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downundergal Canberra - A travel report by Kerrie
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Canberra,  Australia - flag Australia -  Australian Capital Territory
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downundergal's travel reports

Canberra - Australia's Capital

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Canberra is a purpose built capital. Situated around Lake Burley Griffin it possesses the right degree of dignity considering it contains Australia’s seat of Government, High Court and many of the nation's museums, the Australian Mint and many embassies.

Old Parliament House
Old Parliament House
After the Commonwealth of Australia was established on 1 January 1901 there was the problem of deciding on a new capital city for Australia as both Sydney & Melbourne wanted the honour. After a long dispute it was decided that the new capital would be located between the two cities. A national design competition was run and the winners were actually two American architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahoney Griffin.

On the 1 January 1911 the Federal Capital Territory was established and on the 12 March 1913, the city was formally named Canberra adapted from the Indigineous word Kanbarra meaning “meeting place”.

The north east land axis of Parliament House at one end, Old Parliament House in the Centre and the imposing Australian War Memorial makes for an impressive centerpiece and when standing at one end or the other is really quite awe-inspiring.

The Old Parliament House was in use until it was deemed to be too small and the new impressive Parliament House was inaugurated in 1988. This now contains the National Portrait Museum. If you visit here you will notice a demountable shed at the front on the lawn. Look closer and you will that there is an Aboriginal Flag as this is an Aboriginal Camp set up as a protest back in 1972 and still going to this day. Does it serve its purpose? I’m not sure. I guess it keeps it in the public eye but to be honest it just looks like an eyesore.

Favourite spots:
The Commemorative Courtyard.
The Commemorative Courtyard.
My favourite spot was the Australian war Museum – forget old dusty recreations this is modern and interactive.
The front entrance is very imposing Commemorative Courtyard with its hall of reflection, eternal flame and Pool of Reflection.
The new Discovery Zone is really good fun not only for kids but for everyone. It contains a series of different exhibits. In one you sit in the cockpit of a helicopter in Vietnam, put on your headphones and the sound and feel of the motor increases so it feels like it is flying. In another you climb into an army trench on the Western Front and look through the sniper rifle scope or a periscope whilst actual war footage plays across in front of your sight. In another you can detect hidden mines. It’s a really great setup.

What's really great:
Central Atrium
Central Atrium

Another main feature is the big central atrium that houses a number of aircraft including a RAF plane and a Messerschmitt that hang from the ceiling. At certain times the lights dim and a narrator tells a story whilst a large screen at the rear plays film archives along with battle scenes making for a pretty impressive recreation of an attack. It is interesting to note the number of bombs painted on the side of the cockpit for the various mission runs.

There is also many other wings with many recreations, weapons, personal mementos and recollections of the various military battles that Australia has fought in over the years.

The Memorial does not celebrate war but remembers with dignity those people on all sides that suffered and lost their lives.

Art Gallery
Art Gallery
There are many other museums to choose from to visit from the Australian National Gallery housed in a building that is designed to look like a boat; the Australian Mint which creates all Australia’s currency, Duntroon Australia’s foremost Military College, The National Museum which houses many iconic Australiana items such as an FJ Holden – Australias first locally manufactured car, the oversized heart of our most famous racehorse Phar Lap, The National Library, The High Court which is our highest court in the land and the list just goes on and on.

Lake Burley Griffin is a beautiful centerpiece. It offers all sorts of activities including walking and cycle tracks, canoeing, paddleboats and morning balloon flights.

View from the War Memorial of Old Parliament House with the New Parliament House behind.
View from the War Memorial of Old Parliament House with the New Parliament House behind.
Because the purpose of our visit was actually a wedding we had little choice but to stay in a dinky motel called the Central in Queanbeyan a suburb next to Canberra. I am smiling to myself even as I write this as although our accommodation was not too bad. It was a standard generic hotel room whereas my brother and his new bride were given the dubious pleasure of the “Honeymoon Suite”. I say dubious as I thought I stepped back into the 70’s into a movie set. When she opened the door all we heard was “quick bring the camera” and here in the middle of the room was a big round leather bound waterbed with wait for it… mirrors on the ceiling. So as you can imagine all the family had to lie on it to look into the mirrors and roll about laughing. But in all honesty if you got stuck for somewhere to stay in Canberra it’s not a bad option at $105 for the night including breakfast which we missed as it finished at 8am (okay, so we had some late nights and that time was an impossibility).

Parliament House - we were quickly moved on by Security.
Parliament House - we were quickly moved on by Security.
If you do opt to stay in Queanbeyan there is a standout little Thai restaurant just five minutes walk away. Situated in an old timber house it has a series of small rooms that are warm and inviting. The menu is typical Thai with various red, green and Massaman curries. The standout dishes for us were the Drowned Prawns in Coconut; (hopefully they were already dead prior and didn’t really drown…), King Prawns with Tamarind and lemongrass and the Wok fried Chicken with Cashew nuts and chilli jam.

The night we were there we had torrential rain but the restaurant was still very busy because of this the meals were fairly slow to appear but well worth the wait.

While we were sitting there we thought we recognized the laugh of the woman sitting behind our table and sure enough it was on of our local personalities Jeannie Little – if you are an Aussie for the record her eyelashes are nearly as thick as her person. No offence to the lady in question.

Other recommendations:
Because it is the only planned city within Australia it is an imposing but rather pretty city as there are many imposing avenues that are laid out in concentric circles with spokes connecting them rather than a normal rectangular pattern. Impressive but it can be confusing when you are lost as you can tend to drive around in circles!

Published on Thursday January 3th, 2008

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Sat, Feb 09 2008 - 01:49 PM rating by eirekay

Great report! I like the interactive War Museum concept - there is nothing like gaining a bird's eye view! Marvelous report with terrific insights!

Thu, Jan 17 2008 - 11:06 AM rating by bineba

Very entertaining, yet informative report - as always! Well done!

Thu, Jan 17 2008 - 06:40 AM rating by magsalex

Great report! I did find Canberra a very odd place though, can't quite put my finger on it. Perhaps it was the very organised layout of the city!

Fri, Jan 04 2008 - 06:02 AM rating by marianne

Excellent information. especially how Canberra became Australia's capital.

Thu, Jan 03 2008 - 01:04 PM rating by rangutan

Interesting modern history, architecture and town planning just like Brazilia. Very well done!

Thu, Jan 03 2008 - 10:33 AM rating by christianj.

Hi Kerrie,

that's not only an interesting report, it's enjoyable to read, too. Like Amanda, I would like to see this formidable waterbed...

By the way: Happy new year!

Thu, Jan 03 2008 - 10:03 AM rating by jorgesanchez

Splendid report, as usual in you. Muy bien!

Thu, Jan 03 2008 - 09:02 AM rating by mistybleu

A really nice report, very informative and well written.

I would have loved to see the picture of the leather waterbed, very funny.

Thu, Jan 03 2008 - 06:26 AM rating by davidx

Very interesting information on a surprisingly underwritten city.

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