At the end of March this year, I took a trip down to Melbourne for business. I had to be there over two days, so I had some time to kill the first evening. I had already posted about a great Japanese restuarant, Nihonbashi Zen, but I never got around to posting about my walk through the city.
For those of you from the US who haven’t been to Melbourne, I would describe it as most closely resembling Chicago in character (and I would equate Sydney with San Francisco and Brisbane with Tampa). The architecture in Melbourne was born out of the the 1850 gold rush in Victoria, when the city became a port and service centre . In that respect, it shares a lot in common with cities like Pittsburgh where steel and coal money funded grand buildings and a boom in victorian architecture in the 1880s. However, the downtown area is build on a rectangular grid. Wide avenues sport street trams that pick up and let off in the center of the street. The roads are so broad that this has little impact on space for traffic.
As I strolled along the street, I took pictures of some of the interesting buildings and pass-throughs. Here are some of the photos, although I am clueless as to what I was looking at:
You can see some of the wonderful old building in the downtown area here. This street had many of the upscale stores and shops.
One of the pass-throughs that led through to the other side of the block. There were lots of these, likely because many of the blocks were quite long and it was a pain to have to go all the way down the street just to go to the other side. The one below was quite typical, though many had small shops located down the hall.
Here is a picture of the outside of the train station.
As I was walking along I came across this kiosk on one of the corners. It had advertising (the woman pictured is part of a video selling something), and below was information about the city, shop locations, and an interactive map. I had just enabled the map and was playing around with the touch screen. Basically you just put your finger on a location and dragged the map around to reveal parts that were off the screen. Pretty slick. It wasn’t all that useful and it wasn’t oriented to the direction you were standing, so if you didn’t know where you were, it didn’t help all that much. You can see my reflection in the left side of the screen. I must have made it look like a lot of fun when I was playing with it, as soon as I turned around I notice a line of people waiting to play.
Here is a detail of the screen above.
This block was where all the major department stores were located. If I am not mistaken, that is a Myer’s behind the clock tower building. Myer’s is like a Macy’s.
Another pass-through that doubled as an arcade.
Here is the entrance to China Town, which is basically one street for about 5 blocks. Mostly just restaurants.
This building is of the RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology). It has a very eclectic exterior, with the facade of the building broken up by competing and uncomplimenting themes. Cool, but at the same time it gave the feeling of being designed as weird for the sake of being weird.
A detail of one of the ‘themes’ of the RMIT building. This is to the right of the picture above. You can see the edges of the greek style building that sits between both of these facades.
All in all, Melbourne is a pretty cool city. I think I prefer Sydney for now, but I’ll have to spend some time in Melbourne to decide completely. I feel like Sydney is a better city to actually live in the downtown area. However, the summer in Melbourne is much better as it tends to be cooler. Like Chicago, the weather is unpredictable and changes frequently and drastically.
As I was taking a taxi out the following day I had a cab driver who was from Punjab. We passed a sign on one of the tram stops that said “No Stop Here” and the driver asked me what that meant. I told him that I assumed, since there was construction going on, that it meant the tram would not be making any stops at that location. He immediately agreed with my assessment, but it started a conversation about Australian-isms that are hard for other English speakers to figure out. I mentioned my slight confusion with the obligatory “How you going?” instead of my more familiar “How you doing” (or as Joey says it, “How you doin’?”). He laughed and said that when he first arrived in the country and started a job driving cabs, he would have passengers greet him with “How you going”, which he immediately thought to himself they must be crazy. It was obvious that he was going by taxi.