A seal on the baggage carousel greeted me when I landed in Hobart today.
I was a bit taken aback, I’m here for three weeks on Antarctic related business and seals and penguins are to be expected, but not sailing around and around with the suitcases.
Fortunately I worked out it was a plaster model BEFORE I tried to offer it some fish titbits, so pretending that I see sleek bodied seals every day, I nonchalantly grabbed my suitcase and headed out to see what else Hobart has to offer.
I do hope there will be penguins at some stage, I love penguins. Maybe it’s because they’re the best dressed of the bird kingdom, always ready to attend a red-carpet event in their in-built tuxedos. As someone with a big red carpet addiction I would be more than happy to parade in front of the papparazi with a penguin by my side.
I do feel that penguins and I have a real affinity. They’ve evolved to swim rather than fly, and while my fear of heights stops me scaling mountaintops, I am perfectly at home in the water. In fact my dad’s childhood nickname for me was Penny Guinn, from the time he watched in horror as 18 month old baby Heather slipped through the rubber swimming-ring and went down, down, down to the bottom of the swimming pool. Frantically plunging under the water to rescue me, he saw my little legs kicking out and propelling me back to the surface. Laughing and laughing with delight I popped up, not the smallest bit harmed or scared. 40 years later and a love of water and swimming still makes me long to one day become a mermaid. Or maybe a synchronised swimmer. Yes I can see myself in black and white sequins, dipping and diving amongst a chorus line of penguins.
So with the promise of penguins, I’m very excited to be here in Hobart. I’m staying in an apartment overlooking the wharf, from my loungeroom window I see the Aurora Australis, the big dark red ship that crosses crashing waves to Antarctica. It is wintering here in Hobart and takes pride of place at the pier.
Before arriving though I stopped en-route for a night in Melbourne to see friends.
In 24 hours I managed to fit in shopping in Degraves St, lunch at the downstairs Coda in Flinders Lane, coffee and a cioccolata crème mignon at the Swanston St Brunetti’s, tempura dinner at Yamato’s in Corr’s Lane, and finally exotic cocktails at the fabulously over the top Berlin Bar.
Going to the Berlin Bar is an adventure in itself. Divided into two sections, West and East Berlin, the bar is only accessible once you’ve climbed four flights of dark stairs off an alleyway until you’ve reached a red door inset with a small window. You press the bell and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually the door will open and a small, blonde waitress with a heavy German accent will tell you that you can only come in after she’s ‘reconfigured the floor.’
It’s a small venue so patrons have to wait on the stairs until someone else vacates the club. Exiting drinkers squeeze down the stairs between the new arrivals, adding to the speakeasy feel of the joint. We entered in the wake of one departing group, and found a table amongst the lush cabaretesque furnishings of West Berlin.
This, as it turned out, was a BIG mistake. The small, blonde and frankly terrifying waitress berated us for our presumption. “You were supposed to wait on the stairs until I told you to enter,” she barked. “That table is reserved for LARGER groups. It is not for you. Wait here and don’t move,” she ordered as she stomped off.
Bewildered and frightened my friends and I huddled together, fearing Alsatians would be turned on us at Checkpoint Charlie. Fortunately the scary lady didn’t come back, and a heavily tattooed waitress (who at least smiled at us) took us from the red, velvet drapes of West Berlin around the corner into East Berlin, an industrial space with graffiti sprayed on the concrete walls, and plastic covered swivel chair around low formica tables. Bunkbeds in each corner add to the feeling of a closed in bomb shelter where the lighting is low and small groups focus intently on the cocktail menu.
The drinks are just as spectacular. At a cool $20 each the price seems steep at first, but there is just as much theatre going into the drinks as the surroundings. I ordered something that the menu hailed as combining lemon marscapone and parsley. I couldn’t go past a challenge like that and something akin to a tall gin and tonic arrived garnished with bright green parsley and sugar, next to a shot glass of creamy, heavenly lemon marscapone. You add the creamy liquid to your personal taste, I opted for the full shot and stirred the concoction vigorously. At $20 I was determined to enjoy it one way or another, so was delighted when it proved to be tangy and refreshing at the same time. I got my money’s worth.
Talking of marscapone, Hobart is of course the gateway to dairy heaven. Sorry to readers with lactose intolerance, but this place is cheesealicious. Mersey Valley, Tamar Valley, King Island, these are the names that are the Dolce and Gabana of the dairy world!
One of the first things I did was head to the local supermarket for supplies for the next few weeks. I thought I’d entered Nirvana when I reached the deli section. Blue cheeses, aged cheddars, goats cheeses, sharp and crumbly cheeses, all laid out in front of me. And a hop, skip and jump from there to the golden butters, thick creams and silky yoghurts in the refrigerated area. Forget being a mermaid, now I just want to be a milkmaid!
As long as there are also penguins in tuxedos!
As long as there are also penguins in tuxedos!
PS. Isn't this a charming sight? It's the night display on the outside wall of the Hobart Mercury.