Right through my childhood, I have been fascinated by the Australian lifestyle and their culture since being an avid sports fan, I used to diligently follow the cricket matches and the rugby that they were involved in. They are called the ‘Wallabies’ in rugby and I used to wonder why that name fell upon them and not that of the ‘Kangaroo’, which is their national animal.
Amidst the chaos of schooling, tuition and other teenage activities, these thoughts soon receded into the background and their mental imprints were eventually lost until somehow, my family decided that we were going to visit Australia that summer! At first, I was numb with delight and my brain could not process the information that my senses were delivering to it- I was in a state of complete disarray.
As the day of my travels crept closer, I slowly was settling into my element and the nervous energy that was within me was now metamorphosing into excitement and anticipation as to what may unfold on the journey. With my backpack and the essential set of paraphernalia, I was ready to embark on this journey which, little did I know, would change my outlook on life.
After an exhausting 10 hour plane ride, we finally landed at the ‘Tullamarine Airport’,(the colloquial name for the Melbourne International Airport) and the entire setting of the place was beyond what my imagination could conjure up even when at its creative best. The delay in the arrival of my baggage at the carousel bags meant that I could spend my time exploring the airport and how it buzzed with an energy, inexplicable to me at the time.
The Journey Begins.
Our accommodation for the upcoming set of days was at a hotel located in the heart of the city, its location serving to my need of constant inquisition and urges to explore. Amidst the various high rise buildings in the city’s skyline, there is none more prominent than that of the ‘Eureka Skydeck’, which sports a rooftop restaurant which unfortunately I could not visit. The local Aussies identify their directions via their positions relative to the building and hence it has assumed a very critical role in shaping the city’s culture.
By no means did the city lack of engineering marvels, with the ‘Westgate Bridge’, the third longest bridge in Australia, spanning across the banks of the River Yarra, who’s name itself has a story which has Aboriginal roots. ‘Yarra-Yarra’ in the Aboriginal dialect roughly translates to ‘flowing water or waterfall’, which was what the tribe uttered when they discovered the river. Ever since, the name has been River Yarra, honouring the rich history that the city possessed.
The city is divided into a grid, with various streets bisecting it- the ‘Flinders Street’ being the spine of the city, hosting a wide spectrum of coffee shops, pubs and merchandise shops making it one of the most happening parts of town.The large number of shops contribute directly to raising the economy of this sector of town, however it possesses an aesthetic appeal like no other. Vehicles are banned and the only way to traverse this area is via a tram or by foot, a unique concept which adds a unique charm to the entire street. On several nights, I found myself hanging out here, enjoying a hot chocolate and soaking in the culture that the Aussies had to offer.
Before I proceed any further, it is critical for me to outline the historical context under which the city flourished, so that one can appreciate the stature of the rapid development of the city.
Roots Of The City.
In the year 1851, abundant gold was found in lakes and streams around a town called ‘Ballarat’, thus marking the onset of the ‘Gold Rush’ in Australia. In the 1860’s. Melbourne became the second most important city in the world owing to the economic spurt and the rapid development. Most of the people who settled in this city during the early years migrated from a town called ‘Geelong’, which at that time hosted a population of 200,000, contributing to the development of Melbourne.The Tasman Sea and parts of the East Coast were discovered by an Italian named as Abel Tasman and about 80% of Australia’s population resides on the East Coast, its major cities being located here.