Saturday, June 8, 2013

Melbourne, Australia--a blend of modern and traditional

Downtown Melbourne across the Yarra River
When the Diamond Princess, our ship on a cruise along the coasts of Australia and New Zealand, docked at Melbourne, we decided to visit Fitzroy Gardens and cruise down the Yarra River. The day was perfect for these adventures—sunny with clear skies.

Old and new buildings are joined by the arched bridge in Melbourne
For 45 minutes we rode in a boat on the Yarra River, which goes through city. Although we headed away from downtown, we had good views of the skyline with its modern office buildings and ancient cathedrals. Many people were using the river area on this glorious day for jogging, skulling, sunning, or strolling. While enjoying the scenery, we sampled tea and cookies provided by our cruise.
Colorful sculptures add a bit of whimsy
 to the art scene in Melbourne
The ride down river was very pleasant. It would have been nice to go into the central business district, but we passed by the modernistic spire shaped at the bottom like a ballerina’s tu-tu. And we got at a great look at the sports complex, including Rod Laver Stadium, where the Australian Tennis Open was held in January. In 1956 Melbourne became the first Australian city to host the Olympic Games.

After the river cruise, we boarded a bus and drove through the business district on wide, tree-lined streets that engineer Robert Huddle designed with foresight many years ago. Collins Street, a main thoroughfare, is an influential part of the city filled with government offices, high-end shops, and townhouses owned by very wealthy residents. In the legal district barristers still wear traditional robes and wigs as they walk down the street to their offices. We also traveled through the precinct with art, music, ballet, broadcasting, and photography located in one area.
Capt. Cook's cottage at Fitzroy Gardens
At Fitzroy Gardens, we toured Captain James Cook’s cottage, where his parents lived during the time he was sailing away to explore Australia and discover other ocean destinations. The two-story house was bought elsewhere, de-constructed with all bricks carefully numbered, and brought to Melbourne where it was painstakingly re-assembled in its original form. It’s furnished much as it would have been in early 1800s, and ivy growing on the side of the house is from original plants. Rock steps are also original. A name and date plate on the front of the house confirms its authenticity.

Growing conditions for plants are controlled in
the Conservatory
The best part was strolling through the park and its exquisite gardens. Large expanses of foliage and flowering plants, including hedges of giant hydrangeas and many enormous, majestic trees, just begged us spend the day there with a picnic and a good book. But we only had about 45 minutes to wander, which was barely enough to scratch the surface. A fairy tree, several fountains, conservatory with indoor plants, and elm trees planted in the shape of Union Jack (as seen from the air) were some of the main attractions.
Rainbow-hued hydrangeas were stunning.
We returned to our ship, which was docked at Station Pier, Melbourne’s second port, built in the 1860s. Prior to serving cruise ships, the port was the main place for immigrants to come from 1863 to 1964, and especially after World War I. Prior to that, the Gold Rush of 1852-1854 brought in many people to Victoria via Melbourne, and the city grew rapidly.

Spring flowers bloomed
throughtout the gardens.
Unlike other Australian cities, Melbourne wasn’t settled as a convict colony. When Tasmanian John Batman travelled up the river in 1835, he knew he had found the perfect place for a city. The first European colony, Melbourne was established as a “free colony.”
The city was Australia’s first capital after the Federation in 1901 and until 1927 when Canberra became the capital. More than three million people live in Melbourne, and it is home to almost 70 percent of the state’s population. It has the largest Greek community in the world outside of Greece, as well as many other ethnic communities.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier
Read more travel stories at Striped Pot and Austin Adventure Travel



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