News - India Outbound
A Metropolis with a Victorian Window
Melbourne, capital of the state of Victoria and the second largest city in Australia, is serene in its suburbs while rather spirited in its centre. In a cover of nature and Victorian architecture, it is relaxed yet happening, simple yet stylish, and culturally dynamic.
On roads here, one can see kangaroos hop, foxes bark, and wombats crawl. The streets are lined with eucalyptus, pine trees and cottage style homes, which only make the neighbourhood prettier. It is rather quiet here, even though the city sees its sunset around 9:00pm! These are the suburbs. It is here that most locals live, unless they are exuberantly rich to afford an apartment in downtown, where they can be surrounded by highend stores, chic cafes, tall buildings, and all the glitz and glam. These are the two sides of Melbourne, and of life in the Victorian capital.
“While it is always a quiet time in the suburbs, the downtown of City Business District (CBD) is where all the action is. There are restaurants, bars, stores, cafes and a lot of events and activities happening,” says Manish Tanwar, who studies in Melbourne and enjoys both sides of the city. “CBD is stylish, artsy, sporty, and everything an Indian tourist could be looking at,” he says.
Even a casual stroll here can be exciting. One could shop at the fancy Bourke Street Mall or Melbourne Central and even the local markets like the Queen Victoria Market, or simply enjoy the huge gastronomy scene. There are fashionable multi-cuisine restaurants and cafes. “There is a wide range of food items to choose from, thanks to the diversified crowd that lives here. There are many Greeks, Italians and even Indians here, who have brought with them their bit of culture,” says Tanwar. “And while you enjoy the eclectic cuisine, don’t forget to sip some coffee like the locals do, which is four-five times a day! Melbourne has a rather strong coffee culture,” he adds. Then there are the boutiques and art galleries to explore. In fact, for shopping and nightlife in Australia, Melbourne is the place to be. For a more authentic sightseeing experience, tourists often take the free City Circle tram, which scurries them past sights like the Melbourne Aquarium, Old Melbourne Gaol and Parliament House.
A Victorian View
Melbourne’s colonial past seems to still be alive. A former British colony, it boasts of some buildings with fine Victorian architecture, calling for a visit. The Royal Exhibition Building, The Rialto, Block Arcade, Parliament House, General Post Office, Princess Theatre, and Hotel Windsor, all of which were built in the 1800s, are some of the Victorian gems.
For an insight into the city’s natural and cultural history, the Melbourne Museum is a nice place to visit. While one gets to see dinosaur fossils, giant squid specimens, a taxidermy hall, a 3D volcano and an open-air forest atrium of Victorian flora, they can also learn about the legend revolving champion racehorse and national hero Phar Lap. With Indigenous Australian stories and history recited through objects and Aboriginal voices, and an IMAX cinema inside, a visit to this museum can be an enriching and enjoyable experience. Art lovers can head to the Justin Art House Museum, the home of art collectors Charles and Leah Justin. For the couple’s dynamic collection of contemporary art, consisting of more than 250 pieces amassed over four decades, a pre booking is recommended. A tour to the international branch of the National Gallery of Victoria should also be listed in the itinerary, if art is the topic of interest.
Other than the Victorian heritage and art, what one must look out for is sports, which seems to have a rather big ‘footing’ in Melbourne.
A Strong Sporty Culture
With football, skiing, horse racing, Formula One car racing, cricket and tennis, all at the helm of its social fabric, Melbourne is really big on sports. “People are very passionate about their games, particularly football or “footy” as it is called here. On the other hand, an event like the Melbourne Cup, which is a four-day horse race, actually marks a public holiday. This is also true for the finales of Australian Football League,” Tanwar exclaims. The Melbourne Cricket Ground or simply the ‘G’ is where the footy matches are held. While not all tourists can make it to a packed stadium, a non-match day visit is on many people’s agenda. The ground also houses the National Sports Museum.
“There is also a strong betting culture and unlike India, it is an open affair. People make money in races, for which they don’t even have to pay any tax. Tourists can participate too,” he adds. Bets are made on horses and grey hounds, but for those who would rather sit around a table and try their luck with cards and chips – casinos at the Crown are the place to be at.
Other than footy and the frantic money making, people can enjoy sports like skiing and snowboarding at Mount Buller. About a two-hour drive from Melbourne, this resort village is a popular local getaway.
Another getaway can be taken to the 12 Apostles, located about 250 kilometres west of Melbourne and approximately a four-hour drive along the Great Ocean Road. Located on Victoria’s coastline, these 12 rock stacks are a 10-20 million-year-old legacy. There are also national parks and reserves one can explore along the Great Ocean Road, which allows one to be in the lap of rainforests and marine life unlike anywhere else.
In a less rugged fashion, marine life can also be explored at the Melbourne Museum, where one can also have museum scientists guiding them around with Victoria’s water residents. The exhibition Marine Life is supported by brilliant photos, underwater footage and rare specimens.
So, if someone desires to catch a fish, it can only be here, and only through a lens, as fishing without a license is prohibited in Melbourne. Nature lovers can also head to the Melbourne Zoo (established in 1861), which is the oldest in Australia and the third oldest in the world.
“There is so much to explore here, so much to live. One can enjoy all the material offerings of the city or simply the nature. What I love most is the fact that June-July are the coldest months here and summers fall in the months of November- December, letting me experience this side of the world. So for an Indian, in particular, Melbourne will never be monotonous,” says Tanwar.