Friday, April 20, 2007

Charming Hobart--Photos Added

This morning, after two nights spent in a questionable hostel then another in a cold, unwelcoming bunkhouse, Tyler and I ate a delightful Tasmanian-bred breakfast: local organic bread toasted with a delicious late summer apricot jam, more bread with some local Tilsin cheese, and our usual English Breakfast tea. All bought from a fantastic Saturday market. But I get ahead of myself.

On our flight from Christchurch to Melbourne, the inflight magazine included a section on Hobart which said something to the effect of "Hobart is happening." While I think Tasmania is a bit of Australia's whipping boy, our first day in Hobart proved it to be pretty charming.

Before we arrived, I wondered how similar and different Tasmanians (Aussies) would be from Kiwis. While they both are part of the same continent and have British roots, they do have some noticeable differences. The first one revealed itself during breakfast. The whole time we were in New Zealand, we heard about the upcoming New Zealand versus Australia rugby match to be held in Brisbane. It happens every year and must be held in each country every other year, because I think New Zealand hadn't won on Australian soil in several years. We saw interviews of players, the selection of the new team captain was leading news, and we were all primed to watch the match on Australian soil. But when we asked our waiter at breakfast if he knew when the match was, he just looked at us a bit quizzically and said it "wasn't really his thing. Cheers!" Then we asked while at the local information center. The guy there also didn't know, and he and his colleague nearby confessed that this was really "footy" land. We never did see the match, but we did see a show on Friday Night Football before going to bed. Australian Rules Football looked to be a strange mish-mash of football, rugby, basketball (it appears some dribbling is involved) and soccer. Odd sport, though one that might grow on us in the next week or so. The other difference so far (though it's really too early to make too many judgements) is that the Aussies haven't been quite as friendly so far. They're not unfriendly, but at a similar campsite in New Zealand, we had lots of random conversations while sitting in the kitchen with other travelling couples, most Kiwis and most quite a bit older than us. But here the Tassies seem to talk to each other and not pay much mind to us. But, as I said, it's too early to make any firm judgements.

Hobart is set on a bay with an English/nautical feel. We found our way to Salamanca Square, an old part of town with converted warehouses from whaling days that is now a hip part of town with shops, cafes, and bars. It's a neat street--curved with the buildings all built right next to each other with slightly different styles (sort of Boston-esque, maybe) and a nice park with big old trees lining the street. After wandering through Battery Point, lots of old cottages and a nice neighborhood, we wandered through St. David's Park. Interestingly, the park was originally a cemetary for early settlers that had fallen into disrepair and gotten inconveniently close to businesses and the town. Hobart decided to repurpose the land for a city park, keeping some of the larger monuments up while building walls that included the headstones. While it sounds a bit morbid, it actually felt really respectful and like a wise decision.

Old headstones in wall around St David's Park

Then we headed off for a tour of the oldest brewery in Australia--Cascade Brewery. Set at the base of Mount Wellington, the highest point overlooking the town, we got to see the original brewery, learn all about making malt (they make their own from barley) and beer brewing. Then we got to taste. While they were all solid beers (if a little light to my usual tastes), there was one standout, the First Harvest. Each year they make one batch of beer from fresh hops when they are harvested. The result a fresh, almost green-tasting beer with a lovely reddish color. It was fun to be in the right place at the right time to try something unique.

Cascade Brewery

Considered extinct stuffed Tasmanian Tiger, or Tylacine, behind the bar (actually a large, meat-eating marsupial rather than being like a tiger)

Delicious First Harvest

During the tour, we had noticed some racing-type cars going down the road past the brewery. I had a vague recollection of hearing that there was a car rally going on in Tasmania this week, and it turned out we were seeing part of the Targa Tasmania, a rally that has classic and modern cars racing throughout the country. I hadn't given it a lot of attention since I figured it would be happening in far-off places where we wouldn't be, but it was pretty fun to see many different cars passing by. However, they were all abiding by the city speedlimit, so I think it was just a time for them to get from one race to another, while waving at random fans on the street. Definitely made waiting for the bus much more interesting than usual!

Tyler and the Targa Racers

After that, back to the wharf for more fried fish than you can shake a stick at. There were three floating docks we had noticed in the morning where they sold both fresh catch of the day as well as fish and chips in many types and varieties. With our bellies now achingly full, we watched 300, grabbed a Cascade Stout at a local Irish pub, and called it a night.

Then to the market of the delicious local goodies. The Salamanca Market is a weekly affair, featuring over 200 stalls and everything from produce to jams to honey to clothes, records, food booths, bread, you name it. Picture the Pike Place Market outside and multiply by at least two. We managed to do a fair bit of damage, buying some local apricot jam, mustard, bread, cheese, corn, apples, olives, and Tyler's third hat of the trip:

Tyler looking quite dashing in his new Harris Tweed hat

Isn't he cute? Sadly, I had to pass up spicy rhubarb jam, kumquat marmalade, beetroot marmalade, verjus, elderflower juice.....and more goodies that we just couldn't possibly make it through in our remaining 8 days. But I did learn that there is wine country in Tasmania, specializing in cold climate wines including Pinot Noirs and sparkling wines, so I'll have even more to look forward to on our journey around the country!

No comments: