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SYDNEY  

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It might seem surprising that Sydney, established in 1788, is not Australia's capital. Yet the creation of Canberra in 1927 - intended to stem the intense rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne - has not affected the view of many Sydneysiders that their city remains the true capital of Australia, and certainly in many ways it feels like it.

The city has a tangible sense of history in the old stone walls and well-worn steps in the backstreets around The Rocks, while the sandstone cliffs, rocks and caves amongst the bushlined harbour still contain Aboriginal rock carvings, evocative reminders of a more ancient past.

Flying into Sydney provides a thrilling close-up snapshot of the city as the aeroplane swoops alongside sandstone cliffs and golden beaches, revealing toy-sized images of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House tilting in a glittering expanse of blue water. Towards Mascot airport the red-tiled roofs of suburban bungalows stretch ever southwards, blue squares of swimming pools shimmering from grassy backyards.

The night views are nearly as spectacular, skyscrapers topped with colourful neon lights while the illuminated white shells of the Opera House reflect on the dark water as ferries crisscross to Circular Quay.

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