And our second match of Round Two is ready to RUMBLE! Last week we saw Singapore and London go head to head to kick off the second round, with a tightly fought battle resulting in London JUST getting over the line. Today the destinations in question are certainly two cities which are vastly different, and both cities incidentally that I really like. One, in fact, is my home city of Melbnourne in Australia, from where I write to you! The other is the somewhat more obscure and lesser known capital of Kyrgyzstan, Bishkek.
Melbourne is by far the bigger city, with a population in its greater area of more than 5 million these days. Bishkek on the other hand has a population of just under a million. It’s going to be interesting to see how these apparently quite different cities stack up against each other. But first, let’s see how they arrived at this point –
So, where to start with this one? Melbourne is a large city, with a smallish city centre and a lot of suburbs. To be frank, it’s relatively considered that Melbourne is just suburbs that go on and on and on. But it’s not really the case. It has a proper and clear CBD and gritty but cool/hip inner city suburbs around it which really are a lot of fun to explore.
How does Bishkek compare? Well, I stayed in a hostel around 20 – 30 minutes walk from the centre of town, and that was on an unsealed road. The centre of the city has parks, a theatre or three, a museum or two and the ‘White House’ where the Kyrgyz President resides. There is a grand square as well that can get rather busy, and a few mostly Soviet in style buildings, but somehow there just isn’t the bustle of most capital cities. Almaty, in Kazakhstan but not far north of Bishkek, is a far busier city.
Transport-wise, we love to criticise and more importantly complain about Melbourne’s public transport system. But Melbourne is a spaced out city and I guess there are a lot of routes to cover and we mix it up with trains, buses and closer to the centre and through the inner urban areas, we have trams. Trolley buses are the go in Bishkek, not too many of them though and then you are down to marshrutkas – which you can see here in this post – Marshrutkas – Public Transport in the ed-Soviet Union!
Honestly, Melbourne Public Transport does the job it’s supposed to. Yeah, delays are pretty common, but still it’s better than being squashed into a van to go across town with little idea where you’re really going!
Melbourne’s weather is very temperate compared to a lot of places including Bishkek, which is covered in snow in winter but can be pretty hot in summer too. A July average of 33 degrees compares with Melbourne’s February average of 27 degrees as the hottest months in the two cities, which means summer is hotter in Bishkek. Very hot actually. And in Melbourne you can escape to the beach. Melbourne’s winter though is significantly warmer. Neither city has a lot of rainfall throughout the year.
Foodwise, well, Melbourne is the place for all sorts of cuisines with a fantastic array of restaurants. Bishkek is much more limited, with Russian and Central Asian favourites the go and perhaps the odd Chinese restaurant.
As for the sights, well, Melbourne isn’t blessed with quite the iconic list of Sydney’s sights, it certainly has enough to keep you interested for a while. From the Melbourne Star (a giant Ferris Wheel) and the Eureka Building (highest building in the Southern Hemisphere?) where the views are great, to brilliant parks and botanic gardens, beaches (again, not as impressive as elsewhere in Australia but superior to many in Europe), interesting museums including the Melbourne Museum, Immigration Museum, ACMI Museum and more. There are great venues for concerts, ballets and performances in the Arts Centre and Concert Hall, in addition to a brilliant theatre scene from full-scale musicals to fringe theatre, Melbourne is really blessed. Don’t forget great markets too – Queen Victoria, South Melbourne and Prahran, it’s all pretty special.
Bishkek actually I saw a couple of performances there including at the Children’s Theatre and the main theatre. It was pretty cool. And there is a lot of Soviet stuff around, especially in the museum and statues in parks. The eternal flame there is well presented in a beautiful park – both cities do well in parks. Through the centre of town is a large one where artists paint and people play ping pong – there are ping pong tables aplenty to use. And it’s all green and verdant. The very centre of town has the Ala Too Square, statues and the parliament building or ‘White House’.
Actually parts of Melbourne are somewhat grand – the Shrine of Remembrance in particular, which looks across to Melbourne town. But Bishkek is a nation’s capital. Melbourne in fact was too for a brief time after federation, and the State Parliament is a building which looks the part, although I have never been inside.
As for other points which might sway an argument, Melbourne’s WiFi is pretty decent. I can’t comment on 2020 Bishkek, but the internet was dreadfully slow back in 2011, even for the that year. And electricity at times went down when I was in Bishkek when I was there, this only happens maybe once a year in Melbourne on ultra-extreme heat days.
All in all, as much as I liked Bishkek, it’s pleasant and somewhat relaxed, I feel this is a comfortable win to Melbourne. What do you think? Please do comment! Next week we have perhaps a contest that will prove very close indeed – Dubai contesting against Mumbai. So stay tuned for that one! And May the Journey Never End!