Should you by chance find yourself in Melbourne, a fair city that rests along the southern side of the southern continent, you will be at once taken by the feeling that you have entered a foreign country. You have barely stepped off the train at the Station and even before your gait sheds the rolling movement of the train, you step onto the surreal heart of this city. And the heart is not one you expect after all your wanderings in Australia, it is a space totally devoted to a stance away from the normal. The square is not a square, it is a jagged irregularly lit space lined by equally angular buildings, all glowing this way and that in the cold wintry night. The rain that falls intermittently is cold as well, but you will scarcely feel it, dear traveler, as you wander around the square with a jaw threatening to drop in anticipation of further wonders. Here, for example, is the debris of a celebration, with only a giant and serene Buddha bathed in the light of an enormous screen relaying a popular entertainment. Here, for example, is the nerve centre of that most excellent of broadcasting services, and seeing the familiar blue and white logo makes you nostalgic for a time that is yet to come, a time when you realize that you are no longer in Australia. Words sidle across buildings, lights dangle between buildings, and there in the distance you can make out a spire reaching for the sky.
As you wander among the alleyways and the bylanes and the little connections between the streets, you notice throngs of people gathered together, huddling in barely lit cafes on chairs thrust onto the streets. You get the feeling, as you walk past the people, and as you peer into the various shops selling exquisite paper, or clothes or coffee or even books, that there is at least one city in this land that knows how to be a city. And the walls themselves bustle with the efforts of hundreds of artists who seek to claim a tiny bit of the wall, knowing full well that this claim shall soon fade to another’s hand. Some find a little more permanence than others, their work protected by a perspex sheet, but even this is mocked in this impermanent world.
A multitude of languages beguile your ear here, dear traveler, and even though you might be schooled in many, there are still several here that elude your grasp. And as you walk along the road, you will soon encounter the trams trundling along anachronistically, electricity arcing from the wires. And if you forego the road for the trams, you will soon realize that an entire series of lessons in etiquette await you. There are wonders here, in buildings that house ancient manuscripts that gleam in the light, in secret museums devoted to the capturing of light or to stones that capture the light, and in eccentric shops that are crammed with scientific curiosities -from miniature engines that work with the heat from light to insects and spiders fossilized in resin blocks.
And then, dear traveler, as your feet weary and you yearn for respite, you may well be surprised to stumble upon a restaurant that serves you food from your homeland, and in the manner that you only have memories of, and then, as you watch the city unfurl before you as you drink a fine coffee, you realize that you have always known Melbourne. You only had to see it to be sure it existed.


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