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What Are Melbourne's Most Unlikely Shops?

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by Julie Mundy (subscribe)
Julie is the author of a number of guidebooks, including 'Melbourne's Best Bush Bay and City Walks' & 'Melbourne for Dogs' (with RSPCA). Read more of her adventures at her walks blog:
Published April 23rd 2012
Have you ever been to a city and wandered around, looking at all the wonderful shops that just sing out to you about that city? And have you then turned a corner and found something you just really didn't expect?

I think Melbourne has a few of these hidden surprises. For my money, the single most unexpected shop I have stumbled across in all my wanderings around Melbourne is the Babushka Shop in the Royal Arcade. Babushkas are those highly decorated Russian nesting dolls that kids (and adults) find endlessly fascinating and this shop is stuffed full of them. Visiting this gorgeous shop makes Melbourne feel like 10,000 miles away.
Matryushka Dolls, Babushka (c) JP Mundy
Oh, Babushka, Babushka, Babushka, yai-aye

Established in 1991 in the most appropriate, European style setting you can imagine in the Royal Arcade, the Babushka Shop sells a stunning array of dolls nests, with everything from traditional Matryoshka, through to Russian Presidents and even Michael Jackson and the Beatles. At Christmas time, they have a huge array of Santas, which brought me and my kids to our knees - needless to say there is a gorgeous Santa set gracing our home each Christmas.
Russian President nesting dolls (c) JP Mundy
President nesting dolls - how cute?

The Babushkas are of high quality and so bright they just make you feel happy. Prices start at $17 for a small nested set of 3 dolls and can rise up to $300 for the more elaborate sets.

A close second for me, in the 'Most Unlikey Shops to Find in Melbourne' sweepstakes is Amor y Locura, at 77 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy. Just when you were wondering where to get your decorations for the Mexican Day of the Dead, and... oh, of course, here it is, just down the street - a specialist in Argentinian and Mexican antiques and folk art.

Day of the Dead Couple (Photo courtesy Amor y Locura
Day of the Dead Couple (Photo courtesy Amor y Locura)
This surreal and ever-so-slightly eerie shop has both a shopfront and online presence, where you can pick up papier mache skeletons, religious icons, puppets, chandeliers, and, oh, did I mention skeletons? It's no stretch of the imagination to forget you are in Melbourne after just a few heady minutes nosing around in this intriguing store.

Have you stumbled across any shops that make you go 'What...?' What's your nomination for the most Unlikely Shop in Melbourne?
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