If you ever wanted to go to Australia for a vacation, I can recommend it. I myself never get this need for travelling, but a lot of Germans seem to consider it a worthy trip. And that might be due to the fact that it is hard to get away any further. Well, technically, there is a wet spot a few hundred kilometers east of the coast of New Zealand that is exactly the opposite of where I live in Germany. But after 30hrs of flight, teensy details like that NZ is another 4 hours by plane stop to matter.
That said, I can only talk about Sydney. The only place outside of Sydney everyone expects me to visit is Ayer’s Rock, also known as Uluru. You can fly there (only about three hours, also known as three flights from Dortmund to London…), but most people say the road trip itself is worth it and that you’re less likely to be ripped off by the local renting and tourist agencies. Driving there involves a flight to Alice Springs and then a day in the car. Considering that I am not prone to the fascination most of my allegedly atheist compatriots develop for native civilisations and their holy sites, I think I’ll pass on that.
So, back to Sydney: Sydney is great from a vacation perspective: The weather is usually very nice. And even if it is not, they haven’t yet figured out how to make that proper rainy weather that goes on for days.
People are polite and friendly. They might confuse most Americans, because here they actually wait for you to respond to phrases like “how are you?”. I am not a big proponent of German world domination, but if we could bring the world that habit of just wishing someone a good day and leaving it at that, all would be better. [footnote]Maybe, once I am elected the world’s president for live, I can institute the death penalty on open-ended faux conversation staters.[/footnote]
Eating out is great. There’s sushi everywhere for good prices, and you can see people everywhere nibble on big maki rolls as quick lunch. Aforementioned big, unsliced maki rolls (about two to three times the diameter of a typical, Japanese roll) seem to take the place of hand rolls (temaki). Talking about sushi, another thing that seems popular is half-grilled (or seared on top) salmon nigiri. I have seen that as style popular on Hawaii or the Philippines and, while not too fond of it, consider it a great unusual piece in any menu. The Australian variant uses a lot more smoky aromas and a BBQ’ish sauce to emphasize the grilled flavour.
Continuing on the food front, the Aussies seem to know as much about steaks as the Americans do. Being invited to a BBQ promises burgers and steaks of high quality – beef is comparatively cheap here. Well, you won’t find cheap beef like in Germany, but for typical prices, the quality is quite high. And to use one of C.’s observations: “I like that they do not sell that stuff in packs of less than a kilogram”.
The zoo is famous and the national parks are, too. The beaches look nice, too. For your convenience, there are actually a bunch of walks that combine beaches and national parks.
The pubs are comfy. Prices are as ridiculous as in all big first world cities, but no close to Paris-level insulting. A day in the pub yesterday ended up costing me 80 AUD for 6 pints and a burger.
Public transportation rocks (and as tourist, the privacy issues of the Opal card will not concern you) and with cheap mobile internet access [footnote]a country that didn’t fuck up like we Germans did with the UMTS licensing deal[/footnote], finding your way around on google is possible even for me [footnote]While I have not yet managed to get lost in a phone booth, I once got lost on a phone book publisher conference[/footnote].
And finally, since this is a city, there are rather few animals out to kill you. Australians might not care about either heat or sound insulation (and I guess a German carpenter journeyman might either be considered a god of craftsmanship here or a freak with too expensive ideas), but they sure know how to keep insects from coming into their homes. You’ll have to visit the zoo to see the more unpleasant variants of insect wildlife. Well, you could be a freak like me and inspect the dead things that lie on the road after a rainfall.
Verdict: If you feel the need to get far away from Germany, especially if you want to be warm during Christmas, go have a look. The only thing that might disappoint you is that it might be too much like all those big European or American cities you have been to.