Day 1,807 of Traveling the World | Canberra, Australia | January 17, 2023

Tell the truth! How many of you thought the capital city of Australia was Sydney?? It is a common answer – just like thinking the capital of Turkey is Istanbul….but, nope, for a second time. Canberra is the capital (and for Turkey – Ankara), and in many ways it is similar to Washington: lots of tree-lined avenues with large, imposing buildings; a slower pace of life than the country’s largest cities (Sydney and Melbourne); and government workers walking around in professional dress, with access badges attached to their shirts.

It is a pleasant city, largely due to the trees and the artificially-created lakes. The “new” Parliament House replaced the former one in 1988. The “old” building was intended for 200 workers. In the 1980s, it was crammed with 2,000 employees, so clearly, it was time for a new building. The Parliament House is full of symbolism, from the colors used to the materials utilized in its construction. Our tour was advertised as 25 minutes in length, and it was; but we had asked a lot of questions, and afterwards our wonderful tour guide, Hamish, bumped into us, started talking with us, said he had some time to kill, and took us on an extended private tour, pointing out things not included in the public tour….including introductions to two of their resident fossils, Shawn and Russell (see the photos below). He was very knowledgeable and delightful, and we found that his other passion was the same as ours – travel.

Also, we need to acknowledge another wonderful man in Australia who has truly touched us, in both Sydney and Canberra…dear Fred! We meet people from other countries and visit them when we get on their home turf, and they are always amazing and gracious. We met Fred when he sat next to us at the Sydney Town Hall Christmas Concert on December 19. We had to stop talking when the music started, but afterwards he invited us out for coffee to continue our discussion, which was so fun. Then, he invited us out for a full day exploring Palm Beach and the Barrenjoey Lighthouse. He drove us around all day, and we spent the day walking, talking, and eating! We then met him for dinner last week, talked up a storm, and he asked us to his home for dessert. Finally, in Canberra, where he had lived for several years, he met up with us, as he was in town on business. “Let’s have coffee” turned into a six-hour tour of the city, the foreign embassies, a few lookouts, drinks, coffees, and dinner at a Japanese restaurant!! Fred is a professional geologist, and at every stop we heard something of the area’s geology. He is fascinating, charming, generous, always enthusiastic, and just a great Aussie! Thanks, Fred! You really made our time with you memorable.

We spent some time watching a Boston Dynamics robot walk around the sidewalk near the National Library. People were all taking photos and videos, as it looked sort of creepy, slithering along like a cockroach. We purposely stood in front of it, watching to see what it would do. Its “head” is a constantly swiveling camera, so of course it stops when confronting any obstacle. Its legs keep “marching” as he decides whether to go to the left or right, or turn around completely. Everyone was fascinated. We suppose most people have seen the online demonstration videos of robots dancing and performing tasks with other robots. Anyway – a delightful 15 minutes of sharing a little awe with others over something that won’t draw any attention at all in another 10 years or so. (Remember your smile, and delight, when you first played with a Smart Phone? Or when you heard that you could now take a – PHOTO – with a phone?? Like that!)

This pretty, shady sidewalk was one of many that looked identical. The emphasis here is on trees, shade, and a beautiful Parliament area.
THIS is the Captain Cook Memorial, located at Regatta Point in Lake Burley Griffin. The water jet is amazing! It can be seen from quite a distance, as its spray can reach as high as 500 feet into the air!
The Jetty Restaurant and Bar is a popular dining spot on the lake, and their most famous dish is “Fricken” – fried chicken, of course!
This sculpture along Lake Burley Griffin is titled “Angel of the North,” by Antony Gormley, 1996. Below it on the right is the National Carillon.
The Double Drummer cafe, whose directional sign is a nod to kangaroos!
Parliament House. Its top structure will probably be the first thing you notice as you enter Canberra, and sort of looks like a spaceship landing. Atop the structure is the flag of Australia, which gets replaced when it starts to tatter. There is an elevator on one of the “legs” that gets a worker to the top. As pointed out by our friend Fred, who worked in that building for many years, it is an elaborate, dramatic structure, but really is just a flagpole.
On the roof of Parliament are these interesting three windows that frame the mountains surrounding Canberra.
Built on a hill, Parliament House is aligned with the old Parliament building (the white building in the middle) and in the far distance, the War Memorial.
What is this? Well, you are looking UP at the magnificent dome in Parliament’s Great Hall, used for large gatherings.
Here is the dome in context, with a beautiful reflection on the floor. On the back wall, you can see one of the largest tapestries in the world. Depicting eucalyptus trees, it took 14 full-time weavers two years to complete.
The House of Representatives meets in this “shades of green” chamber. Our tour guide, Hamish, pointed out that the square lighting structure hanging from the ceiling is made to automatically turn each of its lights on or off as necessary to make sure that no part of the room is in darkness as the sun passes through its arc during the day and provides natural changing light through the skylight and windows.
This is our tour guide, Hamish, on the roof of Parliament with us, showing us the various spots of interest in the surrounding area.
Meet Russell the Mussel, one of two corals discovered in the Belgian marble floor in the foyer. See the next photo for its age!
Another piece of coral, caught in the marble, in the shape of a shrimp – hence, his name is Shawn the Prawn. Your kids think you are old at 50?? Tell them Shawn and Russell are 345 million years old!
If it’s red, it must be…the Senate chamber!
An interesting view of the main floor, from one floor above.
This stunning landscape is at the National Arboretum…one of our stops with Fred!
This part of the highway near Parliament was a “must” stop for Fred, and we got a brief, fascinating geology lesson. Just to the right of the pole, there is an abrupt, slanted dividing line between darker and lighter layers of rock. That is a fault line! The break lines that aren’t so prominent are fracture lines. The strata tell stories, if you know how to read them.
This striking sculpture at the National Arboretum is “Nest III,” made of welded steel found-objects, mostly abandoned farm machinery.
The National Gallery of Art had some striking sculptures and paintings. This is “Francesco” (Urs Fischer, 2017), texting with his cell phone, and slowly melting – in fact, he is now headless. He will live forever in future iterations, as the melted wax will be endlessly re-cast.
This carving from the Yimon people is so captivating on its own. Then add in its shadows on the wall, making a trio! It is so interesting.
One of Salvador Dali’s famous – infamous?? – Lobster Telephones, 1936. Believe it or not, it was a fully functioning phone! He also called it the Aphrodisiac Telephone. He created a total of 11 of them in the 1930s – four were red, and seven were white.
Marcel Duchamp’s “idea” in 1913 was to attach a bicycle wheel to a stool and watch it spin. Of course, when HE became famous, IT became “Art.”
This art piece is titled “Diamonds,” by Neil Dawson, 2002. It is magical to see, floating between the National Gallery and the High Court of Australia.
This gloriousness is titled “Kiss of Light,” by David McDiarmid, 1990. As you move around looking at it, it changes, as the light hits at different places.
She is titled “Waiting for Another Game,” by Huma Bhabha, 2018. She is different on all four sides, a hulking, broken woman, symbolizing the fractured history between Pakistan and India.
Costume for the White Poodle,” by Andre Derain (1919) for the Ballets Russes, from The Magical Toyshop.
Guess who??
…and you HAVE to read the words of “Guess Who” himself – way too long, way too intricate, to paraphrase!
Actually, reading this, the title would be just as accurate if you removed the word, “artist.”
Oh, teenagers – transforming “classes” to “asses.” Every young generation thinks it is so clever!
Outside the National Library, we – and many government workers – watched Spot, the robot dog from Boston Dynamics, creeping around. Here, he gets stuck on a curb and finds his way out!
This bicycle was outside the National Library. We don’t understand – are people in Canberra not paid enough to purchase a new bicycle seat? How can one sit comfortably on this?

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