Thank you for the lovely comments and emails. It\'s great to read your comments and questions. One person asked me how the food is in Australia and about cooking in hostels. To start with the last question, I actually don\'t know. I\'m 2,5 weeks now in Australia and I haven\'t cooked dinner once. There are two reasons for that. One, the meals in restaurants are decent and inexpensive. For example, the price for a steak meal (steak 300gr, fries and salad) ranges from 7 to 15 AUD. In my opinion a really good price. There is a huge variety of meals available (seafood is really inexpensive here), so lots of choices. The second reason why I haven\'t cooked in a hostel is that the products in the supermarket are so expensive, especially fruits and vegetables.
Melbourne by day
Lettuce is 3 AUD, 1 kilo bananas 8 AUD. if you compare the prices of meals in the restaurants with the prices in supermarkets, you will probably also eat in restaurants. Moreover, the ease and comfort of eating out after a long day of walking prevents me from cooking in hostels. However, I eventually will cook in a hostel because a real backpacker cooks in a hostel (read: preparing spaghetti with minced meat and tomato sauce) and it\'s better for my health. I think I\'ve eaten lots of trans fat and MSG by now.
My flight from Cairns to Melbourne was really good except at the airport in Cairns, the customs conviscated my Swiss army card.
Not smart of me to leave this in my hand luggage. On the other side, I had free airport transporation to my hostel which saved me 28 AUD. But still, the Swiss army card is about 60 AUD and the worst thing is I can\'t find this model anymore in the stores :(
I\'ve stayed in two different hostels in Melbourne. The first three nights I\'ve slept in a hostel called Base, St Kilda. Really like this hostel. It looks really nice, it\'s clean and the beds are great, The matresses are almost as good as the ones in good hotels. Really comfortable. The facilities are great too. The kitchen is small though but for obvious reasons that didn\'t bother me that much. I wanted to stay longer in this hostel but couldn\'t extend my stay there because it was fully booked.
Opening of the International Arts Festival on Federation Square
I went to another hostel called Cooee, St Kilda. Nice hostel but not as good as Base. Base has a better location and the atmosphere is much better.
What to do in Melbourne? In all honesty, I had no clue what the \"must see-, must do-\" things are in Melbourne. So I searched on the internet (Tripadvisor), read my beloved Lonely Planet and grabbed some tourist flyers to get an impression of the city. My itinerary: Albert Park, Botanic Garden, walk the Golden Mile Heritage Trail, Federation Square, Ian Potter Museum, Queen Victoria Market and maybe check out St Kilda Beach. All tourists flyers describes Melbourne with many things you have to do because it has the best/tallest/biggest/largest/most exciting attractions in the southern hemisphere. (Note: emphasize the .
Melbourne by night (two)
.. \"in the southern hemisphere\" and not \"in the world\"). Albert Park is okay. I was interested in this park because every year, a Formule One race is held in this park. Queen Victoria Market is the largest open air market in the southern hemisphere. It\'s a nice market, lots of seafood. The Botanic Garden is nice too. I don\'t know why but I\'m starting to appreciate walking through these botanic gardens. Maybe it\'s because I\'m getting older now :S. The Ian Potter Museum has many contemporary arts made by Aboriginals. The museum wasn\'t very special in my opinion. The Golden Mile Heritage Trail is very good. This trail takes you along many interesting sites that Central Melbourne has to offer. It starts in the business districts and goes via the historice parts of Central Melbourne, shopping centres and government buildings and ends in the arts/museum district.
Botanic Garden Melbourne
Don\'t be fooled by the name, this trail is definitely not one mile. It\'s at least 2, maybe 3 miles long, but it\'s worth doing this walk. I also went to Federation Square, I think the biggest square of downtown Melbourne. It\'s surrounded by museums and other exhibition centres and is also a great place to sit and watch other people walking by. I was fortunate to be there when Melbourne opened the International Arts Festival on Federation Square. Great music and atmosphere.
These were pretty much the activities I\'ve done that were on my itinerary. Fortunately, I never travel or do these activities alone. There is always a fellow backpacker who comes along with you to do some of the activities you have on your itinerary or attractions you have never thought of doing it.
The blurry (picture of picture) picture of "the Edge" experience
I didn\'t feel like doing the Eureka Tower 88. This is the tallest building in Melbourne. It has the highest observation deck in the southern hemisphere and an attraction called \"the Edge\". This is a glass cube which projects three metres out of the building with the people inside. It\'s almost 300 metres above the ground. Normally I don\'t really care for these observations decks (maybe it\'s my fear of heights) but they\'ve made a really funny picture of me while I was in the glass cube. This was a good place to visit after all.
About Melbourne. It\'s a nice city but not very dynamic or exhilarating. A big city with 3.8 million people but only the city centre has this big city feeling but it\'s small. I stayed in hostels in St Kilda which was quite nice.
Team Great Ocean Road (minus Raul)
Artsy place with many bars and restaurants. This city doesn\'t offer me much but some people will love this city. People say it\'s much more relaxed than Sydney. The public transport is really good. It has the largest tram system in the world (yes .... not only the largest in the southern hemisphere). The city loop tram is for free! I\'ve stayed here for 6 days but I think 4 days would have been enough for me.
The highlight of my stay in Melbourne happened actually a place outside Melbourne and was not on my itinerary. The Australians have built this road called the Great Ocean Road. The road is more than 200 km long and takes you along a beautiful coastline in southern Australia. I don\'t like beaches but the beaches along this road were great. The landscape is breathtaking and very diverse.
I remember a 40 km part of this road were the landscape changes from rocky hills to grassland, bushes, very weird trees and eventually rainforest. On the other side of the road you have the Great Ocean. We\'ve ended at the twelve apostles where we\'ve watched the sunset. This road is just brilliant. I\'ve really enjoyed the ride on this road. I think this must be the most beautiful road in the world and if not ..... it\'s definitely the most beautiful road in the southern hemisphere! What made this one day road trip even more special, was the many things happened during this road trip: engine failure, drinking whisky at 11:00 in the morning (not me), driver was ill and had never driven on the left side of the road, never ate so much junkfood in one day, obsession to cuddle koalas, missing a helicopter flight, unguided night tour through the exciting nightlife of Melbourne, getting harrased by prostitutes.
One of the many beaches along the Great Ocean Road
Yes, this was a great road trip.
This is pretty much I wanted to say about my stay here in Melbourne. Many other things happened as well, but I will tell about that later. What I do want to say is that it\'s a pity I will miss several birthdays. I would like to say happy birthday to Ming, Marie, Kwan, Danny and Katy. Happy birthday to you all!!!
Next destination: Sydney