An early morning after a good night out with the mad French and Belgian brigade. We also met up – very briefly – with Leon the Welshman who has appeared at the same hostel. I’ll see him again on Sunday with any luck.
The fully-laden walk down to the bus depot took less than fifteen minutes and I arrived in good time to get my bargain ($15) coach to Canberra. As seems traditional now, I slept for the duration of the trip and woke as we pulled into the station.
I realised on the way there that another cap had bitten the dust, though this time hopefully only temporarily. It seems I left it in Delphine and Sophie’s room, and Delphine’s promised to keep care of it until we cross paths again. I bought another one from a closing-down souvenir store as I got off the coach. A whole $2.50. Whoop.
In fairness, the cap I left in Sydney had really seen better – and much less smelly – days. Still, it’s served me well for almost six months so it’d be a shame to lose it!
Back in Canberra, I met Kat for a chat over lunchtime before strolling down to Parliament House. This is well worth the visit and if you come to Canberra, then make sure you don’t miss it.
There are free 45-minute tours starting every thirty minutes. The guide I had was great fun, knew her stuff and chucked plenty of trivia our way. The building itself is fascinating, even though it’s less than 20 years old. Essentially, the hill on which it was built was levelled, the building placed there, and the hill built back up on top of it. Weird.
Most of the parts of the building symbolise something. The water feature outside (currently waterless due to water restrictions) symbolises Australia in the middle of the sea. The pillars in the entry hall symbolise the European forebears – all the marble used in the hall is from various places in Europe. The red mosaic outside symbolises the Aboriginal beginnings of the area.
Heck, even the name of Australia’s capital – Canberra – is an Aboriginal word meaning “meeting place”. Much better than some of the other suggestions from which it was picked: “Kangaroo”, “Shakespeare” and “Federalium” (or something similar).
The building is made up of five different areas. The major ones are the central building, the senate wing and the representative wing. As a very rough equivalent, these are like the House of Lords and House of Commons in Westminster.
The House of Representatives is all done out in shades of green – Eucalyptus leaves being the inspiration. Many of the acts of ceremony here are similar to the uK parliament, such as the mace being carried in before the Speaker (it’s modelled on the UK one) and government and opposition being sat opposite one another.
Before voting begins on major decisions, MPs are given a “4-minute warning” to get from their offices into the House. In the old Parliament building, this was two minutes. To come up with the 4-minute limit, the oldest MP was placed in the furthest office and timed in his walk from there to his place in the House. He took three minutes, so the time allowed was set at slightly more than this.
A huge tapestry in the Great Hall is the second largest in the world. It’s based on a painting and the only recogniseable items in it are trees and a white cockatiel. And Halley’s Comet. This wasn’t in the original painting, but it was visible in the sky when the tapestry was being worked on so, with the permission of the artist, was included in the final work.
In the House of Senates, the colour scheme is red – this symbolises the Eucalyptus flower and also the Red Centre of the country. It also has the only red “emergency exit” signs in Australia. Even the ones in the viewing gallery above it are green. A special piece of legislation had to be issues to allow the ones on the Senate floor to be red!
Yeah, I got overloaded on trivia today. Loved it! The Parliament House needs more time than I had – it closes at 5pm so I didn’t have time to have a “free” wander around so I may head back tomorrow if I can fit it in around the museum.
I walked back into the CBD (quite quickly) to meet Kat for dinner and chats. A good evening ran on into the night! Yet another overly-friendly Aussie!