Sydney – a multifaceted city | Daily News


Sydney – a multifaceted city

If you are heading Down Under anytime soon, chances are you will be going to Sydney as your first or second stop. There are tons of things to do and see in this Australian city that even one week will not be enough, as I discovered during a recent visit to the city.

The first thing that you should do in Sydney is visiting the famous World Heritage Site the Sydney Opera House, designed by acclaimed Danish architect Jorn Utzon. (He never returned to see its completion). You can tour the Opera House for a small fee and even catch a concert if there is one at the time of your visit.

The Sydney Opera House has been often voted as the leading modern architectural wonder of the world and you will know why when you see it for the first time. I first saw it up close in 2014 (the year before, the building turned 40) and then again just a couple of months ago, this time from a sail boat that sailed really close. Each time, you see something new from a new angle.

“It stands by itself as one of the indisputable masterpieces of human creativity, not only in the 20th century but in the history of humankind,” noted the Expert evaluation report to the UNESCO World Heritage Committee in 2007, when the site was awarded World Heritage Status. Or, As Pritzker Prize judge Frank Gehry said when awarding architecture’s highest award to the Opera House’s architect in 2003: “[Jørn] Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology... a building that changed the image of an entire country.”

It is easily Australia’s number one tourist destination, welcoming more than 8.2 million visitors a year and one of the world’s busiest performing arts centres, presenting more than 2000 shows 363 days a year for more than 1.5 million people. The Sydney Opera House has been valued at US$ 4.6 billion, having been built at a cost of just over US$ 100 million.

The facility features a modern expressionist design, with a series of large precast concrete “shells”, each composed of sections of a sphere of 75.2 metres radius, forming the roofs of the structure. The building covers 1.8 hectares of land and is 183 m long and 120 m wide at its widest point. It is supported on 588 concrete piers sunk as much as 25 m below sea level. The highest roof point is 67 metres above sea-level. The roof is made of 2,194 pre-cast concrete sections, which weigh up to 15 tonnes each. Inside, there is a 2,679 seat Concert Hall, the 1,500 seat John Sutherland Theatre, 544 seat drama theatre, playhouse with 398 seats, studio with 280 seats, Utzon Room for functions and a recording studio. The Utzon Room was of course named in honour of Utzon, who passed away in 2008. Ten years earlier, he had renewed his relationship with the Sydney Opera House and suggested a series of improvements and changes. Utzon’s children are now carrying on his work.

Do take your time to appreciate his sheer genius. Appreciate it from far and near, walk around and take it all in. It is the kind of building that inspires you to broaden your horizons, as the Opera House itself says on its website. But since there is more to Sydney than this iconic building, try to tear yourself away.

Your first post-Opera House activity should be a walk over the famous Sydney Harbour Bridge, from which you can get a good view of the Darling Harbour. If you want a better view of the harbour from above, you can try the Sydney Tower Eye, also in the harbour area.

There is one more activity - the Australian National Maritime Museum is in Darling Harbour, where you can board a replica sailing ship or explore a submarine. You can also do a one-hour harbour cruise on a sailing ship like I did or there are a number of air-conditioned boats with dinner or lunch served on board. When you are tired, just head over to the Botanical Gardens next door to rest your legs. Sydney is a place where you can learn a lot of new things. If you love the Jurassic Park movies and dinosaurs, just trek to the Australian Museum, not far from the Opera House, where you can see 10 dinosaur skeletons and eight life size dinosaur models. Plus, there are plenty of other interactive learning stations for adults and children alike.

If living animals are more your thing, the Wildlife Zoo is the place to visit, where you can see animals that are found only in Australia, such as Koala and Kangaroo. Taronga Zoo is another zoo in Sydney that has the rare Australian Sea Lions. They even have a separate programme to show off their skills. If you love freshwater and marine creatures, there is only one place to be – the Sydney Sea Life Aquarium. Just marvel at creatures from the deep ocean as you walk through a glass tunnel.

Next up should be a tour of the Sydney Observatory in the Rocks area of Sydney to get up close with planets and stars. There is a 3-D Space Theatre at the Observatory where you can learn about our solar system and the universe. The powerhouse museum is another place where visitors can learn more about science, technology, design and decorative arts, engineering, architecture, health and medicine. The nearby Museum Discovery Centre is the place to learn more about how museums around the world play a major role in discovering and preserving our past.

Sydney is not all work and no play, so you can head over to its famous beaches for a bit of recreation. You might already have seen Bondi, Manly and Cronulla beaches on television as they are popular worldwide. Remember the Sydney Olympics of Year 2000 (when our very own Susanthika Jayasinghe won a silver medal)? Yes, you can visit the Sydney Olympic Park for relaxation. The nearby Aquatic Centre, also built for the Olympics, has swimming and diving facilities. You can learn to ride a horse or practice your bow and arrow skills at several places in Sydney. But if you want to go further, try indoor skydiving at the iFLY skydiving center in Sydney. It is completely safe and there is no risk unlike jumping from a real airplane from thousands of feet in the sky. For a somewhat similar, but outdoor, experience, visit the Sydney Tree Tops where you can take a zip line to go between the trees.

Sydney is a great city to visit at any time of the year, so make the most of it by ticking off as many attractions as possible during your stay. It is a family-friendly city with plenty of things to see and do, not to mention the many types of food that you can relish. And they serve Pure Ceylon Tea in practically all the restaurants – even the fast food joints.

You will feel right at home in Sydney as a lot of Sri Lankans live here and both Sinhala and Tamil can be heard often. Multicultural Sydney is indeed a mirror of Australia itself.

(The writer visited Australia as part of the East West Center of Hawaii journalism fellowship)

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