Purposely designed Capital is an attractive place
27.02.2017 - 03.03.2017 24 °C
Canberra (population 400 000)
It was time to turn inland towards the Capital. Henriette hasn’t seen it yet and I was looking forward to a first visit to Parliament House and a return visit to the National Art Gallery.
We stayed in Queanbeyan, only 16km away from Canberra, but in NSW as opposed to the Australian Capital Territory (Canberra caravan parks got bad reviews on wikicamps). Here I had the chance to catch up with an old friend and Perth colleague, Kevin, for coffee. He welcomed me to the “centre of …not Australia, but maybe… something else. To which I was able to reply “maybe the centre of bureaucracy?” And my explanation was that in 23 000km so far, it was the first time we came across a caravan park that was closed for lunch, forcing us to wait 25 minutes to get a site.
On day one it took the whole day to visit the National Art Gallery, the Portrait Gallery, and Parliament House. What a wonderful day it was. The art gallery was less impressive than I expected (I thought the ones in Melbourne and Adelaide were better better).
Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles was a highlight in the art gallery. Bought during the previous century for the controversial sum of $1.3m, it is today worth in excess of $350m. It is abstract art helping us understand that the process of creating art is as important as the final product itself (the artist was a jazz musician and played loud jazz music whilst dancing and painting – the 8 blue poles are thought to be bass instruments). Clearly one of the better investments made with tax payer’s money. I also loved Claude Monet’s Waterlilies but (please don’t take away my Australian Passport) I have no appreciation for Sidney Nolan’s Ned Kelly series.
We both thought that the Portrait Gallery across the road was better overall. It was a really good place to visit.
The highlight of the day was Parliament House. We didn’t expect to spend 4 hours there! We even attended question time (the debate about penalty rates) and I was surprised that Henriette wanted to stay longer to hear more (she’s not known for having much interest in politicians shouting at each other). The art, the architecture and the stories told by our volunteer guide had us glued to every word. E.g. did you know that the building was designed so a number of doors and wall partitions could be opened to allow the Prime Minister a direct line of sight to the War Memorial across the lake (a few km away) so he/she could contemplate that when considering declaring war? Or, that the flag is the size of a double decker bus? Or, that there is a fossil of a prawn in the marble floor (in the entrance) that dates back 345mil years? We saw a part of the 250 000 sq m building. For a 100 more fascinating facts, you will have to visit there next time you’re in Canberra (“the meeting place”).
On our next last day we visited Old Parliament House and the National War Memorial. The Old Parliament building included offices of the Prime Minister and all levels of staff exactly as they looked in 1980 (even the packets of cigarettes and Tippex for typos). We found a large exhibit on South Africa and its democratic process very interesting. The War Memorial is one of the three most visited sites in Australia. And after seeing it, we understand why. It took us more than 4 hours to walk through three amazing levels of exhibits. Everything inside is real, including Victoria Cross medals (made from Russian gun metal) to full sized WWII aeroplanes and interactive experiences of being in a war plane or in Vietnam. It is a sobering but very touching experience and would have to rate among the best museums we have ever visited.
On our last day it was time to change 4 tyres and then on to the botanical gardens and Telstra Tower for 360 degree views. Finally Canberra started to get some rain as we were preparing to leave (they only had 100 this summer).