Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hobart





I spent a few days in Hobart recently. From last Friday evening to Tuesday night. Most of the time I spent time with my sister, nephew, and brother-in-law (and their gorgeous tortoiseshell cat, Catiana!) I found plenty of time however to go out and traipse about the city and suburbs, to get a feel for this fine little city, and to ponder what my long-term relationship to the place might be.

It fascinates me how much alike the surrounds of Hobart match those of Cairns. Both cities are green and lush with cavernous mountains surrounding the metropolis as seen from the bay areas. There is one, palpable, gigantic difference between the two cities, of course. One of these cities is situated dead smack in the tropical zone and is always hot, the other, some 3-4,000km south, is snugly shelved in the cool-temperate zone. Why they appear similar is that they're both at the far ends of the Great Dividing Range that flourishes up and down near the east coast of Australia from Far North Queensland all the way down to Victoria and then Tasmania. I feel thankful for this range. If it weren't for this long snake of highlands and mountains Australia would by-and-large be a generally flat place. And it's great to have snow so close by in a country that's more renowned for its heat rather than its cold weather, of which it has more of its fair share, particularly in the highland areas. Besides, you'll never have snow in Cairns, and you certainly won't have crocodiles trawling the Tasmanian rivers!

I spent Saturday morning wandering around Salamanca Markets by Hobart's piers. The buildings along Salamanca Place are all made of lush sandstone, built around the early 1800s. These nationally-renowned markets specialise in local produce. I bought some local fudge, and also on offer was some wonderful locally-made honey and jams. There were various fruity aperitifs and cool-climate wine. My favourite goods were the woodwork and carvings made out of Tasmanian Huon Pine. This pine has a gorgeous, vibrant golden-yellow complexion running through it, as if the wood itself remains an alive, speaking element even its manufactured state. And it smells delicious too, a smell that is like a tonic for all the world's ills. Huon Pine is one of the miracles of Tasmania, and is currently a protected species as their population were almost hacked to death by European settlers who used the exceptionally strong pine for their construction of boats.

Hobart is a relatively small city with a population of about 2-300,000. After a few days there I felt that calming pins-and-needles sensation begin to take over my body. I feel that Hobart would be a fine place to live given that good jobs were available. I think it's a suitable place to raise a family. The climate is healthy and equable. I quite love the summer weather in Hobart. The summers there are akin to a British south-coast summer, with warm sun yet cool shade and breeze, with cool nights. Winters thankfully, remain milder than British winters on the coastline. House prices in Hobart are reasonable, especially so when you compare them to the insane prices you pay in Sydney. (Imagine paying a lifetime's salary for a shoebox - that's Sydney).

The inner-city areas of Hobart contain my favourite suburbs. I'm especially fond of the cafe, restaurant strip of North Hobart, of which many of the cafes have a 19th century English feel to them. I think Hobart's the kind of place you can settle into most comfortably. After a few days there you noticeably feel the revs of your body wind down so that you're settled into a more 'elemental' state of thinking and living. Your body will thank you for living there, and so will your soul.

Nonetheless I was glad to be back in Sydney. Like a junk addict I needed the fix or "buzz" of this big city to realign me again. Yes, realign me into a more fast-paced, determined, speedy existence that is now firmly embedded into my DNA, so that I'm unsure if it can be fully dissolved in this lifetime.

One day, given circumstance and situation, I may head down to the southern city and lay my life, soul and being there, and probably be a lot happier for it somehow.

Until then I have to say I enjoy the junky-fix of this big city too much, sometimes...

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