Sydney awaited us the next morning.
Whenever I visit a big city like Sydney, I like to check out the list of weird stuff to do in said city recommended on the Atlas Obscura website. “Forgotten Songs” was on the list for Sydney. It’s a bunch of bird cages hanging in an alley. There are recordings of birds chirping playing on loop. They are recordings of birds that used to live in central Sydney before Europeans settled there and forced the birds away. Standing directly under the cages, you can hear the ghosts of those birds fighting valiantly for attention over the sounds of construction, traffic, and human movement. It was something I could definitely envision at Toronto’s Nuit Blanche.
Next up on the list was supposed to be the Justice and Police Museum, but it apparently only opens on weekends. It was Friday. We’d have to come back the next day.
On to the Rocks. The Rocks is a historic area sitting right on the Sydney Harbour. It dates back to the city’s early beginnings. Today, you’ll find lane roads full of life–markets, buskers, street food, restaurants, pubs, museums, museums, and of course, a view of the Opera House.
Trevor and I were in a museum mood, so we ventured into the Rocks Museum. It tells of the Cadigal people who were here thousands of years before Europeans arrived, as well as the development of the area and the city itself.
Not much is known about the Cadigal people except for what could be gleamed from the educated guesses of the British settlers who met them here upon arriving from Europe.
Thinking back to the Immigration Museum in Melbourne, I had to laugh at the people who spit out that nationalist BS rhetoric to veil their racist views. You want immigrants to get out of “your” country when the Cadigal have been here for AT LEAST 15, 000 years? Possibly even up to 50, 000? And instead of trying to peacefully interact with the Cadigal, what did those brilliant Brits do? Why, they captured a couple of them to learn more about their culture.
Much like Canadian Aboriginals, they lived off the land and water, using wood to build canoes, fishing lines, nets, baskets, and spears, and relying on the fish for food and the water for transportation. In order to get the specific type of wood for their canoes, the Cadigal people had to barter with neighbouring Aboriginal communities.
It seems there was a lot of harmony among the different groups. Besides bartering, they were often documented celebrating many group ceremonials together.
Only a few hundred words of the Cadigal language have survived. Among them are bunya for kiss, dyalgala for hug, guwing for sun, and yanada for moon.
Inland clans had similar languages, but they had their differences as well. For example, inland clans did not remove teeth from the front right side of a man’s mouth as a rite of passage.
Within a particular clan, there were also bands of 25-60 people. These were families that went hunting, fishing, and gathering food together. Of course, a man could have more than one wife. Of course. However, they couldn’t marry within the same band.
Women were able to row their canoes with their children on their shoulders AND catch fish at the same time. Men, on the other hand, stood on rocks and threw spears to catch fish.
Moving past the Cadigal history and culture, there were some interesting characters that lived in Sydney back in the day.
First there was George Cribb. This dude would have been on Maury today. He and his mistress, Fanny, got caught with a forged one-pound note in England, and were sentenced to 14 years on the colony in Sydney. Once here, he married her even though he was already married, and opened up a butcher shop.
Ol’ Georgie ended up poisoning the nearby well with all of his waste, and the well became a public dump site.
Three years later, in 1815, Cribbs’ wife, Mary, showed up on his doorstep. He paid Fanny a cool 300 pounds to hit the road. Sadly, Mary died two years later.
Georgie remarried in 1818 to Sophia, a widowed mother of five. During that time, George built up some property to lease out to other convicts, as well as another butcher shop. I’m hoping these contributions to the local community, and not his extramarital affairs are why he got a street named after him.
In the end, though, after five years of marriage, Sophia left him and won pretty much all of his property in a civil lawsuit. Georgie eventually sold his home and pretty much disappeared from all records.
Then there was Young Griffo. This guy was one of the greatest boxers of all time, but he died a fat, destitute, lonely alcoholic.
Speaking of alcohol, I like that there was even a section dedicated to the history of pubs and drunkenness in the area. There were 50 pubs in this area alone!
John Tawell, though would have none of it! He opposed all forms of alcohol! He even purchased over 2000 litres of rum and gin, just so that he could pour it out in the streets. THAT is criminal, sir! And YOU are a douchebag!
Guy’s wife dies, he ends up having an affair with her nurse, remarries (another woman, not the nurse), and when he can’t afford to maintain a wife and mistress due to the Depression, he kills his mistress with POISONED BEER! Thankfully, he was apprehended.
By 1900, Sydney had expanded and allowed its core to rot away. The Rocks were seen as a slum and a home to all sorts of vice. When a small outbreak of the Bubonic Plague took 3 victims thanks to some rats that arrived on a ship from India, the local authorities seized this opportunity to buy up a bunch of the property so they could tear it all down.
However, demolition and reconstruction had to be put on hold once the War and the Depression hit.
Then again, in 1970, talks of tearing the place down surfaced. This time, though, the locals came to the defence of their beloved community. They were fighting for the low income families who would have no place to live if the Rocks were transformed into expensive high rises.
Once outside, Trevor and I grabbed some delicious oven-baked capricciosa pizza and took in some of the local busker talent courtesy of Father & Son. Of course, I had to buy their CD.
When I went to throw out our garbage, I noticed this statue in the corner. It was dedicated to “Biggles.” There was no explanation as to who Biggles was, so I looked him up. Apparently he was a local dog who was loved by everybody in the community. He could often be seen riding on the back of his owner’s bike or jumping across balconies chasing cats. He died when he jumped off a cliff chasing what may or may not have been a rat.
This structure was pretty cool. It’s three portraits, back to back to back. They are The Soldier, The Settlers, and The Convict.
What with it being Chinese New Year, though, it also happened to feature a slew of these awesome lanterns and structures.
I’m too lazy/tired to write my own summary, so here you go. (I travelled 24+ hours yesterday, cut me some slack.)
“Dragon is a fantastic being of immense power and mysticism, and the emblem of Chinese culture. In this lantern, a little boy retrieves a jewel from Dragon’s mouth, enabling Dragon to spit water and bring rain to the land. Symbols on each side of Dragon signify a relationship with local Australian culture.”
“The two roosters engaged in a dancing fight symbolise strength and courage. To highlight the rooster’s beauty and confidence, vibrant colours feature throughout the feathers.”
“In China, the pig is known for having a lucky and happy character and a sense of humour. In the western world, people say ‘pigs might fly.’ This artwork explores both eastern and western notions about this lovable animal.” This one was, hands down, my favourite. (It was Trevor’s favourite too.)
“In Chinese culture, the tiger incites both awe and admiration for its prowess, ferocity, and beauty. This big cat is full of life and embodies the spirit and drive to achieve and make prgress. The tiger reprsents the greatest earthly power, as well as protection over human life. The sign on this tiger’s forehead spells ‘king,’ which is common in most Chinese symbols depicting a tiger.”
This majestic ox takes pride of place with a stunning display featuring over 26, 000 LED ixels. A nod to he game of Mahjong, the 10-metre high ox is made up of hundres of illuminated mahjong tiles, projecting an enchanting light and creating a link between heaven and earth.”
“A six-metre high declaration of L-O-V-E, this lanern is inspired by Guo Jian’s experience moving to Australia and being embraced and supported by the Sydney LGBTIQ community. The rat is colourful and visually dynamic, but look closer and you’ll see the Chinese character for ‘love’ creating a bridge between China and Sydney.
Some other randoms:
Customs House was also featuring an exhibit about the odd relationship between humans and the animal kingdom in the heart of the concrete jungle known as the city.
First there was a series of letters of complaint written from 1873-1894. These were about everything from the smell of buried dogs in the neighbour’s yard to the irritating sound of screeching flying foxes at night.
Then there was a picture of an old familiar friend from way back in Munich.
The original is actually in Venice, but there are replicas all around the world. (Including two in Canada!) This particular replica was donated to Sydney in 1968 by an Italian woman as a memorial to her brother and father. Money dropped in the fountain is donated to the Sydney Hospital.
Then there was the badass border collie, Bailey, who was adopted by the Australian National Maritime Museum to keep all the damn seagulls away from the harbour. There’s an adorable video playing on loop that features footage captured from a Go Pro that’s attached to Bailey. You can see Bailey running all over the place, barking nonstop at the seagulls.
This interesting installation speaks on the complex relationship Australia has with its Asian immigrant community. While koi fish are revered pets in Asian culture, there are seen as pests in parts of Australia. Thus, it almost seems to suggest that the Asian community is invading Australia. However, it’s also suggesting that nature is wild and uncontrollable. It’s all around us and a part of us. Migration and the pursuit of a happy life is completely natural and all around us.
And since it’s the Year of the Dog, you can’t have an exhibit celebrating animals without some dogs thrown in. These dogs, in particular, are celebrating the work of guide dogs. These are some of my favourites.
Coco’s blinged out bod is meant to remind us of just how much beautiful light a guide dog brings into its owner’s life. I also like that petting Coco is a very tactile experience, like most things are for a blind person.
Apparently guide dogs see in black and white. And obviously, guide dogs are very smart. Soooo…there ya go. Apparently the surface is made up of photos that were taken at dog level while going for a walk. I didn’t really notice though.
This dog is covered in western and eastern traditional tattoo images, such as dragons, koi fish, anchors and roses.
This artist simply wanted to express the joy, optimism, and independence that a guide dog brings into the life of its owner.
I think this one is self-explanatory.
Then there were some interesting photos. I love this one not only because it’s so weird, but also because it’s more than just a simple visual experience; when you look at it, you create a narrative in your mind that attempts to make sense of this image. And I guarantee that everybody who sees this photograph comes up with a slightly different narrative. That’s pretty cool.
This one is not so cool.
THIS cat photo, however, is very cool. This cat lived up on the Pylon Lookout its whole life. Its owner ran the tourist attraction for 21 years, starting in 1950.
Okay, that’s enough museum talk for one day.
On to the obligatory Opera House shots.
We’ll wrap things up with the Botanical Garden.
Afterwards, we went to meet up with our Couch Surfing host, Arjen–a Dutch fella who’s lived an interesting life. Well, in a way, he lives a very simple life. He has very few belongings and a bare bones apartment, because that makes uprooting himself to another country every few months that much easier. I think he’s off to Malaysia next.
Arjen accompanied me on my search for dinner in his neighbourhood, which is a densely Asian community. We stumbled upon a jam packed restaurant, so obviously we ventured in.
I don’t know what this type of food is called, but it’s a make-your-own-something. You get a huge bowl and go to the back of the line. There’s a buffet of all sorts of veggies and meets you can put in your soup. I grabbed EVERYTHING. It all looked so good! To give you an idea of how much I put in my bowl, the price for your meal is determined by the weight of your bowl. The guy in front of me paid just over $5. I paid $21.
When I finally got my bowl, it could’ve served four people. I downed two thirds of it, and went to bed a happy man.