Brisbane is the capital of Queensland and Australia's third biggest city with a population close to two million, a substantial metropolis. It is situated on the banks of the Brisbane river, about 20km from the coast. Brisbane has a sub-tropical climate with hot, humid summers and mild (by our standards, very warm: temperatures range from 10 to 22 degrees), relatively dry winters.
We arrive in Brisbane after a fifteen hour flight from Dubai. Tired is a bit of understatement, but thanks to the wonderful thing that is CouchSurfing in general and our firs Australian host in particular, we were loaded into the car, tucked into bed and after sleeping for twelve hours we feel semi-human again.
We start Brisbane sightseeing with a evening panorama from Mt Coot-tha, a lovely hill lookout affording excellent views of the city and the whole area stretching far towards the ocean and the hills in the distance.
The implications of being on the other side of the world are not yet sinking in: not only it's winter here (which seems similar to Scottish summer, in general) just now, exactly when the summer is starting back at home, but it also means, for example, that the days are really short! I know, it should be obvious, but it just shows how factual knowledge doesn't immediately challenge the set patterns of thinking. The fact that the "winter" here has temperatures of around 20 degrees doesn't help!
Brisbane is where our first impressions of Australia are formed, and the interesting thing is that it feels, smells and looks immediately different in a manner that no other place we visited before (including Canada and even Dubai) did.
The native vegetation and fauna are visible at every step: particularly the characteristic shape and coloring of the eucalyptus, a strikingly beautiful tree if there ever was one. White cockatoos and colorful rainbow lorikeets take off from the trees in the evening, and Australian magpies are nothing like the European ones.
We make our way to the city center (a forty-five minute bus journey from the garden suburb where our host lives) to have a look at Brisbane's CBD. We get off at the Roma Street station and emerge at King George Square, an appealing space with some grand old buildings (including an imposing City Hall) and statues, trees and modern art touches (fro some reason, many of the trees and posts wear knitted warmers). We walk through the center of town, finding a pleasant city where confident, modern architecture mixes well with reminders of a colonial era.
Brisbane's CBD lies in a bend of Brisbane river, mostly on the north bank. The South Bank holds city's cultural heart, with a theater, museum, art galleries, music academy, landscaped tropical garden, a Nepalese Peace Pagoda and even a big ferris wheel (and an artificial city beach – under construction during our visit).
We take a small ferry (pedestrians only) to the South Bank (the ferries are part of the integrated TransLink public transport system and fun to take – no need to pay for special cruises) and enjoy a stroll in the rain-forest gardens as we walk towards the wheel. There is also a riverside boardwalk that affords excellent view of the CBD in the setting sun.
The first impression of Brisbane we have is positive: a large but manageable city, relaxed but busy at the same time, generally confident but with perhaps more of a provincial complex – not entirely justified - than I expected.