Hobart, the Tasmanian state capital, is a quaint city with well preserved colonial architecture. It’s location, on the banks of the Derwent estuary, afford it a level of small world charm that is notably absent from the larger state capitals. Hobart is home to a thriving fishing industry which gives it the lovely feeling of a small fishing village. The convict built sandstone harbour and waterfront area make for a pleasant stroll and The Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery is worth a visit. On Saturdays the popular outdoor Salamanca Market is held, selling local produce, cheap street food and vintage knick knacks.
Mount Wellington is the gatekeeper of Hobart, dominating the skyline and towering above the town. The snowcapped mountain offers superb views across the area and is a joy to behold as at comes into view on the drive into Hobart. We waited for a clear day to drive up the mountain to the vantage point at the summit. Unfortunately by the time we got to the top it had clouded over and we couldn’t even see the viewing platform let alone the view. We did manage to get a great view from just below the clouds and it certainly felt odd to see snow in Australia.
A short drive from Hobart is the Cadbury’s chocolate factory visitors centre. Both of Emily’s grandparents worked at the now defunct Cadbury’s factory in Bristol and her childhood is full of memories of the treats from the factory shop. Naturally, we had to visit the Tasmanian Cadbury’s see how it compared. We taste tested as much chocolate as we could lay our hands on and snapped up several bargains in the shop. Following a very informative demonstration we can also now reveal the reason why Australian chocolate tastes differently: Something about milk, we can’t remember what exactly, but definitely milk. Or water. Or maybe sugar…
We went to a gay bar with a friend in Hobart. It was the kind of small town gay bar that people move to Sydney or London to escape. Badly lit with a poor DJ and a strong odour of poppers mixed with cheap energy drinks. The clientèle consisted of three moody lesbians and a gaggle of gay men befitting every stereotype available. After several energy drink cocktails, we got chatting to a caricature in a pink flamingo jumper who told us his group had driven three hours to get there. We danced, we drank, we enjoyed our night out but we left that place feeling extremely glad that visiting small town gay bars was no longer our lot in life. In fact, we had never been more glad to be married to one another!
The jewel in Hobart’s crown is most certainly the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). It houses art and antiquities from the private collection of Tasmanian millionaire David Walsh. He describes it as a “subversive adult Disneyland” and we couldn’t agree more. MONA is a gallery unlike any other we have visited. You can arrive by boat or road to what looks like an ordinary building on a small outcrop of land. After entering the gallery you descend underground via a never ending spiral staircase. Once you are deep in the belly of the beast that is MONA a beautifully creepy creative assault begins to take place. It feels more like a bar or a party or a bat cave than a gallery. There are no plaques on the wall telling you what to think. Light and darkness and silence and sound take on new meanings as you wander through the evocative exhibits. Imagine a world in which Voldemort is a millionaire with a creepy underground lair. Now imagine that he is the presenter of Art Attack and you are close to visualising the wonder that is MONA.
During our visit the gallery was hosting the Dark MOFO festival, which is as dark and twisted as it sounds. Having already visited MONA during the day we returned the following night to the opening of a new exhibition by Marina Abramovic. Art critics, musicians, creatives, hipsters, local kids and adults all came together for a great evening of darkness. As fires burned into the night music, dancing and frivolity ensued.
MONA is most certainly the best art gallery we have ever visited. Some people would argue that it is nothing more than self indulgent modern rubbish. Our counter argument would be that they clearly didn’t spend enough time in the Madonna room. That’s the beauty of MONA, like all important expressions of culture, it divides opinion.