Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Friday, February 28, 2014


My amazement continues. Sydney as a city works well, all is very well organized and again, I did not see some obvious trash. Nor did I see beggars or derelicts. Carol and I spend 5 days in Sydney using only public transportation, we coved the neighborhoods and the touristy spots and travelled via ferry up and down the harbor. Sydney is clean and runs like a well oiled machine. The traffic connections worked well, the people are friendly and everybody works. I felt pride from some people in the work they did. There are two attendances on each ferry. The pilot or driver and then the person who ties the boat to the dock. I guess he is called a deck hand. It is team work, well rehearsed over many stops a day, the ferry approaches a stop at the right angle, the right speed and then the deck hand throws an arm thick rope over the bollocks imbedded in the wharf, and with practiced speed and accurate twists a stop knot is made over a similar bollock on the boat. The whole arrangement works like a slip knot that can be adjusted one way but will get tighter the other way. Ingenious but it works well. The Sydney harbor has many ferries, with many stops all over the spread out harbor. Ferries work like busses here. People get on and off. Ladies with baby carriages, business men, tourists with suitcases and even bicycle riders take their bikes from this end of the harbor to the next. We had our motel, the Neutral Bay Motor Lodge, in a neighborhood across from the main terminal, the circular quay. This motel really is in a very residential spot, on a busy road, but in a suburb of Sydney. Yet, a ferry runs every 20 minutes and after just three stops, or let's say 15 minutes we landed in the very center of Sydney, right next to the opera house. The whole of it never had a snafu. You can count on it to work to catch a train.
For $52,- a week, we bought an all inclusive ticket for bus, ferry, train and/or trolley. It is like hop on, hop off. Just swipe the card and all transportation is covered. For the few days we were in Sydney we did the tourist stuff. A guided tour of the famous opera house was great. The construction of this building is so unique and defies all practices of even today's architects. Four parts of a sphere were set on a flat surface to become the opera. The look from afar is of sails on a ship. But the construction is based on pure mathematics and a conceptualization of parts of that sphere in sections to give the structure this unique look.
The Danish architect Jorn Utzon, won an International design contest in the late 1950's and received the go ahead to start building his design concept. The original cost estimate was for 7 million dollars and a time span of 3 years. Because the building concept was so unique and the calculations still had to be made by hand, it took close to 16 years to finish the Opera House at a total cost of 107 million dollars. No one was very upset at the overages in costs since Australians understood that this building is a one of a kind. Also the cost of the building was paid off within a year after the inauguration by using a special lottery, similar to today's lotto.
The tour of the opera house was extensive and well done. We saw all three halls. The symphony hall, the actual opera hall and the theater. All were housed within this huge complex. Even though the style of the interior is now over 50 years old, it still looks ultra modern and chic. Carol and I were lucky, we were able to secure two seats for the Magic Flute Opera on Wednesday night. It was a full house when we attended the performance. The crowd was truly international. The design sets for the costumes were given to Sydney from the New York Metropolitan opera. It was an extraordinary performance using puppets as enhancements in relating the story line. The music, Mozart's masterpiece, was as divine as ever. I had fun. Naturally it rained buckets right after we stepped out of the theater but we dodged the raindrops and only got a little wet. We knew by now how to use all the overhangs and short cuts. We are becoming accustomed to Sydney. Sydney sure can grow on you and pull you into its intricate net of entertainment, fun and business life.
Darling harbor is part of the greater Sydney Harbour area. It is a planned section with tourist attractions and entertainment. Sections of the natural beauty of Australia have been recreated showing wild life unique to Australia along with a section of the great barrier reef. Of course there are tons of eateries. Everything conceivable could be had. There were museums, shopping, walking tours, sports, entertainment, food, nature, culture and history. Fun for the whole family. Carol and I just walked through the Aquarium section to see all the sea life around Australia and it took us a good 3 hours of walking. After a lunch to get our strength back, we were too spent to see more details, so we just sat and people watched nursing a lemonade.
Anybody could spend days here and not have seen it all. There are dinner cruises to be had, adventure walks, climbing the historic Harbor Bridge (a two hour upward climb to the top of the span for a stunning view of Sydney), exploring the old Queen Victoria Building and watching surfers at Bondi Beach. Come and do all of those things. Bring lots of money though because Sydney is not cheap. A cup of coffee is $4.95, a 500ml Nestea Iced Tea is $ 4.90. Bottle of plain water $ $2.50 to 3.00. You get the idea, I am sure.
The original settlement of Sydney, now called the 'Rocks' is a twisting laneway and roadway area near the Harbor Bridge. We spent Sunday walking the many small boutiques and flea market-like stalls and got lost on purpose in some back alleys. The name is apt, because huge boulders and rock formations are part of the house foundations. The old town was built in the style of good old England, about 1840 to 1890. One can make believe this is some town in Great Britain and not the more modern Australia one finds today. Sydney today is sky scrapers, office buildings, neon lights and well organized traffic. A totally modern, world class city. The hub of commerce, yet not the capital of Australia, which is Canberra, about five hours away from here. It is similar to Toronto in Canada, with Ottawa also that far away from the trading hub.
Sydney is worth a trip, you will not regret a visit. Lots to do, lots to learn, lots to see.

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