Sonntag, 19. Juli 2015

Welcome to Australia

As I started my Blog with a text about why I am enjoying travelling so much, and what it means to me, I now want to dive right into it and share with you some of the experiences I have made on my journeys and want to tell you about some of the places I have visited. And maybe make you want to go there in the end as well. :)

And it was not that hard to find the topic for my first real travel post here. I knew that it only could be about Australia. When you have read my first Blog or know me personally you know what Australia means to me, so it only could be about it. The only question was which City or Region I could choose. I thought writing about my general experiences in Oz, but I want to keep that for later. And instead I thought I could start with the first city I have visited in Australia. Which might be the city most people will arrive in when they are travelling Down Under. Sydney.

You don't need much words to describe Sydney. Wonderful, beautiful and breathtaking these are some of the words which might come to your mind when you first visit this place. It was definitely how I felt about it. But I guess I was also kind of under an spell when I arrived there.

When I first came to Sydney and Australia it was with the Working Holiday Visa Program, which allows you to stay there for one year and also do some work during that time, even when it is with restrictions. So when I arrived there it was the start of an enormous adventure. Something I couldn't really grasp back then. I made the decision to go there for one year and didn't even thought about the impact it would have on me. So in the end I sat in the Plane towards Australia and thought "What the hell am I doing here?". Suddenly I wasn't so sure about everything. If it really was such an good idea. How could I think about leaving home for a year without knowing what would lie ahead of me?

But these sombre thoughts disappeared very quickly when I arrived in Sydney. The city and its people made such a huge impression on me that I couldn't help feeling happy and content, a feeling that stayed with me until my last day in Australia. From this moment on I was really looking forward to my adventure again.

Actually this feeling already started on the plane. We arrived in Sydney at around 6 o'clock in the morning. So as the plane started its descend towards the Bay in which Sydney is so beautiful located, the sun started to came up across Australia. And as it was a very friendly and sunny morning without many clouds, the first impression I got from Australia were the peaceful and beautiful surroundings of this Metropolis which lay beneath us and were illuminated by the upcoming Sun. It felt magical back then.

After we had all the immigration processes behind us, our group was ushered into the Bus that took us into the City Centre. As the Airport is not that far from the City Centre, I think it was only about 15 KM, it was a short ride, but it was enough to get an first impression of our surroundings. And it was nothing I had expected.
I am not sure what i was expecting. I think when you arrive in Australia you expect to see Kangaroos hopping alongside your plane on the runway. But of course it was nothing like this. The first thought I had was that I also could be in America. Everything looked so modern and Americanized. Big SUV's on the Streets, Huge Billboards,  Skyscrapers in the distances, and a lot of buildings with huge Glass fronts. Luckily this impression changed later when I saw more of the city. But this was the first impression. And i think I was a bit disappointed. My expectations were a bit different. I have been very often to the USA and wanted to see something different now.

And the next disappointment came very soon afterwards. Our accommodation for the next days... It was in an old Hostel which now today thankfully didn't exit any more. When I arrived there I knew that I would have to spend most of the next year in Hostels like this, but only then I realized what this could mean.
The Hostel was a mess. It was old, it looked worn-out both on the outside and the inside. There were holes in the Concrete and the wood panelling everywhere. The colours of the tapestry were long gone. It was dirty beyond worth and besides being crammed with 7 other people in one tiny room, we also had a lot of small and big lodgers as well. I never ever in my life saw so many huge Cockroaches in one place.
The first time I tried to take a shower in the small bathroom we had, I opened the shower curtain to step into the shower when I saw a cockroach looking up at me from the middle of the shower cubicle.
Another time when we came into our room during the night, we switched on the light and you saw small shadows everywhere in the room disappearing into the shadows. Two of them, two cockroaches choose my backpack as their Hiding place. I think I never emptied my backpack that quick ever again...
So the first impression was a Nightmare. When all Hostels would be this way then it could be a real long year and a long Nightmare. But luckily it didn't came to this.

After we had stomached the first shock of seeing the Hostel (back then we didn't even saw the rooms, but that was already enough) we decided to take a stroll and get a first glimpse of the city. And this was the right decision. Because seeing Sydney was a real compensation for that first shock.

Our Hostel was on Pitt Street right in the Centre of the City, very close to the Central Station., so we just had to follow our Nose to get to the interesting parts of the City Centre. And even on the first few Metres we saw so many of the different cultural and architectonic  influences which are making out the charm of that city. You see very old Buildings like the Town Hall which dates back to 1874, which is ancient for Australian Standards besides state-of-the-art office buildings. You see small Asian grocery stores besides huge Department Stores. You see the typical store fronts you seem to find in every city of the World nowadays beside small charming shops. And in between you have the mingling of a hundred Nationalities which are making this whole city so charming and interesting.

I think even after the first Kilometre or so our senses were already overloaded with all these new impressions we got. It was really mind-boggling. We all were exhausted from the long flight we had and nearly haven't slept for two days in a row, so it was maybe too much new informations and impressions at one time. But I remember being so fascinated by all of it. It all looked so familiar and strange at the same time.
And it just got better and better. As we mostly went right ahead most of the time, besides taking a street to the left or the right. We ended up in front of the Harbour Bridge after a while. And seeing this iconic Landmark for the first time is really impressing. The Arches which are leading up very high into the sky, and of course the view across the Bay itself is really impressing.
 Normally you only see it on Pictures or on TV. But now standing in front of it was an amazing moment. I think this was the moment when I really realized where I am. I was really in Australia. On the other side of the world. It was an amazing feeling. Very hard to describe. But it felt so good and special back then. Like as if I had finally arrived somewhere. I felt sort of free and relieved. It was amazing.

And as we turned our sights from the left side where the Harbour Bridge was to the right side we saw the next famous landmark of the city. The Opera House. And like the Harbour Bridge it is an amazing sight. It looks so surreal with its sail like roof structure and its flamboyant white facade.
And it just gets more impressing the closer you are getting. We walked along The Rocks and Circular Quay, passing some of the very big cruise ships which anchored there, towards the Opera Building. And the closer you got the more details you could see. The glass windows beneath the sails. It was amazing.
But that was also the point where it got to much and we ended our first exploration of the city. We really felt overwhelmed by everything. So we went back to the Hostel very exhausted but also happy and satisfied with that first glimpse.

And this was only the first day and I knew that I would have a couple of more to explore Sydney, but at least I thought so, but then I made some spontaneous travel plans and left Sydney earlier then expected but I came back to Sydney at the end of my year and had some more days to explore it. And a few years later I visited Australia again and again had a chance to see parts of the city.

But even though, I still missed out some of the sights there are to see. I have to confess that I never made it to Bondi Beach which is think one of the places you should have seen. But somehow I never went there. I went to Manly Beach though, which was such a beautiful place. Especially the area around it. There are some wonderful Hiking trails through the Bushland from where you have some amazing views onto the Beach and the Ocean.

And what I also missed out and still am regretting till this day. I have not been to the Blue Mountains. There was also something that kept me from going.  The first time there were some huge Bush fires in that area. The next time it was too rainy and then again they had some Bush Fires there. But the next time I will be going, coming  what may.

But even with missing out these places. There was still so much to see and to do in Sydney. There are so many interesting and nice places you can see. A lot of interesting Museums and  Art Galleries. What I can really recommend is the amazing The Rocks Discovery Museum. It was established in an old Warehouse from the 1850s where you can learn a lot about the Beginnings of Sydney, about the Aboriginal People living in this area and about the first settlers. It is really an amazing beautiful place to visit.

.But what I mostly liked about Sydney were  the Parks. When the streets of Sydney are getting to hectic it is nice to find a small getaway. And the parks are just perfect for that. Hyde Park is really nice but the most impressing one is the Royal Botanical Garden right down at the Waterfront. It is created in the style of the Botanical Gardens in England, I guess mostly to remind the British who were now living at the end of the world of their Motherland.
But the Plants and trees there are more from the South Pacific Area. So it is an interesting mixture, old British architecture and garden planning is meeting tropical plants.
But it is such a nice place to be. I loved to sit down on one of the meadows with a nice view on the Opera and the Bay. Listening to some music and watching the Flying Foxes flying around the trees above you. Very relaxing. And the whole park is so vast that it is almost impossible to see everything in it. But I really recommend you to spend some time there. After the hectic of the Centre it is really nice there.

Another place I really liked was the Sydney Observatorry. It lies on a hill looking down on the Rocks and the Harbour Bridge and you have a wonderful view on the surroundings around you. And even with all the big roads around you there, the place is surprisingly calm and quiet. A good spot to stop when you come back from the Harbour Area.

Another nice place to hang out is Darling Harbour I think. It is a small waterfront side a bit down from the Circular Quay area with a lot of possibilities to spend your time. You find the amazingly good Sydney Aquarium there, which is really worth a visit. Seeing a Dudong there was amazing, Though I am still mad at the Platypus for hiding so well that I never caught a glimpse of it. Besides the Aquarium there are some really good shops, nice Bars and Restaurants and some good Ice Parlours there.
It was a nice place to spend some time there. Very often they seem  to have some festivities going on there, so it might be worth to check out that place. There is also a really nice Chinese Garden there.

I think it is impossible to describe all the sights you can see in Sydney, and I have to admit I spent most of my time in Sydney outside and was not visiting as many Museums and Art Galleries as I normally did in such cities. So I cant give so many recommendations as I would like to. The Taronga Park Zoo must be really nice, especially with its views across the Bay towards the Harbour Bridge and the Opera.

But what I really can recommend is to just stroll around the streets of Sydney. It really is an amazing place and you will see something interesting at almost every corner. At least when you are in the centre where is also the historic core of the original Settlement. It is an really interesting Mix between Historic and Modern sights mixed up with some really nice parks and beautiful landmarks.
Walking along the bay in the Harbour is amazing. I think it is one of the most beautiful natural Harbours you will find in the world.

What you also shouldnt miss out is to take the Ferry from Circular Quay to Manly. First of all as Manly is such a nice spot, but also the ride with the Ferry is wonderful. The views are spectacular.

Also the Night Life in the City is amazing, there are so many Pubs, Bars, Restaurants and Clubs to choose from it is amazing. Even though as a Backpacker it was always very expensive to go clubbing and drinking in the City. But Kings Cross is a nice option. It got some nice pubs and bars which are not too expensive. other Areas like Darling Harbour are a bit more expensive.

And what you shouldnt miss out when you have the chance is to spend New Years Eve there. It was the most amazing New Years Eve I ever had. Even though it started in a different way as expected. At that time I was staying in Newcastle a few hours outside of Sydney and took the train inside the city on the Morning to meet up with a friend there. But somehow we misunderstood each other, I told her to meet up at 11:30 before Noon in the Harbour and she thought I meant in the Evening. Well so I was on my own then. I managed to get into the Circular Quay area around Noon without problems, even though even at this time it was already really, really crowded. And even managed to get one of the places right at the waterfront with a clear view towards the Bridge where the Main fireworks would take place. It was a place I really had to defend over the whole day. :) But I became friends with some of the people around me and we reserved each other places during the day. And some of them even managed to get some Alcohol inside this area. :)
And even though it was a long day, it was also really nice. I met some nice people. It was a friendly and cheery atmosphere. And it goes without saying as the Fireworks started in the evening it was amazing. I never saw something like it before and afterwards. The Harbour Bridge is such an amazing backdrop for such a Firework.
And of course for an European it was also nice to spend a New Years Eve in the warmth outside wearing only shorts and a T-Shirt. :)
And I even managed to get in touch with my friend, I had to get her cell phone number via some other friends and managed to reach her after the Fireworks stopped and it was possible to call someone again as the phone connections were all jammed. And we then met up in Hyde Park were some bands were still playing and we had a nice Evening/Night there before we ended the Night with watching the Sunset from the Plaza before the Opera House. A really nice Experience.

Overall I can only recommend a visit to that City. And I am very sure that I will be going there again in the future. So far Sydney always only was the starting or end point of my journeys. And I think it deserves to reserve some more time for it.
Also the last time I was there I arrived in not such a good condition. I eat something bad on the plane and felt so sick afterwards. I think I've spent most of the time of the flight from Hong Kong to Sydney in the bathroom. I was half dead when I arrived at my Hostel, thankfully a much better one then on the first visit and barely made it into bad.
But after getting up in the next morning and get to the Royal Botanical Gardens with its view on the Bay I already felt more alive again. :)

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