If there’s one thing I’ve experienced in all my time away from the UK, it’s nature. Waterfalls, mountains, rivers, bays, caves, lakes, drought, flooding, trees, plants, and the sea. I’ve been to four capital cities since starting my travels and generally speaking big cities are all high-rise buildings, train stations and a whole lot of concrete. I’m currently residing in the world’s most liveable city – Melbourne, and it couldn’t be further from that stereotype if it tried.
Yes, there is a lot of public transport, I’ve already alluded to this and at some point, you may get a nice post with some more details of how incredibly sophisticated the PTVictoria system is. Yes, there is a lot of traffic that you need to sit through, with the honking of horns and the regular shaking of your head at the manoeuvres that some road-users commit themselves to. Yes, there are lots of skyscrapers and there is a lot of evidence of more being built within the Central Business District (CBD), especially when driving into the City across the bridge at the end of the working day, with the city’s skyline on the left, lights twinkling from penthouse apartments and classy bars as the sun goes down, casting shadows of the cranes over the Yarra river.
But this city has invested a lot of time and energy in botanical gardens, parks and general greenery which, in my experience is not the norm. As the southern hemisphere is moving into the summer, I’m suffering with seasonal allergies, but we’re getting lots more flowers. My job involves door-to-door knocking, and that means I get to see a lot of gardens. I’ve seen an smelled some truly beautiful jasmine and lavender in the last couple of weeks, but I don’t tend to take pictures of potential customer’s gardens… that’s a bit weird. I did visit the Botanical Gardens in St Kilda as well as the Royal Botanic Gardens of Melbourne and, rather topically, I went to the Shrine of Remembrance last weekend, and I took a lot of pictures!
At the Botanical Gardens in St Kilda, there is a really cool statue called The Rainman which is in the middle of a lake. Unfortunately though, he’s a bit far out to get a good picture of him… He’s made out of metal, cement and solar panels. His hand is outstretched from under his umbrella to see whether it’s raining or not. When the sun is out, water will fall around the rim of the Rainman’s umbrella, but when it is raining, the solar panels stop working and the waterfall ceases, and he is feeling the actual rain. It’s a beautifully engineered piece that was commissioned in 2004; it raises awareness of solar power and it makes a great water feature that doesn’t cost anything to work.
The Royal Botanic Gardens are by far much bigger than the botanical gardens in St Kilda. There are trails laid out with different types of plant life, so there is a Southern China Collection and a Herb Garden and an Australian Forest Walk. There is a lot of information about the medical properties of certain plants, the way different countries and cultures use plants in the kitchen and how certain species have been used historically compared to in modern times. There is a massive lake in the middle of the Garden and there is a really interesting “volcano” which used to be a water reserve for the garden, and now serves as a feature in and of itself. Around the outside there are plants that prefer a dry habitat and at the “mouth” of the volcano, you can see the water reserve and plants that live in the water there. In hindsight, we should have taken a picnic. It was a truly beautiful day and the promise of summer was definitely in the air.
The last place I want to talk about for its natural open spaces is, rather ironically, a massive stone Shrine. Australia is known for its numerous war memorials, and this is just one of them. A very famous tourist attraction within the state of Victoria, there is a constantly burning flame, remembering the fallen from years gone by to present day. Every hour and on the half hour, there is a short ceremony to remember the fallen within the actual Shrine itself, where a ray of light passes over the Stone of Remembrance which lies in the centre of the Sanctuary. The Stone has the words “GREATER LOVE HATH NO MAN” engraved upon it. There is a crypt down below, with a permanent exhibition of flags and medals from World War II, and there is the opportunity to climb to the external promenades and see a wonderful view into the city as well as an aerial view of a great piece of art in the shape of a poppy. Incidentally, it is Remembrance Sunday today, so it seems only right that I post this right now. Lest we forget.