A Dutch day in Brisbane

Today is our first day back at the East Coast. Last time we traveled from Sydney to Adelaide. This time the plan is to go from Brisbane to Cairns.

We had a bit of a slow start today, which admittedly freaked me out a bit (guess we are not quite there yet with the ‘no worries’). But thankfully, all the major sights according to our guide are within walking distance of both our apartment and each other. Oh, and most of them were closed.

First stop was the botanical garden right around the corner. Pretty and very green! With lots of huge bamboo growing in it. We walked through it to get to the old government building. It usually houses exhibitions, but is now closed due to renovations. Apparently it now belongs to the university, which has spread around it. So much so, that when we tried to get to the new government house, which according to the map should be right next to it, we got lost in the maze of Queensland University. We passed a library, the science department, outdoor microwaves and stairs everywhere, making me feel like I got stuck in an Escher painting. So, we walked back to the botanical gardens and found our way from there.

This new building was actually designed by the same guy as the old building (I guess they liked his style), but a little bigger. In front of it was a huge Christmas tree and a nativity scene.

Closed, too. So we headed over to our next stop, the mansions. That is an old row of Victorian houses. And you guessed it: closed. Or to be more accurately, abandoned. Why, I don’t know. The looked pretty enough from the outside, as well as what I could see on the inside through the windows. I would love to tell you more about them, but the our guide didn’t feel the need for it so the picture will have to suffice.

After that we went to the former treasury, which now houses a casino, hotel, several restaurants and is open 24/7. A pretty building, again in Victorian style. From what we could see today, Brisbane has a nice combination of old and very modern buildings. Apparently the city wasn’t doing too well until 20 / 30 years ago. They upgraded the city and it looks very booming today! A lot of new and very high skyscrapers and cool bridges dominate to city, but with nice pearls like this building stuck in between.

By that time we got hungry and had some lunch, served by a fellow countrywomen. The Dutchies are everywhere! Actually, it would turn out to be a bit of a Dutch day today. You will see…

Next stop were some steampunk kangaroos,

and then the old windmill. Not really a windmill like in The Netherlands, but one for the convicts. It had a treadmill attached to it which was used as a punishment for the prisoners. I guess it more resembled a hamster wheel than a windmill… After they stopped sending convicts to Brisbane, the building was used as an observatory and after that an antenna from which the country’s first television broadcast was transmitted. Quite a life for a windmill!

After that we went over to city hall. Now, I used to be a civil servant and thankfully quit my job before I came over here, so I wasn’t really waiting to take a tour of yet another city hall. But, it was free and right on time, so we went. Boy, was that a good choice! We had a great tour, conducted by Eomer. A fair haired elf straight form Lord of the Rings. He told us that the site on which city hall currently stands, was first used in the 1800’s as a rollerskating hall. And after that was abandoned, as a rollercoaster!

Next he told us that the land underneath the city hall is actually a swamp, so in order to put a building on it, they had to put concrete pillars into the swamp to prevent the building from sinking into the swamp. An old trick, we thought! For most of Amsterdam is built on pillars to prevent the buildings from sinking in to the sea. And if only the Australians would have asked our fellow countrymen for some advice… Because some years ago the building started to sink anyways. Apparently they used salty water to build the concrete pillars, which is not a smart plan, because the salt prevented the concrete from setting properly and left tiny holes. Those holes filled with water over the decades, which meant they had to redo the job. Our Dutch pillars holding the Royal palace in Amsterdam may be made out of wood instead of concrete, but when they examined two of those pillars after a couple of hundred years to see whether they needed any renovations, they were all (literally) still going strong! Told you, they should have asked us Dutchies for some help. I mean, we were right around the corner at Batavia (now Jakarta) anyways! One thing that troubles me tough, is the number of pillars. Brisbane city hall is built on less than 200 pillars, while the Royal Palace in Amsterdam is being held up by 13.657 pillars!

The best anecdote our tour-guide-elf told us was about the top of the clock tower (once the highest point in Brisbane). When they started building city hall, they estimated that it would cost about 250.000 Australian pounds. By the end it had actually cost them almost a million! So when the end came near, all the money was gone and the tower was still uncrowned, the city council was in a bit of a pickle. Even more so, when the construction workers told them that all the scaffolding would be removed within two weeks time. So, they had 5 pounds and two weeks left to find someone to put something remarkable on top of this new landmark. In the end, the plumber who had laid out all the plumbing for the new building took the job. He scavenged around the city in order to find old and unused materials to make something out of. He ended up with an old cauldron that was used to cook cow’s manure in, some old gas lampposts that had since been replaced by electric ones and one foot of a discarded bathtub. He took the pieces apart, reassembled them, put an unused copper float switch on it, on top of that the bathtub’s foot and this is what he got (and all that for only 5 pounds!):

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