Based on the sign (“Use of this garden is at your own risk”) and the state of the sign itself, you’d expect something scary, but actually it was a lovely, well-ordered garden.
As with all major cities I’ve been to, Sydney has several large parks for city dwellers to gather in and reconnect to nature. Near Hyde Park is The Domain, and right next to that, the Royal Botanic Gardens. I love the idea of The Domain, which started as the private park of the first governor, and eventually became open to the public. Now, it’s set aside specifically for public use and enjoyment.
Signs dot the park that read “The Domain is for everyone to enjoy… Please walk on the grass. We also invite you to hug the trees, picnic on the grass and talk to the birds (but please don’t feed them!).” How lovely! Of course, it then goes on to list the many things you can’t do, including seemingly innocuous things like flying kites and throwing frisbees. Still, the main sentiment is great. The Domain is used for concerts and other gatherings, and when I visited, lots of people were out enjoying the sunshine.
I went into the Art Gallery of New South Wales, briefly, and took a look around. Signs indicate which areas you can and cannot take photos in, and the Aboriginal section was definitely one you can’t photograph. Otherwise, I’d show some of them to you. One piece by Genevieve Grieves, called “Picturing the Old People,” was a video installation on multiple screens that I particularly enjoyed; it showed someone setting up various tableaux, rearranging backdrops and subjects to get them just how he wanted for a photography shoot, including dressing people in “native” dress instead of the suits and ties they arrived in.
I walked down Mrs. Macquarie Road to the point, where I saw the opera house and bridge from another angle. From the tip of the peninsula it was also easy to see Fort Denison, which was originally used by colonists as a prison and execution site, before American warships circling it in the early 1800s prompted the Australian government to convert the tiny island into a fort for protection. Funny, then, that in 1942, when Japanese submarines attacked Sydney Harbour, the American ship USS Chicago took out one of the subs, but damaged Fort Denison while doing so.
Abutting The Domain is the Royal Botanic Gardens. It was a pleasure to stroll through them and admire the foliage. There were several different parts to the gardens, including ponds, a path along the harbor, and the inevitable gift shop. The gardens were huge, and I spent well over an hour wandering through them before ending up at the stairs leading to the opera house.
I do not know any names of flora or fauna, so here are some unlabeled plants and birds I enjoyed looking at.
And with a wave to this friend of Dionysus, I left the (manicured, well-maintained) wilds of the gardens and re-entered the concrete world of the city.