Winton Favorite Tips by ettiewyn
Winton Favorites: 4 reviews and 8 photos
Favorite thing: Besides Waltzing Matilda and Qantas, there is a third theme that runs all through Winton and its neighbouring town Longreach: Dinosaurs!
The unique site of Lark Quarry is located in the area, and bones and skeletons of dinosaurs have been found in plenty.
As I explain in one of the Things To Do tips, there is a dinosaur exhibition in one of the historical buildings, and you can buy small fossils in most shops in Winton.
And: Even the rubbish bins are covered in dinosaur feet :-))
Jolly Swagman Statue
Favorite thing: Ok, if you have ever read a book about Australia or did some online research, you have probably already heard that Waltzing Matilda is the unofficial national anthem of Australia, and my personal feeling is, that many people (including myself) have much more feeling for that song than for the official anthem.
My first real contact with the song during my travels was when the children of my employers got instruments during our visit in Cairns (they were living in Cape York). We visited the grandparents and the first thing they said when they saw the instruments was: "Great, now you can learn how to play Waltzing Matilda!"
You hear people singing it at sports events, it has been sung at wars in the past, and it was a pioneering hymn... Recently, it featured in Baz Luhrman's epic movie Australia, and I have heard such remarkable versions of it as a violin version by famous violinist André Rieu or a whole organ concert played in the Sydney Opera House (well, I was never there, but I have CDs of both!)
But what is that song all about?
The text was written by Banjo Paterson, an Australian poet. The tune was written down by Christina Macpherson, based on a traditional Scottish tune.
It can only be speculated how the song really came into being, but it was probably connected to the mysterious death of a man at a waterhole (billabong) in the area. This waterhole is called Combo Waterhole and is located about 130km northwest of Winton.
It is assumed that Paterson heard about the story while staying in Winton and was inspired to write a poem about it, then asking his friend to find a tune for it.
These are the lyrics of the first verse:
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong
Under the shade of a coolibah tree
And he sang as he watched and waited til his billy boiled
"You'll come a-waltzing matilda with me"
Note that swagmen were itinerant workers walking across the land taking jobs on farms, they had all their possessions with them in a small bundle called a matilda. In the song, the swagman boils his tea at a billabong and catches a sheep. The sheep's owner arrives at the scene with three policemen (troopers), but the swagman rather wants to be dead than arrested and jumps into the waterhole to drown himself.
The last lines say:
And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong:
"Who'll come a-waltzing matilda with me?
There have of course been many interpretations of the song, and it is not sure if Paterson really wanted to write a poem in favour of the poor workers, against those who held power.
But to my mind it is clear that the song embraces some kind of freedom and celebrates a simple, non-greedy life, and that I really like.
Ok, and now really for some music :-)
There are really sooo many versions of the song, and you can find countless videos on YouTube, so I have just picked one.
This is the song performed by Aussie icon Slim Dusty at the closing ceremony of the Sydney olympics:
Waltzing Matilda Slim Dusty
Favorite thing: What I find totally fascinating in towns like Winton is that actually the outback starts right at the edge of town...
In Winton, you just need to walk down until the very end of Elderslie Street, and you have the view you can see in the main picture. Even from my window in the hotel I could see the horizon!
Coming from one of the most crowded areas in Europe, I find it so extraordinary that these towns really are so small that you get to "the nothing" so fast. You can stand there and look at the horizon and you know that there is nothing for hundreds of miles...
Fondest memory: Wandering through the town centre of Winton, I was very surprised to suddenly see an old-fashioned sign of Original Eau de Cologne 4711 in a shop window!
As a person from the Cologne area, it felt very strange to see it there and I wondered how it had come to be there! Of course 4711 has its head quarters in Cologne, and it is widely used among elderly ladies in Germany, although not so much anymore by young people.
I was even more surprised, though, when I later wandered at the outskirts of town to see some of the other sights and suddenly stood in front of a Spar supermarket! I knew Spar supermarkets from home and had never ever seen one in Australia before, during all of my travels!
Doing some online research later I found out that Spar is not at all German, but Dutch. I thought it was German because "spar" is the German word for "save money", but it turns out to be an acronym of a Durch expression and that it has this meaning in German is only a coincidence. I found out that there are indeed many Spar supermarkets in many European and also non-European countries.
But still, it was crazy to see one in Australia, and not in Sydney or Melbourne, but in the middle of the outback!!! :-)
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