Canberra – licked clean

Canberra, the capital city is less than a hundred years old! That’s enough to give a person from a country that is celebratedly old a great sense of superiority.  Even Ooty is twice as old.

The city was planned and  built as the capital, in between the squabbling Sydney and Melbourne. The location is beautiful of course, in a flat valley surrounded by hills. The streets are broad and straight and well laid out, and on the Saturday morn, empty. Ghost Town was my first reaction.

First stop on any visitor’s list is the War Memorial. Its more than the statue of a brave soldier – a large museum of the wars Australia has fought. Being a very young country, they have fought a handful and strive hard to keep that history in memory.

Besides the paraphernalia of the solider at war, canteen, helmet etc, there are actual cannons captured from the germans, war tanks and torpedos. Models of places where action took place and Australian soldiers lost their lives dot the rooms. But the best part is the airforce of the second world war. Small planes are suspended from the roof, speakers bring in the whoor of planes flying ,in one corner a newsreel plays. One is transported to a different era. How, did anyone fly that little thing bravely and then fire guns from that! When we leave the War memorial, we cannot help but thinking about all those young men who so bravely went off to war and lost their lives in such hostile environments.

Right opposite at the end of a wonderful avenue is the Parliament House. Graceful, simple, well designed, it welcomes visitors ‘ 7 days a week, unfortunately for us’ as a guard put it. The actual house is small but the view from the rooftop is spectacular.

Lunch with new found relatives broke the day very pleasantly. Older expatriates are so happy to get in touch with people from backhome. And surprisingly, they are so well informed on Hollywood and Bollywood news!

There was  time to go around the huge artificial lake and relax a bit by its shores, watching families picnicking with  wind surfing, boats, swimming, sailing.. all the Australian outdoor loves.

The drive home took more than 3 hours and was the best part of the day. Miles and miles of empty pasture dotted by few barns and houses. There were cattle farms, sheep farms, horse breeding farms, vineries along the way. But still, very few people in this vast landscape.

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