For my next full day in Melbourne, after having an enjoyable cup of coffee with a friend near the Flinders Street Station, I did the self-guided Secret Gardens Walking Tour that I had picked up from the Information Center. The tour starts out at Federation Square and takes you down St. Kilda Road, by the Queen Victoria Monument and Edward VII statue. It proceeds along the “Tan” where lots of good-looking joggers like to run and then takes you by the Shrine of Remembrance.
Every Australian city has an ANZAC Memorial. ANZAC stands for the Australia New Zealand Army Corps. These memorials commemorate the soldiers who fought in the First World War, particularly those who lost their lives in the ill-fated siege of Gallipoli. These soldiers were all volunteers and Australia lost a significant amount of its male population in the First World War, so these memorials are an important part of Australian history and culture. They typically commemorate soldiers from other wars as well (World War II, Vietnam, Afghanistan, etc). The Shrine itself is striking architecturally and has splendid views of the city of Melbourne. The shrine does not glorify war, but pays a moving tribute to those who gave their lives.
After having an somewhat overpriced lunch (often unavoidable when touring Australia) at the Observatory Gate, I entered the Royal Botanic Gardens. The gardens date back to 1846 and are on the grounds of an old Aboriginal mission. It holds a vast array of trees, plants and flowers, an herb garden, a fern gully, and several ornamental ponds and lakes. The meandering pathways make it very easy to get lost even with a map in hand.
Once I found my way back to Melbourne, I headed down Flinders Street to the Immigration Museum. Melbourne has been attracting immigrants from overseas for much of its history, particularly during the gold rush of 1851 and in the latter half of the 20th century. The city’s population includes Italians, Greeks, Maltese (Melbourne may actually have more Maltese than Malta itself), Lebanese, Chinese and many others. The museum has an interesting interactive exhibit in which you can select any country in the world and learn about that country’s immigrants to Victoria. Tackling the issues of prejudice, the museum also has displays that explain these issues in Australia’s history, such as the White Australia policy. During this period, “non-white” immigrants were given literary tests in Gaelic or other devices to keep them out of the country. Additional exhibits explain some of the issues of race and prejudice that exist in Australia to this day, such as more recent events like the Cronulla Riots.
After the Immigration Museum, I took another one of the Melbourne Walks — walking tours – Elegant Enclave through East Melbourne. I passed by Cook’s Cottage, the home of the parents of Captain Cook that had been transported from England and passing through Fitzroy Gardens with its towering trees. I threaded my way through George Street, Hotham Street, Powlett Street and Gipps Street, admiring the variety of architectural styles in the neighborhood. Most of the houses are Victorian in style, dating back to the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s, but there are a few art deco buildings from the 1920s thrown in as well. One of the more magnificent buildings there is Queen Bess Row, built in 1886, and which makes up three separate residences.
I definitely absorbed quite a bit of Melbourne history that day, passing through its gardens and gates, parks and pathways.