I am a self-confessed city hater. My closest city is Melbourne and I avoid going whenever possible. When I have to visit I do everything as hastily as possible and leave.
As I stand on the corner I realise my senses are exploding. My gaze lands on the footpath that is infested with old chewing gum and I am appalled by the insanitary nature of the city as I notice what looks to be saliva next to my feet. I shiver as the wind blows straight through my jacket, whipping past my spine on the way through. Looking up, I can see blue sky and sunshine but the rows upon rows of skyscrapers cast shadows into the streets that cause nothing less than darkness and bitter cold, leaving no chance for the sunshine and warmth to reach the street. I am jolted back to reality as a businessman wearing a rigid suit knocks into me as a crowd pushes past each other to cross the road. I am deafened by the intense noise as a tram shoots past, dinging its bell loudly into my ear. There’s commotion as cars attempt to turn the corner and end up blasting their horns in the hope that something will be achieved in doing so.
Despite my opinion, many people love Melbourne. In an attempt to discover why, I visited the official tourism body website visitmelbourne.com to unearth which parts of the city are being marketed for visitors. What happens to be the main advertising banner on the website? “Road Trips and Itineraries: Travel from mountains to coast to city…” The page continues by outlining “Explore Victoria” and the top attractions statewide- hang on a minute, what about Melbourne, as the web address suggests?
I can eventually locate the attractions:
Melbourne Zoo: I see nothing at this city zoo that you can’t see in another zoo worldwide. Although I must admit that the free-range lemur enclosure is memorable and fun for all ages.
Old Melbourne Gaol – a bleak but significant building with paint peeling off the solid walls in which you hear stories that glorify notorious criminals from Victoria’s colourful history
Eureka Skydeck 88 – An expensive way to gain areal views over the city, which upon later reflection could be any number of cities from around the globe – with no distinguishing landmarks in sight
Queen Victoria Market- If you’re receptive to replica handbags and fake leather jackets then this is the undercover market for you! Stall upon stall of Chinese manufactured products can be likened to a physical eBay store, with every third or fourth stall offering identical products at a similar price.
Federation Square – Located opposite the historic Flinders Street Station is “Fed Square” – a government built central square as a paramount meeting point in the CBD. The modern design and architecture will be outdated within the decade and the public square will be deemed an eye saw. I can guarantee it will be redesigned with a new modern outlook, just ripe for the process to be repeated.
A few extra Melbourne experiences:
Yarra River – You’ve seen one dirty river flowing through a city, you’ve seen them all, right?
Trams – Besides a handful of historic trams operating on the ‘city circle loop’ the overcrowded public transport system is far too congested and insufficient to handle the ever-growing population. There’s serious changes needed to uphold the title of ‘World’s Most Livable City” For goodness sake – who votes for these titles? There’s not even public transport to the airport!
Hook turns – Caused by having trams in the CBD, these swift maneuvers cause driving in the city to be complicated and stressful. Once you’ve dislodged your tires from the tram tracks, imagine turning right from the left-hand lane. You can’t turn from the middle of the road since a tram will trundle along and clean you up in one rapid move.
Although I am a self confessed hater, there are a couple of gems making Melbourne unique and can entertain you for a day or two:
Cafes and foodie culture: Melbourne claims home to the best coffee in the country. The countless cafes make hunting for a cup claiming the title of such greatness to be no small feat.
Laneways and arcades: You’ll find endless laneways jutting from each street in the CBD. A handful of these are hidden gems and others will scare you half to death. The acclaimed laneways are worth wondering and will lead to hidden treasure troves of boutique stores. A number of historic arcades are a shopper’s bliss – that is, if you can handle the price tag. If nothing else it’s worth straying inside the notable rabbit warrens and marvelling at the high glass domed ceilings and the brass fixtures from the shops’ heyday.
Arts culture: Between the thriving theatre scene and the endless array of festivals, Melbourne has an event that would interest even the most boring amoung us. On a different note, the expanding street artwork and murals leads you on a refreshing walking tour of the tired streets.
As much as I loathe the city, I can acknowledge it’s integral place in society. Melbourne provides international name brands for shopping and is a business hub for the state. Besides this, the city provides an international airport for our visitors. My hope is you will glide by Melbourne. Look past the restless city and it’s skyscrapers. Use Melbourne as a stopover on your way to pictorial Victoria.
As a city hater and nature lover, I hope to see you outside the city; experiencing the natural wonders of this diverse state. Whether it be marveling at the distant open road in the immense Mallee region; or climbing to a lookout in the High Country trying to spot an elusive wild brumby. Or embarking on an iconic road trip along the Great Ocean Road and Shipwreck Coast which will rival any coastal drive in the world; or ferreting around with a metal detector through the Goldfields Region in search for a nugget left behind during the 1850’s gold rush, being careful not to take a wrong step ending up down an abandoned mine shaft.
Regional Victoria has something for everyone. I urge you – don’t take a city break, take a nature break. Hire a car and see where the road takes you. Be thankful that you have experienced more than dirty footpaths and overcrowded public transport. Instead breathe in fresh air, be ready to ride through charming towns and have your camera ready as you venture into the sunshine and open road.