Finally, it was onto Canberra! Canberra, in case you (understandably) didn’t know, is the capital of Australia, and is located in its own self-governed territory, called the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). And Canberra is kind of a weird place. It is a city that has been meticulously planned and designed to be the seat of the government, containing many sweeping boulevards, ring roads, and looming concrete buildings. Chris described it as “everything Soviet Russia wished it was”. This makes it look very nice on a map and from a car, but super annoying to walk around as every building is like 2km apart due to the massive roads.
In addition, Canberra seems to have been built to house a population twice as big as it actually is. So the city feels eerily empty, as everything is huge but there are very few people around. The downtown area was quiet no matter what time of day we visited. Rush hour was virtually non-existent. The only time we saw full restaurants was on Sunday morning, and I think that was because it also happened to be Mother’s Day. After the hustle and bustle of Melbourne, Chris enjoyed the empty sidewalks and stress-free driving.
Canberra is also known as the “Bush Capital” because it’s pretty much bushland on all sides. This was actually pretty cool, as we were staying in the suburbs so there were kangaroos on peoples’ lawns at dusk. Our AirBnB was right by Mount Majura Nature Reserve, where we took a sunset stroll and saw SO MANY ROOS just hanging out.
National Gallery of Australia
Everything is Canberra seems to be called “The National XXX”, so we figured we’d better see some of these national things. Our first stop was the National Gallery of Australia, a pretty imposing concrete structure. It has a pretty good collection, with a little bit of everything, old and new, including some Dali, Monet, Picasso, Duchamp, etc.
While in the area we thought we would visit the Parliament House, as it was just down the street (“just down the street” meaning 2km down a giant boulevard in Canberra). The Parliament House was very shiny and you could take an elevator to the roof. We didn’t go into the legislative session because that seemed less exciting.
National Library of Australia
Also on that side of the lake is the National Library of Australia. The library has a gallery where you can see important stuff like Captain Cook’s diary (Chris had read this in a Bill Bryson book, which is pretty much why we came here). Unfortunately you can’t take pictures of precious library materials though. They also had both of Australia’s Olympic torches there.
National Portrait Gallery
Next door is the National Portrait Gallery. I sort of think all old-timey portraits look the same, but the more contemporary ones are interesting. The National Photographic Portrait Prize exhibit was also on, which was pretty cool.
A short drive from the city centre is the National Arboretum. This place seemed pretty new, as the trees were all pretty small and not really forest-like yet. We mainly went to see the The National Bonsai and Penjing Collection, because bonsai trees are super cute!!!
Australian War Memorial
Our last morning in Canberra we visited the Australian War Memorial. I thought it was just going to be a big monument, but it turns out it’s actually a HUGE museum about multiple wars. The museum is really really well done, but I can only look at war stuff for so long before I get depressed and annoyed at the human race. So we looked at about half of it and then went for brunch. Chris found some of the exhibits interesting because they were all about the Australian portions of the World Wars (obviously), which are are pretty different from the parts that we learned in school, since Canada mainly fought in Europe, while Australia fought mostly in Asia and Africa.
After that, it was time to power back to Sydney for FAMILY VACAY TIME!!!