Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tomb With a View

I expected to like Sydney, so I wasn’t a bit surprised that it has turned out to be a friendly, sunny, agreeable city. What surprised me a little bit was the discovery that it is also an attractive city. I knew the harbor was supposed to be pretty, and I knew the weather is good, and I knew that the Opera House is one of the worlds’ most striking buildings. But I also know that Sydney is a relatively new city, as world capitals go, and that it grew enormously in the last 50 years. I worried that this would mean a lot of bland, hastily built post-war sprawl.

In actuality, Sydney has a really interesting mix of old and new architecture. There’s no old district; instead you find solid sandstone Victorian-era government buildings right next to light glass skyscrapers. I find the variety nice to look at, and I can’t think of another city where old and new are integrated in exactly this way.

But far more striking than the architecture of Sydney is the setting. I know that everyone says this about the place, but I guess everyone has to discover this for his- or herself. What really drove it home for me is the observation that harbor views are so plentiful here that they are actually giving them out to dead people and animals.

On our first day, we visited a cemetery near Bondi Beach that stood on a bluff overlooking the open ocean. (It was a setting for some movie we’d never seen.) This was a spectacular setting, but it had nothing on what we saw yesterday at the zoo. The Taronga zoo is situated on top of a hill across the harbor from downtown Sydney. On a clear day, which we had, you can see the above vista from much of the park. It’s a little distracting. At one point, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to look at the giraffes in the foreground or the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background more. I’m sorry if I’ve offended anyone by not automatically prioritizing God’s creatures over man-made constructions, but please keep in mind that they have giraffes at the zoo in my hometown, but I’d never before set eyes on the Sydney Harbor Bridge.

Here is a link to photos. I apologize if some of them don’t have captions yet. I’m on vacation!

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