Oct 8, 2016

Hey Matie Bag Your Brolly and Visit Batmania or Smellbourne…

Arrive Curious, Leave Inspired

Motto seen around Australia

Even wet - the city is beautiful at night.
We drove a few remarkably picturesque loops before heading down to Melbourne and Sydney.  From gorgeous farmlands dotted with ponds to majestic novel trees, some a tad dangerous so beware, it was a beautiful new scenery at each turn of the roadway. 

Very hilly and contoured lush green farmlands
Even the roads are quite tortuous - Very seldom did we see clear skies during our month stay
It rained, and poured, and rained while we were in Melbourne so we were glad we had a chance to see the countryside while it was still dry.  We managed, thanks to our gracious as well as amazingly knowledgeable host Julie, to see a lot regardless of the inclement weather.  Julie has been here many decades and has a lot of very interesting stories/tidbits to share about this area. 

Julie - if you read this - THANK YOU again for such a great visit - we loved it.  We would also like to thank our AirB&B hosts who prepared delicious Nepalese hot tea each morning, getting us ready to face the bleak weather.

Close up of the stinging leaf

Each fine hair - - - so fine yet so wildly itchy
OK – this is a lot about plants we saw while touring the countryside because I am a plant loving kind a person but I think they are an integral part of culture and history.  What you eat, how you share, what you make with them, what you trade for them, etc…
One of the members of the drier rain forest is the Giant Stinging tree (Dendrocnide Excelsa).  Its large green leaves glisten with fine white silica-tipped stinging hairs.  When touched they cause a pain that can last for days, even months.  Think nettles on steroids.
Crinkled, dry and brown – beware dead leaves still sting!  Amazingly, dried leaf specimens collected in 1910 can still cause pain.  If dead leaves are disturbed, stinging hairs can float in the air.  You wouldn’t want to inhale them, so leave them undisturbed on the ground.
So next time you see a sign in Australia that suggests you wear closed shoes, it is usually the reason why.  They do not want you to walk in these prickly leaves barefoot.
Moreton Fig and Mike between buttress roots - wearing shoes
Moreton Bay (Ficus Macrophylla) fig’s extensive root system is good at protecting creek banks from erosion.  They are called strangling trees because they start from above a host tree (probably from bird carried seed) and send long cable-like roots that eventually enclose the ‘host’ tree, restricting its sap, sunlight, etc.  The host tree slowly dies.  They can grow to 48m (160 feet) with branches spreading 30m (100 feet), its roots radiating 12m (40 feet) across the ground.
Forest of Paper Bark Melaleuca trees
It is believed that various eucalyptus or maleleuca trees which continually shed their bark do this to avoid the strangler fig attaching and killing them.
They have a very long history of using pollinator wasps, maybe 60,000 years.  That wasp is only 3mm (0.1 inch) long!  Each time you eat a fig, even the cultivated ones, a tiny wasp is found within…
Bunya tree - very distinguishable from distance
Bunya Pine 'Cones' the size of footballs
Another  interesting tree we encountered was the Bunya Pine (Araucaria Bidwillii).  The tree has ‘pine-cones / fruits’ that somewhat look like green pineapples that the natives gather every 3 years when the harvest is good.  Excellent food source…  A conifer but not a true pine it is often called the false monkey puzzle.  The cones are the size of footballs and contain dozens of nutritious kernels.  The kernels taste somewhat like chestnuts and can be eaten raw, boiled, roasted, ground, or fermented.  When boiled, the water turns red and is offered as a delicious tea.  The wood is renowned for making very good acoustical instruments. 
In short, you can just about grow anything you want in Australia and the food we found was of very good quality from the meats to fruits, vegetables, and cheeses…  Australia is a net exporter of food.  Some of the best yogurts are made here (Noosa is sold in the US), coffee is superb, and even corner stores (the likes of 7-11 in the US) carry a very decent collection of good food, in addition to a small amount of prepackaged crap.
Point Nepean National Park, a little more than 70 miles from Melbourne
Point Nepean from the air
Point Nepean is renowned for the outstanding beauty of its scenic landscape and its rich history, playing a very important role in shaping the early settlement, quarantine and defense of Victoria, Australia.  Located at the very tip of the Mornington Peninsula, the park contains panoramic views of Bass Strait, the heads and the expanse of Port Phillip and was established in 1852.
Looks ominous to me with the chimney etc.
But beautiful setting and grounds
Because of its isolation, it became a good and necessary place for a sanitary station against typhus, dysentery, measles, Spanish flu, and many other diseases endemic at the time (mid 1800 to mid 1900).
In those days, boats flying the yellow flag would be quarantined for 40 days.  The word quarantine comes from the Italian for forty days: quarranta giornio…  Glad that only the yellow flag, not the 40 day requirement is still in use today!
From jetty, luggage carried on tracks to be fumigated
Heavy doors separate all areas
A large bath and wash house for reception of infected clothing and distribution of clean clothing was built.  Interestingly enough, the people in 1st class on the boat would be treated better than the folks in 2nd class, even here.  Pregnant women were treated differently and located in separate quarters because many could not be immunized during pregnancy.
Lepers were handled here too and for some reason were cremated separately only on Wednesdays. 
Cattle quarantine also took place here but was eventually moved to the Melbourne Zoo.
Foul luggage was carried on tracks coming from the jetty and passed through into the disinfecting building and then into the Clean Luggage Store.  Items had to be sorted for either fumigation by steam or formaldehyde.  Even mail was fumigated with a mix of formalin and potassium permanganate.  That process would usually take a whole night.
The park is narrow so we can see water on both sides, open ocean and wild on one side, bay and calm on the other.   The junction is a good place to surf, with a mixture of sponge gardens, kelp forests, and emerald sea-grass beds. 
Old Fort very close to the ocean
Tunnel to fortified areas
Point Nepean is home to the most heavily fortified port in the Southern Hemisphere.  The very FIRST WWI shot came from here toward a German vessel that surrendered: 12:45pm on August 15th, 1914, only 3 hours and 45 minutes after the war was declared.
Australia’s Prime Minister Harold Holt disappeared while diving/swimming in December 1967, a mystery that was never solved even after the largest search ever executed.  Speculations from being drunk to paranoid kidnapping abound.  While we visited for a day we watched what looked like a helicopter water rescue happening, a very treacherous area.
The Boonwurrung people lived here thousands of years ago.  The same story is told around the world.  Native population is moved out from the best areas when settlers arrive…
Flinders Street Station
Famous clocks of the station
Seen from above on a sunny day
Card from 1905
The day we were there...
Date under the clock
Meeting your date under the clocks at Flinders Street Station is an old Melbourne tradition. As the 1905 postcard above shows, people were meeting there even before the current station was built. The graceful front steps with their elegant brass rails are the perfect place for people watching.
What about the Clocks themselves? They have plaques on them dating from 1916, but that's just the first time they were overhauled. In fact they are much older than the current station - they were first installed over the old weatherboard station in the 1860s, only 40 years after the city was first thought of and they’re still working. The things they must have seen!
Up until the 1970s, they were changed manually, by a man with a very long stick. Then, in 1983 the railways had a brief flirtation with the idea of digital clocks. There was such an outcry they reversed the decision and simply set the old ones up to be computer operated.  Apparently Melbournians love their clocks.  Today, digital clocks can be seen inside alongside the original clocks, best of both worlds.
Coop’s Shot Tower

Tower under cone of steel and glass for protection
Mixing of old and new
Originally built in 1888, the tall brick tower was used to create shot pellets. Such structures were not uncommon during the era as the process of creating the little lead balls involved letting droplets of molten metal fall the length of the tower into pools of water that would flash-form them into their spherical shape. During its heyday, Coop's tower could produce around six tons of shot a week. Luckily, the need for so much fire power dwindled over the years and the site diversified into other metal works. While the tower was never abandoned, the metal working at the site eventually ceased and the 164-foot tower became just a landmark.
Rather than letting the old spire crumble, in 1991 a giant cone of black steel and glass was built over the tower, completely enclosing it. A museum regarding the history of both the tower itself and the history of Melbourne in general was opened inside the building. The museum has been kept remarkably well, updated with new technologies such as gesture-controlled displays being installed in the historic tower.  
All around are a thriving modern shopping center, Melbourne is a master at mixing the old and the new.  Everywhere you look, old buildings or part of old buildings are integrated in the design of new ones.
Interesting Melbournian Tidbits
Lots of street art in Melbourne
  • In 2010, Melbourne was named by International Business Times as one of the best cities in the world for viewing street art.
  • World-famous "Aussie" beer Fosters was first brewed in Melbourne in 1888 - by brothers from the USA, William and Ralph Foster.  Nearly no one in Australia drinks it.  Mike did not see it for sale in any of the liquor stores he shopped at.
  • Vegemite was invented in Melbourne in 1922 after months of laboratory tests by food technologist Dr. Cyril Callister.  Our first host gave us some to try in Caloundra.  It is very salty, use very little.  This iconic Australian spread is still only manufactured at the Vegemite factory in Fisherman's Bend, Port Melbourne.
  • Melbourne's famous tramway system is the largest outside Europe and the fourth largest in the world.  We can attest to how comfortable, efficient and convenient it is.
  • Before Melbourne was called Melbourne, it was named Batmania after John Batman, a colonist farmer from Tasmania who landed in Port Philip Bay in May 1835.
  • In the 1880s, the Yarra River was a cesspool and the city was nicknamed Smellbourne.  In 1897, after one typhoid epidemic too many, the Melbourne Metropolitan Board of Works built a sewage system to transport wastewater to Werribee, 30 km away.  Today, work continues to keep cleaning up the river that runs through the center of the city.
  • Melbourne has been ranked the world's most livable city since 2011 (and among the top three since 2002), according to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
  • In 1880, Melbourne was the richest city in the world.
  • Melbourne has the world's largest Greek population outside of Athens.
  • They play bike polo instead of horse polo.
  • Moomba, Australia's largest free festival, held in Melbourne, means 'up your bum' in many Aboriginal languages.
6 O’Clock Swill

Young and Jackson Hotel across street from Flinders Station
Where men rushed for the 6 o'clock swill
And to see the famous and risqué painting of Chloe
Six o'clock closing was introduced during the First World War, partly as an attempt to improve public morality and partly as a war austerity measure.  Hotels catered for a short but very heavy drinking period after work before the early evening closing by extending their bars and tiling walls for easy cleaning. The phenomenon changed Australian pubs as rooms in the building were converted to bar space, billiard rooms disappeared and bars were knocked together.
The law was intended to reduce drunken mayhem and alcohol consumption but it encouraged them because of the short time men had to consume alcohol between "knock off time" and 6pm.
The rush to drink = Six o'clock closing often fueled an hour-long speed-drinking session, as men raced to get as drunk as possible in the limited time available. Early public house closing times had only limited success; they did not have a significant effect on reducing alcohol consumption and contributed to the growth of "sly-grog" venues and the illicit alcohol trade.  In many cases, patrons would buy alcohol at bottle shops to consume at home after the six o'clock swill.

Today's version of Tiddly Oggy is quite scrumptious
Tiddly oggies.  A Cornish pasty with crust similar to kind of bag in which miners carried their lunch; they resemble somewhat a Mexican empanada.  In meager times only filled with potatoes, in more prosperous with meats and other vegetables.  Tiddly (naval slang for proper) aka Proper Cornish Pasty (baked pastry).

Royal Arcade and Gog and Magog

Evening light version
Day time version
Gog and Magog
Father Time aka Chronos
Opened in 1870, the longest standing arcade (a covered passageway with arches along one or both sides) in Australia.  From mosaic flooring to glass roof and rows of arched windows, it is stunningly well preserved and beautiful.

The most striking feature of the arcade is the magnificent Gaunt’s Clock which is flanked either side by two giant statues of the mythical figures of Gog and Magog. Since 1892, these mammoth statues (each 7 feet tall) have struck chimes at every hour, and are still heard today resounding throughout the arcade. Several myths surround Gog and Magog, including one where they were guards of the underworld and gods of dark spirits. They are replica of the ones in the Guildhall in London.  Chronos (Father time) is posted at the other end of the arcade.

The beautiful stock exchange and Bank building

More mixing of old and new gracefully.

Newly renovated atrium

Inside bank today
Detail of the amazing workmanship
Not to feel awe with an entrance like this

ANZ’s Gothic Bank.  Gothic revival, a rare heritage from the prosperous Victorian era, it was built in the 1880’s and restored in the 1990’s.  Unusual partnership between a banker (Sir George Verdon) who preferred art to banking and an architect (William Wardell eventually followed by William Pitt) who was better known for designing cathedrals and public buildings resulted in inspired structures.  Influenced by Venetian and French Gothic tradition, it eventually expanded to host the Stock Exchange.  There are heavy glass tiles in room to help light up basement below. 

Went through a $20M restoration in 1989 and it shows.  Stunning!

Well - with only two days to visit this most enchanting city that is all we have to share except for one last tidbit.

  • Proud Mary's owner, Nolan Hirte, is coming to Portland in November 2016 to show the NW how real coffee is done. See article here and lucky you Portland...

A brolly is an umbrella… so bag your brolly with this rain in Melbourne.
Come enjoy your stay…

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