Sunday, March 11, 2012

Planet Hobart

Hobart!  Tasmania’s capital and largest city was both the first and last stop on our tour of the island.  Hobart was a refreshing surprise.  With a metropolitan population of only around 215,000, Hobart is tiny in scale compared to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, or even Adelaide.  Hobartians – the extraterrestrial sounding name for the residents of this fine city – don’t seem to get that Hobart is tiny.  Hobart has everything that a big city has – and more.  Firstly:  natural beauty abounds.  The city’s backdrop is the impressive Mt Wellington.  The top is accessible by road, and the view is stunning:

A cloud of smoke from a bushfire obscured our view a bit, but the colours it brought in were great:

Down on the ground, Hobart’s harbour is cute and quaint, and the old British buildings give the whole city an old European charm.

Notice Mt Wellington obscured by clouds in the background:

Our Parliament tour – which we were the only people on – was fantastic.  The old historic building retained its 19th century feel while incorporating all of the new technological advances that members of Parliament need.

As part of the Commonwealth, Tassie’s little Parliament still does all of the formalities reminiscent of the Queen and olden days.  These old touches – likes the hourglass timers they still use for debate – bring you back in time (or maybe bring you to the Wizard of Oz?)

With the two houses of Parliament having only 25 and 15 members, it’s hard to compare this parliament to any of the other parliaments or state capitols that I’ve toured before.  So small and trusting, we actually got to see legislation on the desk.  How appropriate that it was marriage equality legislation.  Awesome!

Speaker of the House Phill declares:  “Order in the chamber!  And burritos!”

Also English in nature are the beautifully maintained Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, incorporating all sorts of European, native, and other plants.

The Salamanca neighbourhood is jam-packed with historic buildings, but it’s what’s inside that is completely different.  This little café creatively doubles as a laundromat.  No.  We’re not in Sydney.  This is way more unique than anything I’ve seen in Sydney.

Salamanca is also the location of Hobart’s famed Salamanca Markets.

The market has an amazing assortment of food – which will be discussed later on – but all of the other items were just incredible too.  Wooden objects – made from Tasmania’s famed and ultra-durable Huon Pine – dominated the crafts sector.  Little Huon Pine echidna toothpick holders?  ADORABLE!

Never before has wood looked so appetizing!

It wasn’t just wood though.  There was plenty of other kitschy, elegant, tacky, cute, bizarre, and beautiful wares for sale as well.  Like this apron with a strategically placed Tasmania on it…


And just like the much larger Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, or Adelaide, little Hobart even has its very own gay club!  Flamingos – an ironic name in a place that’s about as far away from Florida as possible – is Hobart’s only full-time gay establishment.  It was… unlike anything we have in Sydney.  Upstairs was a lounge room with pool tables and a jukebox.  It reminded me of my college dorm.

We had fun anyway.

And downstairs, the Hobartians were schmoozing around the dance floor and stripper pole.  I was starting to really like this place because it was a completely down-to-earth alternative to the bitchy, pretentious gay clubs in Sydney.  But just when I was starting to really appreciate it, the night’s entertainment came out.  What attracted us to the club was a poster we first saw on a lamppost on the street earlier that day:

“A night for the Guys & Gals that'll get hot and steamy!  The MEN of Body Heat return to HOBART for one night only for their BORN TO BE WILD TOUR!  Round up your crew for a night of Hot, Hard, Hunks, as they take to the Flamingos Dance Bar stage!  A night of naughty mayhem not to be missed!”

Sounds hottttttt!!!!!!!!!!

But what we got:  three older busted dudes with bellies dancing to Grease Lightning.

I wish I was kidding.

And the Hobartians went wild – they were enjoying it beyond anything I’ve ever seen.

This is a strange planet.

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