The Athens of the South
Adelaide is a vigorous mix of differing political, artistic, geographical and culinary influences. Peripatetic author, Nicholas Klar takes us on journey to his boyhood home.
Coming from Asia you generally fly into Adelaide either from the north or the east. Arriving via the former gives one a brilliant display of the stark barrenness of the Australian ‘Outback’ whilst the latter provides an endless view of a multi-coloured patchwork quilt of fields - or paddocks as they are known in Australia . But you cross the Adelaide Hills and suddenly you are coming in towards a city nestling in lush green surrounded by its famous vineyards – established in the 1840’s by Prussian Lutherans fleeing religious persecution.
Adelaide is the capital of South Australia and is a fine old city (in Australian terms) of just over one million people. Established in 1836 as a free British colony, for years it lay under the grip of conservative politicians, even though it was the first place in the world to grant female suffrage. But in the 1970’s a radical sea-change occurred with the advent of the reformist Don Dunstan as premier. Dunstan, who was famous for wearing safari suits and pink hot pants into Parliament, envisaged Adelaide as an ‘ Athens of the South’ and quickly turned the ‘establishment’ of Adelaide on its head. It was even the first place in Australia to allow legal nude bathing. Quite a bit of that radicalism has now dissipated but Adelaide still remains a quirky mix of traditional conservatism and modern bohemia with the fine traditional old buildings lining it’s streets, cafes that spill out onto the footpaths (it has more eateries per head than any other Australian city), Australia’s best known Arts Festival and more than twenty-five kilometres of fine sandy beaches.
“Elder, also being a strict Baptist, donated the money on the implicit condition that a slightly sloping floor be installed. This was to stop the hall being used for the wicked purpose of dancing”.
How long you have in the city, and the time you visit, has a considerable influence on the things to see and do. Adelaide enjoys a mild Mediterranean style climate and the best times to visit are from October to April, although January and February can be very hot. A must see would be a day exploring North Terrace, the tree-lined cultural boulevard of the city. One can start from outside the Adelaide Casino that is housed in Adelaide ’s fine old rail station. It fact, it was so grand in genesis that it sent the fledgling colony broke and the British government was forced to step in and pick up the tab for the shattered finances.
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