|MCG on Boxing Day 2013 Ashes (image : indiatimes)|
I gaped in awe as the television screen flashed the gigantic figure displayed on the electronic score board at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Boxing Day in the last Ashes series Down Under . As the mind numbing figure registered itself in my brain , I went back to a lazy evening in Kolkata more than two decades back, when my Dad was cradling me in his lap, while keeping the Guinness Book of World Record open in front , flipping through its pages. I was poring over its pictures, listening to dad as he explained what they meant. It was then that I first came across Melbourne, when Dad showed me a picture of a lush green cricket field, thronged with people, strewn across both pages of the books, that mentioned that the MCG holds the record for having the highest number of spectators to assemble on a day to watch a test match. As a tiny cricket enthusiast, from the city of the Eden Gardens, it was my first introduction to a ground overseas , and I had told Dad, " I will see a match here someday too! " Dad and smiled and said, " of course you will"! The memory stayed with me , and Melbourne had made a mark on my impressionable mind quite early ! As MCG renewed its tryst with the record , I felt strangely happy. I was no longer the curious kid, wanting to admire Melbourne from the books , I wanted to step into the city sooner than ever before. Somehow , I felt Melbourne was very similar to my city of Kolkata, and this ignited the desire to visit it even more.
There are several uncanny resemblances that I find between the so called 'most liveable city in the world' Melbourne , and my own 'city of Joy' . Both of these are homes of absolute sports fanatics , and house two of the world's most fabulous cricket stadiums , where people turn up in huge numbers to support their teams. Apart from this, I've been a tennis enthusiast , and spending a January evening cheering for the world's most famous faces at the Australian Open in Rod Laver Arena remains a wish . If possible, I'd also like to slip into an Australian Rules Football game at the MCG , and soak in the atmosphere there, sitting with raucous fans!
|The illuminated Rod Laver Arena (image: ABC)|
Coming from a city that celebrates heritage , and is often referred to as a city of palaces, owing to an abundance of historical structures, it's natural that I'd fall for the wonderful celebration of modern architecture in and around Melbourne , that is manifest in the iconic buildings like the World Heritage site - enlisted Royal Exhibition Building and others like the Gothic Bank , St Paul's Cathedral , the Shrine of Remembrance . I'd want to have my eureka moment , when I look down at the cityscape from a transparent capsule jutting out of the 88th floor of Melbourne's highest building , the Eureka Skydeck , which is also the highest structure in the Southern Hemisphere . On a date, I'd wait for my lady beneath the giant clock at the Flinder's Street Railway station ,and start off my romantic trail from the iconic landmark !!
We, as Bengalis are proud of our own culture , and our spirit of embracing art . Melbourne has something that entices any lover of art : it has the finest display of street art that is available anywhere on the globe. How I would love to join in the creations of the massive road canvases on Hosier Lane that brings alive mundane buildings by splashes of colouring sprays ! I would also look forward to viewing the live performances of the Australian Ballet and theatre performances in the cultural hubs of the city. Taking part in the MOOMBA , Australia's largest free community festival held annually , is also an immensely delightful prospect.
Kolkata has a rich history of its trams , and despite its slow movement , trams have continued plying in our city just because of our obsession with the sedate two-bogeyed transport , that never causes pollution . When I got to learn that Melbourne has the world's largest network of tram line , that spreads across a whopping 1773 tram stops on 28 routes over 250km of tracks, I was thrilled at the prospect of going sight seeing around the city on them, that too , for Free . My happy-go-lucky spirit would mingle with the gentle speed of a tram that loves to travel at its own leisurely pace , never caring to joust for more speed and compete with more fancied rivals in the road. Melbourne's trams are just the chariots that fuel my enthusiasm!
I also rejoice at the fact that Melbourne caters its bicyclists to segregated cycle facilities . The fitness freak in me would have a field time, riding cycles though the city on the dedicated lanes , without worrying about being hit .
We Indians love to share our anecdotes and experiences with new friends , over a simmering cuppa . There's nobody in Bengal who'll turn down an invitation to discuss sports or politics , while sipping a cup of tea or coffee. Melbourne's cafe lined streets would provide me with ample such opportunities to pick the brains of native citizens , and cause a cascade of cultural interaction with them. My outlook would definitely be enriched , by the intermingling of ideas. I'd also love to tuck into the seafood delicacies that would be on offer from the chefs at the various eateries around the city . Being a foodie, I know Melbourne wouldn't disappoint me on the culinary front. I would look forward to gorge on the delicacies on offer at the huge Queen Victoria Market , that is sort of a melting pot for all of Melbourne's shoppers !! And did I forget to mention about the wineries on the Yarra River valley ?? Yes, I would perch myself on a Segway and roam around the scores of wineries to choose from ! The wine taster in me would be having a gala time......hic !!
The chance to pamper ourselves come few and far between for us guys, but when one has the access to the services of the Peninsula Hot Springs , there's no reason why one should decline the offer of a refreshing spa in the natural water spring , that has mineral laden waters ! And how can I let go of a lengthy spell of fun at Panny's Amazing World of Chocolate , that houses every single of my childhood fantasies : from a fountain of chocolate , to a town made of chocolate ! I wouldn't care about the calorie count as I would drink up chocolate shots at one go!
The wildlife enthusiast in me would place the Seal Concert and the Penguin Parade on my priority list in the Melbourne itinerary! It isn't everyday that one would get to see a bevy of penguins walk out in their wobbly gaits to lay eggs, but Phillip Island gives us this luxury, and it is for this magnificent view that tourists flock to this place . Another lucrative prospect is the Hot Air Balloon ride, that would take us up several thousand feet above the ground! Sounds like an awesome place to propose your girl amidst the clouds , doesn't it?
Going on a drive on the Great Ocean Road will also be a must , as I would be itching to have the saline ocean breeze blowing across my face as I drive along the mountain road , that overlooks the ocean. It would be my tribute to the war returned soldiers who constructed this amazing road on the Victorian southern fringe . I'd also not miss viewing the 12 apostles, which are limestone stacks jutting out near the coastline standing precariously, that are being degraded naturally by 2cm/year . Before one more of them falls apart, I must be visiting them !
Lastly , I would like to mention that Melbourne is home of my elder sister , who has been living here with her young family for the better part of the last decade. Melbourne's cosmopolitan outlook has helped her gel well with the society here. She also has an active part in the Indian cultural Association here, comprising of Indians who reside at the city , without ever feeling detached from homeland. What more can one ask from a city in a foreign land ? This is why I feel Melbourne has a heart and soul just like my own city of Kolkata . She exudes glamour , frenzy and charm , but she embraces all cultures and likes to wear her heart out on her sleeve, which is evident in the passion of the 90,831 turning up at the MCG for a match of cricket ! With the cricket World Cup just days away , I can feel the excitement palpable in and around Melbourne , where the grand finale is slated to be held! Me, the Kolkatan, another passionate city of the world, can't wait to visit the Victorian capital and revel in the joyride that is Melbourne!
for my readers: There's a contest for all of you! Tell me in the comments below, Which of these places would you want to visit in Melbourne and why ? The best answer would win a fabulous gift voucher!
Written as part of the " What's your reason for falling in love with Melbourne, the most livable city in the world" contest by Tourism Victoria in association with Indiblogger . Find out more about Melbourne , here.
p.s. : Thanks to all the visitors on my blog for the wonderful comments and your insights on Melbourne. It was a pleasure reading them , and finding out about individual prefernces. But, with his beautiful comment about the trams in Melbourne , the best answer goes to Aritra Guha !! Congratulations !! You'll be contacted soon for your prize!!