Hosier Lane

Melbourne is home to a number of famous laneways where you can find offbeat shops, restaurants and cafés, and murals of sophisticated urban art. Among the most famous, you can find Hosier Lane just off Flinders Street, a bluestone cobbled laneway lined with high-quality, and always changing graffiti. The graffiti covers a number of themes, from pop art to social commentary, and speaks to visitors from all around the world. Even better, you can go down the street a thousand times and see something different every time! Below are just a few of the awesome photos I took: 

The Cowboy Café

I passed this café on my way to work the other day and saw this delightful sign! Apparently, Melbourne's famous coffee culture even caters to PokemonGo gamers! With some luck, you might be able to catch "Coffeemon", "Brunetticakeasaur", or (my personal favourite) "Chaimander" over a premium flat white! The café is located in the suburb of Southbank, just across the bridge from Flinders Street Station and they offer happy hour from 10 AM to 12 PM on weekdays during which you can get a coffee for $2.50. Seems well worth it! Clever marketing strategy, cowboy! "Catch them all in store!" ;)

Coffee Culture: how Melbourne captivated the world

Melbourne is famous for its coffee culture and rightly so. Cafés and restaurants abound and all serve delicious specialty coffees. In fact, Australia is one of the few countries in the world in which Starbucks was considered a failure, as it simply couldn’t compete with local favourites! Moreover, Melbourne has been consistently voted #1 in the world for coffee. A coffee-drinker myself, I very much appreciate this aspect of Melbourne: that you can find good coffee everywhere. You don’t even have to pick a single locale or become a creature of habit because you can rely on just about every café to provide it to your specific taste and satisfaction. One place I am especially fond of is called Turbine located in South Yarra, as it offers sensational lattés, sensational food and pastries, and perhaps, best of all, FREE WIFI. To make things even more exciting, you can find specialty cafés of all kinds – chocolate cafés, Turkish cafés, Italian cafés.. you get the picture. In short, don’t forget to come to Melbourne and enjoy an espresso or two… or ten! You won't regret it!

 

And let us not forget that coffee culture includes Espresso Martinis!

And let us not forget that coffee culture includes Espresso Martinis!

Society Restaurant and Lounge on Bourke Street offers amazing $10 Espresso Martinis during Happy Hour.

Society Restaurant and Lounge on Bourke Street offers amazing $10 Espresso Martinis during Happy Hour.

"Meet you under the clocks!": The Story of a Station

The Flinders Street Railway Station is something of a Melbourne landmark. It remains among the city’s busiest passenger stations and hosts every major train line in the metropolis. In fact, it was considered the world’s busiest such station in the late 1920s. Since its completion in 1909, its ornate façade has beckoned to travelers from all over the world, and it marked the first of its kind in an Australian city. The design is based on the plans drafted by J. W. Fawcett and H. P. C. Ashworth as part of a government-sponsored competition in 1899, and which recalled a late French Renaissance architectural style. Sitting in the grand entrance is a row of clocks (nine clocks, to be precise). These actually originated from the initial temporary station and were purchased from England in the 1860s. They lend Flinders a distinctive appearance and have over time produced a common meeting place for locals along with the popular Melburnian phrase “meet you under the clocks.” Any efforts to replace them with “newer” technologies have been met with fierce resistance and for good reason. Flinders is still one of the most charming (and convenient) places in Melbourne! You can check out the photos below:

 

The Crazy Truth About Bats

 

Bats are just rats with wings. Bats will suck your blood. Bats are blind monsters that fly into your hair and give you rabies. They’re pests and pose a serious threat to local humans. How often have we heard these statements in popular culture and in the media? Whether it is the Halloween season to celebrate all things scary or the latest Dracula feature or the deadliest Ebola outbreak in history, bats seem to regularly star as the world’s most sinister nocturnal villain. Consequently, I think it’s about time we set the record straight about what these animals are and what they do.

First: Bats are not rodents – not even close. They belong to their own family in the animal kingdom and are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. I imagine that the long-standing tradition of misnaming these animals is what has led to this all too common misconception. The word “bat” likely comes from bakka, a Viking word meaning “to bat” or “to flap” which, in turn, relates to the German fledermaus, literally translated as “flutter mouse.”

Second: The only known bat to subsist off blood is the Vampire Bat, which lives in the tropical regions of Central and South America. Contrary to common belief, however, the Vampire Bat poses little threat to its host, as it drinks the equivalent of just a spoonful of blood and generally targets livestock. Furthermore, the anticoagulants found in this bat’s saliva have contributed to the development of new medications for heart patients.

Third: Most species of bat see better than humans! Echolocation is a remarkable navigational technique they possess so as to catch small, fast-moving insects in the dark, such as moths and mosquitoes. Bats are capable of eating up to 600 mosquitoes per hour, thus helping to drastically reduce the number of parasites that threaten humans with potentially deadly diseases such as West Nile Virus and Yellow Fever. Also, it is estimated that less than .5% of bats carry rabies, meaning you are more likely to contract the disease from a stray cat or dog!

Finally, bats are not pests! Rather they are quite the opposite, as they hugely benefit the natural world and our quality of life. Not only do they keep the population of potentially dangerous insects in check and save farmers billions of dollars on pest control, but they also provide a number of vital services to our planet’s ecosystems. Without bats to disperse seeds and pollinate plants, many of the popular fruits we enjoy, including bananas, mangoes, and guavas, would be in short supply. Their activities fertilize and sustain all kinds of terrain, both desert and rainforest alike, and their absence could devastate the very environment we depend upon for survival.

 

In short, the crazy truth about bats is actually quite simple: without them our entire world, from our agricultural industries to our basic health, would rapidly deteriorate. To make matters worse, today’s bats face dire threats that must be addressed now if we have any hope of preserving them along with our own wellbeing.  Bats around the globe suffer so many obstacles: the destruction of their natural habitats, white-nose syndrome, and climate change, to name but a few, all of which are exacerbated by our unfounded prejudices and general ignorance. Instead of attacking bats as vessels for trouble and pestilence, we should be doubling – no, tripling! – our efforts to protect them (and thus ourselves) from extinction. Perhaps with a bit more education on the subject we can work to dispel the damaging myths that surround bats, so that we can learn to appreciate them rather than fear them. Whether we like it or not, we need bats to maintain life as we know it and they need our help, and the longer we wait to take action the greater the risk of losing them forever.

Now, you might be asking yourself… what does this have to do with Australia? I'm SO GLAD you asked! Australia is home to my very favourite type of bat – the flying fox – the cutest, sweetest, fluffiest of them all. There are several different kinds of them as well, such as the Grey-Headed Flying Fox (pictured below) also known as a megabat. Unfortunately, I have not had much of an opportunity to see many of them in the wild seeing as its winter and the bats prefer to stay warm and secluded, but my determination to save them through my tedious ranting shall not be deterred! 

For more information, please visit Bat Conservation International at http://www.batcon.org

Sleepy Grey-Headed Flying Foxes at Healesville Sanctuary.

Sleepy Grey-Headed Flying Foxes at Healesville Sanctuary.

© Bat Conservation International

© Bat Conservation International

Baby Bat https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/b3/21/49/b32149e9c2658b46c27f854436ea0564.jpg

Baby Bat

https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/564x/b3/21/49/b32149e9c2658b46c27f854436ea0564.jpg

Multicultural Melbourne

As I’ve mentioned before, Melbourne makes up one of the world’s most culturally and ethnically diverse cities. Boasting a population of over 4.35 million people, nearly a quarter of whom were born overseas, Melbourne’s residents originate from more than 180 different countries, speak some 233 languages, and subscribe to 116 religions. After English, Italian and Greek remain the most commonly spoken at home, followed closely by Mandarin and Cantonese. The vast majority of migrants hail from China, India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, New Zealand, Italy, Greece, Lebanon, Great Britain and Ireland. 

Italian-Australians make up the second largest ethnic group in Melbourne after Anglo-Celtic Australians, and they have cultivated a number of Italian cultural centres, restaurants and cafes in the area, including “Little Italy” along Lygon Street running through the inner Northern suburbs. Moreover, Melbourne has the highest number of Greeks of any city in Australia, and any city outside of Greece itself. The Greek Precinct can be found along Lonsdale Street between Swanston and Russel Street in the CBD. So if you want amazing food in an amazing atmosphere, then you know some of the best places to go!

Pictures coming SOON!

The Yarra Valley: My Journey through Victorian Wine Country

I recently took a trip to the Yarra Valley, the region surrounding the Yarra River and home to Melbourne’s famous wines. Among its most prestigious products are pinot noir, chardonnay, and sparkling wine. Perhaps it’s because my family hails from Sonoma County or perhaps it’s because I cultivate a deep love of all that is bubbly and sweet, but the truth remains that I adore wine and was eager to check out the local viticultural scene. Its history is interesting, as well! The first vineyards were planted as far back as 1838 at Yering Station by the Ryrie Brothers, cattle herders from Sydney. By the late nineteenth century, the Yarra Valley had become the most widely respected wine-growing region in the Southern Hemisphere, winning the Grand Prix in the Exposition Universelle in 1889. Though the industry died out soon after due to pests and economic decline, it was revived in the 1960s and now accounts for Victoria’s largest food and wine tourist destination, receiving millions of visitors each year, thus enriching the region’s cultural status and heritage.

 

As for my experience of the Yarra Valley, it was nothing short of magical, as evidenced by the following photos:  

Contemplating the palatal wonders of Australia...

Contemplating the palatal wonders of Australia...

The first tasting of a local Chardonnay.

The first tasting of a local Chardonnay.

Supposedly the kangaroos come hopping through every once in a while! They know the good stuff when they find it! ;) 

Supposedly the kangaroos come hopping through every once in a while! They know the good stuff when they find it! ;) 

I even got to meet the famous "Wine Dogs"! 

I even got to meet the famous "Wine Dogs"! 

We saw kangaroos on the golf course! They were just playing a few holes, though, and didn't want to be bothered.

We saw kangaroos on the golf course! They were just playing a few holes, though, and didn't want to be bothered.

The Search for Refuge: Melbourne's Chin Community

The Chin people make up one of many nationalities of the state of Burma (or Myanmar) and suffer from such severe discrimination and military oppression that thousands of them have been forced to seek refuge beyond its borders. They speak their own language, Hakha Chin, consisting of an estimated 60,000 speakers, and have cultivated a unique and sophisticated culture from ancient times which they carry with them around the globe. Many of them have come to call Melbourne home since they were granted refugee status by Australia so that they might finally find safety. In July of last year, they celebrated the opening of their own meeting space in Croydon North (an outer eastern suburb of Melbourne), and just a month ago in Ringwood, MP Michael Sukkar, the Liberal member for Deakin, helped secure $500,000 via the Community Developments Grants Programme in order to rebuild a new and upgraded multi-purpose facility intended to serve local sporting clubs, as well as the Chin community. Once complete, the pavilion will become a major venue for Chin cultural events, meetings, and celebrations. It has been a real privilege to witness firsthand the success of the Chin here in Australia. But I’d like to remind my fellow Utahns that we also have a sizeable Chin community in the Salt Lake Valley who deserve our love and support as they adjust to life in the US.

Welcome! ¡Bienvenid@s! and G'day!

My name is Samantha and I am writing to you from Melbourne, Australia. I’d first of all like to thank the Hinckley Institute at the University of Utah for this amazing opportunity to gain work experience in one of the greatest cities in the world, even if it is upside-down. I will be writing on a different aspect of the rich and diverse multicultural community in Melbourne every week, besides a number of distractions. As for a little bit of background on myself: I am a graduate student in Communication at the University of Utah and future celebrity. I love chocolate and champagne, wear black clothing, and positively adore bats. Fortunately for me, Melbourne rates highly in all of these things. Let the adventures (and Pulitzer-prize worthy posts) commence! You're welcome in advance for the wisdom I shall impart to you over the coming weeks.