Melbourne – Then and Now

I first visited Melbourne a long time ago. 1990s. I can’t even remember the exact year. 1994? 1993? Something like that. It must be an age thing… As if that is not bad enough I can hardly remember anything about the place. Last weekend I made a whistle-stop trip over to Sydney’s rival city to see a boxing match.

The “Marvel” Stadium
Glass and steel structures dominate the docklands area around the Marvel Stadium

Melbourne in the 1990s

I only remember a few things about Melbourne from my first visit all those years ago. The old Victorian swimming baths, the Old Gaol and watching my first Aussie rules football match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). The rest is a blur apart from one thing. I do recall thinking that I liked Melbourne a lot more than Sydney. Strange thing that eh?

Sydney has the geographical beauty of the harbour and the city beaches but I definitely thought Melbourne was a better city. More ‘liveable’ I think was the term I would have used.

Another thing I remembered was the wonderful tram system that Melbourne had. Somehow the city managed to retain the original (and extensive) tram network while other cities around the world (Sydney included) thought that it was a good idea to rip them up. Progress anyone?

Town Hall
A blast from the past. These classic underground toilets are still going.

Melbourne Now…

Back then Melbourne regularly topped those stupid “World’s Most Liveable City” lists. Not anymore. I thought Melbourne was not a particularly nice place. Again that may seem an odd thing to say but then I am not a fan of Sydney either. My love (‘liking’ might be a better word) of big cities has taken a tumble in recent years. Give me the outback any day!

So what has changed? Apart from myself of course. Well, much like Sydney, Melbourne has grown. Upwards more than anything, from what I saw. Huge new skyscraper-like buildings are all over the city centre. Any historic buildings are struggling for survival. Similar yet opposite to nature. Like new plants beneath the the huge canopy of older established trees in a rainforest, it is the older buildings that seem to be under constant threat. When the real estate value beneath you feet is only a fraction of what can be made when you look up to the sky it is not difficult to see where it will all end. Sydney is going the same way of course as are many cities the world over. It’s called “progress” but believe me, it is not. Oh the cynicism of middle age eh? LOL. But seriously… It is funny how your perceptions change as you get older.

Old and new
More old vs new

The city has lost much of its quaintness (if that’s the right word). The centre never needed to change that much as there are enough new areas on the outskirts that have risen towards the clouds. But it seems there is no stopping the ‘developments’. A real shame because I definitely remember liking the city.

On one corner this old building…
Diagonally opposite was this lot…

There also seemed to be a lack of old pubs. Back in the 90s I would have definitely visited a few (even if I can’t remember them LOL). There were very few in the centre now and mostly kind of hidden. I am sure there would have been more typical corner plot hotel/pubs. Or am I wrong? If anyone knows more about this please let me know.

Some fascinating structures but how many do they need?

A word on the Trams

The tram system is still great. In fact it even has a free zone right in the city centre where you do not need to pay. How good is that for tourists who just want to see the centre? Especially with young kids!

But when you give people something for nothing they will always abuse it. You give them an inch, they will take a mile. Take liberties. My hotel was outside the free zone so naturally I would  ‘tap on’ and ‘tap off’ with my travel card when required. Yeah. Spot the tourist eh!

I hardly saw anyone else do it however. I think the locals were genuinely taking the piss! I am sure there are quite a lot doing the right (honest) thing but I never saw many. That free tram ride thing must be costing the city a lot of money.

All that aside however, the Melbourne tram system is probably worth the visit by itself. It really shows how backwards so many cities have gone – even when they think they are being “progressive”.

Not exactly a glowing advertisement for Melbourne tourism eh? Well I just have to call it like I see it. Despite all of the above it looks like we will be making a short trip to Melbourne in the near future when Dani’s cousins come over to visit (with their parents of course). More on that one when it happens however…

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