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Published December 31st 2018
The Best Things in Life are in Melbourne
Flinders St Station (by Donaldytong / Public Domain)
Melbourne, Australia's sporting capital, was the world's richest city during the gold rush.
While the treasure turns digital with paywave and bitcoin, we still lead a cultural revolution as our coffee, food, art, coffee, night-life, architecture, coffee and fashion draw millions of interstaters and tourists every year.
Rediscover Melbourne with 50 fascinating inspirations for WeekendNote-worthy adventures.
All aboard a Melbourne tram (by Marcus Wong / BY-SA 3.0)
1. We love our Yarra Trams. Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world, beating the Europeans and Americans with almost 500 trams rocketing across 250 kilometres of track. The 24x7 service handles over half a million trips every day.
2. Melbourne was one of the first cities to mandate the 8-hour working day, starting a global movement in 1856. The number, 888 (8 hours' labour, 8 hours' recreation, 8 hours' rest), is still emblazoned on trade union buildings to commemorate the achievement.
4. Melbourne's Luna Park has the oldest continuously running roller coaster in the world, the Great Scenic Railway, exhilarating thrill-seekers since the park opened its wide mouth in 1912.
5. Long before the Caped Crusader solved comic book crime, Melbourne was almost named Batmania, for the one of the city founders, John Batman. He was a grazier, more likely to squat in Wayne Manor than own it. Reports of his night-time adventures with the Penguin are unconfirmed.
6. Mollywood? Before Hollywood and Bollywood, the world's first feature film, an hour-long biopic, The Story of the Kelly Gang, was released in Melbourne. The tradition of the Boxing Day blockbuster began in 1906 when the film opened at the Melbourne Town Hall.
7.Foster's Lager was first brewed in Melbourne by two Americans. Lucky for us, they took it to the USA so we can drink proper Aussie beer.
8. The first Myer Christmas window display was unveiled in 1956 with an Olympic theme, celebrating the first Summer Olympic Games to be held in the southern hemisphere.
9. Melbourne's National Gallery of Victoria has the world's largest stained glass ceiling, created by Aussie artist, Leonard French. You haven't lived until you've laid beneath the rainbow sky.
10. Melbournians love fish and chips as much as the British. In Burwood East, Harry Ramsden's, served 12,105 portions in a single day in April, 1996.
Fish and chips (by Jeremy Keith / BY 2.0)
11. Our hottest day was in 2009, when Melbourne sweltered through February 7 in as the temperature hit 46.4 °C.
12. But we shivered in 1901 as the mercury dropped to -2.8 °C on the 4th of July.
13. North Carlton once was home to hundreds of criminals, locked in the Collingwood Stockade, during the 1850s and 60s. Read about the dozens of stories from Carlton's colourful criminal history via the Carlton has had a Carlton Community History Group webpage.
15. Do you like green eggs and ham? 564 people did in Essendon in 2015. They set the world record for the biggest group of people wearing their favourite Dr. Seuss character costumes.
16.Hook turns baffle interstate visitors but make for funny dash-cam footage. Melbournians have mastered traffic directions. We've been practising since we got our first traffic lights in 1928 at the intersection of Collins and Swanston St.
17. Melbourne is the Aussie sporting capital. The sporting calendar is stacked with world-class events, keeping our 5 world-class stadiums packed year round.
18. Swinburne students didn't lose their marbles in 2013 when they built a marble track at their Hawthorn campus to set the world record for the longest marble run. It stretched to 1.2 kilometres, needing over 10 minutes to roll across the finish line.
19. Love it or hate it, Vegemite was concocted in a suspicious laboratory in Melbourne in 1922 by the chemist, Dr. Cyril P Callister. Despite a marketing campaign inviting people to submit names for the new substance, initial sales were sluggish.
20. 187 Todd Road, Fishermans Bend in Melbourne is the only factory to make Vegemite.
21. Melbourne's oldest building is the Mitre Tavern, built in 1837 at 5 Bank Place. The original clientele visited for an evening drink after deer hunting in the surrounding bushland.
22. Eureka Tower, Melbourne's tallest building, stretches 300 metres over Riverside Quay, Southbank. Ascend the 92 levels to gasp at Melbourne's cityscape from the SkyDeck.
23. 6.54 seconds. Could you solve a Rubik's Cube this quickly? Feliks Zemdegs did (without cheating). He managed the feat in 2013 during Melbourne Cube Day. He beat his own record in Malaysia in 5.8 seconds in 2018.
25. 136 of Melbourne's tallest (women over 5ft 9in and men over 6ft 1in) met in Melbourne to set the world record for the grandest grouping of tall people in 2009.
26. Chorus lines are notorious for the strict criteria, focused on thin, young, tall dancers. The Tivoli Lovelies broke the stereotype in 2004, setting the record for the oldest professional chorus line in Melbourne with the 10 dancers averaging 74.6-years-old.
27. Mamma Mia, Here We Go Again. 368 people dressed in their best disco outfits to sing "Waterloo" in Melbourne to set the world record for the largest group of ABBA impersonators in 2011.
28. Bring your credit card if Joel Heffernan is behind the bar. At Melbourne's Club 23 in 2013, he served "the Winston", a cocktail containing 1850s cognac, costing almost $13,000.
29. Melbourne is Australia's foodie capital, with more eateries, cafes and restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the world. Fortunately, they don't all have super-size options.
31.Human wheelbarrows won't replace the car but a pair of teens made fast work of a world-record, racing 50 metres in only 14 seconds at Carey Baptist School in Melbourne in 2008.
32. Besides English, over 100 languages are spoken throughout the city, with the languages of India, particularly Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Tamil, Urdu and Gujarati, and Greek, Italian and Mandarin amongst the most common.
33. Sydney beat Melbourne to a spot in the international edition of Monopoly but in the Melbourne edition, the MCG and Federation Square hold the dark-blue top rental spots of Mayfair and Park Lane.
34. Our population might be getting older but Melbourne still has a youthful glow. Melbourne's median age is only 28. In Greater Melbourne, it's 36.
35. Melbourne's AFL Footy Show must have the record for the number of on-air gaffes but it's also featured a world-record bench press. In 2010 at Rod Laver Arena, Derek Boyer bench pressed 114kg 126 times in 60 seconds.
36. Giving new meaning to 'Shop Till You Drop', the Queen Victoria Markets was built in the 1870s over Melbourne's first cemetery. On the corner of Queen and Therry Street, you can pay your respects at the "Passage" memorial.
37. Tempted by the Gold Rush, Melbourne was inundated with immigrants chasing a fortune in the 1850s. Many came from China, creating the longest enduring Chinese settlement in the west.
38. New York's subway might have a rodent problem but Melbourne is flush with foxes. It has the highest number for a capital city, with an average of 15 in every square kilometre.
39. Long before the bikini and mankini, over ancestors were more modest, as co-ed swimming was banned at Brighton Baths. In 1909, a partition was erected, allowing women and men to swim at the same time.
40. Long before GPS tracking and drones for pizza deliveries, the famous Italian dish was sold in the nation's first pizza shop – Toto's Pizza, in Lygon St, Carlton from 1961. They've since moved to 301 Bridge Rd, Richmond.
Supreme Pizza (Toto's Pizza)
41. Bigger isn't always better. In 1869, the Melbourne Observatory housed the second largest telescope in the world. Teething troubles with the mirrors frustrated local astronomers. It was shipped to Canberra in the 1940s for an upgrade. It was used to aid discoveries of dark matter before a bushfire battered it. It's now returned home to Melbourne for restoration.
42. Interstate visitors joke about our '4 seasons in a day', perhaps leading to the law in 1967 banning any unauthorised rain-making in Melbourne by "means of the seeding or nucleating of clouds by artificial means from a manned aircraft".
43. Paris and New York were famous for their bohemian artists, writers and scientists, gathering to discuss their latest masterpieces and inventions. In Melbourne, we had the Yorick Club, emulating London's Savage Club in the 1860s.
44.Kiwi shoe polish might be mistaken as a New Zealand creation, but it came from a Melbourne factory in 1906. The inventor's wife was from the Land of the Long White Cloud, where the flightless Kiwi bird was a native. The popular polish led to the Kiwi becoming one of NZ'snational symbols.
45. "No questions asked, reward offered". If a family heirloom is lost or stolen, you can't use that phrase to find it. It's illegal in Melbourne under the 1958 Crimes Act.
46. Cars are convenient but what if you need more boot space? James Leacock faced the same dilemma, inventing the ute in Melbourne in 1930.
47. Driven by his father's death in a plane crash, David Warren, invented the aicraft black box flight recorder in Melbourne in 1958.
And so the grand-stands make a brilliant and wonderful spectacle, a delirium of colour, a vision of beauty.
The champagne flows, everybody is vivacious, excited, happy; everybody bets, and gloves and fortunes change hands right along, all the time.
Day after day the races go on, and the fun and the excitement are kept at white heat; and when each day is done, the people dance all night so as to be fresh for the race in the morning.
And at the end of the great week the swarms secure lodgings and transportation for next year, then flock away to their remote homes and count their gains and losses, and order next year's Cup-clothes, and then lie down and sleep two weeks, and get up sorry to reflect that a whole year must be put in somehow or other before they can be wholly happy again.
49. Melbourne's best dim sims were made by Ken Cheng until his passing in 2006. Since then, we've searched the city to find any to match – without avail. Where's your favourite dim sim shop?
50. In 2008, Melbourne dabbled with a lockout law, forcing drinkers from clubs and pubs at 2am. It was scrapped shortly afterwards, as Melbournians catch up on their night-time drinking after the "6 o'clock swill". The 6pm closing time was enforced for 50 years, ending in 1966.
What's your favourite fact about Melbourne? Please leave a comment and let us know.