Thursday, January 16, 2014

Brisbane's Off the Beaten Track

If you had a chance to visit Brisbane for the second time, wouldn't you?

I did. And this time, there wasn't a mental checklist of places to cover, but those hole-in-the-wall corners rightfully off the beaten track. I wanted to checkout some Aussie DVD’s at the mall, like Myers or Queen Street Mall; or discover KFC the Australian way (I’ve always had this penchant for trying KFC in different countries, the familiarity of the taste of chicken takes me back home for a fleeting moment); or catch some alternative flicks at the Brisbane International Film Festival? Second chances provide a delectable rundown of possibilities. Don’t we love second chances?

It was 9’ish when my train pulled out from Coomera station. I've reloaded $20 for my travel card and this time settled in one of the seats with a confident smile on my face. There were 10 stations from Brisbane Central to Coomera, the fifth station from Varsity Lakes (the southernmost terminus of the Gold Coast line).

My first destination was a hill beside Albert Street’s Uniting Church - King Edward Park. Nothing’s been mentioned about it in guide books so I was intent on discovering what is – or wasn't – there to see. At the base of the elevation were gleaming art works made of brass (?), a testament to the city’s successful hosting of 1988’s World Expo.

As a result of that singular event, several art works have been scattered all over the city. A few paces from these brass sculptures is the concrete stairway painted bright red. From a distance, it looked like red carpet had been rolled to welcome the few visitors checking out King Edward Park, founded in honor of King Edward VII (eldest son of Queen Victoria who ruled as King of the British Nation and Emperor of colonial India from 1901 to 1910). The park is designed as a sculpture park to showcase the medium, many of which were acquired by the Brisbane City Council.

As you make your way up the hill, several art works are indeed on display at various corners of this otherwise deserted park. Other than these works of art, there’s nothing much here but the few isolated benches painted in bright red, like the stairs. But wait, the oldest surviving structure in all of Queensland stands on this hill – the Old Windmill, a stone-and-brick structure used to grind the grains of wheat and maize, the two major agricultural products of the early settlement (after 200 hectares of bushlands were cleared for cultivation in the early 1800s). 

To my eyes, the 1827 gray structure, commissioned by the commandant of the settlement Captain Patrick Logan, looked more like a stout lighthouse more than a wind or treadmill. When the penal settlements at Moreton Bay officially closed in 1842, the mill gradually ceased its operations. These days, it hides from the watchful eyes of the city’s influx of visitors. 

The old Windmill is Queensland's oldest standing structure circa 1827.

King Edward Park
The side walks of the city are littered with interesting sights, like a series of compelling white structures called “The Human Factor” depicting people in everyday situations. There were 80 pieces of these structures, most of which were sold to private collectors during the World Expo of 1988. “The Drovers” was purchased by the Department of Primary Industries and installed them at the present location (see photo). In 2005, these structures by artist John Underwood, were cast in aluminum to preserve them from erosion. They serve as reminders of how much the 88 World Expo has helped the city.

Since I had no particular destination in mind, I decided to watch a Turkish film at the Brisbane international Film Festival (BIFF) which set me back by $17 (the night time screening costs $22). It was also a chance to visit a travel/tourist hub called Tribal which is also one of the several homes of the BIFF (yes, it has a cinema).

A few blocks from Tribal is Roma Street Station and its Parkland. This station is a major train station – with 10 platforms to boot - in Brissie’s CBD, the 9th stop from Coomera just before reaching Central. Though it doesn't look much, this was the city’s first railway station, which opened in 1876. I found my KFC at the Brisbane Transit Centre and bought a 2-piece meal setting me back at $10, with mashed potato, fries and a coke. That’s approximately PhP400 for a teeny weeny two-piece. In Manila, it would only cost you PhP 160, or thereabouts. Nearby, Roma Street Parkland is an austere and ascending patch of land that overlaps with King Edward Park.

John Underwood's "The Drovers"

Themis, the Greek Goddess of Justice, is a bronze sculpture donated to the city in 1987 by Angelo A. Efstathis CBE.  

Once back in St. George’s Square, I noticed more sculptures I missed during my first visit. I walked away from the square along Ann Street, found Ann’s Presbyterian Church (which looked as small as the “cathedrals” I saw). Yes, Australia has some of the smallest churches in the world that even “cathedrals” seem like mere chapels by Philippine standards.

When you’re walking along Ann Street, you’d notice a section where churches stand one after another – Presbyterian Church, All Saint’s Church, St. Andrew’s Uniting Church, Lutheran Church, St. John’s Cathedral, and so on. To pay homage to all these religious centers, a park called Cathedral Square is found nearby. Centenary Place, another park constructed in 1924, is located a few blocks from the former, dedicated to “Scotland’s immortal Bard” – Robert Burns. Whose woods these are, I think I know… Hmmm…

And I was back in Chinatown and Fortitude Valley’s sex shops. I found the Valley’s train station, just a stop further from Brisbane Central. Instead of doing the easier thing (by taking my ride from Fortitude Valley – and straight back to the Gold Coast), I walked back to Central. Maybe I can save $3-$5 if I take get my ride from Central? :)
This is the Eye in the Sky!

Brisbane Transit Centre

Teeny weeny two-piece KFC chicken costs PhP400 in Brisbane. It's just P160 in Manila.

Roma Street Parkland

Cathedral Square (above and below)

Centenary Place, a park between CBD and Chinatown. This was constructed in 1924.

Scottish poet Robert Burns (left) and Thomas Joseph Byrnes (right)who was Premier, Chief  Secretary and Attorney General of Queensland. Byrne's statue has the distinction of being Brisbane's first statue, sculpted in bronze by Sir Bertram Macenall.  

Dinner that night was lamp chops served with steamed rice, buttered corn and an apricot. 


Ola said...

Good to have such a chance and time to visist less known places!
I was a bit surprised seeing the mix of lamb, corn and apricot-kind of a strange way of serving it:)

Ramakrishnan said...

Nice brass structures and out of the box metal sculptures.

My Unfinished Life said...

Lovely images and wonderful description of my blogger friends from India recently had to relocate to brisbane for few years and she wrote account of her interesting but very calm life there..... it was such a lovely seems there are very less people and one can spend entire days with oneself!!!

eye in the sky said...

@ Ola:

I guess we all love second chances. :)

eye in the sky said...

@ Ram: I like the way those structures are "open" for subjective interpretation. :)

eye in the sky said...

@ Myunfinishedlife:

Australia seems to be like that for the most part. It's been gifted with wide open spaces that, if you're after solitude, it is very possible to obtain it. :)