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Famous Australian Music

Like most people, Australians love music and our musicians have produced an enormous amount of it over the years. And like in most countries, only a tiny amount of it breaks out and becomes famous internationally. The international music scene has changed dramatically since the arrival of the internet which makes it hard to judge relative popularity. I will focus on music made mostly before that.

ACDC

The rock group AC/DC is likely the best example of Australian music succeeding internationally. Some lists rank their album ‘Back in Black’ as the 3rd highest selling album of all time. I read that they were always ‘small in Japan’ even though they tried hard to promote themselves there. This is the opposite of groups like Cheap Trick and Bon Jovi, who were ‘big in Japan’ before they became popular in America and the rest of the world.

Bee-Gees

The Bee Gees (pop/disco) are another internationally well-known Australian group. They are also the group with the most success in Japan. Their 1978 album ‘Saturday Night Fever’ sold 1250000 copies according to the Oricon charts, which makes it the 20th highest selling (foreign) album of all time in Japan.

The Wiggles

The Wiggles are popular worldwide for their children’s music and TV shows. They started back in 1991 and are still making DVDs and performing live today. Currently, the group has only one of it’s founding members: Anthony Field.

John Farnham

John Farnham is an example of an artist being huge in their home country, but relatively unknown outside. His 1986 album ‘Whispering Jack’ is the greatest selling Australian album of all-time in Australia and 2nd greatest selling album in Australian history (2nd to Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat out of Hell’ album).

Honourable Mentions
Dire Straits, INXS, Midnight Oil, Cold Chisel, Olivia Newton John, Kylie Minogue, Savage Garden, Delta Goodrem, Crowded House, Tina Arena, Icehouse, Missy Higgins, Jet.

Lunch on the Road in Australia

When out on the road and looking for a quick lunch, what are some common choices that Australians make? Well, apart from food like McDonald’s, which is in most countries, some popular choices are Pies, Pasties, Kebabs and Burgers.

Meat Pie

Meat Pies
An Australian meat pie is a hand-sized pie containing diced or minced meat and gravy, sometimes with onion, mushrooms, or cheese and often eaten as a takeaway food snack. They are usually eaten with tomato sauce (very similar to American ketchup) and are considered to be an Australian icon. The meat pie is heavily associated with Australian rules football and rugby league as one of the most popular consumed food items whilst watching a game. The Victorian pie brand Four’n Twenty produces 50,000 pies per hour! In truth, meat pies are just as much part of New Zealand’s culture.

Pastie

Pasties
A Pastie, or Pasty (UK spelling) is a baked pastry thought to be originally from Cornwall and Devon, United Kingdom. They made by placing an uncooked filling, typically meat and vegetables, on one half of a flat shortcrust pastry circle, folding the pastry in half to wrap the filling in a semicircle and crimping the curved edge to form a seal before baking.
The pastie is now popular worldwide due to the spread of Cornish miners and sailors from across Devon and Cornwall, and variations can be found in Australia, the United States, Argentina, Mexico, Ulster and elsewhere.
There is a famous annual pastie festival on the Yorke Peninsula in Australia which started in 1973 and is said to be the largest is the world.

Kebab

Kebabs
The name ‘kebab’ is applied to many foods. In Australia, it generally means refers to a doner kebab (usually called just ‘doner’ or ‘kebab’) Doner kebabs are made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie next to a vertical cooking element. The outer layer is sliced into thin shavings as it cooks. This style was invented in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire, and inspired similar dishes such as the Arab shawarma, the Mexican al pastor and the Greek gyros (which is also very popular in Australia). Kebabs vary quite a bit around the world, but surprisingly, the kebabs that are now popular in Japan are very similar to the Australian type – I was very happy with that when I lived there!

Hamburgers

Hamburgers
Hamburgers are usually associated with the USA, but most countries have there own variants. The traditional Australian hamburgers are usually bought from fish and chip shops or milk bars and the meat is almost always ground beef, which we call “mince”. They commonly include tomato, lettuce, grilled onion and meat as minimum, and can also include cheese, beetroot, pineapple, a fried egg and bacon. If all these ingredients are included it is known in Australia as a “burger with the lot”. Most people also add barbecue or tomato sauce. Interestingly, McDonald’s used to serve a “McOz” Burger here, which included beetroot and tomato.

Power Spots in Australia

Many remarkable natural features in Australia are said to be ‘power spots’ by some people. The term ‘power spot’ has different meanings to different people, but usually it means a place where there is a lot of natural energy, or somewhere the border between the spiritual world and the material world is thin. The aboriginals, who had a relationship with these places long before Europeans colonized Australia, consider most of them to be sacred.

Ayer's Rock

Probably the most famous power spot in Australia is Ayer’s Rock (called Uluru in the local aboriginal Pitjantjatjara language. It is situated in the Northern Territory far from any towns. It is 348 m high and has a total circumference of 9.4 km. Most of its bulk is actually lying underground – it is massive! Uluru is sacred to the Pitjantjatjara Anangu people.

The Olgas

The Olgas, called Kata Tjuta in Pitjantjatjara (which means ‘many heads’) are
located 25 km to the east of Ayers Rock. The highest dome, Mount Olga, is 546 m above the surrounding plain (198 m higher than Ayers Rock). Like Ayers rock, the Olgas are considered sacred to the Anangu Aborigines. They believe the great rocks of Kata Tjuta are homes to spirit energy from the ‘Dreaming’, and since 1995 the site is being used once again for cultural ceremonies.

Wilpena Pound

Wilpena Pound is a natural amphitheatre of mountains in the state of South Australia.
The Adnyamathanha aboriginals were the original inhabitants of Wilpena Pound and they translate Pound to mean ‘meeting’ or ‘initiation place’ in their own language. They have a story of how Wilpena Peak was formed, in which two Akurras (dreaming serpents) ate a large number of people gathered for a celebration, which caused the serpents to be unable to move from their eating grounds. The head of the male and female serpents formed St. Mary Peak and Beatrice Hill (two notable features of Wilena Pound).

Mt Warning

Mount Warning, called Wollumbin in the local Aboriginal language, is a mountain in the Tweed Range in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, near the border with Queensland. It was formed from a volcanic plug of the now-gone Tweed Volcano. Wollumbin is a place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung people and contains sacred sites, where particular ceremonies and initiation rites are performed.

Famous Australian Snacks

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

Minties
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 Koala

Caramello Koalas
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.

Timtams

Tim Tams
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

Milo
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)

Watch a movie at the Dromana drive-in!

Drive-In 1

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.

drive-in 2

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.

drive-in 3

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.

drive-in 4

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!

drive-in 5

Arthurs Seat

Arthurs Seat 4

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.

Arthurs Seat 2

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.

Arthurs Seat 3

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.

Arthurs Seat 1

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.

Churches to visit in Melbourne

St Paul's Cathedral

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 02

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 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 Patrick 02

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

St Francis’ Church

St Francis 02

Christmas Lights – Melbourne Style!

Merry Christmas!

Xmas lights 1

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.

Xmas lights 4

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.

Xmas lights 3

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.

Xmas lights 2

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!

Melbourne christmas

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.

Beach christmas

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.

Tree farm

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.

My tree 2018

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 – Opal Town

Coober Pedy 1

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.

Coober Pedy 2

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 3

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 4

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.

Coober Pedy 5