New Year in Sydney 2011

I would like to dedicate today’s post to the trip to Sydney I made well over ten years ago. This trip left me with a lot of pleasant and unforgettable memories and impressions. I spent seven days in this bustling metropolis and managed to visit a couple of its leading museums. I walked a hundred kilometers around the city, exploring its world-famous sites and, most importantly, I celebrated New Year in one of Sydney’s most incredible locations. A place where tens of thousands of people from all over the world come every year to enjoy the breathtaking firework show.

Sydney Opera House

Sydney is one of the most complex and exciting cities in the world. Many cultures have intersected here, and all of them left Sydney with all the best they had. The charm of this beautiful coastal city lies in the contrast and combination of austere skyscrapers in the business center and the old Mediterranean-style buildings throughout.

On the 31st of December each year, a multitude of people flock to the unique architectural building of the Opera House – an identifying symbol of Sydney – from where the famous New Year fireworks appear in all their glory.

The residents of Sydney have a chance to celebrate New Year earlier than the rest of the world, but this is not what they are actually proud of, and this is not why millions of people come here every year. The New Year in Sydney is famous all over the world for its fantastic firework show, which makes Sydney one of (if not the most) amazing place on earth to celebrate the New Year.

Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks

Mrs. Macquarie Point is perhaps the best and one of the most famous New Year’s Eve spots in Sydney. It provides you with a perfect backdrop with views of Opera House and the Harbour Bridge. The area is a vast territory, but even with so much space, it still fills up earlier every year. The gates open early in the morning, and the place is usually full before it gets dark. Some people even bring sleeping bags and begin to queue in front of the gates the night before. The firework display traditionally includes a rather modest “family show” at 9 pm and a magnificent parade of lights at midnight.

Mrs. Macquarie Point

So, I went to Mrs. Macquarie Point along with 20,000 other people (even though the space in this area is not made for such flocks, especially with so many visitors). This place offers a fantastic view over the harbor; the Opera House is only around 300 m away over the water, with the Harbour Bridge in the background surrounded on both sides by skyscrapers.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of trees in this area, since it belongs to the botanical garden. Only a few places have thinning trees which allow you to see some really great views of the city. Thankfully, I did manage to find one of these nice spots. By the way, this area has free entrance, toilets, and food stalls, but no alcohol is allowed.

View over the harbour

A maximum of 20,000 people can visit on New Year’s Eve. Three thousand more could get in after we entered, so it actually wasn’t so full. Then we had to wait for almost 10 hours for the show to start; there were hundreds of people sitting or lying on the grass. I spent most of my time listening to music and reviewing the year that was about to pass.

There were some air shows in the early evening, and family fireworks at 9 pm (a good preview of what was to come) made the wait for the big event feel shorter. At 2 pm German time, we celebrated New Years’ in Australia with a grandiose firework display, which I will remember for the rest of my life. The view was truly phenomenal, even though I was standing behind a 2m high fence at one of the few vacant tree gaps (I’m lucky to be so tall). What else can you expect when the event is so commercialized?

While I was settling for my cozy tree spot, the better-off people were enjoying an exquisite party a few meters below us. It was nice to watch them behind the fence all along the harbor promenade. Those who could afford even more were, of course, also able to take a seat on one of the numerous ships that anchored in the harbor for this event.

Sydney’s New Year’s Eve fireworks

It was a wonderful event that will stay in my memories for a long time. There was not much left to do after the fireworks, so, being extremely tired, I headed back to the hostel and went straight to bed.

The next day I visited “Sydney Wildlife World” with its vast selection of Australian animals.

It is located in central Sydney, on the shores of Darling Harbour, near the Sydney Aquarium and Madame Tussauds Museum. It’s quite a unique place with fully recreated climates of natural habitats, housing 6,000 different animal species. The walls of the administrative premises are full of illustrations and descriptions of the habitats that are recreated in the park. The main route (with a total length of almost 1 km) passes through the tropics with butterflies fluttering around, the desert with kangaroos, and a mountainous zone.

Kangaroo Jack.

There’s a lot to see in an area of 7,000 square meters. The upper level of the exhibit is in the open-air. It is surrounded only by sizeable stainless steel nets, which are supported by curved beams resembling the ribs of a rainbow snake, an Aboriginal mythical character. This feature also made it possible to incorporate a wide range of different trees and vegetation. The desert area is the largest exhibition in the zoo. It covers an area of 800 square meters. About 250 tons of red sand was brought in tankers from Central Australia to recreate it.

Stoned Crocodile

The selection of animals includes an enormous saltwater crocodile, cute koalas, a wombat, the most poisonous snakes in the world (and Australia), and many other species like kangaroos, platypuses, etc. It is an excellent way to see local iconic animals, all in one convenient location, right in the heart of the city. For an extra cost, you can even have breakfast accompanied by koalas; the price also includes having your picture taken with these adorable animals.

There’s another interesting fact about koalas that I’d like to share with you. As you may know, they eat only eucalyptus. But this plant is poisonous, and the liver of a newborn koala has no antibodies to the poison. Therefore, a baby koala’s first meal consists of its mother’s excrements. This allows them to absorb the bacteria that neutralize the toxin. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?

Koala hanging around

Later I had a walk around the city and finally ended up at the “Art Gallery of NSW.” It is the most important public gallery of fine international and Australian art in Sydney, and one of the largest in Australia. Its collection includes Aboriginal artifacts, Torres Strait Islander art, Asian art (a great variety of ceramic and bronze items), Australian (the works of the most famous Australian artists of the 19th and 20th centuries), Western (British Victorian art, European art of the 15th to 20th centuries) and Contemporary art.

There was also a temporary exhibition of the “legendary” terracotta warriors. A few years later, I visited the army in their home country 🙂 I couldn’t but take a look at them: there were only 12 sculptures presented in the museum plus a few other Chinese artifacts, but it was still awe-inspiring. They looked like real people, even though they were made of terracotta. I even managed to take some pictures before I was stopped by the guards (I didn’t see the forbidding sign :P).

Didn’t see the forbidding sign 😛

After that, I absorbed a bit of “classical” art, both contemporary Australian and older European pieces. I felt I was upgrading from an art philistine to an art expert.

The next stop on my sightseeing tour was the Harbour Bridge. It is the largest steel arch bridge in the world and an iconic landmark of the city. The bridge is nicknamed “The Coathanger” because of its arch-based design. People can walk or cycle across the bridge, as well as climb up and enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of the city, the Opera House and the harbor. It may look small, but it covers quite a distance. It spans about 500 meters. A genuinely astronomical sum of 20 million Australian dollars was spent on its construction. The bridge connects the downtown business district with the North Shore, crossing Port Jackson Bay. However, the neighborhood that starts behind the bridge is rather boring to me, especially being a residential area.

The Harbour Bridge

I also visited the “Australian Museum,” which is definitely worth the while. I learned and saw a lot about Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders (the “natives” who inhabit the islands in the strait between Australia and Papua New Guinea) and their culture.

In addition, the museum has an impressive natural history collection. It includes huge dinosaur skeletons, specimens of already-extinct Australian animals (e.g. the Tasmanian Tiger), and many other animals still in existence, even live animals like snakes and such.

I also visited the Royal Australian Mint, where every single Australian coin is made – It is another must-visit place in Sydney. There is a very informative and well-presented museum-type display with large viewing windows, which allow you to look down onto the factory floor where you can see currently-circulating and unique commemorative coins being made with the help of Titan the Robot.

Did you know that the Australian dollar notes were the world’s first notes printed on polymer? And that Australia has now exported this technology to 27 other countries, including New Zealand? Well, now, you do!

Personally, I find the Australian dollar, especially the one in the form of a coin, fascinating. The 2-dollar piece is about the size of a 1 cent coin in Germany –- it’s only a bit thicker, and it is golden. When I first came to Australia, I used to think that it was worth 2 cents – Here, the smaller the value, the bigger the coin. Quite funny!

I hope you enjoyed the highlights of my trip to Sydney as much as I enjoy telling you about them. The next stop on my travel plan is New Zealand, so stay tuned.

View on Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House