Sydney, Australia … a city of 8 million people of many cultures [We had Greek food one night and Thai the next — : ) ], languages, and colors – all bustling about, going places, doing important (or so it seems) things, communicating on cell phones, carrying packages, pushing strollers, jogging, walking, talking – it’s quite enough to wear a person out just watching. But, we aren’t just watching, of course; we’re out there right in the middle of all the movement. We are without a car here in Sydney – by choice … it would be suicide to try driving here – so our mode of getting around is our feet.
We’ve walked all over King’s Crossing, the area of Sydney surrounding our hotel. Gerry chose it b/c it’s very near downtown, making us within walking distance of the major sights. Not too far away is Hyde Park, a HUGE open, green area gifted to the city by a wealthy citizen with the restriction that it remains the domain of the people. There are fountains, statues, gardens, monuments, lovely grand trees, and, of course, people, people, people.
We haven’t really had to wander too far from this park in two days: a couple of hours in the Queen’s Botanical Gardens (The literally hundreds of fruit bats in the trees there fascinated Gerry.), a quiet walk through St. Mary’s Cathedral (the largest such building in all of Australia – believe me, it’s humungous!) while a young couple rehearsed their moves for their wedding, an almost-the-entire-day foray into the Australia Museum presented so much info we felt we couldn’t process another tho’t (Not surprisingly, the gems and mineral collection was Gerry’s favorite exhibit.),
and attending an impressive (if not very participatory) Evensong in Australia’s oldest Anglican church.
As we’ve traveled in NZ and now Australia, we have glimpsed a bit of what it means to be part of the British Empire. Both of these countries, with a great deal of patriotic fervor and lack of concern for personal loss, rushed to join Britain in both World Wars and in many other conflicts around the world, very few of which endangered their own land. The outcome of these actions became evident as we viewed plaque upon plaque, memorial upon memorial in every community we visited (no matter how small) listing those who volunteered/served and more often those who never returned.
Today in Sydney, we visited the grandest of them all, the ANZAC War Memorial, an awesome monument in both size and aesthetic. It was begun by WWI veterans even before that war was over, but it has become a memorial to all those who served in armed conflicts during Australia’s history. Most impressive are the 120,000 gilt stars on the memorial dome interior which represent those who volunteered in WWI and the brass sculpture “Sacrifice” at the very center of the monument.
We have become more aware of and sensitive to a worldview of war from other cultures’ perspective.