MELBOURNE - Family time
15 January 2002 to 20 January 2002
Melbourne, for us, was very much family time. Both Eitan and I have first cousins there, immigrants from South Africa, and it was especially wonderful to be with family after nearly a month of not knowing anybody. We first stayed with Sharon and Joe Leibowitz, Eitan’s cousins. Over dinner we met their children Natalie and Josh. Not unexpectedly my insistence on taking a photo as soon as Joe came home (“No, take one later when the whole family is together”) ended in being the only photo we have together with them. (Later on in the trip, we visited their son Daniel who lives in North Queensland.) Sharon had visited us in Israel and even though she was about to leave for South Africa for her ma Winnie’s 80th birthday, she insisted on feeding us and taking us to see the city. Melbourne is a huge spread out city: outside a few tall buildings in the very heart of town everything else is single story, double at most. To go by car to their nearest tram and then get into town took about 45 minutes.
We also spent time with my cousins, Mark and
Sue Glasser and their children Dani and Mike. We met them at the
Gaslight Market. On certain nights the huge Queen Victoria Market
becomes an enormous food court with buskers playing everywhere as well
as tens of stalls selling everything from rocks to back massages to
clothes. Of course the place was jam-packed with people, but
certainly a must see and eat there place. For dessert we went to Acland
Street, also very crowded, and while we ate ice cream we walked along
the street and marveled at the amount of cake and patisserie shops in
Friday night we spent with the Glassers and we were glad that Sue invited Joe (Sharon had already left) as well as her parents. We talked about Joe’s passion of orienteering and Sue’s see in the dark watches and just plain family matters.
With the Glassers we met Russel Glasser. We were all delighted when he came over early Monday morning to meet us all. Eitan immediately sat him down in front of our computer to get family details to update our family tree. Dani and Mike were fascinated to meet some one who had the same surname as them. My dad spelt his name ‘Glazer’, which he insisted was the correct spelling of the name and was the cause of arguments for years. When we were in Vilna a few years ago we looked up records and saw that neither was right – there it appears as Glezer!
We did take time off to do touristy things. While walking in the Botanic Gardens we came upon thousands of Flying Foxes (fruit bats) hanging upside down in all kinds of trees. They were not in caves; many were not asleep but flying around, scratching or squabbling but they were awfully smelly and are a terrible pest.
Josh Leibowitz came with us to the Australian Open Tennis Championship. Although it was an early round we saw a lot of great tennis, including Hingis warming up and Safin, both the eventual champions. Eitan has decided that since we have also attended the US Open, we should aim at a Grand Slam and try for Wimbledon and the French Open!
We went to the Queen Victoria Market during the day and it was tremendous. It is roofed over with thousands of fruit and vegetable stalls, clothes etc, a delicatessen area, organic area, enclosed food court and a separate air-conditioned meat and fish area. That was the most fascinating – tens and tens of stalls offering all kinds of fish and meat (including kangaroo) at amazingly low prices and everything spotlessly clean. Even if you’re not a foodie it is a fascinating place.
We overnighted in Bendigo. A few years ago I
guided a group of Christian pilgrims to Israel. Although many tourists
give me their addresses, this group was so special that we actually
arranged to visit. Our hosts, Archdeacon John Geldart and his wife
Marjorie told us that it would take us about 2 hours to get to there.
What they forgot to tell us was that it would take another hour to get
out of Melbourne. Nearly all the people from the tour came and we were
treated to a barbecue lunch at the Geldart’s house. John had gone off
to play bowls but the rest of his ‘troops’ entertained us. Dorothy
Duncan is a docent at the excellent Bendigo Art Gallery and she
took all of us around. We thoroughly enjoyed our first introduction to
Aboriginal Art as well as seeing other Australian art. Aboriginal art
is different; with its dots and squiggles and lines it is really a map
of memory, tradition and place and like all maps you have to know the
Bendigo is based on gold mining. We were interested to hear that a South African firm was about to re-open the now defunct mines. In the mid 1800’s thousands of Chinese diggers came to work the gold mines. Today they are well integrated into society and we visited the Golden Dragon Museum, which houses two Imperial Chinese Dragons, the oldest and the longest. The longest, Sun Loong is over 100 meters long and over 150 people are needed to carry it on parade. Discrimination is a part of life we knew in South Africa and unfortunately takes many forms in Israel today. So it was interesting to us that Australia also had its problems. In the museum we saw that a factory, with its higher tax structure, was defined as three people working together. Perhaps recognizing the industriousness of the Chinese, a single Chinese person was considered a factory and had to pay the same taxes! (A little about discrimination against Aborigines will appear under Canberra.)
On the advice of the Geldarts we
drove to Echuca on the Murray River. The Murray River is 2700km long,
the third longest navigable river in the world. Echuca was founded by
an ex-convict, Harry Hopwood, and became a most important inland port,
bringing wool and timber from some 900kms away. From here it was
transported overland to Melbourne. Red eucalyptus logs are so dense
they don’t float; they were transported on barges behind the paddle
steams. The steamers had paddlewheels on their sides so that when the
river was low they could ‘walk’ over the mud pools. We went for a ride
on the P.S. Alexander Arbuthnot, the only original boat that runs on
the river. It was built in 1923, the last boat for the declining river
trade when the railway was extended and was much faster than the boats.
Although it was very hot with little breeze and unlike the other steamers, there was no commentary, it was a delightful lazy ride up and down the river giving time to ponder how slow life used to be in contrast to our instant happening lives.
Back in Melbourne we parked in the Glassers’ driveway. We spent a most pleasant evening talking family, family tree and swapping immigration stories. Quality time. With great excitement we prepared the motorhome for the kids to sleep there. Mike who is only 7 but very tall for his age, when given a choice, immediately opted for them to sleep alone there; Dani, two years older, was a little more hesitant but went along. They went to bed with torches and cellphone but no trouble and absolutely loved it.
Reluctantly we said goodbye and were delighted when Mark gave us some strips of biltong for the road.
Our last stop before leaving Melbourne was to visit Helen and Nathan Reizer, best friends of Lindy and Richard Davis, whom we’d met at Jordan’s barmitzvah in New Zealand. We even managed a little bit of entertaining in our motorhome!