Saturday, August 9, 2014

Melbourne, Victoria

Some Australians say that Melbourne (pronounced Mel-ben, not Mel-born, see Forvo) is their most European city. A city of culture and sophistication. For me it was the most American of Australian cities... a mix of San Francisco and New York. Have a look:

Land divided into squares. I saw that in the American Midwest.
Concrete elevated highway and an island of skyscrapers. Could be almost any big American city.

A downtown mess of old and new, tightly packed. Too much colour for Manhattan, but maybe Boston?

Streets wide for cars, narrow for people, few trees. 
Trams going uphill, a new imposing skyscraper next to old buildings - San Fran?

But then Melbourne has many faces. Have a look at these:

Some Persian Gulf state?

Somewhere in Scandinavia? 
Over-engineered train station... Netherlands, definitely.
An office building. Germany?
Paris or Warsaw?

Blocks of flats, a common sight in Europe, but this is Melbourne.
I'm sure I saw places like this elsewhere, but this is Melbourne too.

Melbourne is tourist-friendly. There is a free tram, number 35, that goes in a loop around the centre of the city. 

Free tram.
Melbourne people are friendly: in 24 hours since arriving, 4 people helped us with directions - without asking, all we had to do was open a map and look a bit lost. :-)

Melbourne is very political. We were there only Friday and Saturday and we saw four protests: first on Friday night, a very loud march against Israeli actions in Gaza (people had "free Palestine" signs), then on Saturday, a gathering in Federation Square against the terror of ISIS in Iraq (Muslims, Christians and Kurds against terror), then on the steps of a government building ecologists protesting the lack of protection of forests, and finally a few bikers protesting the laws that limit their right to meet freely. Then there were stalls: Falun Gong making people aware of how the Chinese government is persecuting them - a terrible story really - a reminder that China is not a free democratic country. Another stall tried to make people less afraid of Islam. There were also flowers in memory of the victims of flight MH-17 (put there by Ukrainians).

Federation Square - Anti ISIS protest.
Poster on the church: Let's fully welcome refugees.

Finally, I used the opportunity to visit the Jewish Holocaust Museum. It is small, but well designed and maintained. Its strong point are volunteer guides.
Jewish Holocaust Museum and Research Centre
A few glimpses of the world of Polish Jewry before WWII:
Jewish newspaper in Yiddish from Warsaw, 17 August 1939.
Jewish Sports Club in Białystok.
And the terror of German occupation from 1939 to 1945:

German soldiers rounding up Jews in Poland - Strażacka street.
Jewish mother and three children walking towards gas chambers in Auschwitz-Birkenau.

Sara, Kalman, Bronia, Miriam, and Nathan.
My motto: Ellie Wiesel's speech in Oslo in 1986.