Batmania, Bareport, Bareheep, Barehurp or even Bareberp, all sounding as if they are suffering from an acute case of indigestion, are the unpalatable names that were considered for this new city. Somehow they don't have the same ring as Melbourne, eventually named after William Lamb the first Viscount of Melbourne, the then British Prime Minister. It all started around 1835 with John Batman signing a treaty for the acquisition of land from Wurundjeri elders.
Robert Hoddle was the man responsible for Melbourne's wonderful grid system. In 1842 it was incorporated into a town along the Yarra river - a few tents and huts is how it all began.
What is remarkable about this city is that it has withstood everything that has been thrown in its way. It has had the benefits of the Gold Rush and the Royal Exhibition Hall and even acted as the capital for a number of years but it was also hit by depressions and the Great Wars and deep financial crisis at various times in its history. This led to times of boom and bust which brought about poverty and stagnation and even times of unrest.
Interestingly enough as we toured the city we felt that it reminded us a lot of Liverpool which was our home in the North of England for a number of years and we could relate to the rather seventies architecture with its emphasis on bright colours and boxes and the attempts to bring life back into the docklands. The result is that the city is a mix of some of these more troubled times with the recent surge in economic activity and creativity and the splendour of some of its moments of glory from the previous two centuries.
Let me show you what I mean :
The rather questionable mixture of mid 20 century architecture with something ultra modern.
The old brick buildings with the strong primary colours and the emerging skyscrapers behind.
The stunning architecture of this building and the modern tram
The views from the Yarra river from a bridge
The Parliament, or part of it, with the impressive imported lamps
The beauty of the State Library and the Royal Exhibition Building which houses antique shows and displays of white bear skins and stags.
All the seats in this radiating arrangement were full of eager students and scholars
The beautiful roof and sky lights of the State Library
The Royal Exhibition Building with its wonderful arches and paint work showing off its rather unusual collections.
You could not even begin to appreciate this city until you have climbed onto one of these which takes you around the main CBD - from where you can explore the more intimate lanes like Degraves St and the Royal Arcade.
There are surprises on every corner, something to sip or eat, an old building to admire or a new one to astound. The languages are free and fancifully foreign and in amongst them all lives this free Ozzie spirit of openness, enjoyment and adventure.