Sydney to the Blue Mountains, to Canberra, to the Snowy Mountains, to the Murray River
04.18.2009 - 04.25.2009 60 °F
Today, April 25th, ANZAC Day, is Australia and New Zealand's most important national occasion. It marks the anniversary of the first major military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces during the First World War. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The soldiers in those forces quickly became known as ANZACs, and the pride they soon took in that name endures to this day. This is a rare instance of two sovereign countries not only sharing the same national day, but also referencing both countries in its name.
Australians and New Zealanders participate in parades, laying of wreaths, pilgrimages to France and Gallipoli, and memorial services to honor fallen soldiers. It is impressive how reverently the occasion is celebrated - it's much more than just a day off work or a department store sale.
We visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra (more about our visit to the Australian Capital Territory later in the blog) and learned that every city, town, village and hamlet in Australia has a war memorial to honor the men and women that fought for Australia in all wars. It is amazing that even in areas where there isn't a town, maybe only a group of 3 or 4 houses, there is some sort of memorial or war artifact such as a gun, tank, plane or statue.
Apparently, as time has gone on, the significance of honoring those that fought for Australia has increased rather than decreased - thus the saying, "Lest We Forget".
"The Australian Soldier", Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT
Some Facts About Australia's Commitment To Serve:
When war broke out in 1914 Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 14 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula to open the way to the Black Sea for the allied navies. The plan was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul), the capital of the Ottoman Empire and an ally of Germany.
They landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers were killed. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.
331,781 Australians fought in World War I in France, Belgium, Gallipoli and the Middle East. Almost 60,000 never came home. Of those who did, 213,000 returned wounded, either in body or mind. Another 85,000 Australians enlisted but did not serve overseas. In a nation of just 4 million, 416,809 of its men - all volunteers - were in uniform at some time during the years 1914-18.
Australian soldiers are affectionately referred to as "Diggers". Digger is a New Zealand and Australian military slang term for soldiers from New Zealand and Australia. It originated during World War I and is attributed to the number of ex-gold diggers in the early army units and to the trench digging activities of the Australian soldiers during World War I.
Meehni, Wimlah & Gunnedoo
The Three Sisters are close to the town of Katoomba and are one of the Blue Mountains' most famous sights, towering above the Jamison Valley. Their names are Meehni (3025 Feet), Wimlah (3012 Feet), and Gunnedoo (2972 Feet).
Legend says that three sisters fell in love with three men from a neighboring tribe, but marriage was forbidden by tribal law. Battle ensued, and the sisters were turned to stone by an elder to protect them, but he was killed in the fighting and no one else could turn them back. This legend is falsely claimed to be an Indigenous Australian Dreamtime (part of aboriginal culture which explains the origins and culture of the land and its people) legend.
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 340,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth largest Australian city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory, 170 miles south-west of Sydney, and 410 miles north-east of Melbourne.
The site of Canberra was selected for the location of the nation's capital in 1908 as a compromise between rivals Sydney and Melbourne, Australia's two largest cities. It is unusual among Australian cities, being an entirely purpose-built, planned city. Following an international contest for the city's design, a design by the Chicago architects Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin was selected and construction commenced in 1913.
The city's design was heavily influenced by the garden city movement and incorporates significant areas of natural vegetation that have earned Canberra the title "bush capital". Although the growth and development of Canberra were hindered by the World Wars and the Great Depression, it emerged as a thriving city after World War II.
As the seat of the government of Australia, Canberra is the site of Parliament House, the High Court of Australia and numerous government departments and agencies. It is also the location of many social and cultural institutions of national significance, such as the Australian War Memorial, National Gallery of Australia, National Museum of Australia and the National Library of Australia. The federal government contributes the largest percentage of Gross State Product and is the largest single employer in Canberra.
We also visited Parliament House which is the meeting place of the Parliament of Australia. Construction began in 1981, and the House was intended to be ready by Australia Day, January 26, 1988, the 200th anniversary of European settlement in Australia. It was expected to cost $220 million.
Neither the deadline nor the budget were met. It was opened on May 9, 1988 by Queen Elizabeth II, and cost in excess of $1.1 billion. At the time of its construction it was the most expensive building in the Southern Hemisphere.
We found it very interesting that in Australia, voting is compulsory both at federal elections and at elections for the state and territory legislatures. About 5% of enrolled voters fail to vote at most elections. People in this situation are asked to explain their failure to vote. If no satisfactory reason is provided (for example, illness or religious prohibition), a relatively small fine is imposed ($20-$70), and failure to pay the fine may result in a court hearing.
After leaving Canberra we drove west to cross the Great Dividing Range and the Snowy Mountains. From the town of Jindabyne, we drove through Kosciusko National Park to the ski resort of Thredbo. We also visited Khancoban, Corryong, Tumbarumba and Wagga Wagga and then left the Snowy Mountains to the town of Albury and then into the Murray River Valley.
Not sure what the fascination with oversized statues is but here are some great examples of livestock and fish we saw along the way!
We are now on our way to Adelaide where we'll enjoy another Australian city and Kangaroo Island before making our way through the Red Center.
Trevor and Rebecca