I thought it might be interesting for people to see some pics of where I live: in the Macedon Ranges, a rural area about an hour, or 90 minutes from the city of Melbourne. It relatively green and verdant land by Australian standards, indeed it even snows in the Winter due to the slight elevation. The local towns, which are tiny (most about 5-6,000 people) were built in the 19th century Gold Rush. They have wide streets, pubs with ornate iron balconies and little Victorian cottages. Today, they are home to a sometimes uneasy mix of conservative local farming families, and refugees from the cities including burnt-out (and loaded) highflyers, artists and creative types, and the long term unemployed.
Notice how utterly empty the streets are. Its like that all the time. Its a bit of a weird life; on the weekend I can hop on the train and head into the city for arthouse movies and latin clubs and Thai food and during the week I live a fairly hermit-like existence in my little town. I like the quiet though, and the charm of the place - but at times the "small town" mentality wears me down.
Probably my favorite thing about the town where I live is the jogging track I run on every day (well, in warm weather) by a little creek (although in Australia it is considered a "river"). Rather bizarrely, it is named the "campaspe" after one of Alexander the Great's mistresses!! At dusk you can see ripples of the platypuses swimming in the murky water and the trees are alive with birds; raucous flocks of white cockatoos, 60 or 70 strong, pink and grey galahs and the blood-red rosellas, or lime green,purple,yellow and orange rainbow lorikeets.
Its not uncommon to see little packs of wild kangaroos bounding around in the wineries on the outskirts of town.
The area is home to an extinct volcano known as "hanging rock" and famous to Australians as the site of the classic 1970s movie "Picnic at Hanging Rock" about a party of Victorian school girls who go missing in the "terrible beauty" of the mountain woodlands. One girl stumbles back to camp, terrorized and incoherent but the others seemingly have just ...vanished. The film is remembered to day for its haunting pan pipe soundtrack and pervasive feeling of unease, and the local tourist office still promotes the infamous "picnic", giving the (incorrect) impression that it was based on a true event ...
Hang on a minute, I missed something. The Macedon Ranges must have a connection with Macedonia when they were named. Macedonia was (where the town of Larissa is) where Campaspe was born. So I presume the river rises in that range of hills?
Beautiful mixture of Victorian weirdness and the splendours of nature, ilbonito. The first time I went to Cairns, the downtown area looked like that, and when I returned 10 years later it was all gone -- replaced by a shopping mall, Big W, cheesy 'modern' bars and soulless architecture.
Even if you get bored sometimes in that town, you can at least appreciate it as a museum of the old Australia.
You write: ... relativelygreen and verdant land by Australian standards ... The local towns ... (most about 5-6,000 people) were built in the 19th century Gold Rush. They have wide streets, pubs with ornate iron balconies and little Victorian cottages. Today, they are home to a sometimes uneasy mix of conservative local farming families, and refugees from the cities including burnt-out (and loaded) highflyers, artists and creative types, and the long term unemployed. Do you know if there was a farming population there before the gold rush? Also, re: "farming families" -- is the agriculture still family farms, or on a much larger scale now? Are the wineries to which you refer fairly new, or quite well established?
The proximity to Melbourne and the prettiness of the towns (they're all as pretty as what you show?) would be an obvious draw for many people. Is the "uneasy mix" because the influx of city people is fairly new?
Ha ha - hicks vs slicks.... I like that. Its a weird dynamic. A lot of the local people are quite poor, and then there are flashy stores selling six thousand dollar lounge furniture and organic cosmetics on the main street. Because the town is so small the disparity is very "in your face". My local cafe just turned into a tapas/Turkish restaurant. That took me by surprise. The town has no cinema, but three florists! And the neighboring town has Australia's largest rural gay pride festival, with lesbian dance parties every month in the town hall. But all these different elements, dont really mix. They just sit side by side.
Here is a tourism commercial for one of the local towns, the richest and most city-fied, Daylesford. Its slogan is "live a double life" meaning country relaxation with city sophistication, but it comes across like a cultish recruitment video:
I'm not sure what the Macedonian connection was - the town wasn't settled by Greeks, and like most country towns it is fairly non-multicultural, except for large numbers of now-completely-integrated Italians and ex-Yugoslavs, and a conspicuous Sudanese communty due to the rpesence of a refugee resettlement centre. But come to think of it, there is a big shiny Macedonian Orthodox church in the nearest quasi -urban area Sunbury ...
Without giving too much away, why is it your live in that particular place?
Basically, I've always been a real "big city" person (as perhaps you can tell from my other posts ) When I came back to Australia after a long time abroad I thought that instead of moving back to my home city and comfortably repeaeting myself, I should stretch myself and try something new and a bit outside my comfort zone - like living in the country. And then a job came up in the Macedon ranges .. here I am. I have to say it has been more of a culture shockl moving from the city to the country than it was moving from Melbourne to Tokyo! But I knew it would be challenging, that was kinda the point. And its only until the end of this year. I think I could only do it for a short, definite time frame.
I agree with Kerouac about that commercial. How weird. If you hadn't said Daylesford was a town, it could indeed be for a sect. And the music! Made me think of a small bible-thumping community in the States.
Bendigo, an hour from me and two hours from Melbourne, is the state of Victoria’s fourth largest city; a centre of 100,000 people nestled in lush green hills. Like Melbourne and nearby Ballarat it blossomed in the 19th century Gold Rush and it shares many of the qualities you would expect of a regional city of that vintage (solid 19th century architecture, wide leafy streets) … and a few that you wouldn’t, like a globally significant collection of Chinese ceremonial objects.
The Chinese came to Bendigo, along with thousands of Australians and Europeans to try their luck on the goldfields. They had heard rumours in the impoverished Southern regions of China of a “New Gold Mountain” (Still the literal translation of Australia’s name in Chinese) and hopped about boats, full of hope.
Then they had to get off the boats in Adelaide and march on foot across to the Victorian goldfields, to avoid the 10 pound tax on Asian miners. Despite rampant discrimination (of course) the Chinese in Bendigo flourished, converting a part of the city into a lively Chinatown of boarding houses, shops, restaurants, herbalists temples and funeral directors. Until the 1960s that is, when (in an act so typical of the decade) the town council bought up most of the historic shophouses of Chinatown and levelled them, to provide a municipal carpark.
Since the 1980s, as an awareness of Australia’s multicultural heritage has increased, Bendigo has sought to reclaim its Chinese heritage. In addition to its 150 year old temple to the God of War ( extremely old, for a Chinese temple outside Asia), there is a brand spanking new shrine to Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, the world's largest jade buddha and a Tibetan stupa in the suburbs.
The old carpark (that was Chinatown) has been redeveloped too into an everexpanding complex of Chinese archways, canals, a walled garden and a museum. Huge floral sculptures and a nine storey pagoda are still to come (currently in the fundraising stage, I gave $2).
The number one attraction though is the museum’s collection of dragons, including (unexpectedly) both the oldest and the longest Chinese imperial dragons in the world.
Dai Loong, the old dragon, dates back to the 1870s. It is the same dragon that danced through the streets of Melbourne to celebrate the independence of Australia in 1901.
It was replaced in the 1970s by its latest incarnation, claimed to be the world’s longest dragon, handmade by masters in Hong Kong before being brought to Bendigo and “brought to life” with a drop of chicken blood in each eye.
There is also the quaint 1937 “Night Dragon” which apparently wowed the town with battery operated torch eyes.
This is fascinating. I can almost feel myself there. Your little town reminds me of Ballina in New South Wales which was a very quiet Hicksville. It even had a soda parlour (milkshakes). There were few people on the streets. But we were a 3 hour drive from Brisbane, our nearest city. Too far.
This weekend the town held one of the highlights of its annual calendar, the Ferret Racing. The furry, sweet-smelling weasel-like beasts are raced through lengths of plumbing tubes, designed I guess to simulate their natural burrows. Fun for the whole family! Unfortunately this year it was scheduled for a day of torrential rain, which seemed to dampen the ferrets' enthusiasm for the event (as well the spectators').