Sunday, February 11, 2007


Melbourne was another destination on my list of must visit places during my trip to Australia. When I was in Australia back in 2001 I stayed around New South Wales, apart from a quick trip to Canberra. During that visit several people apologized to me for Sydney being such an awful and dirty city and told me if I got the chance I should go to Melbourne. This piqued my curiosity as in my opinion Sydney was the nicest city I'd ever been to, and compared to Dublin was a gleaming, polished, modern city. Therefore now that I was back I made a point of arranging to have a week in Melbourne so that I could see the city properly.

While in Melbourne I stayed in King St Backpackers which was handy and close to the city center. I had booked it, and my hostel in Sydney weeks earlier while in Alice Springs and it was the first time in ages that I was in a hostel without anyone I knew. That was a little strange but it seemed like a nice hostel. I didn't really spend a lot of time there are I was out sight seeing or meeting friends most of the time.

Melbourne's public transport caught me a little off guard. Instead of having a subway system it had a tram system, all above ground. For some reason I thought there was an underground as well and I spent some time on the first day looking for it before I realized that the tram was what I was looking for. Melbourne's tram system is exactly what Dublin should be looking to do with the Luas system. While Melbourne is built on a grid layout which makes it easier to navigate than Dublin there is still a mix of cars and trams on the streets that prove it can be done without the regular accidents that bring the Luas system to a halt. The trams also have ticket machines on board cutting eliminating queues at the stops. Thats a good idea since I've missed several Luas trams while queuing behind change fumblers. If you have any questions about using the trams or anything else to do with Melbourne you can ask one of the City Ambassadors in their red outfits that wander the city center to provide advise. I'd say it would be nice to try that in Dublin but I don't know how long they would last.

I visited Melbourne Museum. This is a pretty typical Australian museum, but the building it is in is a lot nicer than most. They don't really have a lot of history to put on display so the majority of the museum is a natural history museum. It is a big museum with lots to see and a bizarre range of exhibits from dinosaurs to the human body and apple computers to Neighbors, which is filmed in Melbourne, apparently. Several people I knew in Melbourne headed to the Neighbors set on organized tours. I don't watch Neighbors and even though I saw a couple of episodes in hostel TV rooms there was no chance of me wasting my time, but the people who were fans seemed to like the tours, though their experience varied depending on whether or not filming was going on when they were there.

I went up to the Victoria Markets on another day and I have to say I was bored. It was all stalls selling clothes, cheap jewelry, nic nacs and other junk. I've never really liked those types of markets. There was a section dedicated to food which seemed like a good place to get good cheap ingredients but in general there wasn't much there for me. After that a group of us went to the Botanic Gardens and then to the Transport Bar for a drink. I really like the way Australian cities have large green areas within walking distance of the city center. It really adds to the quality of life in the city.

It was cool to have so many of the group that had traveled from Alice Springs to Adelaide back together again in Melbourne, several had followed a couple of days behind us. The best thing about being a backpacker is the people you meet, though the worst thing can be having to say good bye to them. Another fun thing about traveling abroad is meeting and spending time with people that I wouldn't normally meet. I didn't hang out with many Irish people while traveling, why travel to the other side of the world to meet the same people you meet at home? I found it more interesting to spend time with people from other countries.

Perhaps the nicest part of Melbourne that I visited was St Kilda. It reminded me a little of Cobh in Cork. It has a nice Sunday street market along the Esplanade selling arts and crafts, a beach, marina and lots of little shops and restaurants. While I was there a large part of the water was taken up with people kite surfing. It involves surfers using large kites to propel themselves along the water and looks like great fun. There is also an amusement park, similar to the Luna Park in Sydney.

Melbourne is indeed a lovely city. Is it nicer than Sydney? Well thats all a matter of opinion. Some people prefer Sydney, some Melbourne. You could compare the rivalry to that between Dublin and Cork, but thats a little misleading as it would be a little like comparing a rivalry between Jaguar and Aston Martin cars to a rivalry between Ladas and Trabants. Personally as a tourist I prefer Sydney but if I had to choose one to live in I think it wouldn't be a clear cut.

Melbourne: 1-7 Decemeber
More photos on Flickr

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