WE STARTED our last day in Tassie with a visit to the famous Salamanca Market, which was open only on Saturdays. An outdoor market located in the historic Salamanca Place, it is the best place for one to meet local entrepreneurs selling gastronomic delights, paintings, quirky collections, unusual souvenirs, plants, unique clothing, artwork , and other what-have-you.
It was such a refreshing experience to talk to these talented people who created, made, or grew what they sold. We even had the pleasure of meeting Jamie Maslin, the author of The Long Hitch Home, who famously wrote about his experience of hitchhiking his way from Tasmania to London. It was such a happy, vibrant place, we even enjoyed choosing where to grab a quick lunch from all the available choices. What a perfect decision to choose a Mexican lunch of the best pino and tres quesos empanadas I have ever tasted! If I lived here, I would run to this stall eagerly every Saturday – rain or shine. This was only one of the hundred food stalls in the market, I can only imagine what delights the other stalls offered, but we did not have enough time as we had a different agenda for that afternoon.
Our itinerary’s last stop before leaving Tasmania was to visit the Museum of Old and New Art, more popularly known as Mona. It is Australia’s largest, privately owned museum and is deemed to be one of the most controversial ones in the world. There are about 1,900 works of art on display valued at around $110 million, and its owner, David Walsh, likes to call it a “subversive adult Disneyland”.
A 30-minute ferry ride departing from the Brooke Street Pier gets you there and we had the added experience of spending that time in the Posh Pit – an area of the ferry that serves a wide array of drinks and appetizers. It makes the ride to the Mona all the more pleasant and memorable so that you arrive energized enough to climb the around 100 steps to get to the entrance of this ultra modern complex. On the surface, what looks like a single storey building actually has three lower underground floors with no windows and irregular lighting. It is recommended that you start at the bottom and make your way to the top, so that is the way we set out to explore this museum.
With a central theme of sex and death, most exhibits are meant to challenge your mind into trying to find the message the artist wants to relay. There are no labels like the usual museums and the displays seem to be randomly placed on purpose. Visitors are given a device called “O”, which has a built in GPS that senses which part of the building you are in and displays information on the artworks nearest you on its screen. In all honestly, I think the Mona is meant to shock its audience. It takes time for one to decide whether you like the place or not. I caught sight of a young “Brienne of Tarth” posing in the nude, it was quite tame compared to the more vulgar exhibits on screen and those within one’s grasp. There are rooms that bring out the child in you like the one filled with mirrors and colorful LED lights that have pillows on the floor so you can stay and play. There are rooms that take you back in time with exhibits of things forgotten, and then there are rooms that even as an adult, I found deeply disturbing or too complicated. Overall, I think it is the perfect place for those with a curious and open mind, a no-no for those deeply conservative. I am not an expert on art, but I will admit that the Mona lives up to the hype.
Soon it was time to head to the airport to fly out of Hobart. Four days passed quickly and by the highest standards, it was a trip truly worth it in every sense of the word. The Tasmania in my mind will always be this fascinating place that is so alive and vibrant during the day and sleeps peacefully at night. Their recent tourism campaign that invites everyone to Come down for air just hits the bulls eye perfectly. Yes, we did come down for air and found so much more in between breaths.