It has been a while since I wrote a new post. But since everyone has been asking me how have I been liking Melbourne since my move, I felt this warranted a post. Especially since I am encountering many similarities between the cities of Melbourne and Rotterdam!
And yes, after a brief 5 months in India, I have wound up in another country! And again, never in my wildest dreams had I imagined I would get an opportunity to move to Australia. But hey, I did, and becoming more of a believer in that abstract and much talked of idea ‘destiny’. And till now things look fine, and also I get to experience ‘summers’ in ‘winters’. Or rather away from ‘my’ norm of northern hemisphere seasons, now I get a taste of the southern hemisphere. Always nice to finally understand the high school Geography that one memorised!
So I landed in Melbourne on 14th February, and it wasn’t until I spotted the bouquet of roses at my family friend’s house that I realised it was Valentine’s Day. Frankly, over years of nursing unrequited love nay crushes actually! the day is more or less dead for me, but as the taxi made its way from the airport to the city, I spotted Kangaroos, not one or two, but hordes of them, jumping in the fields. The taxi driver said they had probably ventured out to have their fill of grass. After spotting the ubiquitous symbol of Australia, I concurred it was a good omen. 😀
So as the taxi approached the main city centre, or the Central Business District (CBD) of Melbourne, this is where it starts to get a bit, um familiar, or as they parley, a feeling of deja vu. Melbourne CBD is striking for its architecture, and stylistic post-modern buildings. The Southern Cross Station is built like a series of waves, whereas the building where my family friends reside, is shaped almost like a conical tube with the narrower end cut off at the top. It incited in me the same reaction when I had first glimpsed Rotterdam, that there is ‘weird’ architecture in the city!! Add to that, Melbourne happens to be a port city just like Rotterdam, which means the weather is such a ‘breeze’! When not struggling against strong winds, you either have to brave frequent drizzles, or protect yourself against the sun! I often joked with my friends in Rotterdam that the weather in the city is never sure of what it wants to be, and the weather in Melbourne equally vacillates between sunny, rainy and cloudy!
Perhaps one of the most disorienting incident was when I went to Vapiano with my family friends. Vapiano is a German pizza chain and is quite popular for its reasonable prices and tasty offerings. I often went to Vapiano’s when I was in Rotterdam, little did I expect that once I enter the Vapiano in Melbourne, it would be as if I was transported back to Rotterdam. The decor, the menu, the ambience, EVERYTHING WAS SAME. A friend though laughed when I mentioned it to her, she was like ‘honey, Vapiano everywhere is the same’! This sense of ‘sameness’ came up again when while waiting in a long queue for the washroom in Starbucks, a guy visiting from the US struck up a conversation with me, and we remarked how when you see a Starbucks anywhere, you know you will find a washroom, and its familiar logo and menu is a source of comfort in a new place. If not the most ardent critic, but I am definitely wary of highly capitalistic spaces wherein everything is standardised and looks identical. However, it is only now I understand why outlets like Starbucks or McDonalds are popular around the world. When in a new country, these outlets provide comfort, and perhaps ease the way for integration (up for discussion ofcourse!) And perhaps this is also why settling in this new city has not been so hard on me.
When I had first moved to Rotterdam, I was terribly homesick for a month. By ‘terribly’ I mean really bad. Everything was jarring and disorienting, it took me a while to get accustomed to traffic rules, travel cards, carrying card instead of cash, and social etiquettes. However this time everything seems to come to me easy. A lot of daily travails are the same, like shops closing at 5pm sharp or how to go find one’s way at supermarkets. Perhaps what really struck is a host of art and cultural activities and spots in the city! For someone who enjoys museum loitering and exhibition scourging, Melbourne seems to be the right fit for me! I was never bored in Rotterdam either, which in itself is a cauldron of bubbling artistic and creative spaces! No wonder Rotterdam is THE city for its architecture and culture, whereas Melbourne is renowned for being Australia’s Cultural Capital.
As I walked on the boulevard along the Yarra river, it reminded me of my walks along the New Meuse river in Rotterdam. However as I peered into the water of Yarra, I realised that is perhaps where the differences arise, both Yarra and New Meuse are rivers yes, with both rivers surrounded by high rises and bridges, but when I looked into New Meuse, the current was harsher, and perhaps the water deeper. It always awed me and scared me a bit too, especially during nights when it appeared menacing and beautiful all at the same time. Yet Yarra did not seem menacing enough, beautiful yes, but did it rouse feelings in me, I am not sure. And perhaps on this note I think I will sign off…..also below are a few images I clicked, so try spotting which image is from which city! 😀