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Sydney Diaries - Part 1

A long time back at school, in a general knowledge lecture, I learned that Sydney was the largest city in Australia. After some time I saw a picture of the Sydney Opera House in some newspaper and read that it was in Sydney too. A knack of memorizing trivia ensured that I saved that fact in my long term memory. To add to it, whenever we used to watch the news on new year's day, Sydney's new years eve fireworks always came to the picture.

In the year 2001, a Bollywood movie named "Dil Chahta Hai" hit the theaters. It was a breakthrough movie in Indian cinema in many respects. I enjoyed the movie and noticed that a major part of the movie was shot in Sydney. As the years passed on, I don't exactly remember how it had become a dream for me to visit Sydney someday.

When I came to New Zealand for the first time, I had a Qantas flight from Delhi to Wellington, via Singapore and Sydney. When we flew to Wellington from Sydney I could just catch a glimpse of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. I was elated and satisfied to some extent I was very near my dream of visiting Sydney.

Sydney Harbor Bridge
It took more than 5 years and a number of flights over the Australian continent to achieve that wanderlust completely. Finally, we planned to visit Sydney last December. I was more calm and satisfied than being very excited about it. There was a feeling of accomplishment when I finally confirmed the flight tickets.

We flew on Christmas day morning. The flight was relatively full contrary to my opinion that there would be fewer passengers that day. We landed at Sydney International airport almost an hour before the scheduled arrival as the winds assisted the plane (as per the captain). Maybe the winds were also in a hurry to take me to Sydney.
Sydney Train Network Map
We had to wait a long time in the immigration queue for getting the passports stamped at arrival because there was less staff than usual. The moment we entered the queue, I could feel that we were in a big city. Sydney's size would easily dwarf that of Auckland. To add to it, there were a whole lot of different people all around. We could see people from different countries speaking different languages in the immigration queue.

After getting out of the airport we took the train. The Opal card, automatic gates to enter the platform, underground platforms etc. instantly reminded me of Delhi Metro. Then I was startled to see the Double Decker trains arriving and departing the platform. We boarded the train and started the journey.
George Street Sydney
Whenever I visit a new place, I try to relate it to the places I already have been to and try to find the similarities. It happened this time too. We had to change the train at Sydney Central station. We got down there and until now we were on the underground trains. We came up to the platform and saw the first glimpse of Sydney city.

The first impression I got was of any Indian city like Delhi or Mumbai, the same big train stations, large crowds, many platforms. We boarded the next train and started moving. As the train left the station, we could see old buildings, graffiti, freight train coaches as if abandoned on the tracks, high-rise buildings in the distance moving away from us.
Long Queues for shopping - Boxing Day

Travelling has become a lot easier with the advent of technology. I had already cached google maps for Sydney and turned on the GPS. As we moved out of the inner suburbs, the houses started becoming less dense and high. The greenery started increasing. The next thing I noticed that it had already been 20 minutes, the train was moving fast, but we were quite a distance away from Blacktown where we were supposed to stay.

This showed that Sydney was a huge city in terms of distances. It took around 40 minutes for us to reach Blacktown station. I noticed that far off suburbs like those were also well connected with trains and buses. The town centers were big and hustling. Another thing I saw was that there were a lot of Asian names (including Indian) in the shops, which showed the extent of migrants living there.
A street performer
The weather was hot as compared to Auckland and we were sweating after a 10-minute walk from the station to home. Although the flying time clocked to be less than 3 hours from Auckland to Sydney, it was already more than half a day for us that we were well awake and on the move. We reached home and took some well-needed rest which would enable us to gear up for the busy next day ahead.

26 December is a famous day for shopping and outdoors for people down under. We also decided to get a glimpse of the same while being there in the largest cities in Australia. After taking breakfast, we decided to visit Sydney City center for shopping. We went to Blacktown station and were told that rail replacement buses were plying and would ferry us free to the city. We happily took it as a great start for roaming around Sydney.

The bus took us via the motorway and as we reached the inner suburbs, I realized that it would actually cross the Harbour Bridge. As I saw the bridge just some moments away from us, I was elated. Childlike curiosity took me over as we crossed the bridge and saw the majestic Opera House from the bridge along with the deep Sydney Harbour on the both sides of the bridge.
Sydney City Center
We reached Wynyard Station and the bus dropped us there. Then we moved ahead to George Street to see the shopping malls and shops. As we moved towards the malls, the crowd grew in numbers. There were long queues just to enter the shops. I was a bit shocked to see such long queues just to enter the premium stores like Louis Vuitton etc. which I think would be empty on a normal day.

We also entered a shopping arcade and it was a huge crowd everywhere. Queues and queues to enter everywhere. It was very surprising for us. I had only heard of such mad rush but today I was a part of that mad rush. In some places, we went in, looked at stuff, tried to buy it, but had to leave without buying because there would be a 30 person long queue for the checkout.
Aboriginal Artists - Circular Quay
We went to Myer (department store) which was a 5 times bigger version of Auckland City's Smith and Caughey. There were queues everywhere, security personnel controlling entry of people on to the escalators, chaos in the store sections, people waiting outside the try rooms for their turns. It all felt so chaotic and mind-boggling to us that we thought that we were some villagers lost in a metropolitan city.

I am usually very good at understanding maps, memorizing routes and places. I took it as a humbling experience when I couldn't figure out where we would enter one mall and would end up getting out elsewhere. Google maps helped me a lot. After a lot of getting lost and finding the way afterwards, we realized that Sydney city center malls have a huge underground interconnected network of walkways and shopping arcades which just take you elsewhere if you are not paying attention.

Sydney's Double Decker Train
Anyway, after a long stint at shopping and being unable to buy anything, we decided to get out for good and roam around the harbour to see Opera House and Harbour Bridge. We took a stroll on George Street and roamed ahead to Circular Quay. As soon as we crossed the Circular Quay, we could see the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House was a bit further ahead.

There were a lot of street performers on Circular Quay. The one that caught our eye were a group of Aboriginal People singing their folk songs with the indigenous musical instruments. It was nice to see them perform and people were also there waiting to get a picture with them. It did give a glimpse of the native Australian people's culture.
Sydney Opera House
We reached the Opera House and sat there in front of it. It was a real dream come true for me as I had only seen both of these iconic structures of the modern world in pictures. We took a lot of pictures and could see people clicking phone selfies and advanced time lag shots on advanced cameras and tripods as well. It was a cloudy day and hence was less harsh in terms of burning sun rays which could have made the stroll harder.
Opera House as seen from Harbour Bridge
Although Harbour Bridge and Opera House seem like any usual grand structures, the thing which makes them unique is the history and trivia associated with them. Both are truly global monuments and very appropriately showcase Australian spirit. The Sydney harbour is one of the deepest natural harbours in the world and equally beautiful. The view from Opera House and Harbour Bridge easily tells that.

We roamed around and had our fill with clicks and sightseeing. It was a tiring day and we took the bus back home and had a much needed nap on the way.

Continues here:
http://www.raghavabbhi.com/2017/01/sydney-diaries-waverley-to-bondi-walk.html,
http://www.raghavabbhi.com/2017/03/sydney-diaries-new-years-eve-2016.html
and
http://www.raghavabbhi.com/2017/05/sydney-diaries-parramatta-river-ferry.html

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