Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Monday, April 23, 2012


I love the time spent in an airport! You have to be there waaaay ahead of your flight, so you have time to spare, to peruse the stores, see what’s new, to go through security and count how many times you can go through the scanner with your iPod nano clipped on, to find your gate and a block to park yourself and your whole family and luggage. If the airport has windows on that side, you can see the take-off or the landing of a different flight. It is the quiet time before a storm of new experiences ...
Looking at all the possibilities of transportation to our apartment, Mihai felt confident to take the train. After finding out where to buy tickets, and which tickets (for two hours of for the whole day) and where to change the trains, we boarded one. The children were out from schools and they were migrating in their groups, girls giggling and primped up, boys slurping from sodas and with clothes in a disarray. People talk loud, I can follow their conversation and their accent tickles me.
We walk on the streets in the Prahran neighborhood, looking in the shop’s windows, at how people dress... We meet with the owner of our apartment and she explains everything that we need to know. It is a nice one bedroom apartment, furnished in a masculine style, with a large balcony. We like it so much that we don’t want to leave it. This is a problem that slowly grows on us: the moment we find a clean new house, we just want to stay there, away from the crowds, from the touristic objectives, from the options of restaurants and their choices of food, away from each other. Yes, we find a spot only for our own self and with a book or headphones, we are free to be in our own world. But it can’t last... Mihai wants to see!
Prahran market is THE market, a covered space with natural lighting in which there are different vending spaces, according to their ethnicities. Greek food with olives, tszaziki, hummus and bread; French pastries and cheeses; Italian ravioli and vegetarian lasagna mingled with stalls of vegetables and fruits, flowers, candles and soap, seeds, and wine and beer. The meat and fish were in a different part, enticing you to buy from their beds of crushed ice or their illuminated trays. This is the place to buy your vegetarian burgers, next to the real ones! In this market you can have a massage, or do your manicure, or take a picture with the owner of a shop and get a free cheese!

Just one wall of beer
Though we read several times what we have to see in Melbourne, we still didn’t have a clue. One thing was clear: we had to be on its streets. 

We rode the tramcar every day, listening to some people’s conversation, because they talk so loud. It felt good, adding the Australians to the list, beside Americans, Chinese, Germans, Hispanics and Slavs. The buildings are of modern architecture, with bold colors and design, mixing with the old one, enhancing each other. 

St.Paul church's entrance reflects the old and the new.

We start with the Melbourne museum but the Aboriginal exhibit is closed until 2013, so we admire the welcome rug and some paintings. 

Next we go into the forest, which is housed in the open part, covered by a slanted roof, and netting in the special birds. 

The ecosystem is presented in its parts, the preciousness of water, the role of ants and other insects in returning the fallen tree material back to nature, of birds, of fire as it clears and sterilizes space, opens seeds and creates conditions to take root.

There is an exhibition of the human body, and my smell tells me it is with real, preserved human parts.A sign is stating this and also a warning about nudity. In Las Vegas I had to pay $40 a ticket to show it to Maria (who was interested in drawing the human body at that specific time).
Ileana was lost in the one about the human mind, reading about the tricks that our senses play on us, and we literally had to search for her, as she was not responding to the family’s whistled signal (we got some weird looks and even a partial imitation), because she can’t whistle. Searching for her on every nook and floor I got to see impaled insects,

 bones of every creature 

and the little insects who were working to clean them of flesh (they put the dead body in a glass walled box with the insects, leave it for a while, depending how big is the animal, and they will consume EVERYTHING but the bones), rocks and stuffed animals. I was impressed by the modernism of the presentation, not just as a tridimensional display, but in terms of information also, videoclips and manipulation material, if one is so inclined.

Next to this museum was a world heritage building, The Royal Exhibition Center that Mihai had to visit. We had to go with a guide and, in the his words, “stick together.”

The Royal Exhibition Center reflected in the facade of the Melbourne Museum

 It is funny how situations change: the people in charge opposed the building of the Melbourne museum on grounds of an eyesore, now they are happy, it brought the attention to their crumbling building, helped in getting the statute of World Heritage and it brings venue, as people want to visit it. They did a nice job  restoring it, but in essence is a big empty space built for the International Exhibit of 1888 that is used a few times a year for exhibitions or social gatherings.

The Museum reflected in the entrance of the Royal Exhibition Center

The Victoria State Library is a wonderful place to spend some time. The children were happy with the free wifi and the section of Wii-like games. We saw two exhibitions that impressed us. 

The first was about books, the history of making books, from manuscript on velum to paper and printing, important books and how they changed the world, types and styles of books, genre, to modern, virtual ways. It is chilling to see proven the dictum “Scripta manent”—what is written, stays.

The other one was about “The Changing Faces of Victoria.” The state was populated with free people (in contrast with Sydney, that had imprisoned people), willing to take a chance in a new world, doing what they knew: growing crops, cattle, building, sewing and so on. Their difficulties in a harsh environment (there is a picture of a mound of eight tones of mice poisoned by twelve people). Their interaction with the aboriginal people. Their outlaws with their armor made of iron, bullet proof. Everything was so recent, less than 150 years ... I looked around and I saw students gathered to do their homework, talking around their laptops, searching on the internet, reading. The round quiet room with its long tables and green lamps, old and new together, a vibrant energy.

 It is the same outside, in the streets. In front of the Flinders Station there is a group that fights back for a free education, better public transport, affordable housing, secure work and action on climate change. Across the street is the Festival of Comedies where people sitting on the walkway laugh at crass jokes and marvel at the woman who fits in a small box. I look at their laughing faces, different skins, different eyes and noses, all the same. Melbourne is a cosmopolitan city!
We walk back home through parks with small lakes and birds, water fountains and statues of different people. We stop to visit the ANZAC monument, on top of the hill with a view of the city. 

ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps and we found different monuments in places with a high pedestrian traffic. 

Lest we forget

... that they gave their life for their fellows and country. I don’t think it is possible to forget when you have so many reminders, from a poster to a plaque on a wall, from a statue of a soldier carrying his fallen comrade to a monument. It makes you stop and read: this one is for the first World War, this flame is for the second...

We strolled through the Botanical Gardens, took pictures of its green leafy pond. Azolla filiculoides is a plant that absorbs large quantities of nitrogen and phosphorus and then is harvested as a fertilizer for crops, such as rice. We had fun. 

Melbourne is a special city, full of energy, never quiet, with people on their way to a friendly gathering. We liked being a part of it. 

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