The other day I was riding my bicycle along Albion St in Brunswick when I passed by a church I’d never seen before. The architecture was distinctive, and there were a couple of little old ladies dressed all in black making their way out the front door.
I pulled my bike over to have a better look. On closer inspection, I saw that the church was Greek Orthodox – which explained the ladies in black.
I felt a small tickle of excitement.
For some reason, I’ve developed a slight obsession with exploring religious places. Churches, mosques, synagogues, temples – they’re like little culture bombs, revealing a strange world of which I’ve never been a part. But they’re also fascinating time capsules, where ancient traditions are preserved and revered – an unusual phenomenon in contemporary Western societies. And in particular, in contemporary Australian society.
Perhaps this is the root of my obsession. Australia – non-indigenous Australia, that is – is a young country and, overall, a relatively irreligious country. As a result, we don’t own many traditions – certainly nothing very old. But religion itself has very little to do with my fascination for these institutions; it’s the human element – the age-old culture behind the religion – that is intriguing to me.
And so I pushed open the door to the Greek Orthodox church and took a tentative step inside. Memories from my travels in Greece immediately washed over me as I smelled incense and looked around at the glittering portraits of religious figures, a riot of colour and gold. Near the alter, a woman was chatting away in Greek with the black-robed priest, and a couple of fat old men sat in the pews. I wandered, and for five minutes of my day, I was in Greece again.
That’s one of the things I love about Melbourne. Even when I’m home, I can still travel the world.
Address: 279 Albion St, Brunswick Vic 3056
Tel: (03) 9386 5542