It’s been two years since we first got the idea to visit Australia and now we’re finally there. Yesterday evening we arrived in the Sydney Kirketon Hotel after more than 20 hours of travel. The jet lag could have been worse; but at 6.30 in the morning we were definitely awake. Time to explore Sydney.
We decided to walk to the Sydney Opera House, and from there take the ferry to Taronga Zoo:
After a big journey, there is nothing more pleasant than walking around. The exposure to movement and sunlight forces your body to get over this jetlag nonsense as soon as possible. And it gives you the best possible feel for a city.
Some random observations.
First of all, Sydney feels like something halfway between the US and Europe. The city is more spacious than most European cities, but the older buildings would not look out of place in a city like Birmingham. At the same time, this spaciousness extends to the pavements as well, making it a pleasant city to walk around.
To ensure you don’t feel too much at home, Australians collectively drive on the wrong side of the road. And where cities like London at least acknowledge that this is a great way to get tourists killed, and warn you to look to the right at every opportunity, in Sydney you are on your own. They do compensate for this by having pedestrian crossings with traffic lights everywhere.
Talking about those traffic lights… They basically function the same as everywhere else. There is a big button, you press it, and after a while the little red man turns green. Apparently this change of color is not exciting enough for Australians, so the event is accompanied by a loud sound that comes straight from a 1980’s Space Invaders Arcade machine. To make it even more exciting, after turning green it takes only a second for the light to turn into a blinking red, urging you to get to the other side Right Now.
Yet, at the same time, it all feels quite relaxed. Yes, some people are in a hurry, and some people obviously have a bad case of Monday Morning, but so far this stress never seems to dictate the general atmosphere. Could it be true that Australians really are more relaxed?
The walk itself took us past and through a lot of green parks with decidedly British names such as Hyde Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens. I don’t know a lot about botanical stuff, so to me the parks looked like ordinary parks. Apart from the Ibises that is. I’m used to pigeons, and I’m used to sea gulls; and both are present here as well. But it was a new experience to see those big ibises walking around, nesting in trees and at one point harassing tourists and stealing their food.
After the gardens, we got our first glimpse of the Sydney Harbour, the big bay that connects Sydney to the Pacific Ocean. On the left: the impressive steel arches of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that span 500m across the bay. On the right: the Sydney Opera House, one of the modern wonders of the world.
From whichever way you look at it, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is really impressive and deserving its place in history. The Opera House on the other hand is apparently designed to only look good from afar. Standing in front of it, the shells look a bit dirty, dated and not at all impressive.
After this weird experience we continued to Circular Bay. Here the Central Business District meets the water and you can board one of the many ferries that run across Sydney Harbour. The ferries come in all sizes: slow ferries (public transport); fast ferries that seem just as fast as the slow ferries, but are more expensive; and even water taxis. We bought a combi ticket to Taronga Zoo and went off for our second part of the day.