Sydney, day 5 – Tales from the harbour, stories from the Aboriginals

Law & order in old Sydney

According to Murphy’s law – I am nondrinker right? 😉 – my choice goes to the YHA hostel in The Rocks, the oldest Sydney’s district, area of sailors and beers. In 1850, they say, here you could find more than 50 pubs!
Today this is a quiet neighborhood with brick houses, a lot of commemorative plaques and a small museum in the centre. In the bay you can enjoy the top attractions in Sydney: Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge.

At those times, btw, The Rocks shouldn’t have been so reassuring: among its dark sides we remember the infamous Suez Canal, a flooded alley ruled by gangs, each with its own “larrikin”. A larrikin was a young hooligan. Winking women lured the gangsters. Law was “original”: an interesting story is George Cribb‘s life, an English butcher sentenced to 14 years of confinement in Australia, because he printed fake banknotes. In Aussie, thanks to the capital accrued, he built a small business empire, but then destroyed it through his turbid love stories… He had a first wife in England, then he married another woman, exiled to Australia as well, and poisoned her upon the arrival of his legitimate woman. Cribb then fled to Rio, and nothing more was heard of him.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, seen from the Royal Botanic Gardens
View on Sydney Harbour Bridge, from the Royal Botanic Gardens
Sydney, The Rocks
“The Rocks”, view outside the museum
Sydney, Suez Canal
The infamous Suez Canal!

The Museum of Contemporary Art

Super cool also the MCA (Museum of Contemporary Art). Here I visit an interesting permanent exhibition with aboriginal pieces, and I take the opportunity to enjoy the art of Sun Xun, crazy Chinese creative who works with short movies animation, through a lot of materials: painting, woodcut, origami. At university he could not afford a video camera, so he literally began to draw his films on paper. The result is disturbing, dystopian videos, with strongly symbolic references to history and politics. On the third floor the finest dotted barks by John Mawurndjul, from Arnhem land, telling Aboriginal stories of sacred sites and ancestral ancestors.
The Aboriginal issue in Australia is sadly dramatic. Maybe the oldest culture in the world – some cave paintings date back 60,000 years! – its beting heart is the Dreaming, a very complex system of religious beliefs.

There’s a very interesting book, “The creativity of the spirit” by Mircea Eliade, that explains this religion. Basically, ancient Aboriginal people were highly evolved people, who directed all their intellectual and creative impulses towards the search for a meaning, disregarding technological progress. Clashed with the Europeans in the ‘700, their destiny was to succumb: to new diseases, discrimination, violence and alcoholism. Today they are 2% of the population, with a suicide rate among the highest in the world.

Sun Xun at MCA
Sun Xun at MCA
Sun Xun at MCA
Sun Xun at MCA
Aboriginal Art at MCA
Aboriginal Art at MCA

Ordinary Aussie life

After enjoying the Royal Botanic Gardens, where I meet a tender couple from Bangladesh, on Wednesday I take it easy. Lunch on Darling Harbour, the enclave of restaurants and clubs on the bay, and ferry ride with coffee in Rose Bay. Rose Bay is a very quiet residential area, no popular beaches but parks, children playing football, Aussie blonde and wealthy mums, quite all the same.

In the late afternoon I take the night bus to Melbourne from the airport: 12 hours of travel!!! The driver is a bearded Australian Guccini, a bit rough and apparently anxious to lose people at every night stop… Will they all arrive in Melbourne?

Sydney, Royal Botanic Gardens
Royal Botanic Gardens




Read the other posts about Sydney:
Sydney, day 3 – Yeasts, alcoholics and ghosts
Bondi Beach, day 4 – “The sound of breaking waves”

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