“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine
That's the way I feel sometimes, about my life - that I know too little, that I have seen too little and I have done too little.
If I could, I would literally go off the beaten track and experience the world one page at a time, gradually, slowly but surely soaking in each experience to soothe my thirsty soul, that yearns so much for more.
As a kid, browsing through pictures in the National Geographic magazine, I had always been fascinated by the big island Down Under, for its unique remoteness, natural beauty, habitat and short but interesting history.
As I grew up, I learnt more about the world including Australia. My fascination grew at how the place evolved from being a penal colony to a modern and vibrant multi-hued society. The interplay of cultures and intermingling of societies brought about by migration of people of all races has made Australia an melting pot.
A friend visited Australia about a year back and brought back with him interesting anecdotes and experiences that have made my urge to visit Australia even more stronger.
Of all the places Down Under, Melbourne does quite stand out. In a sense, Melbourne is a microcosm of Australia. It is believed that the area that is Melbourne today was inhabited by the native Aboriginals for over 30,000 years. The area had its first European settlers coming in in 1803. But it was the discovery of gold in the state of Victoria in 1851 that brought an exponential growth in settlers.
In 1901, when the Australian Federation was founded, Melbourne became its founding capital and remained so till 1927. With growth in the local economy, many interesting developments happened - construction happened at a feverish pace. Several buildings came up - the Parliament House, the Treasury Building, the State Library, the Melbourne Town Hall, St Paul's, St Patrick's cathedrals, Queen Victoria Market and the Royal Mint all of which have come to signify the rich and interesting heritage of the city. In what would interest most Indians, the Mecca of cricket, the Melbourne Cricket Ground too came up in the same period.
However, the Second World War changed the demographics of the city. The war in Europe brought in even more settlers here and with settlers come in their traditions and cultures and culinary styles. I am told you can see all that in the cafes and eateries of the city. You can find a kaleidoscope of cuisines here - authentic Greek, Italian, Ethiopian, Middle Eastern, Jewish, Indonesian, Indian, Japanese and Vietnamese cuisines here besides local delicacies like kangaroo and emu steaks. Man, that sounds so yum!
For visitors, shopping is a major attraction, as the city is considered as Australia's fashion capital Though I would be more interested in walking down the city discovering the hidden heritage, seeing the city as the locals had seen it evolve over the last century - places like the Old Melbourne Gaol, Royal Exhibition Building, Polly Woodside, Immigration Museum, Eureka Skydeck 88 and the Royal Botanic Gardens. I would also like to take a balloon ride over the city, at dusk watching the bright lights come up, against the backdrop of the setting sun. The ancient Aboriginal art, which has always fascinated me, will take me to the Aboriginal Gallery of Dreamings.
The National Opal Collection sounds very interesting. It is said to be a fascinating attraction, showing an incredible link between opal and the dinosaur - how bones of prehistoric creatures can become opalised.
Stepping out of the city, I would love to visit the historic mansion at Werribee, the gardens and the steam railway at the Dandenong Ranges and see how the much-loved wines are so carefully tended to in the Yarra Valley
But vibrance of the city, I am told, is best observed from one of the many promenades at any time of the day - I would love to sit there, silently, watching the city go by, sipping my favourite cup of coffee...., turning a few pages in my book of the world!
Indeed, it's your time to visit Melbourne NOW!