What are some famous Australian snacks?
Well, there are four that I’d like to tell you about: Minties, Caramello Koalas
Tim Tams and Milo. These four foods were all originally developed first in Australia.
Minties are a hard, white and chewy, rectangular, mint-flavoured lolly*, which on chewing becomes very sticky. They are notorious for causing fillings to come out of peoples’ mouths – which reminds me a bit of the dangers of eating Japanese Mochi. Minties were invented back in 1922, and are popular in both Australia and New Zealand.
Caramello Koalas are a brand of chocolate bar manufactured by Cadbury Australia. They consist of a chocolate cartoon koala (named “George”) with a caramel centre. Caramello Koalas were introduced in Australia as the Caramello Bear in 1966. They are said to be the first mass-marketed snack to be modelled on an Australian animal.
Tim Tams are a type of chocolate biscuit made by the Australian biscuit company Arnott’s. They are made with two malted biscuits separated by a light chocolate cream filling and coated in a thin layer of chocolate. Tim Tams went on to the market in 1964. They were named by Ross Arnott, who attended the 1958 Kentucky Derby and decided that the name of the winning horse, “Tim Tam”, was perfect for a planned new line of biscuits. These days Tim Tams come in many different flavours, including dark chocolate, white chocolate, caramel, dark chocolate mint, honeycomb and choc orange.
Milo is a chocolate and malt powder that is usually mixed with hot water and milk. It is popular mainly in Oceania, South America, South-east Asia and certain parts of Africa. It was originally developed by Australian inventor Thomas Mayne in 1934. The ingredients and drinking styles are actually slightly different in different countries. Milo is also sometimes sprinkled on ice cream or on breakfast cereals and some people even eat it straight out of the tin!
*Lolly = candy (in North American English)
A drive-in theatre, or drive-in cinema, is a type of cinema that has a large outdoor movie screen, a projection booth, a snack kiosk and a large parking area. Within this enclosed area, customers can view movies from the comfort of their own cars. Some drive-ins also have small playgrounds for children and a few picnic tables or benches.
The first drive-ins popped up in America in the 1930s and became very popular, peaking in the late 50s/early 60s. Australia had the 3rd most drive-ins in the world, after the US and Canada. They started to disappear quickly when colour televisions became common. These days there are less than 16 active theatres in Australia.
There is a famous drive in theatre at Dromana in the south part of Melbourne – not far from Arthurs Seat (see my last blog post). The Dromana drive-in was opened in 1961 with a capacity of 485 cars. It has since been expanded to a three-screen operation and also has a Sunday market operating from the site. It is one of only three theatres that have never closed – it has been operating continuously since 1961 and is now a Victorian Heritage Site.
During my research for this post I learnt that the first Australian drive-in was built at Burwood, which is in the east of Melbourne in my home state of Victoria, and very close to my house! It opened in July 1954, just two years before the arrival of television. Amazingly, the second-ever theatre opened at Ringwood, which is also close to my house. It seems like Victoria was/is the drive-in theatre state!
Arthurs Seat is a small mountainous area on the Mornington Peninsula, about 75 km south east of Melbourne. It is a popular tourist destination, with lots of nice homes, natural bushland and sweeping views. The main hill rises to 314m above sea level.
It was named by Acting Lieutenant John Murray when he sailed into Port Phillip on the HMS Lady Nelson in February 1802. He thought it looked like the hill called Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, which was his home city.
You can take in some fantastic views from Arthurs Seat, which is the main reason it is popular with tourists. The surrounding farmlands and forests are beautiful, but it is the view of the beaches, and the view of Melbourne City across the bay, that really stand out to me.
Many people come to take the cable car (Skylift) from the base of the hill to the summit. Compared to the many cable cars I have ridden in Japan, this one is very short, but they are rare in Australia so the novelty factor is higher.
There are also several bushland walking tracks around the area which pass some beautiful scenery and small waterfalls. The nearby beach is also interesting and great for swimming.
St Paul’s Cathedral
Melbourne is a great place to visit Churches. There are roughly 1230 registered churches in the city, which is only topped by Sydney which has around 1740. Some of them are amazing buildings with interesting architectures and histories. Of course, some of them are tiny buildings that look more like a local club house. I will introduce three of the older, bigger and more famous churches: Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Saint Patrick’s Cathedral and Saint Francis’ Church.
St Paul’s is an Anglican Cathedral and is currently the seat of the Primate of Australia, who is the highest ranking Anglican in the country. When it’s central spire was complete in 1932 it was the tallest building in Melbourne – hard to imagine now, as it is surrounded by so many huge skyscrapers.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
St Patricks Cathedral (full name: Cathedral Church and Minor Basilica of Saint Patrick) is of the Roman Catholic denomination and is both the tallest and largest church building in Australia. When they decided to build the Cathedral in the 1840s, the Catholic population of Melbourne was almost entirely Irish, which is why it is dedicated to Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
St Francis Church is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Victoria. Its foundation stone was laid in 1841. It was an official cathedral from 1848 to 1868 until that title was taken by St Patrick’s Cathedral, and now it is considered only a church. Today it is the busiest church in Australia, with more than 10,000 worshippers attending each week.
St Francis’ Church
A lot of people in Melbourne are enthusiastic about Christmas lights. There are also quite a few impressive public lighting displays, but this time I will focus on displays set up by everyday residents at there private homes.
Generally, people drive around at night and enjoy the light shows from their cars. When they find a particularly impressive setup, or a whole group of houses with lights, they might get out and have a closer look. Occasionally, some people open up their front yards so that anyone can walk around in their display.
Kids in particular get very excited about houses with lots of lights – the more the better! Some of the technology for making the lights flash in different colours, sequence and intensity is quite advanced and must have been expensive. Some areas are very competitive and every year try to built a better display than their neighbours and other areas.
Not everyone thinks it’s a great idea though. Some people are concerned about using so much electricity unnecessarily, especially considering concerns about global warming. I have noticed that there are a lot more solar panels and batteries used in the displays this year compared to previous years. Other people are not so happy about the extra traffic and all the fuel it uses.
It’s Christmas season again! Even though it’s still November (just), many people in Australia have already put up their Christmas trees. You can also see more and more decorations going up in Melbourne city. Of course, shops are already full of Christmas-themed products and sales.
Melbourne is famous for its patchy weather – sunny one day and rainy the next. This year has been no exception. Still, there are plenty of nice days mixed with rainy ones and excitement is starting to build towards another hot Aussie Christmas. Many people will head to the beach to celebrate.
Even though there is no snow here, most of our christmas tradition is inherited from countries in the Northern Hemisphere, which have Christmas in winter. As a result, pine trees, usually associated with cold climates, are still thought of as being the tree of Christmas. This means that Christmas tree farming is quite profitable. Quite a few people buy real, live pine trees from tree farms to take home and decorate every year.
I haven’t had a Christmas tree at home since I was a child. This year I have finally decided to get one! It is pretty simple at the moment, but I have a feeling it will get a bit more elaborate each year from now on…
Coober Pedy is a small town in the deserts of South Australia with a population of less than 2000 people. In spite of this, it is known as the “Opal Capital of the World”. The first opal was found in there 1915 and now more opals come from Coober Pedy than anywhere else in the world.
The town is in the middle of the desert. It gets very little rain and has very little vegetation – the first tree ever seen there was actually welded together out of scrap metal! Temperatures in summer have reached as high as 47 degrees.
Coober Pedy is also famous for its below-ground houses, called “dugouts”, which people build because it is so hot during the daytime. Building dugouts costs around as much as building a surface houses, but they remain at a fairly constant temperature all-year-round, which saves a lot of money on air-conditioning bills.
Coober Pedy is about half way between Adelaide and Alice Springs (near Ayers Rock), so it is a popular stopover point for tourists. I remember visiting as a child and having great fun searching for opals and running around in some of the underground shops and museums.
If you are ever in Victoria, you may want to make some time to take a trip on Puffing Billy. Puffing Billy is an old steam train that runs from Belgrave, on the east side of Melbourne, east into country Victoria. It travels through some beautiful forest and farmland and is especially popular with tourist and school kids.
Trip length is 3 hours return to Lakeside or 5 hours return to Gembrook. In both cases there is plenty of time to get off the train to have a walk around and get something to eat at the end of the line before returning the Belgrave.
The train pulls several types of carriage, and the number and type changes with the seasons and time of day. There are also special events, like murder mysteries, night journeys and packages including old-time dancing.
There is usually a dining car or two on the end of the train. You can book a table to have either a full meal or high tea, with dessert and coffee served on the way back. Last time I went on Puffing Billy I had the high tea – it was heavenly!
Let’s have a look at four interesting animals from Australia. This time we’ll focus on animals with fur.
Kangaroos are possibly the most famous Australian animals. There are many different types, with adult sizes ranging from about 45cm/1.6kg up to 200cm/90kg (that’s really big!). They are marsupials – animals that raise their babies in a pouch on the front of their bodies. 70% of the world’s marsupials are found in Australia.
Koalas are another possibility for most famous Australian animal. Their diet is almost entirely made up of eucalyptus leaves and they are asleep most of the time – they are only awake for about 4 hours a day! They are also marsupials, like kangaroos.
Dingos are Australia’s only native dog. They are a bit like small wolves, but less dangerous and they generally avoid humans. They don’t bark very often, but they like to howl and whimper. Dingos are found mostly in the northern part of Australia. I have lived mostly in the southen part of Australia and have rarely seen Dingos in the wild; so when I do it is quite a shock!
The Bilby is another small marsupial that lives in the desert. They get their water from the insects they eat at night, so they don’t need to drink. They dig tunnels like rabbits and live in underground cave systems. There is a movement in Australia to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Bilby – because some people feel it is better to use an Australian animal.
A friend recently asked me about the difference between the countryside in Australia and Japan. One big difference is the general colour of the vegetation. Japan’s is mostly a deep or lush green, whereas Australia is dominated by gum trees and is more a muted green, olive or khaki.
Gum trees, also called eucalyptus trees, cover much of Australia and make up an amazing 75% of the forests here! There are over 700 species of eucalyptus and nearly all over them are native to Australia – only 9 species are exclusively non-Australian.
Gumtrees can be just small bushes or huge trees, depending on the species. One species, the Eucalyptus Regnans or Mountain Ash is the tallest flowering tree on Earth and one of the tallest trees in general. Compared to most other trees, they drink a lot of water, are weak against frost and cold but good at surviving fires.
Eucalypts are famous for a few reasons. Perhaps they are most famous for being the only food of Koalas. They are very important as sources of firewood, timber and oil in several counties. They are also know for their flowers, which can be white, cream, yellow, pink or red. They are nearly all evergreen, and with so many of them around they have a huge effect on the colour of the Australian countryside.