Capital Shitty

21 February 2010

The following things happened during our visit to Canberra:

  • Our train to Canberra was stuck at a place called Tarago, NSW, for over an hour due to an obstruction on the tracks (at one stage we were told we would have to get off the train and wait for a road coach).

  • Upon arrival at the hotel, over an hour after check-in time, we had to wait for our room due to a system failure.

  • The air-conditioning in the room was stuck on Arctic, and could not be repaired. The hotel had no spare rooms, despite it being midweek, out of season, and parliament not sitting, so we had to make do with a blow heater, which was full of dust and smelt funny.

  • At least the paintings were good.

  • We waited at a taxi rank in the busiest part of the Canberra CBD for nearly 45 minutes from 4pm. No taxis. It's not that there was a queue for cabs; there were simply no vehicles at all.

  • Having missed our train because of this, and unable to arrange coach travel, we went to the airport. The good folk at Virgin Blue were able to arrange flights to Sydney that evening for us at a not extortionate sum...

  • ...however, our flight was delayed by an hour. DH actually ran into a sympathiser from the taxi rank on the plane. As we took off, we vowed never to return to Canberra.

It's hard not to think that this may be the best sight you'll see in Canberra...

The diminishing sight of the place as you return to Sydney or Melbourne
I've heard normal people describe Canberra as boring, but as a political wonk who enjoys museums and galleries, I was prepared to quite like the place. Upon arrival though, I could see the validity of all the's far flung (a cyclist's paradise, with bike racks on every bus, but an appalling nightmare in which to walk, with great whacking distances between everything), expensive, lacking in culture and lacking in decent bars. It's not just a question of it being a smaller place than Sydney. Newcastle is a small city too, but it has an organic feel; DH, not ever a Novocastrian by residence but a frequent visitor, points out you may turn a corner and find yourself at a row of terrace houses, or at a little local shopping area with a dsecent cafe and second hand bookshop, or even an interesting old abandoned warehouse. Canberra has none of that - it just feels sort of plonked. That's the problem with urban development strategies, even for established cities like Sydney. Urban renewal can seem the answer when an area is run down, but compare the Rocks with Darling Harbour. One was planned, the other wasn't. Cities need to evolve organically to be interesting, and that means taking the good with the bad.


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