We have now been in Australia for little more than a week. After the massive, constant humidity and heat in Thailand, it was quite refreshing to arrive in Brisbane, where the fall of the southern hemisphere is just about to kick in. Daily temperatures where we are currently staying, are apprx 20 degrees Celsius. During summer, it is not unusual to have temperatures around 35-40 degrees Celsius for longer periods of time.
Through a former colleague of ours, whom we know from Munich, we had gotten in contact with a family in Brisbane. Tina & Neil, and their twin sons. During the weeks up to our arrival, Neil and I had corresponded, so that we could get some of the most important hints and tips of what to see in Brisbane. It did not take long until we realized that we did have several “overlaps” of common interest, like for instance photography. So before long Neil simply offered to take us around Brisbane for a whole day, so that we would not miss out on the must sees. Thus we saw the places he considers the most important ones to see, and what a first glance that was! Alexandra actually visited Brisbane previously. But it is well over 10 years ago, and much has happened since.
At the hostel where we stayed, we found a guidebook over Australia, telling us that Brisbane has 1,5 million inhabitants. The book was from 2008. The latest number I have been able to dig up says that currently the city has around 2,2 million inhabitants, which makes it the third biggest city in Australia. That is quite a growth! You do see the construction sites and cranes all over the city, so they must be preparing for even more. Brisbane is built in an area containing seven big hills. Initially the locals actually considered naming the city “Seven Hills”, but eventually they ended up naming it after Scotsman Sir Thomas Brisbane, the Governor of New South Wales from 1821-1825. Like many other cities, Brisbane has had its share of floodings and fires over the years. But you can still see some of the old buildings of the city, like the old customs house, lying right by the river. Brisbane River curves its way through the city, and provides the area with plenty of the much attracted “River View” buildings. When sailing with the local “CityCats” (River Buses) you pass by kilometer after kilometer of very nice houses, gardens and boardwalks, just within the limits of the city center. Neil told us, that Brisbane actually is one of the few cities in Australia, who actually uses its river as an important traffic-vein, whereas many others do not utilize a river running through the city at all. Maybe it is because of he fact that further north in Australia, you may encounter crocodiles in the rivers. This does enhance the motivation of finding other ways of transportation! In Brisbane crocodiles have not (yet) been seen. Neither by the coast.
Because of the seven hills in the area, Brisbane IS quite hilly. The streets in the city center can be quite steep. But we did manage to push Anton’s buggy in front of us, without any problems. I find this city-structure fascinating! It is so much different from what I am used to from Denmark, which is iron-flat! Also the very effective build-up with long, straight streets crossing each other (like a grid), that I know from New York with its streets and avenues, is an interesting fact. You can literally stand on any street corner and look for miles in each direction. In Brisbane this is not quite possible because of the steep streets, but had the city been placed on a flat plateau, it would not have been a problem. Skyscrapers and beautiful old buildings in english, victorian style are standing side by side. There are no rules here saying how high you may build. As a matter of fact it is hard to see which building is the tallest in Brisbane. It depends on whether it is build on the top of one of the hills or not. All in all, Brisbane has a magnificent and very interesting skyline, that I just had to photograph, both in daylight and at nighttime. The oldest bridge, “Story Bridge” is probably the most important landmark. It tells you how big and bold they dared to think back then, when the city was in its youth. In the mid 1960’s though, traffic jams had become such a big problem, that radical measures had to be taken. Many bridges and highways through the city were built, in order to solve the increasing problems. Just a small drive to the coast could take up to 4 hours. It’s a distance of about 15 kilometers from the city center.
The problem was eventually solved and today Brisbane is a well-working traffic hub, even though many people will probably say that there is still plenty of room for improvement. A rather new addition to the public transport system is the train from the airport to the city. It is cheap, fast and effective! We got to where we wanted with no effort at all.
On the day when Neil showed us around, we ended at his and Tina’s house, having a traditional, australian barbecue. On most of the house terraces throughout Australia, you will find a huge barbecue grill. Unlike in Scandinavia, you do not use coal or briquettes. Actually I have not yet seen this here at all. Australians use gas. And it is fast and effective! Neil’s gas-grill was even one of the bigger ones. With plenty of room for a roast or a chicken, 40 sausages and some bread, all at the same time. We did not need all that, but it was quite clear to me, that Neil did not want his family to see him “go down” because of his equipment, when gathered at their house! We had some great steaks, lamb-chops and grill-sausages. There was plenty, and what a feast it was. We were full when he drove us back to our hostel after a very nice evening! Amazing that you can actually meet with people whom you do not really know, and still feel that you have known them for a long time. Neil takes great pride in making sure that we get some great experiences during our stay here in Australia. So he has very kindly offered to be “back-up” in case of any emergency, should one occur while we are here. Maybe it will come in handy to be able to call someone local. This is what I call hospitality!
Speaking of barbecue: This is something that all australians consider a fundamental thing when meeting up with family and friends. Everywhere you go, in parks, beaches or camper-parks, you find public barbecue grills. Free to use. All you have to do is leave them the way you would like to use them yourself. We have seen many of these by now, and none of them vandalized. It surely does occur, but it seems to me, that in general it is considered extremely bad style to obstruct a good barbecue around here. I couldn’t agree more! I have never been a big “barbecuer”, but here in Australia it all seems so easy and effortless. It doesn’t really make much of a difference if you finish the meal completely at home in your kitchen, or if you make the final touches by the barbecue in the park. It’s all about getting out there, in the sun, being with the ones you love and care about.
The picture above is Brisbane Skyline by night, with Story Bridge. Click here for more pictures!