I hadn't flown for 11 years, and that was in a four seater. Before that, I hadn't been in a commercial sized aircraft for 15 years. I thought I'd be more nervous, but to my relief I actually found it a lot of fun. Cloud cover on the way there meant I didn't get to see much except on the approach to Hobart; on the way back, nightfall meant that we got to see Launceston lit up, but that's about it. I was a bit worried about the bloke on the flight to Hobart who felt he needed to have a bourbon and coke before eight in the morning.
If you can afford it, and if you can drive, do hire a car. You will save money, time and effort in the long or short term. Cuddles and I did several Chap Laps around Hobart's CBD and other inner suburbs. Hobart is essentially a large country town. It has an adequate but utterly unremarkable airport – for a comparison, see my notes on Canberra's airport - and the distances between Points A, B and C are artificially extended only by the confusing road system, which especially in the CBD relies heavily on one way streets where left and right turns are severely restricted. I lost count of the amount of three point turns, multiple lane changes and illegal u-turns we made. I wish I'd brought my ipod though - it would have made a nice change from the Greek music and the doof doof I had to sit through.
When you go to Hobart, the one mandatory task that everyone seems to have to tick off is a visit to the Cadbury factory. Once upon a time this may have included an actual tour of the plant, but these days this experience is restricted to a half hour session in which you are given basic statistics and information about chocolate production via a presenter and a short film, and the opportunity to taste the lesser refined and unmixed ingredients that eventually end up as chocolate. Apart from that, you can waste some time and and money in the gift shop and on slightly discounted chocolate. The highlight of this part of the trip had more to do with running into South president Leo Athanasakis, who recognised my hat while we were driving in the area adjacent to the factory. We had a robust but friendly discussion about board politics and personalities.
After picking up our two companions from the airport and returning to the hotel, with about 20 minutes until kickoff in our friendly against Hobart Olympia, we decide to head off to the KGV soccer field. We make it just in time, but on the same token, everything in Hobart seems on close proximity to most everything else. Both sides field youthful outfits – South only has two or three senior regulars on the ground, and despite some occasional sloppiness, dominates proceedings – another young prospect, one Nicky Jacobs, does the damage, with two first half goals, the first an elegant looping chip over the keeper. He made it a hattrick soon after play resumed for the second half, and as more senior players were given time, the result and the game degenerated even further for Olympia.
Olympia have struggled on field in recent seasons. They obviously gave this one a good go, at least in the initial stages, but their attempt to stand toe to toe with their opponents didn't work well. As the match progress, their mistakes became worse. The locals took it in their stride though. It was refereed by a bloke we dubbed Inzamam ul-Haq, whom I was a little disappointed to later learn had the surname Collins. How plain.
Good Morning, Sunshine
At 7am on a saturday, hobart is dead. This is perhaps a relief to some people, who don't believe that anything should be in motion at that time of the week, but after taking a quick walk around the block and finding myself amongst the few living, it was a little disconcerting. It didn't even have that old school ghost town feel – it was just more reflective of the malaise perhaps (an incorrect, but still somewhat appropriate word) that seems to infect the town.
It would be quite safe to suggest that the Greek iced coffee drink known as frappé is a cultural institution in its homeland, and has a legion of devotees here in Australia amongst the Greek diaspora. Now I'm hardly one of those people who can barely last a couple of days without this drink, but at least one of the people I happened to be traveling with is one of those types. What luck then that we found a Greek restaurant in Salamanca (called Mezethes). The menu located outside didn't list frappé, but we decided to ask anyway. Much to our horror, not only did they not have frappé, but Elia Donoudis' long lost son didn't even know what it was! For some reason I was almost as riled by this fact as everyone else, and I hardly touch the stuff. I mean, even in my dad's village of a couple of thousand mostly elderly people, grown men will sip this drink through their straws, and somehow this place didn't know about it? Qué horror!
You might as well head down here when it's open on Saturday, especially if you like Tasmanian produce like honey, jam and whatever they can carve out of wood. Me, I bought a mixed set of ginger beer (regular, 'extra zing' and alcoholic), and a couple of bottles of cider (a sweet perry and a scrumpy). The bag the cider (which is chilling in my fridge) was in was faulty, and therefore the scrumpy bottle smashed onto the pavement. The lady at the next stall helped clean up the glass, and I was offered a replacement bottle by the stallholder I'd bought the cider from, and I managed to prevent it from tearing through the paper bag until we got back to the hotel.
Let's be honest - people love hype, and they love succumbing to the overriding public opinion to the extent that it clouds their judgment. That's the case with several food items at the Queen Victoria Market, most notably the hot jam donuts and the grilled bratwurst. While the former are criminally overrated by people who like their donuts undercooked and doughy, the bratwurst are at least edible. The pork bratwurst with garlic and herbs that one can buy at the Salamanca Market are on another level altogether. It's one of those instances where you are compelled to readjust your thinking about the world. Yes, it was tasty.
The Dutch fruit donut Oliebollen (literally 'oily balls') aren't anything special, and it was a good thing I had only bought one. One of the more confusing stalls was the Gypsy Rolls food stand. Turns out they were just Balkan skinless sausages (aka cevapi). Still, we got a laugh out of it, in part due to reminiscing about the Albanian marinated chicken rolls. The ice cream at the Salamanca Markets is amazing. I had a scoop of boysenberry which came in a crispy, sugary - but not too sugary - waffle cone.
The Hellenic Club
We went to the Hellenic Club twice. The first time was after we'd played Olympia, where the team (and the rest of us) were treated to dinner - tender goat, OKish chicken, chips, salad and Mythos beer. We were on the same table as some of the Olympia officials, maybe a bloke allegedly banned from dozens of casinos for being a champion card counter, as well the local Greek Orthodox priest who preferred a traditional VB to the Greek lager. The hospitality was fantastic all night, but being involved in several simultaneous conversations we couldn't take too much notice of the surrounds.
Going back there on the Sunday after the South Hobart game, what with our last chance to have dinner in town as well as the only known provider of frappe in Hobart, we got to have a better look. Approaching the venue, we weren't really sure if it was open, but we saw the television on from outside.
You could hardly find a more different Hellenic Club to the one located in Canberra. The Canberran version is massive, full of pokies, garishly decorated, and lacking in any real identifier outside its name of actually being a Greek venue. The Hobart version was small and cosy, and decorated in every bit of naff Greek kitsch ephemera and they could lay their hands on. Posters with the heroes of '21 and Greek singers, a big scarf over the bar with the word 'Pontian' on there. I loved it. I felt like I was home.
That feeling though was encouraged by the presence of the locals, who lacked pretension. There was a sorta disheveled bloke outside the venue, having a bit of a sleep. After we had gone in, he came in a bit later, and had another nap at one of the tables. He had a drink, another nap, got up and said goodbye. The locals seemed to take it in their stride.
More fun were the blokes at the bar, two of whom spent a good half hour talking about good fishing spots and how to cook different fish. One of the blokes eventually came over and starting talking to us about the degradation of Tasmanian soccer and the bloke who was running it about 20 years ago, and the selfishness of the southern clubs who weren't willing to make the trip up to Launceston once a season. That was the cue for one of the blokes behind to let rip with 'Αν τον πιάσω τον πουστι, θα τον γαμισω τη μάνα!', which is not a nice thing to say about anyone really, but was still bloody funny. There were several other expletive laden sentences after that, but the laughter didn't end there. We found out that not only did he live in Melbourne in the late 1960s, and was self-confessed card-player seven days a week, but he turned out to be a cousin of Kris Kalifatidis, long time South player and member of our 1984 NSL championship team. That, and there was a sign which clearly stated that foul language and bad behaviour would not be tolerated. They probably should have had it in Greek as well.
The Hellenic Club doesn't appear to have either a set menu, nor a price list, but they did a sorta Gary Ablett lookalike who offered to makes us psarokeftedes (Greek fish croquettes), which took so long to make that I wondered if he'd gone to catch the fish himself - but they were pretty good, as were the two massive bowls of salad (although someone ate all the feta cheese), and the even the all important frappedes. And the price? All up, $60, just $15 a head. Amazing value, great hospitality, too many laughs.
If you can, definitely take a trip out on one of the boats. We went up to North Bruny Island and back. Saw a lighthouse, penguins, an abandoned whaling settlement. I got sunburnt, someone lost a hat (that had just been bought that day - not mine though). There's a photo of me out there holding on to my hat, and I'm not ashamed of that.
Hobart's restaurants seem to turn in for the night at about 10pm even on weekends.
Some people in the group were curious to know whether we would need collars to get into the clubs. Turns out we didn't.
As for the nightclubs, once and for all I had my doubts wiped away about these places. I can and do listen to and tolerate all sorts of music, but the relentless and inhuman 'doof, doof, doof, doof' I find unbearable. I was in the Observatory Bar for about 30 minutes and for 28 of those of minutes felt like I was being beaten into submission by the music. As Kyle Reese once said of another relentless machine:
Listen, and understand! That Terminator is out there! It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.
Good thing I left the building, much to confusion of my friends. Apparently I missed much frivolity with members of the Glenorchy Knights women's team, but I'm OK with that. I preferred, strangely I know, to watch the AFC Cup.
Is definitely worth a trip, but try and go during the working week so you can see the brewery in action. It lasts a good hour and a half or so, you learn some history which isn't solely brewery related, and you get three tokens to have drinks at the end of it. The Mercury Dry cider isn't up to scratch; it lacks that crispness and kick that a 'dry' should have. If you opt for the stout, get it last; you don't get as much and it has a robust but simple coffee flavour that will dominate your tastebuds for a while. I took a bottle home afterwards, and it's better to have an entire bottle than the small sample they give you. I also had a go at the raspberry cordial, also quite nice.
The welcome at Darcy Street was terrific. It's one of the most scenic grounds you could ever hope to visit. I bought two copies of the South Hobart 100 year history book. They also had caps, but no scarves. Thanks to the ladies at the merchandise tent who put aside our items until the end of the match, and for giving us a $10 discount.
There was a little bloke playing for South Hobart trying to throw his weight around, whom we dubbed Craig David; far too much time and effort was spent telling to him to just 'walk away'. South Hobart's first choice goalie got injured in the second half, to be replaced by a barrel of a bloke called Mike McKenna - he actually did OK, got off the ground a couple of times as well. He didn't have a numbered top, and apparently he'd been out of the game for a year or two with injury, but he did better than either of Hobart Olympia's goalkeepers.
David Bartlett, Tasmania's Premier, was there, though apparently he didn't stay for the whole game. The bloke next to me, a former striker for Olympia back in the 1970s was good value, he taught me about the Hobart soccer scene, I let him know about some of our players and explained the term downhill skiing. Players haven't been paid here for about 15 years or so at least. One team, Caledonians, sent themselves broke to win a championship. It's a familiar story wherever you go in this country it seems.
It was a pleasure to meet Walter Pless, however briefly.
South of the Border is an unashamed fan of Hellas kitman Frank Piccione, but does not take it as far as some do. Hopefully I'll never be in the position one of the traveling fans was, hoping the pregnancy test came out negative.
It was difficult, but the pacifist in me won out, and I didn't belt the Perth Glory fan that was seemingly following us everywhere - OK, maybe not everywhere, but he was at both games we played and we saw him in Salamanca as well. At this rate I'll never be hardcore enough to reach the heights of Silesian football hooliganism.
If you ever go to a hotel with 'internet', and you're bringing your laptop or netbook with you, you should pack an ethernet cable. Don't bet on them having wireless, and don't bet on the wireless being much good. Thanks to the hotel for loaning me a cable for the duration of our stay.
Contrary to what I told him, I could have spared the teenage lout we bumped into on the Saturday night a couple of dollars to buy some goon. But really, it wouldn't have done him any good.
Eddie Krncevic will from here on in be known as the Green Hornet. Not my creation, but it's so appropriate, I'm going to run it into the ground.
Other buzzwords which got a thorough working over: superwow; tsibouklou; Ceca; mounopano.
Finally, thank you to the waiter at Ciuccio, who defended my decision to drink a normal sugar laden Coke as opposed to the wussy Coke Zeros that everyone else was having.