The Merry Ole Land of Oz

Ever since my study abroad to Australia in 2008, I have been aching to go back.  I decided to enjoy my first working holiday visa in New Zealand because I had never been and thought I would give it a try. The Aussie lifestyle fits my personality much more and I could not be more delighted to finally be back!

Melbourne, I think you might be my new favorite city.  It’s unlike any other city I have visited in the sense that everything seems rather unconventional here and has more character than I have ever experienced before.  As my friend very well put it, Melbourne is not ok with looking like a traditional city.  It’s trendy here without being exclusive or trying too hard.  It’s just… cool.  The malls are an endless wonder of varying levels to be explored.  One day when I was wandering around the QV shopping area, I found myself on the second floor suddenly standing in the middle of an outside area of picnic tables and Astroturf.  Then I turned the corner to quickly find myself in the middle of a bustling street with free trams within the CBD and street performers who actually don’t suck, like that guitarist jamming out to Blondie who was dressed in a full bodied pink bunny rabbit suit.  In fact, I heard that in certain parts of town artists actually have to schedule time slots to perform on specific streets.

There are so many hidden bars and cafés tucked away in all corners of the city and I have just had the best time wandering around, even down those graffiti covered alleyways.  Actually, Melbourne encourages you to wander down those graffiti covered alleyways.  Like Hosier Lane, where this picture was taken.  From what my friends have generously shared with me, that’s where you find the neatest places, like the Croft Institute, or the hospital bar as I like to call it.  It’s a hip little dive bar with lab equipment everywhere and an actual waiting room upstairs next to the bathrooms which are complete with a pristine hospital bed in the lady’s room.  My roommate told me that they also serve their cocktail drinks in a syringe.  Of course.  My friends have taken me to all sorts of really cool themed bars like Father’s Office which resembles a library (and is also conveniently located across the street from the real library), The Carlton which is decked out in a funky jungle theme to include peacocks, a giraffe and an ostrich wearing pearls; an open-air bar made from graffiti covered shipping containers called Section 8, a few rooftop bars and even a speakeasy like the Boilermaker Room that is hidden by a secret door disguised as a library shelf.

Last Saturday night my friend Joe took us to a secret bar called Berlin.  We walked down a narrow alleyway and up some stairs to a closed door with a doorbell outside.  When the lady answered the door, she took our phone number and said she would ring us when there was a table ready for us.  When we were welcomed in about 20 minutes later, the bar resembled the Berlin wall era.  The first half was a glitzy, glamorous bar to resemble West Berlin.  We were sat on the “communist” side with communal bunk beds, a tarp-like ceiling and surprisingly comfortable grenade crates.  The cocktail menu was creatively listed on a map of Germany and the entire bar was a quirky juxtaposition of a not so happy time.  On my wander to the bathroom through the West Berlin side, one of the waitresses shared with me another fun surprise.  She tugged on the thick frame of a floor to ceiling mural and behind it I found a bunch of hidden vaults.  She pointed to the other side of the room where a number of fancy keys were hanging on the wall.  Apparently if you are part of their VIP club, you can grab your key off the wall to unlock your vault and find a mysterious bottle of spirits placed there by the staff to enjoy on your night there at the bar.  Needless to say, I give the bar scene here an A++

Even in the short two weeks or so that I’ve been here, I have already enjoyed free yoga at Fed Square and look forward to more of their weekly fitness classes.  Shortly, the outdoor cinemas will be opening with Christmas films and other popular favorites.  There will be an Andy Warhol exhibit at the National Gallery of Victoria and heaps of music festivals to attend.  The craft beer selection and variety of food here is wonderful and so far everyone that I have met while out has been very friendly and helpful.  I am excited to finally be here and look forward to finding myself a nice flat close to the CBD and a relaxed place to work!

For more pictures of the Melbourne area, be sure to check out my Instagram.

@StephDobson #SMDdoesOZ

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