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Tasmania's tiny capital is smaller than the suburb of an American suburb

Australians mock Tasmania and along with it, Hobart, its tiny capital.  40% of Tasmanians make Hobart their home, which isn't saying much since Tasmania, as of this writing, has only a half a million people.  

No one is going to lie, particularly myself, that Hobart is a booming capital full of the hippest nightlife in Australia.  It's a small, clean town, a throwback to what I think small town America must've been in the 1940's and 1950's.  It's the sort of place you feel you could leave the keys in your car as you go about your errands.  Warning:  DON'T do that!  It feels like you could, but if you actually went ahead and tested the hypothesis, you might feel exactly like you just got your car stolen.

What sets Hobart away from small-town America or small-town Australia is its sophistication.  Many of Hobart's current residents are relocatees from the Australian mainland's capital cities looking for a slower pace of life with cleaner air.  They open up high-end restaurants and chic cafes you wouldn't see in places like Geraldton (WA) or Whyalla (SA).  Nor would you find Indian restaurants and groceries stocking Asian foods in hick country towns, would you?  Or symphony orchestras -- Hobart has one.  And the graffiti!  The insightful mocking of the then U.S. president was truly world class, worthy of a town three times Hobart's size. 

Hobart graffiti Hobart graffiti
Only in a capital would you get graffiti this detailed

Cascade BreweryOn weekends, the Salamanca Market is active in the way you think of small-town farmer's markets, but since it's a capital city, with higher-end produce and wider variety.

A ten minute drive away from Hobart is the Cascade Brewery.  Equivalently, it's a 40 to 90 minute journey, depending upon if you walk there or crawl there.   My German friend and I walked in and crawled out.  The tour of Australia's oldest brewery ended with samples at their in-house bar.  We were given three vouchers each, but as the bartender failed to collect our vouchers every time with so many other patrons present, those three vouchers could just as well have been thirty.   Not all beverages made at the brewery are available outside Tasmania.  The Mercury Black-label cider, the fourth in the Mercury line, this one found only in Tassie, was what did us in.  We bought a six-pack to go, stumbled into a park at Battery Point, and drifted off into a haze of drunken idiocy.  Doing the same is highly recommended!

Nearby Mt. Wellington gets lots of hip looks from the locals.  It has to.  Most of Hobart is constructed upon Wellington's foothills.  Out-of-shape hikers can claim this one a victory before departure.  It's only 4,170 ft high. 

New Zealand and Hobart serve as major ports for Antarctic operations.    The French and Aussies prefer the chic aura Hobart gives off (the Tasmanian wines don't hurt) and base their Antarctic operations here.

My memories of Hobart are fond ones.  Pizzas in the parks, strolls along the restored shophouses on the waterfront.  For the moment, Hobart couldn't be safer.   It's unlikely you'll be walking around at 3 AM, but if you are, the muggers should already be in bed.   

The Hobart suburb of Claremont got its name on the map by being the location for the Cadbury (Australia) factory tour, which exports average-tasting chocolate throughout the Southern Hemisphere and to Southeast Asia.   The free tours are now a thing of the past.   One has the option to go on a lame visit to the Visitor Center at a current cost of AUD 7.50 per adult and AUD 17.50 for an average-sized family.   By all accounts, the 'experience' is something you'd get free at other chocolate factories, and the prices at the retail shop are nothing to scream about.  Save your money and buy a Cadbury bar at a local grocery.  Or better yet, consider a Whittaker's.

By Tasmanian standards, accommodation in Hobart is steep. Prices for one bed in a 12-bed dorm were almost equivalent to getting a pub room all to myself elsewhere in Tasmania.  On the same day I was driving into Hobart, a German friend, known as Super Kay in VIP circles, whom I met several months earlier in Laos, was arriving on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry in Devonport, then catching a bus to Hobart to meet me.   The plan was that I'd pull into Hobart around noon, get us a double room, and call his cell phone with the hotel/hostel name and address.   I, at that point, did not have a cell phone, hard as I find that to believe now.

Parking in the Hobart central business district is not easy.   I had to park my car next to a meter and come back to it every hour.  Fortunately, Hobart central is small and walking from one end to the other can be done in less than twenty minutes.  All the bargain accommodation was close to each other.  I didn't think Hobart would be so touristed on the low end to have to pre-book a room.

Super Kay didn't care if we slept in miserable 12-bed dorms for AUD 20-22 per night per person, a staple in Tasmania and the rest of Australia.  I'm anti-dorm at my age.  My objective was to secure us a double room and some piece of mind.   At that time, single rooms at most of these grungy low-end hostels were AUD 50.  The same room, if slept in by two, was AUD 55.    Supplies of single/double rooms were quite limited or hostels, with low capacity, were completely booked out.  With some effort, I managed to secure us a claustrophobic room in the Hobart Hostel

I rang Super Kay on his cell phone and told him we were in room number three.  I took a nap, toured town, and returned to the room near 5 PM.  No Super Kay.   I rang him again.  He was at an internet cafe in the center of town.   Two hours passed, then three.   No Super Kay.   I could've called him again, but by this time I was super pissed.   Couldn't Super Kay have given me the consideration to blow me off like a man?  Did he have to blow me off like plenty a girl from my past had?   

The next morning, hostel staff knocked on my door and said I had a phone call from Super Kay.  He was on his way with a story too unusual to be made up.  The taxi driver had driven him from the central mall to a backpacker lodge.  Super Kay asked at reception if an American named Doug was in room 3.  They said there was, and he immediately checked in.  It was a four-bed dormitory.   No one else was in the room, and Super Kay waited around for hours for my arrivial.  At 11 PM,  Doug showed up, but it wasnt me.  Super Kay was staying at another hostel down the street from my own, with a similar name, with another Doug, another American, in another room #3!    The next morning, he awoke early and corrected his mistake.

I only stayed two nights at this shoebox, and it was probably as good as I was going to get for the price we paid.   Since my stay there, prices have climbed 20% in AUD terms.  Hostels can charge these prices and get away with it, much like the rest of Oz, because there is no value on hotel accommodation in Hobart's CBD.   A compact (i.e. anchovy can style) double room at a lower end hotel will cost at least AUD 125. If you want value for money, get out of town.         


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