I’m not really all that sure if one could actually write an entire blog post on this not so little (but hardly big) park in the middle, or actually to one side, of the Sydney CBD. A part of it reminds me of pictures of Central Park in New York, though I would have to consider Hyde Park the baby brother (it is only surrounded by buildings on two sides – to the east you have the Domain, and the museum, and to the north you have a bunch of old buildings, which includes Parliament house – okay, you also have St Mary’s Cathedral to the east as well, but that is just a large church as opposed to a collection of sky-scrapers). Unlike Central Park it doesn’t have a zoo (or a lake) in the middle, but I also feel safer walking through here at night than I would with big brother (not that I make a habit of it though).
As an aside I have noticed that WordPress has since revamped their blogging platform, making it a lot easier to post multiple photos, which I have to admit is really convenient, especially the slide show, which I’m probably going to use quite a lot in future posts. In fact, I think I might use it right now for this particular post (though I will be throwing in a few other photos as I make my way around Hyde Park).
I’ve stayed near Hyde Park a couple of times, once in a hotel that carried the title of the tallest residential apartment in the Southern Hemisphere (though that title is now really out of date, considering the Eureka Tower on Melbourne’s Southbank is now, I believe the tallest – though that may have changed – however the plaque was still sitting at the entrance). This time I stayed in a hotel to the South, and a number of times (though not all) I would find myself heading north to catch the train at Museum Station).
The park is divided into two halves, with the aptly named Park Street (I think) running through the centre. Usually I’ve found myself in the southern half, where the war memorial is located, namely because there was a Starbucks across the road and I would grab myself a cup of tea and then sit in the park and read while waiting for my plane to leave (and it was around this time that I discovered the rather bizarre thing about Starbucks – it doesn’t matter what size of tea you order, the price is the same, which is why I end up always ordering the largest – one person once said that tea is tea, but you still have to pay for the water)
One odd thing that I discovered as I began exploring the park was that there was this cannon facing down Oxford Street, which I found rather ironic considering that Oxford Street happens to be the centre of Sydney’s LBGT community (though I wonder how many of them have actually seen the irony of a cannon pointing down the centre of Oxford Street – if they have nobody seems to have kicked up a fuss about it).
The War Memorial
While there are quite a lot of interesting spots in Hyde Park, the one that stands out the most is the New South Wales War Memorial. Anybody who has been to Sydney has probably seen it (even if you haven’t been inside). I’ve probably been in here a couple of times, though I only have a vague recollection of the structure, so I decided that this time, particularly since I was exploring Hyde Park, I would go and check it out.
Interestingly a lot of the war memories that I’ve seen all seem to be built the same, or at least the ones in Melbourne, Adelaide, and Sydney (the one in Brisbane is actually a garden with the eternal flame sitting above it). They were all built shortly after World War One, and have the names of everybody from that particular state who were killed inscribed on the inside – with the exception of the one here in Sydney (they suggested that they would be a little different and have it as a memorial to the war itself). A lot of these monuments started to appear around the country after the war, and you can hardly visit a town that was around prior to the war and not see a plinth with a statue of a bronze digger and the names of those who died underneath.
Mind you, these memorials were supposed to remind us of the horrors of the Great War and to do our best to avoid a repeat. Of course that didn’t happen because twenty years later Europe erupted into war once again. In fact, as you visit a number of these places you will discover that they have had to continued to add memorials to the main one for every new war that we have been involved in (some even have a memorial to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars)
Inside we have the eternal flame, which is supposed to be kept burning forever as a reminder of those who died, and there is another bronze statue, on the lower floor, though there is a balcony that runs around it, of a man lying on his back with his arms outstretched. While we are still fed to this day that these men gave their lives for our freedom, and to an extent that is correct because the Axis powers were hardly a shining beacon of democracy (but then again neither was Russia, and they were our allies), and were also the aggressors (though the catalyst was the murder of Arch-Duke Ferdinand, who was a member of the central powers), as with most wars this was not a battle between nation states, but rather a spat between the ruling elite. As such this statue, in reality, is not the soldier who sacrificed himself for our freedom, but rather the ordinary man sacrificed on the altar of imperialism.
On the lower ground of the War Memorial is a museum with contains artifacts from each of the wars that the Australians have fought in, right up to the Iraq War. The collection isn’t extensive, but then again the museum isn’t all that large. World War I and World War II have larger displays, but each of the other major wars – the Boar War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the current wars in the Middle East, only have one item on display for each of them.
While my little rant above may sound like I’m a pacifist, in reality I’m not, however nor am I one to support my government with every war that they fight. However we do need to be circumspect when it comes to fighting a war. The truth with World War I was that France had been invaded, and the Axis Powers weren’t nice people. However neither were we. While going to the defence of France was, in my opinion, the right thing to do, the way we went about it wasn’t. For instance the Gallipoli campaign was a complete disaster – which goes to prove the failure of the vaunted chain of command.
As for other wars, there are both pros and cons as to our participation. In World War II not only where we under attack, but the empires that we were fighting against were once again not particularly nice people. As for Korea and Vietnam, I will have to suggest that while they may not have turned out the way we wanted them to, what they did do was prevent the relentless march of totalitarianism across South-East Asia. However, once again, what we did in those wars (such as bombing Cambodia) didn’t help our cause (in fact the bombing of Cambodia resulted in the collapse of the monarchy and the rise of a much more brutal dictatorship). As for Iraq, I’ll leave that for another time.
Well, I had finish my visit to the War Memorial so now it was time to go and look at other parts of the park. Mind you, as I discovered as I wandered around, there were quite a number of different memorials scattered about. As I walked around I came across a rather unusual sculpture – a number of larger than life bullets. I’m not sure what they represent, but they were interesting nonetheless.
There seems to be a thing about obelisks because there is one opposite Bathurst St. Okay, there is also one in London, and three in Rome (and I believe on in Paris as well), but those obelisks are all authentic Egyptian obelisks (namely because somebody in the past – and in the case of the Roman ones, the very, very distant past – took them from Egypt and set them up in their respective cities – I believe Napoleon is responsible for the one in Paris). However the one here in Sydney, for some strange reason, I highly doubt came from Egypt. Maybe it has something to do with the metal lattice on the top.
On the other side of the park there is, not surprisingly, a statue of Captain Cook – the first English person to visit this part of Australia. I won’t repeat what we were taught in school, namely because they were a little incorrect. Captain Cook didn’t discover Australia – the Aboriginals did – and even then Australia was visited by the Asians, and the Dutch, long before Captain Cook first set foot on Botany Bay. The thing about Captain Cook was that he visited a part of Australia that looked like it would suit a colony – the other European Explorers visited the northwestern coast during a time of drought, and all they could see was empty desert (not that it was unihabitable – Aboriginals did live there – it was just not suited to European style colonisation).
Across Park Street
Well, that was the southern half of the park, so I walked across a foot bridge to the northern half. One thing that I noticed in the southern half was that there was an awful lot of grass, at least to the north of the War Memorial. However when you hit the northern half there seems to be a lot more gardens. Okay, it isn’t all gardens, but there are still quite a number, including the Sandringham Gardens.
It seems like I’m posting a lot more pictures now that WordPress has upgraded it’s blog editor, but it does make it a lot cleaner and presentable when you do have quite a few pictures to use.
Anyway, along with a the other memorials I found one dedicated to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Now, I’m not really all that sure what organisation is about, though I did read a history of it when one of the financial news letters that I subscribe to talked about the fund manager IOOF (which is a part of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows). One thing I have to mention is that I do quite like the name, and it would be rather amusing to be known as an odd fellow, though I also have to say that I don’t need to be a member of IOOF to be known as an odd fellow.
I also found a totem pole as I was wandering around this part of the park, though I never thought the native Australians used totem poles – maybe it was just some sort of decoration – there are a few about. Also, since it is made of stone, it is another reason why I doubt it is Australian (the Aboriginals weren’t known for their ability to work with stone).
Then I discovered something that really interested me – a fountain with a number of Greek mythological heroes on it. It is known as the Archibald Fountain, and was bequeathed by the editor of The Bulletin. While the fountain has statues of the Greek gods Apollo and Artemis (or more correctly Diana, which is her Latin name, but since I’m a Classical Greek scholar, I tend to revert to the original Greek names), as well as the hero Theseus (and I also believe Orpheus, but the wikipedia article doesn’t mention him – rather it suggests that it is some god of the fields), it wasn’t made by a Greek (rather a French artist) and has nothing to do with Australia’s relationship with Greece – rather it is to commemorate Australia’s commitment to France during the war, and is also supposed to give a French neo-classical feel to the city.
For some reason, I don’t seem to have taken a photo of the third part of the fountain – it’s probably there somewhere, I most likely labelled it wrong.
The Catholic Cathedral
At the top of the park (or is it the bottom, but since the road curves around at that point to me it feels more like the top) is one of those statues that you seem to see all over the the Commonwealth – Queen Victoria. In fact at one stage I went out of my way to try and find as many of these statues as possible, though a friend of mine denied that there was any in Mumbai. However I have found one in Adelaide, one in Melbourne, one in Hong Kong, and of course one in London (and there is probably also one in Brisbane, which I’ve seen, but I can’t quite remember where it is). Actually, there are two in Sydney – one of them is located at the top of Hyde Park, and the other is located out the front of the Queen Victoria building.
The area around here is actually the legal district, and you will find the District and Federal Courts, as well as Parliament, the State Library, and the Mint. Apparently the Hyde Park barracks are also here, but it seems that these days it’s just a military museum.
However, I wanted to go and check out the cathedral, or more precisely the Catholic Cathedral (St Mary’s). I didn’t end up going inside because I poked my head in through one of the side doors and saw a group of people all engaged in mass. Okay, I’ve been to churches before to look around while Mass is going on, but that happened to be St Peters in the Vatican, so the Mass was relegated to a small corner of that incredibly large church. However, I did walk around the plaza out the front, which also happens to have a swimming pool underneath. I also tried to get a photo of the entire front of the cathedral, but found my self moving ever more back in an attempt to do so, and by the time I turned around to take a selfie, my head was blocking out the cathedral.
I had planned to go to the museum, which was just across the road, however after checking the time on my phone, and also noticing that entry wasn’t free (which is a little odd because entry is free to the state Art Galleries), I turned around and headed back across the road to where I wandered around the gardens a bit more before heading back into the city to do some shopping.
Hyde Park – A Morning Stroll by David Alfred Sarkies is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If you wish to use this work commercially please feel free to contact me.