Friday, 14 March 2008

The Mind of the Market

Tasmania, Day 3, 08/03/08

The morning started with Dylan's usual siren. He slept better tonight, waking up for a self sustained cry at 2:00am, followed by a few consecutive sessions after 5:00am. At around 6:30am we gave up and officially got ourselves up.
Reception told us that last night someone tried to steal one of the other occupant's car as well as ours. A short scouting expedition couldn't reveal any signs of an attempted break other than a minor scratch, but the story didn't really enhance my impression of the average Tasmanian. Driving through middle of nowhere Tasmania yesterday, on a Friday afternoon when people tend to leave work and go have themselves a few drinks, exposes some rather suspicious looking characters. Couple that to the dominance of boring food (Tasmania is supposed to be a seafood culinary delight; that probably doesn't apply to the areas we've been to so far) and the church/Christianity links thrown all over the place (every small place has a war memorial and such, and none of them are religiously neutral), and you can see why my general perception of Tasmania is of a... Well, to quote John Brumby, a backwater.
To further enhance what I'm trying to say, allow me to quote from the tourists' brochure of Sufi's Craftshop & Tearooms (open everyday 10:00-16:00 at the town of Triabunna): “It's always Christmas at Sufi's... Devonshire teas and snacks... Christmas decorations... Nativity sets”. You just gotta be there! Not that you have much of a choice; there are two places you can eat in at Triabunna, and the next town you can eat at is significantly far.
With a more tranquil day in mind, we've made our way on foot to the world famous Salamanca street market, run every Saturday at Hobart's center of town. Yes, it's one of those things that spell like tourist traps, smell like tourist traps, and actually are tourist traps. Not that it's so bad, it's just that it's nothing extraordinary; there are two very similar markets in Melbourne every weekend, too, selling stuff that looks remarkably identical.
Our first purchase was four bars of fudge for $10. We each chose two, and mine included chocolate chilly. I have to admit it didn't taste that good, but I'm intrigued by the results of mixing chocolate with hot stuff: When you eat it, my impression is that the hot taste kicks in quite a while after the sweet taste; I wonder why. It does work, though, and it makes me wonder what other taste combinations would work for chocolate: we already have bitter chocolate, now we have hot chocolate, what's next? Salty chocolate?
Next Jo bought a gift for a family member. I won't go further there to avoid breaking the surprise factor when Jane opens up the package she'll receive by mail from us around the time of her soon to come birthday to find some pink object you wear on your hands if you're into such things (for the record, I'm not). The gift buying was the official excuse for visiting the market, so it was a case of mission at least partially accomplished.
There were several interesting exhibits in the market, despite my generally negative attitude. For a start, it was a nice walk and I've enjoyed it, even if the way back to our hotel meant climbing Hill Everest and making us think we're back in San Francisco (but this time with a pram to encumber us and a way less fit form). Then there were the weird displays that you don't find in the more capitalist Melbourne: There was, for example, a stand belonging to the Greens party. Given that I vote for them, I passed by it to see what they have on offer (not much). I was greeted by a woman who asked me where I was from, obviously thinking I was a tourist (as in, someone not from Australia). She probably thought I was an exotic tourist given my five day old beard. Anyway, when I told her I'm from Melbourne she was rather confused and eventually started this minor argument with me to tell me that Tasmania is better. It was all in good nature, but it did help enhance the unjustly stereotype of Greenies being primarily weirdos.
There was also a stand by the work unions, and that one featured a group of people singing wholeheartedly what can only be referred to as union songs. That is, a collection of songs that sounded remarkably like those boring church hymns from afar but turned out to praise the union instead of god. I liked “the union is you the union is me” the most. Look for it in uTunes – it's a must!
For breakfast we ate crepes from this stand at the market. Compared to the pancakes we regularly prepare at home they tasted pretty artificial, but it was still an event worth remembering because the last time I had myself a genuine crepe was in Paris. I wasn't a big crepe fan at the time, but with proper home made cooking my opinion has changed.
By the time we got “home” to our hotel room, Dylan was screaming his guts off. He was obviously more bored than I was at the market. However, the minute we stepped into our room he became cheerful again; the guy likes the familiar routine almost as much as his father. We fed him and tried to make him sleep in his temp cot but to no avail, so we went out for some short range afternoon expeditions around Hobart.
First we drove to Richmond, some 20 kilometers away, to watch the first bridge ever built in Australia. Apparently, it was a convicts' area at the time. Dylan slept like a brick and we didn't dare wake him, so all we did was stop next to the bridge and admire it in turns. It is a nice bridge, as bridges go, but I have seem more poetic stuff in my life. The rest of the town seemed like a nice touristy town that tries to capitalize on its old bridge to make a buck.
We then drove up this mountain to admire the view because the signs had a camera next to the mountain's name, but there was no proper vantage point once up there. My point is simple: Signs and other tourism facilities in Tasmania are not as good as they should be, and a far cry from Victoria.
We drove to the Cascade beer factory / museum back in Hobart. It was too late already and Dylan couldn't get in there anyway, but I wanted to see the building. Besides, it was a nice way to drive through Hobart, and with the GPS guiding us we could dare venture where no tourist usually does and through roads regular tourists don't go through. The drive by the beach, in a residential area, was quite nice: reminded us of Sydney. The center of Hobart with its tourist attractions is nothing special, in my mind; that residential area, however, is. As Jo said, when cockroaches take over Melbourne because of global warming, that is where we should be moving to.
The beer factory, at least from the outside, seemed pretty bland. Looked like any other factory out there. This reminded me that the previous beer museum I've been to, Heineken's in Amsterdam, is no longer the factory and hasn't been so for quite a while; they took the old factory, which looks the way we would imagine a beer factory to look like, and made it into a museum, so we could continue with our romantic delusions of how beer factories look like. Call it Charlie's Chocolate Factory on steroids.
We went back home, put Dylan to bed, and ordered pizza from Dominos. It arrived more than two hours later, after we had already given up hope and started preparing dinner on our own. At least watching the two last episodes of Sarah Connor on the Eee PC kept us awake.

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