Part of the problem with Canberra is that its a planned capital, designed and build specifically to be the nation's capital. In fact, Canberra owes its very existence to the fact that Sydney and Melbourne don't really like each other. If you think of Australia like a mob boss (and I encourage you to do so!), Sydney and Melbourne would be like the feuding, spoiled bratty sons who spend all their free time squabbling over who gets to be in charge when daddy shuffles off. Realizing that giving the responsibility to one son would lead to years of feuding and casual name-calling from the other, the wise old Don decided to skip the whole process and raise an orphan from scratch, eventually putting him in charge. Now imagine this new orphan is kind of lame, very business-like, wears a suit all the time - if it were Mad Men, he would be far less like Don Draper and far more like that married guy with the bow tie and lollipop - and there you have Canberra in a nutshell. So the city is new, clean, a bit boring and lacks an interesting history - couple that with the fact that it's the home of the nation's government, and thus the target of the nation's ire - and you'll pretty much understand why most Australians seem to be less than proud of their capital city.
But I'll say it without shame - I actually liked Canberra. Now, I'll admit that if I were to actually live there, the city would probably get a bit boring after a while, and Canberra does have that worky-work-work feel that downtown Toronto does, but then again, most cities are pretty lame - it's only a select few that have anything interesting going on. Canberra was clean, well-organized, quiet, had some lovely parks and gardens, and the people were generally quite friendly. Because of the parliament buildings, national museums and galleries, Canberra nicely satisfied my need to see "official" things when I travel, freeing my conscience to visit the more kitschy, touristy attractions elsewhere. And because I'm a history nerd, I quite enjoyed visiting Parliament and the other major governmental places, especially the War Museum and ANZAC memorial. I could figure things out without too much problems, there seemed to be a lot of restaurants, bars, and a pretty damned big mall.
And above all, Canberra has the Wig and Pen, and that's sufficient awesomeness to shore up any city's flagging reputation. This place was awesome.
|Brewing tuns visible in the back window.|
|A snifter of Bob's Armpit.|