22 October, 2015. 8:45
ERROL PARKER | Editor-at-large | Contact
ALTHOUGH OFFICIALLY BANNED in 2007, smoking in bars, cafes and restaurants is still permitted albeit tolerated in nearly every public space in Berlin. In addition to this mind-bending reality faced by hundreds of bemused travellers everyday, patrons are also given a long leash when it comes to where they consume booze and cigarettes, with some reporting that it’s not even frowned upon to binge on life while using public transport.
Unfortunately, Berlin seems like the only place in the developed world where this is possible – unless, of course, you’re prepared to travel to Outback Queensland.
Jack Campbell has been the manager of the Betoota Hotel for nearly a decade and he’s locally infamous for turning a blind eye to anti-fun government legislation.
“The only cop in Betoota happens to be a serious durrie head,” said Campbell. “We used to follow the rules and whatnot until he started smoking at the bar. After that, it was open season on punching ciggies inside.”
The two-century old Betoota Hotel is quickly becoming a destination for those who crave the Berlin lifestyle, but don’t have the time or money to travel to the other side of the world. Mayor Keith Carton says that a lot of freedoms enjoyed by everyday Betootans come from a combination of both their seemingly social isolation and general knock-about attitude when it comes to the government.
“Take it from me, if you ever find yourself in Betoota, don’t be afraid to light up or sink a tin wherever you are,” said Councillor Carton. “My local government and I don’t take any shit from those Roma Street cowboys down in Brisbane. Trust me, come to Betoota and you can do anything you want – aside from breaking real laws,”
“I invite you to enjoy a cigarette in the council chambers if you want. Tours start a 10 every day.”
Every business in the desert capital also moonlights as a licensed premises whereby alcoholic drinks and tobacco products are available at all times of the day and night, regardless of what the law books say.
“I reckon the Betoota Gaslight Pharmacy on the main drag would be the only chemist in the free world where you can by a pack of smokes and a six pack of black rats,” said Carton. “We only sell reds in Betoota so we don’t have any pretend smokers here.”
Drinking is also permitted on the Betoota North Camel Train service, with the southern line expected to loosen up before the end of the year. Smoking is only available on selected routes with camels that don’t balk at the sound of a lighter.
Bernard Simpson left his droll existence in Melbourne’s trendy Bruswick area for the hazy lights and endless drizzle of Berlin late last year. He only returned home when his 6-month visa ran out this month.
“I know my friends are tired of hearing about it [laughs] but there’s no place on Earth like Berlin,” he said. “But now I have a job and responsibilities, something that people in that city don’t have.”
Simpson said he plans to visit Betoota before Christmas after learning about the idilic destination on an episode of Queensland Weekender. Dorian said the laid back lifestyle, mild anti-government sentiment and fierce hatred of yuppies has drawn him in.
“Well I’ve been doing my reading on the place. Keybanging your car sounds like it’s a popular pass time so I’ve been practicing with dad’s Lexus,” he said. “But I can’t wait to escape the pointless restrictions of the world in Betoota. It’s the model of what the rest of the country should be like. Don’t let a small bunch of morons dictate government policy and in turn, our lives.”