My Mania is Tasmania

This item appears on page 50 of the September 2012 issue.

The topic of the essay contest announced in the April issue was “My Mania is Tasmania.” From the entries submitted, ITN staff have chosen the winner. It is RAY FEILER of Cincinnati, Ohio, who will receive a 50-dollar gift certificate from Magellan’s Travel Supplies (800/962-4943). Mr. Feiler’s essay appears below.

The subject of the next essay contest for ITN subscribers is “I’m Singing about Singapore.” If you have been there (please let us know when you visited), in no more than 300 words, write on Singapore and what impressed you about it and send your essay to ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail Include the address at which you receive ITN. The deadline is Oct. 31, 2012. The winner will receive a prize.

My mania with Tasmania was slow to develop. It took a year, during which I was a Fulbright exchange teacher in Taroona, a suburb of Hobart. A previous grantee had little good to say about the city or its way of life.

Tasmanians are extremely friendly. They love their diverse state and their cold beer.

Sheep are a mainstay of the Tasmanian economy. Once I was flagged down by a drover — he was driving his “mob” to another pasture — and he needed a ride back to his truck. He had been alone with his sheep for many days, judging by his aroma and his endless conversation!

Small in area, Tasmania is big in attractions: a wild east coast with mountains to match; rainforests, arid plateaus and fertile farmlands; fields of lavender and orchards of apples; Hobart, set in one of the world’s most beautiful locations; snowcapped-in-winter Mt. Wellington, the city’s backdrop; Cradle Mountain National Park, with its wallabies and hiking trails; the restored former prison in Port Arthur; a wildlife park ranger holding a Tasmanian devil in his arms (!); wombats, roused from their daytime slumber; learning to like lamb and fish and chips, and really trying to believe that the tarantulas that invaded my apartment came inside only when it was going to rain.

Tasmania was different. As my Tasmanian friend noted in 1988, on another visit, when we were stopped in a line of a few cars at a red light, “Look at this. We’ve gotten big and have traffic jams now!”

Or, on a chilly winter’s morning, finding the temperature inside and outside my apartment about the same. If you want all the comforts of home, why travel?

Tasmania is Australia’s best-kept secret.

Ray Feiler, Cincinnati, OH