If we had to decide on our favourite place in Australia we would both choose Melbourne without a moment’s hesitation. But until now we have never took stock to consider what exactly it is about this city that endears itself to us so much.
It’s easy to get carried away with the relentless buzz and life of the inner suburbs. There’s infinite options for good food, drink and coffee and it’s easy to get swept off your feet by its unrivalled nightlife and live music culture. But there’s much more in our love for the city than pure hedonism and a satisfied belly.
Obviously, we are prone to a little bias when it comes to the city. Melbourne was the first place we lived and worked when we arrived in Australia and as such has always felt a little like home. For a time we thought that maybe it was just the rose-tinted memories and feelings of nostalgia that led us to holding the city in such high esteem.
Because the reality was that a lot of our time in Melbourne was a struggle, financially and emotionally. We hadn’t really saved up enough money to get ourselves settled. Work was harder to come by than we expected and as our bank accounts dwindled, sleepless nights crept in and the constant worry our trip might be over before it had even begun were overwhelming.
We’ve returned to the city numerous times since and been blown away by it over and over again.
Since we left last August we have seen a hell of a lot of Australia. We’ve seen all the major cities, the glitzy high rises and multi-million dollar waterside apartments. We’ve driven through desolate outback towns and sheep stations, spent lazy summer days in small, idyllic surf towns along the coast and even lived and worked in tiny rural communities.
Whilst all of these places have their own certain charm, none of them have the same magnetism that Melbourne has. Of all facets of Australian life, this is the place that appeals to us the most and keeps drawing us back.
Although it might not have the beaches and year round sunshine that we all associate with life in Australia, Melbourne and it’s people epitomise the best side of this vast continent.
The city is the progressive heartland of Australia. It’s no secret that there is a generalisation of Australia as quite a racist nation, but nowhere does this feels further from the truth than in Melbourne. The city is welcoming, embracing and has a long history of successfully incorporating migrant cultures into it own. A culture that proudly recognises the fact it was built on the backs of immigrants from all over the world.
There is a saying you hear a lot around Melbourne; that it holds the largest Greek population of any city outside Greece itself. And it is true. But unlike in other parts of Australia, Europe and America where statistics such as this are increasingly being used to push the agendas of far right, populist, political entities such as UKIP, Melbournians view this fact with an immense sense of pride.
The city is famous the world over for its food and drink and in particular for serving some of the best coffee anywhere in the world. It makes no secret that it owes all of this to the waves of Greek and Italian migrants that arrived in the city after the Second World War.
It is this feeling of acceptance and tolerance that is absolutely pivotal in our own feelings towards the city. Melbourne is a place you feel immensely proud to be a part of. A culture and attitude which is unwavering in the face of rising intolerance that is quickly dismantling the social fabric of the world.
So whilst the coffee, the food, the live music and constant stream of events and festivals certainly make the city appealing, that’s only a small part of the reason we love it so much. We love it for what it stands for, for its acceptance and promotion of progressive attitudes.
Obviously the city isn’t perfect, no city is. It has a long way to go in repatriation with indigenous people and is suffering greatly from gentrification and bloated housing prices, but here at least the people of the city are willing to confront and address those problems. Melbourne is willing to reveal its dark history and gritty urban sprawl and is able to show that true character and a proud culture are ticking away beneath the surface.