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Published November 11th 2017
Magnificent, Marvellous, Magical Melbourne
(by Donaldytong / Public Domain)
Melbourne, Australia's sporting capital, was once the richest place on earth, with huge stores of gold stuffed into vaults beneath the city. Although the gold rush is over, it led to a cultural revolution as our food, art, night-life, architecture and fashion draw millions of new residents and tourists every year. Our most popular attractions, including the MCG, Flinders St and the Melbourne Cup, are known world-wide but there are many more delights for the savvy explorer.
Discover (or re-discover) Melbourne with this list of 50 fascinating facts for a year's worth of WeekendNote-worthy adventures.
(by Marcus Wong / BY-SA 3.0)
1. We love our trams. Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world, beating the Europeans and Americans with a dozen trams rocketing at 15kph over 200 kilometres of track, pausing at almost 2000 stops.
2. Melbourne was one of the first cities to mandate the 8-hour working day, beginning in 1856 and spreading throughout the world (mostly).
3. Chan's Yum Cha at Home served 750 hungry Melbournians at Melbourne's Food and Wine Festival in 2013, offering 6 items with tea and setting the Dim Sum world record.
4. Melbourne's Luna Park has the oldest continuously running roller coaster in the world, the Great Scenic Railway, exhilarating thrillseekers 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, a farmer and land-owner, perhaps known as Australia's Bruce Wayne. Reports of his nocturnal adventures with the Penguin are unconfirmed.
6. Mollywood? Before Hollywood and Bollywood, Melbourne's film industry created the world's first feature film, an hour-long biopic, The Story of the Kelly Gang, in 1906. The 26th December, Boxing Day, is still our biggest day at the movies, began in 1906 when the film opened at the Melbourne Town Hall.
7.Foster's Lager was first created in Melbourne by two Americans. Fortunately, they took it back to the USA so we can drink proper Aussie beer.
8. The first Myer Christmas window display was revealed 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. Harry Ramsden's, formerly at Burwood East, served 12,105 portions in a single day in April, 1996.
(by Jeremy Keith / BY 2.0)
11. Our hottest day was in 2009, when Melbourne sweltered on February 7 in 46.4 °C temperatures.
12. But we shivered in 1901 as the mercury dropped to -2.8 °C on the 4th of July.
13. North Carlton once housed Collingwood Stockade, with hundreds of criminals in the 1850s and 60s.
14. Don't be tempted by Blackbeard or Long John Silver. You'll risk up to 10 years in jail for knowingly trading with pirates. The 1958 Crimes Act must keep police busy during World Pirate Day.
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, leading to amusing dash-cam footage. Melbournians have mastered traffic directions, as we're the first to use traffic lights, back in 1928 at Collins and Swanston.
17. Melbourne truly is the Aussie sporting capital. The sporting calendar is filled with world-class events, keeping our 5 international-standard facilities busy all year round.
18. Swinburne students didn't lose their marbles in 2013 when they created 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 created 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 concoction, initial sales were sluggish.
20. 187 Todd Road, Fishermans Bend in Melbourne is the site of the only factory to produce Vegemite.
21. Melbourne's oldest building is 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, stretching to 300 metres above Riverside Quay, Southbank, is Melbourne's tallest building. 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), achieving the feat in 2013 during Melbourne Cube Day. He recently beat his own record in Sydney.
24. It's easy to run a marathon dressed as a superhero or in a gorilla suit. Andrew McKenzie ran the fastest marathon in a Mr Potato Head suit, crossing the Melbourne Marathon finish line in 3hr 38min.
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 biggest grouping of tall people in 2009.
26. Chorus lines are notorious for the strict height, weight and age restrictions. 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 colourful flares and sang "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 and 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 might not be practical 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 feverish immigrants 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 flooded 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 much more modest, as co-ed swimming was banned at Brighton Baths. In 1909, a partition was constructed, allowing women and men to swim at the same time.
40. Long before GPS tracking for pizza deliveries, the famous Italian dish was sold in the nation's first pizza shop – Toto's, in Lygon St, Carlton from 1961.
41. Bigger isn't always better. In 1869, the Melbourne Observatory housed the second largest telescope in the world. Teething troubles with the mirrors limited its usefulness. It was shipped to Canberra in the 1940s where it was upgraded, resulting in discoveries of dark matter before a bushfire battered it. Returned home to Melbourne, it's currently being restored.
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, commonly mistaken as New Zealand's creation, originated from a Melbourne factory in 1906. The inventor's wife was from New Zealand, where the flightless Kiwi bird was a native. The popular polish led to the Kiwi becoming NZ's one of national symbols.
45. 'No questions asked, reward offered'. If an important or sentimental item is lost or stolen, you can't use those words to find it. It's illegal in Melbourne under the 1958 Crimes Act.
46. Cars are convenient but what if you needed 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 aircraft 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 afterward, as Melbournians catch up on their night-time drinking after the "6 o'clock swill" 6pm closing time was enforced from 1916 – 1966.
What's your favourite fact about Melbourne? Please leave a comment and let us know.