Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A One-Day Trip To Canberra

Vikram and I went on a one-day tour to Canberra this Sunday. A good trip... comfortable bus, good driver, amiable and knowledgeable tour guide etc. Vikram booked the tour through APT - Australia Pacific Tours.

Nice, planned city, constructed in the early 1900s when the parliamentarians from Melbourne and Sydney started fighting about where to build the Parliament as those in each city refused to travel 6-7 hrs to the other for every session. So, they kind of chose to build a city mid-way between the two cities and so Canberra was born. But till the 1960s I believe the public did not want to settle there at all and it was pretty much like a ghost town with only the parliament, treasury, high commissions etc. It was still called the "bush state" till then. It was only after that that people slowly started moving in, but even now it's a very small city and sparsely populated with just around 2-3 residential localities. So, the focus is on the Govt infrastructure there.

Picture this... the Rashtrapathi Bhavan, Parliament House, India Gate, Embassies and a FEW of the memorials of Delhi situated as a standalone city with each building situated really far, far, apart and 1/10th the population... that's likely to be Canberra.

So, here are some notes and pics...

The Highway

The highway from Sydney to Canberra was good and very scenic. But very "empty" as in there aren't many villages etc on the way. There are just a few villages, which are considered as "landmarks" because they "managed to survive"... so it's considered a pretty rare thing here if a village manages to survive. Hats off to the Indian villages!

It was in one of the villages called Berrima which "managed to survive" that the bus was stopped for morning tea at around 10:15 a.m. We had some really yummy brownies, tart and quiche! But what was more interesting was the lovely laid back life at the village! There were four retired people who were staring at a redone vintage car outside the little restro where we had tea. When the owner of the car came out, they surrounded him and started interviewing him about how he did the leather furnishing, the wooden panel in the front etc. And then they waved goodbye to each other, commented about how "freezing" it was and drove away in their cars--which were close to vintage themselves ;-) (Don't ask!!! We too were gawking at the vintage car... so forgot to click pics!!!)

Here are some pics of the highway though...

First Glimpses of Canberra

Rather like the Bangalore of many years ago that appa often recollects... broad roads, almost empty, very green, beautiful buildings...

Canberra Sights

The three main locations we went to were the Parliament House, the National Museum and the War Memorial.

The National Museum of Australia was built in 2001 as a gift to themselves... for celebrating 100 years of federation. It aims to provide a bird's eye view of what Australia is in terms of the land, the people and the culture. As soon as you set sight on the museum you are likely to be a little puzzled because the shape looks very very funny!! Then the Guide explained: apparently they tied a sailor's knot, put it into a basket and filled it with plaster. The Museum was modelled on the shape that resulted... to signify the culture that ties all of Australia together despite it being a land populated mainly by migrants from different lands.

Another interesting thing there is the garden of dreams... built almost entirely of concrete!!! Apparently, they tried to think up all that made Australia special (or normal) and tried to symbolise them in some way or the other in the garden of dreams. Pretty thoughtful though... here's an example... there is a mound of grass around the garden showing that the Australians value and respect the bushes (natural environment) more than anything else; Apparently when they built the garden they planted saplings on the mound's slopes, in a slant. As the trees grew, they straightened up. This is said to signify that when people migrated to Australia they tended to lean towards their homeland and its memories, but as time passed they became upstanding citizens of the new country--some straighter than others.

One of the best parts of the museum is a section called "Eternity" which tries to profile the people of Australia... who are like all other people... experiencing... hope, joy, loneliness, chance, triumph etc. So, there is an exhibit for each of these emotions. Each exhibit has titles for around a dozen stories of famous and erstwhile unknown people... you can click on any of these and watch a video of their story. One of the best, recommended by the tour guide, was the video of Bradbury's Olympic Gold, under the title "Chance"... it was amazing how he won the Gold in ice skating because the three in front of him skid and fell in the last 1/2 a minute!! Since then, I believe that when somebody wins by chance they are known to "do a Bradbury"! Many such interesting stories. The rest of the museum was pretty normal, like any other.

The Parliament House was beautiful too. Amazing how they allow tourists to go right into the main Parliament room where the sessions happen. And like all Parliaments, it looked beautiful when empty (because judging by what the Guide said, Australian partliament too has its share of fish-market scenes!) The colours in the two houses are beautiful shades of green and burgundy respectively, inspired by the eucalyptus tree's leaves and bark... and of course the beautiful Australian sunset.

Here are some pics of the Museum and Parliament...

And when I wanted to win a Pulitzer...

Suddenly I felt like doing a little bit of adventurous journalism... you know, peeping into Dons' dens, digging out political secrets, investigating murders etc... but the most adventurous of course is walking into a warfield to cover the scenes of bravery, valour, triumph, defeat and sorrow there... and that's precisely why we travelled back in time to the time of the First World War and shot these...

So, who's going to nominate me for the Pulitzer now? I might "do a Bradbury" and win after all, you know ;-)

Interesting backgrounds

I'm always intrigued by designs and patterns, so when I found some rather interesting designs on the dividers, walls, aborigine-made-fabrics etc at the museum and parliament house I could not help clicking some close-ups. Have uploaded those too as they might make interesting backgrounds for Powerpoint presentations and even as desktop backgrounds :-)


And oh, forgot to mention... we passed very close to the town were the legendary Donald Bradman grew up!! If my grandpa had been in his prime and able to come to Australia, he'd have made the trip like a pilgrimage!