Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.
Hobart is a city that knows how to make an entrance. Arriving in Tasmania by plane, you’re treated with a view of a serene, mountainous landscape, with endless forests and sunkissed valleys. The coastline is craggy and hugged by trees, and you think to yourself that for once the marketing material got it right.
Driving across the Derwent River you’re greeted by the vision of the city itself resting snugly on the shores, in the shadow of Mount Wellington like it had always been there. You’ll then spend the next five minutes driving through it, trying to figure out what direction you need to go in, before you realise you’ve driven out the other side.
Darwin is tiny. While it technically qualifies as a city there’s not a lot to it. It’s a bit picturesque, has a harbour you can walk around, but it’s really just a large suburb.
Myself and Mrs Smith were in Hobart right around the time that the Sydney to Hobart yacht race was finishing, at the junction of The Taste Festival during the regular weekly hoopla of the Salamanca Markets. I couldn’t really work out how your average Hobartian was meant to get anything done during all this commotion. Perhaps it’s the time when they escape the island for their own holiday.
The Taste Festival was worth wandering through for a plate of gourmet food and a free Freddo Frog. Out the other gate was the Salamanca Markets, which was almost worth the forty minutes it took to find parking. If I say ‘markets’, you can fill in the blanks of what you’d find there, right? Hand-crafted wood items, scented soaps, ailment curing magnets and the like. The same as every other market.
Hobart seems to survive purely on tourism. Everything in the city wants to funnel you towards the fish restaurants on the waterfront, or onto a ferry which would take you to MONA, the recently built apparently ‘unmissable’ Museum of Old and New Art.
MONA has been built by a self-absorbed millionaire who made his fortune through gambling. He has a preoccupation for sex and death, which covers the range of most of the objects within its walls under the flimsy pretense of modern art.
We somehow managed to resist the urge to go along there – neither of us had the burning desire to view a wall of vaginas, a skinned kitten rug, or go to a place where the star attraction is a machine which turns food into human waste. Call me uncultured but I’ve never been able to appreciate ‘high art’ when it’s literally just a pile of shit.
In spite of its best efforts, Hobart is a pretty quiet place. We were there during the peak tourist period, which gave it a sudden burst of activity but outside these instances the place must seem dead. Outside a peak rush the streets were quiet, and try finding anywhere that’s open on a Sunday. Add to that the lack of a train system (the last time a passenger train ran in the state was in 1978), and it must get very lonely rather quickly at the bottom of the Earth.