the fire. Not sure, but it sounds messy.

I was especially interested to see the firemarks because I just finished reading Great Expectations a couple weeks ago where they are mentioned.

After seeing a ton of stuff at the museum we did a bit more zooming around town as darkness approached.

This was pretty unique: a guy playing this electric sounding didgeridoo on the streets of Melbourne. Throwing some coins into his hat elicited a robotic sounding "thank you" from the musician through his instrument.

It's winter in Australia, and Melbourne is a bit chilly. Somehow in the madness of packing my bags and moving out of my apartment I managed to forget to pack a coat. Tung gave me one of his old ones to wear which I think looks pretty snappy.

We had one little snack at this cake shop before returning home. I had a fruit tart which was pretty good, but the real magic was contained in my first meat pie.

This little guy was a nice flaky outer crust with minced meat inside. It was pretty much exactly how I would imagine a meat pie to be, and it tasted great. Often ketchup is added for a bit extra taste. This is the first of many meat pies of various contents that I have so far consumed.

Something really important that I should address is that all Burger King's in Australia are called Hungry Jack's. This stems from a royal edict from Henry I granting himself the title "King of Burgers" and outlawing any other use of the phrase. So in Commonwealth countries the restaurant is named for Jack, the only remaining male in a standard deck of playing cards. PS, I totally made all of that up.


  1. Anonymous8:04 AM

    Was the food at Hungry Jack's the same as the food at a Burger King in the US?

  2. Yeah I'd say the food was pretty similar. One exception I saw was the Aussie burger, which was a usual burger with egg, bacon, and sliced beets on top. Pretty unique. Maybe I haven't had any Burger King in my whole two years in Japan, though, so if there have been any amazing advances in burger technology I wouldn't know about them.