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Published: December 2nd 2009
(Day 595 on the road)
Melbourne is easily the most agreeable and cosmopolitan city I have been to since I left home. Miles apart from the chaos and pollution of some Asian metropolises like Manila, Jakarta or Bangkok still vivid in my memory, Melbourne just has a great feel to it. The mix of different people living here from all over the world is incredible, and the city's location right by the ocean doesn't hurt either. I thoroughly enjoyed the week I spent here.
Even better than the city itself was the fact that quite a number of my friends, colleagues from university and people I met during my trip so far are living in Melbourne. After always starting afresh with the countless people I meet all the time on my journey ("what's your name, where are you from, how long have you been travelling for, where are you going next"), it was immensely satisfying to spend time with people that already know me, allowing us to skip the tedious introductions and the getting-to-know-one-another phase. Meeting new people is amazing and one of the great joys of travelling, but not having to start from zero all the time is just great
every now and then.
Of the people I knew in Melbourne, well first there was Steven, an old friend of mine, who took me in and devoted a considerable amount of his time and energy to make my stay as comfortable and interesting as possible. He went out of his way to show me the city and surroundings he grew up in. Steven: Thank you so much for your amazing hospitality, I sincerely hope I can return the honour at one point in the future!
Next I spent time with my old university colleague Nelly, with whom I studied together in Perth pretty much ten years ago. We hadn't seen each other since but have kept in touch over the years, and meeting her again now reminded us both why our friendship endured the long distance throughout the years. It was almost like no time had passed and we had a great time together.
From my university days in Manchester, I met up with Dutch/ British Tam and British Tiggy (and their respective partners). Tam now lives in Melbourne whilst Tiggy was over here in Australia for her honeymoon (congratulations again, girl!). What a coincidence! We had
a lovely dinner together in St. Kilda, busy catching up on our respective lives.
Lastly, I knew Irish Teresa and Australian Mekdes, both of whom I had met in Irkutsk (Russia) and Ulan Batar (Mongolia) well over a year ago during the early days of my trip. They have both finished their travels some time ago however, but we had kept in touch. It was weird to meet after all this time and talk about our shared time in Russia and Mongolia, which seemed like ages ago, but was really only 14 months ago. How much has happened in all our lives since then...
Well, so what did I do apart from meeting friends (and getting attacked by a drunkard in St. Kilda on a Friday night)? Not too many touristy things to be sure. Staying with a local Melbournese (or how do you call a person from Melbourne?) took me right off the tourist track, and into some seldom-visited areas of Melbourne, including the area that was severely affected by a devastating bush fire earlier this year, which was a rather solemn experience. I did however go to the Immigration Museum (fantastic!) and the Old Melbourne Jail
(mediocre, expensive and can easily be missed).
On my last day, Nelly, Steven and I went on a wonderful day trip to see the Little Penguins
on Philipp Island, about two hours south of the city. The penguins here are extreeeemely cute: They are the smallest penguins in the world and grow only to about 30cm to 40cm in height. Every night just after sunset they all waddle up the beach to their nests as fast as possible to escape possible predators.
And they don't call the whole spectacle "Penguin Parade" for nothing - there are literally hundreds of penguins parading across the beach and further up the coast, quite a few of them frequently falling flat on their faces in their eagerness to reach the safety of their nests: When your total height is 30cm and your body is designed for swimming and not for walking on uneven surfaces, even a bit of seaweed or a short hilly section suddenly becomes a major obstacle! Unfortunately there were absolutely no pictures allowed in order to protect these tiny creatures, so the only ones I was able to take were of a lone penguin we spotted earlier in the day
in a different part of the island. But it was a truly magic evening. If you are in the area: Don't miss it!
And since I started this entry on how multicultural Melbourne is - this is true by all means. But after a few days in the city I soon came to realise that the various races don't mix quite as much as I had initially thought. The Asians seem to mostly stick with the Asians, the Italians and Indians keep to themselves in Little Italy and Little India, the Caucasian Australians have their barbeques with their fellow Australians, and so forth. Save for the odd interracial couple (95%!C(MISSING)aucasian guys with Asian girls by the way, almost never the other way), there seems to be little deeper interaction between the different cultures unfortunately. It was very rarely that I saw a mixed group of friends hanging out or having dinner together. What a shame, with such a wonderful mix of people all living together in this great city...
Next stop: Sydney (NSW, Australia).
To view my photos, have a look at pictures.beiske.com
. And to read the full account of my journey, have a look at the complete book about my trip at Amazon
(and most other online book shops).
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