Panic at the Melbourne Museum!


It was a beautiful afternoon. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. I was ready to get my learning on at the Melbourne Museum which promised to delight me with excellent dinosaur exhibits (dinosaurs are kinda my favourite).

I sauntered into the exhibition rooms, eager to check out the pterodactyl fossils and other gems of the prehistoric age, when suddenly I rounded a corner and was faced with THIS:

Deadly Black Widow/Redback Spider! (morguefile photo)

In my eagerness, I had not carefully observed the layout of the museum and had failed to notice that in order to get to Jurassic Park, I would have to traverse the Bugs Alive! rooms, home to the venomous Australian spiders of my nightmares. I was surrounded by the human-killing Sydney funnel webs, redback/black widows, and whitetails. And by surrounded, I mean encased in glass and dirt enclosures, but DID I MENTION THEY WERE ALIVE?!

Twenty minutes later when my silent but crippling phobia-induced panic attack had subsided and my heartbeat had slowed to a normal pace again, I was able to appreciate the dinosaur hall that much more because although dinosaurs could hunt and eat me, they are dead and gone and no longer pose a threat to my life.

Traumatizing experience with the deadliest arachnids on earth aside, Melbourne was my favourite city in Australia. It had a distinct personality compared to Brisbane and Sydney, and not just because of the great cafes and jazz bars tucked away in its many laneways and alleys in the CBD. For my fellow North Americans, that is the Central Business District, or what we would refer to as “downtown”. [Also, please note that “hotels” in Australia often mean “bars” and that you should never use the expression “double fisting” to refer to someone holding a drink in each hand, because in the Land Down Under, that is NOT what it means (see: Urban Dictionary). Key differences to avoid confusion and embarrassment.] The CBD of Melbourne is home to great galleries and museums, many of which are located steps from Federation Square and provide free admission to students.

The Ian Potter Centre and Victoria Art Gallery were lovely if art is your thing, and at the excellent Immigration Museum, you can learn about all the ways Australia tried to keep out all immigrants except for British people over the years. One screening process was the Dictation Test which once kept out an immigrant who spoke four European languages but failed the test because they asked him to write it in Gaelic.

But mostly you should go to Melbourne for the cake. You can thank me later.


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