Australians are quick to dismiss their capital and I don’t think I have ever heard anybody bragging about being
from Canberra. Indeed, the state of ACT (Australia Capital Territory) is tiny and Canberra is usually
not on the backpacker trail—we didn’t go last time we were in Oz in 2003.
But this week, we had a car and time in our hands, so we took the mountain road to the capital to see what it
looked like. The outskirts were very Saskatchewan-ish, flat with sun-burned farmlands and the road was pretty
good (i.e. no dirt roads—don’t laugh, this is Australia!).
Canberra looks like it was built by a communist architecture aficionado: wide empty boulevards, symmetric
roundabouts and 90-degree-angled avenues. It smells of law, order and bureaucracy. In a way, the many
government buildings made me think of Ottawa, except that our capital is built for harsh winters and that all
the concrete in such a warm city was slightly out of place.
We first went to see the massive War Memorial, dedicated to the Anzac (Australia and New Zealand
Army Corps). Symmetry is once again respected and dozens of employees were busy making sure the
grass was uniformly cut.
I wasn’t expecting such a modern Parliament in this city that seemed to refrain from doing anything that
could be interpreted as quirky. I’m used to Ottawa’s old Peace Tower and British-inspired Parliament Buildings.
Australia’s Parliament is as symmetrical as the rest of the city, but the inside is decidedly modern and
looks like a museum rather than a Parliament.
On Friday night, two very different groups of people roamed in the city: those who I presume were locals,
wearing the shirt-and-tie bureaucratic uniform, and hordes of people from the country, with a thick Australian
accent and a farm tan. Apparently, Canberra is the closest place around to party!