Thursday, January 06, 2005

A day out in Sydmelperadbrisho

The sobering National War Memorial, Canberra

In March 1913 the wife of the Australian Govenor-General mounted a crimson-draped platform and declared in a clear English voice: 'I name the capital of Australia, Canberra – the accent is on the Can', so ending over ten years of negociations. After accepting the location for the new planned city - an equal distance between Sydney and Melbourne, the plans had been submitted, and now at last the name had been decided. There had been plenty of wacky suggestions - 'Meladneyperbane', 'Cookaburra', 'New London', but eventually the aboriginal name for meeting place, Canberra, was decided upon.

Yes, I've spent the day in museums! I now know all there is to know about the selection process for building a new capital. I've seen details of Australian history from the first fleet in 1788 to a portrait of Kylie Minogue in the Australian National Gallery (I kid you not). I even learned that people were transported here as criminals for such heinous crimes as 'impersonating an Egyptian'. I didn't even realise that was illegal.

Canberra is a nice place, however I'm still wondering where everyone is. They must all be out in the suburbs somewhere, because the centre of the city is still as quiet as it was yesterday. In the morning I went to the Australian Museum, and then later to the lake shore and the sobering National War Memorial. It's easy to get around, although it involves long walks - there are hardly any buses and no trains at all. With all the people shoved out at the edges, away from the wide boulevards, maybe that's why other Australians are snooty of Canberra - they don't like the design. Which seems a shame, as it was specifically designed for the purpose of being a national capital. But more of that tomorrow...