Travelogue: Melbourne, Australia
I have relatives in Victoria’s coastal capital, Melbourne.
As luck would have it, out of my four months sailing around Australia and New Zealand, two of those days were spent exploring what’s affectionately referred to as Sydney’s “little brother.”
Melbourne was originally Batmania. Named after John Batman, a colonist farmer from Tasmania who arrived in 1835. Batman was part of a syndicate who bought 600,000 acres of land around the city. In his journal he wrote: “This will be the place for a village.”
It was during the Victorian gold rush of the 1850s that Melbourne transformed into one of the world’s largest and richest metropolises. Today it is Australia’s second biggest city, with a population of 4.1 million.
My mother’s cousin, Boris (a born and bred Aussie), acted as chauffeur during my time in the city, selflessly guiding me through its vibrant sprawl. Accompanied by his wife Angela and two teenage sons (Adam and Nicholas), their tentative sightseeing itinerary lovingly check marked many of my interests.
Having rendezvoused at Port Melbourne for an early 8 a.m. start, my surrogate family and I travelled into the city’s central business district, quickly bypassing tourist traps in favour of something more “counter-culture”.
Located on the southern edge of the central city grid, we walked through Hoiser Lane. Our eyes gazed the celebrated landmark of Melbourne’s street art mecca.
I noted its artistry and political edge. These graffiti covered walls have become a definitive destination for fashion and wedding photography.
I vaguely knew of Melbourne’s title as the cultural capital down under. Simply walking the city’s back alleys exposed me to the local and international talent who use these walls as temporary canvases.
Queen Victoria Market
Shifting from contemporary to traditional, we sampled the only surviving 19th century market in the city’s core. The largest open-air market in the Southern Hemisphere, Queen Victoria occupies two city blocks, hosts more than 600 traders and attracts over 130,000 visitors per week.
The word Hahndorf (as pictured above) happens to be Australia’s oldest surviving German settlement, which goes to explain the abundance of chilli encrusted sausages. Luckily, my camera captured the memory rather than my taste buds enduring any permanent damage.
An institution to this very day, the sheer variety of produce, meats and crafts at the “Vic Market” is undeniable. It easily stands on par with London’s Borough or Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market.
Two kilometres north-east of the city’s central business district, I suggested to Boris that visiting Melbourne’s purported “Brooklyn” district (better known as Fitzroy) was a logical next step in our adventure. He obliged.
Fitzroy lays home to the city’s bohemian set, a suburb with an eclectic mix of art, galleries and specialist bookshops. Starting our jaunt on Johnston Street, we soon found ourselves surrounded by delectable restaurants, eventually setting our sites on Grub Food Van.
Tucked away in a former car park, the restaurant was an amalgamation of stylish recycled wares and a menu rich with innovative picnic-style grazing food.
Seated among an indoor greenhouse, I opted for a meal of toasted sourdough, two breaded eggs, bacon, shaved parmesan, anchovies and a leaf of grilled lettuce. Savory and distinctive!
My time in Melbourne wasn’t complete without visiting my two great aunts. Convening in the suburbs at both their respective abodes, platters of food and family history were shared.
Having never met them prior (named Mima and Branca), it was a surreal, emotional experience.
Thoughts ran through my head. The uniqueness of my location. The probability of ever travelling to Melbourne again. The fact that both aunties are the spitting image of my deceased grandmother who passed away nearly 20 years ago.
At that point I calmed myself down, took a shot of homemade slivovista (plum brandy) and made peace. Live by the moment, take photos and reciprocate appreciation to the one’s who show you love.
My time in Melbourne was a family affair of seismic proportions. I hope one day to return and extend the joyous memories I made.