After a couple of weeks of luxury living in one place and having our own space, it was time to recommence the travels. We said goodbye to Karrie and boarded our first Australian Greyhound bus at Sydney, Canberra bound.
So, Canberra.... ask any Australian about Canberra and the answer will normally begin with "ermmmm". One Australian who we have since met, likened Canberra to being a service station between Sydney and Melbourne. It was purpose built as the capital city of Australia as Sydney and Melbourne couldn't decide which should be the capital city. It sits in it's own state "Australian Capital Territory" in the middle of another state of New South Wales. Think Milton Keynes in the sunshine, lots of straight roads, roundabouts, grid like roads and mostly flat. The only reason that you would really live in Canberra is if you worked for the Government. We knew that there wasn't a great deal to do in Canberra but couldn't really pass up on not going to the capital city of the country which we are going to be spending a year in!
We arrived in Canberra after a short bus ride of 4 hours and made our way to the YHA where we were staying for just one night. You definitely don't need more than a day in Canberra!
The following morning we woke up to a gloriously sunny day and headed off on a self guided walking tour of the city. First on our list of things to see were Old and New Parliament. New Parliament is a MASSIVE modern, sparkling white building which they have covered with grass, to make it look like it is built into a hillside. From the front of the building, you can look down towards the city and all of the major buildings and monuments line up- similar to Washington or Paris. On arrival at Parliament House, we found we were just in time to join a free tour which was actually more interesting than it perhaps sounds! We saw all of the places where the decisions on Australia's future are made, including the Senate and the House of Representatives. The public are invited to watch the debates when in session and children are especially encouraged to attend these sessions. The Australian Government invest money in bringing children to Canberra from all around Australia to visit Parliament to learn about what goes on and hopefully therefore encourage more future voters. We were most amused to find that they have purpose built perspex boxes at the top of each room so that children can watch everything going on without disturbing anyone- this made us smile! The colours of the rooms in the Australian Parliament are based on those found in the UK Houses of Parliament and the layout and feel also echoes it. You can also access the roof of Parliament and walk across the grass that covers it, this was purposely designed to symbolise that the people of Australia are above the Government.
So after educating ourselves in the Australian Parliamentary system, we continued walking around the city. We walked around the main lake, past the museums and galleries and Old Parliament House and had a quick pit stop for lunch and respite from the sun, in the city centre. Refueled, we headed off to the Australian War Memorial. We presumed that this would be along the lines of perhaps the Cenotaph or maybe even Trafalgar Square... wrong. It was in fact a very impressive and huge museum and memorial combined documenting Australia's involvement in war from World War 1 right through to the present day. There were exhibitions that moved us, ones that intrigued us and exhibitions about things we hadn't even known had occurred. There are full size war time aeroplanes in one part of the museum, as well as cars, guns, a tank and various other war memorabilia. There's even a replica of a fighter jet that you can get into and it simulates how it would've felt to be inside whilst bombing targets below, complete with vibrations, very loud sounds and flashing lights when the bombs dropped. After a couple of hours touring the museum, we had learnt a lot and were quite emotionally drained!
Canberra shuts down by about 4.30pm, with only a handful of bars and restaurants staying open late- to the ungodly hour of 10pm! haha. So we headed back to our hostel where we had some dinner and chilled out in the TV lounge until it was time to head back to the bus station for our onward trip to Melbourne.