Yes, back in Melbourne, after an overnight crossing on the Spirit of Tasmania from Devonport.
The cabin was more spacious than the last one – I had to take turns, with the three women I shared with, in getting up and using the space between the two sets of bunk beds.
This one had an L-shape configuration which allowed more space in an already larger room.
Those on the top bunks would have to take turns in using their ladders to avoid collision at the bottom but, this wasn’t my problem… I had the bottom bunk! Hurrah!
Of course, this meant that there was no safety rail… which I had appreciated on the crossing to Tasmania as the ship pitched in stormy seas.
Fortunately, to my knowledge it was a smooth crossing.
The ship reached the Port just before 7am and, rather than waiting for a tram, I decided to walk the two miles to Southern Cross Railway Station to dump my rucksack and work up an appetite for breakfast.
I didn’t have any plans for my day in Melbourne.
As I was walking along Collins Street, the interior of a rather grand building caught my eye and I went in.
The concierge seemed friendly so I asked him about the building. I got far more than I expected.
Paul has worked here for 29 years. He originally started for two weeks and was asked to stay. He never left and he is retiring soon, which he doesn’t seem very happy about as he is going to miss the building and the people who work there.
He showed me a replica model of the building which had originally been a bank.
Originally constructed in 1891 as the chambers of the Commercial Bank of Australia, it was granted heritage status in the 1970s which meant nothing could be done to damage the original features.
In the early 1990s, a developed constructed a skyscraper around the original building, leaving the facade and the interior of the dome intact.
Extensive work took place to restore the interior to its heyday.
Only one of the columns was intact and casts of it were taken to replace the others. Years and years of paint layers were sand blasted off to find the original colours of the walls.
The central mosaic on the floor is original. The designs around the edge are new, but chosen to complement.
Paul’s enthusiasm for the building he works in was apparent and I was grateful for his time… but he wasn’t finished.
He pointed out the ANZ Bank across the road and advise me to go there next.
The more ornate building, that caught my eye, was nextdoor to it and Paul told me that this was the Stock Exchange which I would be able to go into via the Bank.
This was the inside of the rather drab looking, by comparison, bank:
Ground level is just as eye catching but photography isn’t permitted of a working bank.
It came about as a result of a banker, George Verdon, who preferred art and an architect, William Wardell better known for designing churches.
Unfortunately, the Stock Exchange is closed for renovation and I couldn’t go in. One of the women working there advised me to keep walking along Collins Street to the Manchester Unity Building, the Town Hall and the Old Treasury which is now a Museum.
She thought I might like them.
From this point on, I decided to spend the day just following sightseeing suggestions made by people I spoke to. It was working out so far.
The Manchester Unity Building and the Town Hall stand opposite each other at the corner of Collins and Swanston Streeets.
The Town Hall, a stunning building, was closed. This was becoming a theme.
The Manchester Unity Building was accepting visitors, at least to the ground floor. It’s gorgeous.
The Manchester Unity Building is Art Deco Gothic inspirbuilding and was constructed in 1931-32 for the Manchester Unity Independent Order of Oddfellows. I’m not sure if there is any connection to the Manchester Oddfellows back in the UK.
At the time of construction it was one of the tallest if not the tallest in Melbourne with a tower spire reaching 64m.
It was called the Wonder Building, informally,and there was great excitement at it being the first in Melbourne to have a Magic Stairway – an escalator.
From here, I went on to the Old Treasury Building, passing Rob who was inviting passersby into his cafe – I said I’d pop back.
The Old Treasury Building was constructed between 1858 and 1861 and is now home to a museum of Melbourne history. As the former treasury would it be complete without an exhibition on the gold rush?
In my view, no, and it didn’t disappoint.
This was the biggest nugget of gold found in Victoria, at the time of discovery in 1869 – the largest ever. The choose of the word nugget strikes me as understatement.
It was named the Welcome Stranger. I might have gone with something a little less poetic.
It was less than 3cm below the surface of the earth and once hauled out of the ground, it had to be broken on a blacksmiths anvil before they could weight it.
Once melted down, it produced 71kg.
Not a bad haul.
Before any would be Pink Panthers start making plans, the beast residing in the Old Treasury is a replica. Casts of remarkable finds were often made for touring the country.
You took your entertainment where you could back then.
There were several excellent exhibitions, one I found particularly fascinating was on the question of conscription in World War One when two referenda were held to establish public support. The population were divided but the ‘no’ vote tipped the balance.
A second referendum was later held to ask again.
Australia had committed to send men to support Britain but there were concerns that the promised figure would not be achieved without conscription.
The referenda were bitterly fought and the propaganda posters pulled no punches in making this an emotional vote, playing on fears and the yes campaign appeared particularly to demonise the no campaign.
Despite government and the established press censoring no campaign pamphlets and posters, the no vote prevailed.
Time for lunch, I headed back to Rob’s cafe where he told me about his travels in Nepal and suggested that I head into the Fitzroy district (via the number 86 tram) of Melbourne to view some more street art.
It wouldn’t be as crowded as the Lane Ways.
There is also a self guiding online map you can use to wander Fitzroy.
Obviously any street art map comes with a caveat, some of the works will have been painted over by the time you get there.
However, using it as a starting point and not being afraid to veer off course when something caught my eye, it was a great way to explore this district on the edge of the Central Business District.
Fitzroy is a nice part of town – lots of cafes and coffeeshops housed in the original colonial buildings. There is also more representation of the Indigenous People whose lands these were and there are also posters celebrating the Elders and People who still live there.
I also found this mural which I am assuming was painted by an Aboriginal artist because of the dot techniques and hand prints which I learned at the Koorie Heritage Trust and NGV Ian Potter Gallery are traditional techniques.
I think this is a warning about climate change – from left to right the painting moves from lush scenery to devastation. The eagle flying above is Bunjil who is one of the creators, assisted by the Crow in Indigenous People’s legends.
There are some fantastic displays around the Fitzroy districts – some on the main streets and some in back alleys and unfortunately, rain curtailed too much exploration but not before I discovered this… from the sublime of Bunjil to… well, Alf from Home and Away.
Not a show I watched, but I was familiar with Alf and his catchphrases. I may have received a couple of bemused stares as I chuckled away having spotted this.
Brilliant, Alf from Home and Away 🤣
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It made me laugh. I really did get some funny looks but it was worth it!