What are you up to this weekend? While we’re still freezing here in Prague – lidovky.cz says it’ll be just above zero this Saturday – a few of my students have asked me what you can do in my home town of Melbourne.
Scroll below for a list of the words in this article with their Czech meanings!
A lot of people back home who I spoke to at Christmas were quite envious that I live in Prague. They spoke of fairytale castles, centuries-old architecture, and that good ol’ pivo. Yet a few of my Czech friends would die to go to Australia. They imagine living by the sea, year-round sunshine, koalas in the front garden, and singing at the pub with Kylie Minogue. Ok, maybe not the part about singing with Kylie.
So for some the grass really is greener on the other side.
Melbourne is a massive city of about 4 million people circling Port Phillip Bay. The city centre has some of the tallest modern skyscrapers in the southern hemisphere, with street cafes and independent shops tucked away in the small laneways that locals know about and tourists stumble upon. There’s a river which flows next to the city buildings, while the bay is about 20 minutes away by tram.
If you’re a big fan of culture, this building here is the new Federation Square right in the heart of the city. At first people were a bit embarrassed that so much money was spent on a tin shed (almost A$500 million), but now it’s a major meeting point for Melburnians and tourists alike. There are cafes, galleries and exhibitions you can go to, as well as bars which are really popular on the weekend. You can take your date to the Transit Bar for an expensive shiraz and a great view of the city, and if you don’t have a date, then don’t worry – it’s packed on Fridays and Saturdays, so you’re sure to meet someone there.
If culture and dating are not your thing, then the city has a ton of shops and major department stores where you can spend your hard-earned money. But given that most of you are reading this in Prague, which has enough shopping centres, I think I’ll move on…
My favourite place to go to on the weekend is the beach, in particular St Kilda Beach (top photo) which is a short tram ride from my family’s home. Imagine Letná or Žluté lázně with a beach next to it and you get a good idea of what it’s like. Lots of young people come here. There’s always a busker playing a Crowded House song on the guitar, and this is perhaps the only place in Melbourne where you regularly hear French, German and Spanish accents. There’s a walkway for those going for a walk in the sun, and it’s wide enough for the roller-bladers and cyclists wizzing past. You can also get dinner at a few restaurants just behind the walkway: at night time they light up the area so that visitors can look at the waves before gazing across the table into their partner’s eyes. 🙂
St Kilda is also well-known for being a hotch-potch of styles and influences. It used to be run-down and attract hippies and druggies but these days there are young professionals buying up the new flats on offer (which don’t come cheap), and as I mentioned, this is a tourist hub. Acland Street is kinda cool: you can get a funky haircut here, hop into an alternative bookshop or grab a European-style cake. Lots of backpackers come here, often to start their Aussie adventure or to end it before the flight back home. St Kilda is full of bars and pubs, but it’s not really a chic club place (for that you need to go to upmarket South Yarra). Finally, St Kilda also has penguins – though most people drive to Phillip Island to see hundreds of penguins come ashore.
As for my family, my brother probably feeds the goats, dogs, and cats on the weekend. The horse too. He lives just outside the city in the bush (as we call it). I have no idea why he didn’t get a place near the beach, but, hey, I think he wonders what I’m up to in Prague.
So there you have it. A typical weekend in Melbourne is not that different from a weekend in Prague. You go out, meet up with friends, catch up with the folks – or escape the folks as the case may be. What I’ve talked about above concerns more what we do in summer, but winter can be quite different (yes, we have winter!). Ultimately, though, wherever you are, it’s what you make of it that counts.
I’ll leave you with a song I heard a guy play while I was wandering around St Kilda. Fall at your feet by Melbourne-New Zealand band Crowded House.
Have you been to Australia? What did you think? If you haven’t been there, what would you most like to see?
Feel free to leave your comments below.