Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Some typical Sydney (and Australian) sights

I would guess that if one were to ask people around the world what comes to their mind when they think of Syndey - the answers would be Sydney Opera House, the Harbour Bridge, Sydney Cricket Ground (if the question were asked to Indians), and Bondi Beach. So let me write on these sights.

I first crossed the Harbour Bridge two weeks into my stay here. I was taking a train to North Sydney (across the harbour). The train starts its journey from Sydney Central station and quickly turns into an underground metro, before coming above ground just before the entrance to the Harbour Bridge. There are tow tracks that traverse the bridge, in addition to 8 lanes for car traffic, and separate lanes for cyclists and pedestrians (the western side for cyclists and eastern for walkers). On the eastern side of the bridge, on the southern shore of the harbour, stands the Opera House. On this first day, though, it was raining, and the grey, gloomy weather did not really show off either the harbour or the Opera House in particularly good light.

My first close up view of Sydney Opera House came about one evening when I was in the city for some apppointments. As the Opera House is situated close to the place from where I had to board the bus to reach back home, I decided to visit this landmark building. The first thing that struck me as I walked around the building is its size. It is simply massive! The exterior of the building was influenced by the shape of the wind sails of the boats that ply the harbour, but the local Aborigines believe it's got an Oyster Shell appearance, and I agree with them. As I was there in the evening, I sat down for a while and was able to get a glimpse of the structure in both natural and artificial light. By then, the lights of the city were slowly coming on, and the Opera House provides one of the best places to view the big city lights of the city.

I made a second visit to the place one sunny afternoon in my wife's company. The place also offers one of the best views of the harbour bridge, and it's a nice place to just stay and obervse the ferries and other boats plying the harbour. And it impressed me just as much the second time around. It's definitely worth traveling a long distance to just view one of the landmark buildings of the world, one which is also recongnised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The other Sydney landmark I was keen to visit was the Sydney Cricket Ground, more commonly known as the SCG. As it lies on the bus route from where we stay to the city, I had passed by it a few times. The opportunity arose in the form of watching as AFL (Australian Football League) game between the local team, the Sydney Swans, and the visitors from Brisbane, the Lions. Tickets were arranged by my wife' University's International Students Services body, which helpfully, also sent us notes on the game. 

We reached the venue just past 6 pm, an hour before the game was scheduled to start. The stadium was lit up with the tower lights. We were seated at the opposite end to the pavilion, with it's old fashioned architecture, and clock tower. It struck me was that the stadium was not very large, though definitely bigger than the grounds at Mumbai, and Bangalore. We had assigned seat numbers, and comfortable plastic bucket seats to sit upon. However, we were not covered by a roof, so when it started drizzling later on in the game, we had to get our rain gear on. Luckily, it didn't rain heavily, and we did not mind the light drizzle.

The game started right on time. It is a cross between rugby and football, where the objective is to kick the ball throug the opponents goal, but the players can hold on to the ball and pass it by kicking or pushing the ball by hand (not  throwing, but kind of like boxing the ball which is held on the palm of the other hand). There are 18 players to the team, and the playing area is the same as the cricket ground. It's a high paced game. This particular one, though, was particularly one sided, with the home team run away winners, much to the delight of the home crowd. 

We have visited Bondi beach just once. Staying close to Coogee beach, that's where we head whenever the sun is out and we have some spare time. Bondi beach is bigger than the one at Coogee, but quite similar in layout. It's a long, semicircular swathe of sand between two cliffs, with golden sand lapped by the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean. As the sea here offers longer and larger waves than at Coogee, one sees a many surfers trying to ride the waves. Even though we visited on a cold, winters' day, it was still crowded (by Sydney standards!). So one can only imagine what it would be like in summer. There is a very pleasant walk that starts from the southern end of Bondi beach, and winds its way right through to Coogee. We walked till the edge of the cliff that marks the southern end of Bondi bay, and were rewarded by views of a pack (?) of dolphins swimming in the sea, very close to the beach.

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