Friday, May 11, 2012

Around Australia in a van: Canberra, our nation's capital

I'm a big fan of Canberra. In fact, I'm quite a fan of the non-ostentatious capital city in general - you know, those capital cities that are actually a lot smaller than many nearby cities and just quietly go about doing the job of running the country (Brasilia, for example, or Bern).

Parliament House (our tiny family's in front!)
My first visit to "our nation's capital" (as I often hear it described - as if we need to remind ourselves that it's not Sydney or Melbourne) came on our family campervanning trip around Australia in 1988. This was timely because our brand new parliament house had opened earlier that year and it really was a cool building to visit - it must be since it entranced two girls aged under 12! The description of New Parliament House on Wikipedia is full of amazing statistics, but the parts of the building I remember most are the tall columns in the entrance - I'm not sure if they're meant to look like trees, or I just imagined them that way - and the fact that back then, you could actually walk up over the grass roof and be "on top" of parliament. Sadly, the terrorist era means nobody can just stroll up there any more but the idea was nice, at least!

There is heaps to see and do in Canberra, all those galleries and museums that belong in a capital city, which is one of the reasons I love it - but the one that always both impresses and depresses me is the Australian War Memorial. I really don't know if it's because it's the Australian version of a war museum or if it's the imposing design and some particularly well-curated displays, but after three or four visits over the years, it has always made me sad. It's a solemn building and not the kind of museum you'd feel comfortable taking noisy children to (I hope we were quiet, back then?!), and it really works: you are reminded of the sacrifices made by Australians (and many others) to try to achieve peace and solve conflicts.

Australian War Memorial today (via Wikicommons)
This photo above is the War Memorial today - because it's this part of the entrance which truly entrances me. But the photo below is one from my memory bank, and it's pretty appropriate because it was the war dioramas and scenes which really stuck in my eleven-year-old head. I never liked playing with soldiers or guns and remember feeling sad at seeing these kinds of displays.

Diorama at the Australian War Memorial
But let's not get all depressed ... my overarching memory of Canberra from that trip is that we didn't stay in a  caravan park, but parked at the house of a great family friend, who had moved over to live and work in Canberra. She may not be on the list of tourist attractions, but it's typical for me that the biggest memories of travel are all based around people! Nowadays I've got several other sets of really dear friends living there, and it won't be too long before the pull to visit them creates a family Canberra holiday for us. Yes, a holiday in "our nation's capital"!

9 comments:

  1. That´s a city I haven´t yet visited, but it has to be in summer, winter is far too cold there for my taste. It must have been interesting being able to walk on the grassy roof of the Parliament building.

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    1. I agree Sami, Canberra is definitely a non-winter destination. Unless you combine it with a ski-trip, of course.

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  2. Travelling in a van is my dream ! Maybe a remnant of my youth in the sixties ...

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    1. Ha ha maybe! It's so much fun - I still enjoy travelling that way today after spending a nice chunk of my childhood doing it.

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  3. There's room at our place for your campervan Amanda! And next year is a good year to visit - 100th birthday on the 12 March!!
    http://www.canberra100.com.au/

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    1. Thanks Ron - and the tip about the centenary is an excellent one, definitely inspiring me to plan a 2013 trip!

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  4. This place are interesting. It is full good memories. This also inspires me to visit this summer where the weather is good.

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  5. I love your take on travelling Amanda. So often it's not the place but the people that make the most compelling memories. I visited Canberra in 1983 and remember the war memorial, the family I stayed with, and crunching through lots and lots of autumnal leaves.

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    1. Thanks Jo - yes, people can be even more important than places, can't they!

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