When I don’t have enough time in a city I haven’t visited in a while, a walking tour is a great re-introduction. Ruth & I took one in Brisbane at 10:30 am with Jan and learned a lot. It began in the Visitor Centre on the Queen Street Mall and lasted for 2 hours. We wandered into many places. Towards the end we got to see Brisbane’s smallest door.
Brisbane was founded in 1824 as a place to send the worst criminals in Britain. They settled on the east slope of the Great Dividing Range that hugs the coast for over 2,000 miles to become the 3rd largest land-based string of mountains in the world. Way down in the Snowy Mountains of New South Wales, the Great Dividing Range includes Australia’s tallest peak, Mount Kosciuszko, These mountain will never be mistaken for the Himalayas, and their tallest peak, in any PC era, is destined to eventually get an Aboriginal name, like Uluru. The main women’s prison for Australian settlers was near what is now the Brisbane’s airport. Those women who managed to get out had the option of walking back to Sydney, which was more than 900 miles south. After the convict era, other settlers came to Brisbane. According to Jan, the local Aboriginals were peace-loving. The newcomers included many Germans, Chinese, and Caucasian South Africans. By 1988, Brisbane was ready to throw itself a party and had a world’s fair. Expo 88 caused 3 major changes that linger–an increase in public river transport, an international food focus, and a concentration on public art.
Jan took us through a Victorian shopping plaza to Adelaide Street. Every city in Australia seems to have at least one of these. In an old-fashioned way, Brisbane seems focused on urban shopping. Malls abound. Only one of the heritage mall’s stores, the Pen Shoppe, still has its original facade. We went through a large outdoor plaza to City Hall and the Museum of Brisbane, where we spent about ½ hour. On an upper floor of an old building that was restored between 2010 and 2013, everything in this museum was new because no exhibit lasts more than 6 months. What was there had lots of appeal, especially to children, and was interesting. I highly recommend it. The best was Brisbane DNA, the opinions, thoughts, and life stories of 100 residents. “Life in Irons” is coming!
While on the plaza, Jan pointed to an old white church and told us that many Australian women married American servicemen in that church during World War II when 100,000 of them were in the area. We went up Burnet Lane, where the smallest door was. Fire has largely destroyed everything else in this alley-like cut-through.
Brisbane has done a good job of mixing flamboyant high-rises with heritage buildings. The night before the tour, a man on the street told us that Brisbane is one of the safest cities in the world while strongly suggesting that I put my camera away. He shuddered and told me to look for creepy gargoyles on 19th century buildings. I found 3.