first impressions of Canberra

So I’m now on a Greyhound to Sydney Central Station. It’ll take about 3 hours to get there. Thus I have a little time to catch up on entries, and there’s still so much going on that I wouldn’t want to fall behind.

Canberra is — well, I’ve heard many people try to describe what it’s like, and I tried taking a weighted average of all those things, but generally my expectations were low, and mostly wrong. Here’s my own attempt: Imagine they built Washington, DC in northern California. Wide, meticulously planned streets, public buildings and stately sculptures marking them. Gently sloping, heavily wooded mountains in the distance that could be the Blue Ridge in Virginia. But also wide, sunny skies, and a sweet, dusty smell to the dry air, and eucalyptus trees everywhere, shedding their bark in long strips on the ground. It’s small-ish, clean, cute.

The natural beauty of the Australian landscape is readily apparent nearly everywhere in Canberra. I’m reminded to say this as I watch the blue mountains pass by in the distance across the flat, flat expanse of green plain, and the rows and rows of windmills — why can’t the US get with the program, seriously? Only in the densest parts of downtown with the shops and shops and shops do you not readily see green, and even then you still get plenty of sunlight. There is an enormous roundabout called Vernon Circle, with just a few trees and the Australian flag prominently displayed; I see people clambering up there all the time. It’s a park, much like the rest of the city.

I spent a good chunk of my first day simply walking around and gawking like the silly tourist I am (for now). I may be doing this for a while since everything is so pretty and there is so much to see here, so much even that is free and open to the public. Predictably, Canberra is also plenty spread out, much more so than it appears to be on the map, and it takes quite a while to walk anywhere. A bike will be an excellent investment. Fortunately for me there are a zillion bike shops around town, and they compete fiercely so it probably doesn’t matter exactly which one I walk into.

(p.s. looking around the bus, it looks like everyone has an iPhone but me. I covet them. of COURSE they were out of iPhones as soon as I got back to the Vodafone store, the retail girl called other places and couldn’t find anyone else who had them. and the next shipment won’t be here for three weeks yet. BLEAH. thus for the moment I have a $29 pre-paid phone which is even crappier than my old phone was… took me 10 minutes to send a fairly simple text message… but at least people can reach me this way.)


About Richard

I'm an American scientist who is building a new life in Australia. This space will contain words about science and math, but also philosophy, policy, literature, my travels, occasional rants, all sorts of things I find strange and awesome. The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my employer at the time (currently University of Sydney), though personally, I think they should.
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