Spring 2022 Update – Calgary Zoo, Kelowna, Vancouver

It’s been a busy few months since I returned from Portugal! I’ve been working a fair amount between my two jobs, which took me to Vancouver and Kelowna. I also did videography at a wedding at the Fairmont Palliser, a grad photoshoot, and visited the Calgary Zoo.

Vancouver

In early May I visited Vancouver for an LNG Conference that my company was attending. While the majority of the time was spent working, I did have a few hours to explore the city and look at architecture. I’ll dive a bit into the history of each building below.

885 West Georgia Street, also known as the HSBC Canada Building, is a 23-storey building that was designed by WZMH Architects, and constructed between 1984 and 1986. The lobby features a large magnetically induced pendulum that was designed by Alan Storey.

Next door is Hotel Georgia, a 12-storey historic hotel that was opened in 1927. It was designed by Robert T. Garrow and John Graham Senior. The hotel originally had 313 rooms, however they were reduced to 155 after a renovation in 2011.

750 Hornby Street is home to the Vancouver Art Gallery. The building, originally built as a provincial courthouse, has been occupied by the museum since 1983.

Commodore Ballroom was opened in December 1929 as the Commodore Cabaret. It remained open until 1996, when it was closed for a $3.5 million renovation and reopened in 1999. This is a beautiful example of Art Deco style, and was designed by George Conrad Reifel and H.H. Gillingham.

The Orpheum, opened in 1927, was originally a vaudeville house on Theatre Row. It was designed by Scottish architect Marcus Priteca. The theatre has capacity for 2672 people. Following the end of the vaudeville’s heyday in the early 1930’s, the Orpheum became a movie house under Famous Players ownership, however it occasionally hosted live events from time-to-time. In 1973 Famous Players decided it wanted to gut the inside and changed it into a multiplex, however after much protesting it was stopped, and the City of Vancouver purchased the theatre for $7.1 million. The Orpheum closed in November 1975, renovated, and re-opened in April 1977 as the permanent home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.

The Vogue Theatre is a beautiful Art Deco style building that was built in 1941 as a movie house. It was operated by Odeon Theatres until 1984, when the company was acquired into Cineplex Odeon. In 1998 the building was restored. In 2010 the building was converted into an event space. The theatre has a capacity of 1280 people.

The Vancouver Public Library Central Branch building, also known as Library Square, is located at 350 West Georgia Street. The building was built between 1993 and 1995 for a cost of $107 million. The building, designed by Moshe Safdie, Richard Archambault, and Barry Downs, is covered in granite, which was quarried in Horsefly, British Columbia.

The Queen Elizabeth Theatre, built in 1959, was the former home of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, before it moved to The Orpheum. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre is now home of the Vancouver Opera and Ballet BC. The main auditorium can seat 2765 people, and the attached Playhouse Theatre can hold 668 people.

BC Place, built between 1981 and 1983 is a multi-purpose stadium that can seat 54500 people. It is home of the BC Lions, which is Vancouver’s CFL football team. The stadium roof is air-supported, and is the largest of its kind in the world.

Science World is a science center housed in a geodesic dome that was built between 1984 and 1985 for Vancouver’s Expo 86′ World’s Fair. The building, designed by Bruno Freschi, served as the fair’s Expo Center. At the end of Expo 86′ the building was repurposed into a science center.

The Pacific Central Station was built in 1917 by the Canadian Northern Railway as the terminus of its line to Edmonton. It was originally named False Creek Station, and was designed by Pratt and Ross.

St. James Anglican Church is a unique church built between 1935 and 1937. The concrete church has a combination of styles ranging from Art Deco, Romanesque Revival, Byzantine Revival, to Gothic Revival.

43 Powell Street, a six-storey heritage building that was built between 1908 and 1909 by Parr and Fee Architects. The building is designed in a flatiron style, similar to the famous flatiron building in New York. The building was originally a hotel named Hotel Europe, however in 1983 it was converted into an affordable housing complex.

The Gas Town Steam Clock was built in 1977 by Raymond Saunders and Doug Smith. It resembles something out of the Victorian era, and is located in Vancouver’s original Gastown district. It receives steam from a series of pipes connected to a generating plant at Georgia and Beatty Streets. The steam system provides heat the the majority of the downtown core, similar to how New York City’s steam system operates. This clock is rumored to be only one of two steam clocks ever constructed, because of their inherent inaccuracies. The first steam clock was build by Englishman John Inshaw in 1859, apparently to lure in customers to his tavern.

128 West Cordova Street, was originally the site of the Woodward’s Building, which was constructed in 1903 for the Woodward’s Department Store, a premier shopping store back in its heyday. I remember my parents shopping at a Woodward’s store when I was a kid. Woodward’s ended up going bankrupt and was sold to the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1993. After Woodward’s went bankrupt the building sat vacant until 2012, when a redevelopment plan was initiated. Part of the redevelopment plan included the construction of a new high rise mixed-use building called W43. The building stands 122 metres (401 feet) tall and is another flatiron style building with an exterior steel skeleton, which evokes the steel construction method used in Vancouver in the early 20th century. The rest of the original block was retained. The original Woodward’s building had a “W” neon sign that resembled that of a mini Eiffel Tower. It was replicated with modern LED lights and re-installed on one of the buildings on the block in 2010.

Credit: Paul Warchol. Creative Commons Use. Photo Taken 2014.

The Dominion Building, located at 207 West Hastings, is Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise. Standing 53 metres (175 feet) tall, this 13-storey building was the tallest commercial building in the British Empire when it was completed in 1910. The building took just over 4 years to complete. The building was designed by J.S. Helyer and Son, and is built in Second Empire architecture style, which evolved from French Renaissance style.

Harbour Center is a 147 metre 28-storey tall skyscraper with a circular 360° lookout tower that overlooks the central business district. The brutalist style building was designed by WZMH Architects, and was opened in 1977. The building is somewhat unique as the glass elevators to the observation deck ride on the outside of the building. The building has been featured in a few movies such as The 6th Day, and Blade: Trinity, as well as a few TV Shows such as the X-Files and MacGyver.

The MacMillan Bloedel Building is 27-storey concrete tower with offset halves, tapered walls, and deep recessed windows. This brutalism style (modernist style) structure was designed by Arthur Erickson, Geoff Massey, and Francis Donaldson, and was built between 1968 and 1969.

1285 W Pender Street, also known as the Evergreen Building, is a beautiful multi-terraced building covered in greenery. The building was designed by Arthur Erickson, and built in 1980.

1333 W Georgia Street, also known as the Qube, is a very unique brutalism style (modernist style) building constructed in 1969. The building, designed by Rhone and Iredale Architects, looks like a floating cube, and is supported by a strong concrete core. The Qube was originally constructed as a commercial building, but was later converted to condominiums in 2006.

1919 Beach Avenue, also known as Eugenia Place, is a 19-storey condominium building that overlooks the shoreline of English Bay. The building, designed by Caleb Chan, was constructed in 1991 and features a 37 foot Pin Oak tree on its rooftop in a specially designed circular cauldron. The oak tree on the top of the building is a metaphorical representation of the tall forests of Cedar and Douglas Fir that once stood there. The building is unique in that there is only one suite per floor, with the exception of the top two suites each occupying two floors.

The Bloedel Conservatory is a beautiful domed conservatory and aviary that was opened in 1969. It features of 100 birds, and 500 plant species. It was built as part of a group of centennial projects to celebrate Canada’s 100th anniversary. The triodetic dome frame was manufactured entirely in Ottawa and ship across the country. The structural framework only took 10 days to erect, however the entire dome and plaza took 18 months to complete. The dome was facing a large budget shortfall in 2009, and was slatted for closure after the 2010 Olympics, but after numerous fundraisers and setting up an association, the building was saved, and is still open to the public for a nominal fee.

Vancouver City Hall is a beautiful Art Deco style building that was constructed between 1935 and 1936. It was designed by Fred Townley and Matheson. The building has a twelve-storey tower with a clock on the top.

355 Burrard Street, also known as the Marine Building, is in my opinion one of the most beautiful Art Deco skyscrapers I have seen. It was completed in 1930, and was the tallest skyscraper in the city at that time. The building, designed by McCarter & Nairne, stands 98 metres (321 feet) tall and is comprised of 22 floors.

I also saw some unique street art while I was walking around.

Kelowna

In early January I started working part-time for another company based in Kelowna. In mid-May I spent a few days in Kelowna visiting with my friend Krystylyn, and meeting my colleagues. During my trip Krystylyn and I went on a few hikes.

The first hike we completed was called Fintry Falls. The hike starts off at the historic Fintry Octagonal Dairy Barn, which was constructed in 1924. The unique barn was owned by James Cameron Dun-Waters who developed the farm on the Fintry Estate between 1909 and 1939. The barn was built to house his prized herd of Ayshire cows.

About 100 metres from the barn is the site of a former powerhouse, which James built in 1912 to harness the power from Shorts Creek to provide power for his estate house, barn, and sawmill. I’ll dive into detail about that a bit later.

The hike continues up a few hundred stairs to a beautiful view of Fintry Falls, where Krystylyn and I stopped to admire the views, before venturing further up the trail.

After climbing more stairs we came across some narrow concrete ledges, which we crossed before finding the remains of a wooden suspension bridge that had fallen apart. James had built a dam across a narrow gorge in the Shorts Creek, to where it channeled water into a reservoir. The reservoir then transported water in a large wood-stave, wire-wrapped pipe across this suspension bridge, and over those narrow concrete ledges we had crossed, and then down the hill to the powerhouse. The water pressure available at the powerhouse was apparently around 150psi.

The second hike we completed was called Turkey Vulture Loop, which is located int he Rose Valley Regional Park. The hike progresses through a sparse forest, up some hills, before emerging on a beautiful view of Kelowna.

Calgary Zoo

In late May I visited the Calgary Zoo. There was a few new animals including a Tapir, a baby Gorilla, and a baby Porcupine. I did manage to get a great picture of the Tapir, however wasn’t able to see the baby Gorilla, and didn’t get a great photo of the Porcupine. I was successful in finally getting a bunch of nice photos of the Red Panda’s though, which I’ve been trying to get for years!

Be sure to check back soon, as hiking season has begun, and I’m off to Bali, Indonesia in July!

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Portugal – Day 9 – Lisbon

Today was my last day exploring Lisbon. Tomorrow I’ll be exploring Evora. I started off with another breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Starbucks.

The Palace of Justice is an excellent example of brutalism, which is quite a rare architecture type in Portugal. The building was designed by Portuguese architects Januário Godinho and João Andresen. The building was constructed between 1962 and 1970.

Elevador do Lavra is the oldest funicular in Lisbon. It was opened in 1884. The 188 metre long funicular connects Largo da Anunciada to Rua Camara Pestana. The 90cm gauge railways has an average grade of 22.9%!

Bemposta Palace, also known as the Queens Palace, is a neoclassical palace that was built in 1693 in Bemposta, now the civil parish of Pena. It was built for Queen Dowager Catherine of Braganza on her return to London, and served as her residence for many years. It was there transferred to Casa do Infantado (the property of the youngest son of the King of Portugal), before becoming John VI’s residence until his death. Queen Maria II then transferred its title to the Army, where it became the Portuguese Military Academy. In 2001 a monument to Queen Catherine was installed in front of the buildings façade.

The Vhils & Shepard Fairey Mural is a joint collaboration on a newer portrait mural created in 2016. I couldn’t find much information on the mural, but it almost has a communist / USSR feel to it.

The Church of Santa Engrácia is a Baroque style monument that was originally built as a church in 1681, but was later on converted to the National Pantheon, in which important Portuguese people were buried. The church was designed by João Antunes, a royal architect and one of the most important baroque architects of Portugal. Construction took place between 1682 and 1712, until the architect died. King Kohn V lost interest in the project and the church was not officially completed until 1966. There’s a tremendous view of the streets below from the balcony at the top.

The National Museum of the Azulejo, also known as the National Tile Museum, is an art museum dedicated to the traditional tilework of Portugal. It was established back in 1965. The museum’s collection is one of the largest collections of ceramics in the entire world.

I came across another piece of Bordalo II art made entirely of garbage. This monkey is one of my favourites of his pieces.

The Church Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Velha is a Renaissance, Manueline, and Gothic style Roman Catholic church that was built in 1770. The church was originally built in the early 1500’s, and expanded a few times until it was destroyed in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The current church was designed by Francisco António Ferreira.

It was time for some lunch. Online I was recommended that I should eat at Nicolau Lisboa. It did not disappoint. I had a bowl of delicious ramen.

Tram 28 connected Martim Moniz with Campo Ourique, and passes through many popular tourist districts such as Afama, Baixa, Estrela, and Graca. The original 1930’s Remodelado trams still run this route. The trams are adorned in beautiful polished wood interiors, brass, and bright and cheerful yellow paint. The reason why these trams are still in use on this route, is that modern trams are too big due to the very tight turning radius’, steep grades, and narrow streets.

Sao Jorge Castle is a historic castle that dates back to 8th century BC. The first fortifications were built in 1st century BC. The hill that the castle sits on plays a very important part of Lisbon’s history, as it’s served as the fortifications for the Phoenicians, Cathaginians, Romans, and Moors, and the site of the 1147 Siege of Lisbon. Since the 12th century the castle has served as many roles ranging from a royal palace, a military barracks, the Torree do Tombo National Archive, and now the National Monument and Museum.

Praca do Comercio, also known as Terreiro do Paco, is one of Portugal’s largest plazas with an area of over 30000 square metres. The plaza is surround on three sides by Pombaline styled buildings, and the south side faces over the Tejo Estuary. The plaza dates back to the 1500’s, however was destroyed during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. It was rebuilt and played an important city center, being surrounded by government buildings.

Lisbon City Hall is located in the City Square (Praça do Município). It houses the Lisbon City Council. This beautiful neoclassical building, designed by Domingos Parente da Silva, was built between 1865 and 1880. The original city hall was destroyed during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, and again by a fire in 1863. During the 1930’s and 1940’s the building underwent numerous additions, including adding a new floor over the rooftop. In 1996 a fire destroyed the upper floors and the painting ceilings of the first floor. Architect Silva Dias produced a plan to rehabilitate the building closer to Domingo’s original architectural plans.

Museu do Oriente is a 6-storey white-washed Art Deco style building that was built in the 1940’s for use as a salted cod processing factory. It was designed by João Simões Antunes. It was converted into a museum in 2008 by Carrilho da Graça Arquitectos.

The Estrela Basilica, also known as the Royal Basilica and Convent of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, is a Roman Catholic basilica that was consecrated in 1779. It is the first church in the world to be dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Maria, Princess of Brazil vowed, before an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Convent of Carnide (in Lisbon), to build a church and convent under the Rule of Saint Theresa. Maria was the eldest daughter of King Joseph I, and eventually succeeded his death in 1777. In 1979 she fulfilled her vow, and construction of the church began. The church took a decade to complete under the guidance of architect Mateus Vicente de Oliverira.

Sao Bento Palace is the seat of the Assembly of the Portuguese Republic. Originally constructed in 1598, São Bento has served as the seat of Portugal’s parliament since 1834, when the former monastery of the Benedictine Order was dissolved after the Liberal Wars. During the Portuguese constitutional monarchy the palace served as the seat of Cortes Gerais until 1910. Located within Sao Bento Palace is the São Bento Mansion, which is the official residence of the Prime Minister of Portugal. The house was first built by capitalist Joaquim Machado Cayres in 1877 for use as his private residence. The plot of land this building sits on belonged to the adjoining Benedictine Monastery since 1598. In 1928 the mansion became the official residence of the President of the Council of Ministers, the official title of the Prime Minister back then. The building was built in Neo-Classical architecture style.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, as I explore Evora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Winnipeg, Manitoba

Two weeks ago I spent 4 days on a mini Canadian road trip to Moose Jaw, Regina, and Winnipeg. The second third and final stop on my trip was Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Winnipeg is the capital city and largest city of Manitoba, Canada. The city was named after the nearby Lake Winnipeg, and comes from the Cree words for muddy water. The region was a trading centre for the Indigenous people well before the French built a fort on the site in 1738. Selkirk settlers colonized the area in 1812. The City of Winnipeg was founded in 1873. Winnipeg is known as the “Gateway to the West” as it is a large transportation hub and has a very diverse economy. While I was here I ate some delicious food, and explored the city. It was full of a surprising amount of amazing historic architecture.

When I woke up on the Friday morning I was treated to -34°C weather. The roads were extremely icy, and acceleration and braking had to be performed delicately.

2643 Portage Avenue is a very small brutalist style building. This is one of the smallest brutalist style buildings that I’ve ever seen.

585 Mountain Avenue is another small brutalist style building. This is also one of the smallest brutalist style buildings that I’ve ever seen, and is very similar to 2643 Portage Avenue, which I showed above.

The Manitoba Teachers Society building is a brutalist style building that was opened in September 1967. An increased demand for space resulted in the decision to construct a new, larger facility. An extensive amount of bare concrete showing its exposed aggregate is seen throughout the building inside, and out. Unfortunately I wasn’t permitted entry into the building due to COVID-19. The building even features a 350-seat auditorium. A unique feature of the building is its waffle ceiling.

Fire Hall Number 11 located on Berry Street was built in 1912. It was designed by Alexander & William Melville. It was originally built as St. James No. 1 Station before the amalgamation of the various municipalities into modern-day Winnipeg. The building is built predominantly of clay brick. The building originally had arched doors, however they were changed to larger square overhead doors at a later time when equipment grew. The building originally had dirt floors, had no running water, or sewage hookup. This was added on later. The reason for the tall tower is because it was used for hang drying hoses. Another fun fact is that the south side of the building was also used as a police station and included 30 steel cells that could accommodate up to 60 prisoners. There’s quite a bit of information on this building if you’re interested, which you can read here.

1147 Notre Dame Avenue is the site of the former Christie’s Biscuits factory. Today it is used as a hub of support services for children living with disabilities, including therapy to prosthetics. It underwent a $24 million renovation in the mid 2010’s. The building was constructed between 1931 and 1932 for $1 million, and is made of brick and Tyndall stone. The brick for the building came all the way from my home province of Alberta. The building certainly has some Art Deco features including hanging Art Deco light fixtures, and entrance arches.

St. John Cantius Church was completed in 1918, and was designed by local Winnipeg architect George Northwood, however took seven years to build, being finished by J.A. Tremblay.

The Palace Theatre, located at 501 Selkirk Avenue, is a former theatre building designed by local Winnipeg architect Max Blankstein, and was constructed in 1912 by owner Jacob Miles. It was originally used for live Vaudeville performances, but was later converted into a movie theatre. In 1927, a balcony was added to increase the theatre’s capacity to 800 people. The theatre closed in 1964, and the stage, balcony and interior walls were removed. It was later used as a department store, auction house, furniture warehouse, and bargain store until it was sold in 1997 to a group hoping to use it as a live community theatre. By 2002 the building was abandoned and fell into disarray.

St. Giles Presbyterian Church, located at 239 Selkirk Avenue, was built in 1889 as a Presbyterian Church. It was later converted to a theatre in 1908, after an extensive Art Deco style facelift. M.Z. Blanksetin, born in Odessa, Russia, was in charge of the theatre facelift conversion. In 1934 the theatre suffered severe fire damage was reopened as a Bingo Hall, and continues to operate to this day. There is quite a bit more additional information about this building here if you’re interested.

Have you paid your taxes yet? The Winnipeg Tax Centre is an excellent example of brutalist architecture style. The building was built in 1979, and was designed by Number Ten Architectural Group. Most of the building was made by pre-cast concrete cladding with circular motifs repeated on all facades.

The Blessed Sacrament Parish was build in 1966, and is an excellent example of brutalist architecture. Sadly I couldn’t enter the building due to COVID-19, as it has been closed for quite some time. The building can house 450 people per congregation, and was designed by Étienne Gaboury.

The Royal Canadian Mint was founded in 1908. In 1960 the Minister of Finance decided that there was a need for a new facility, as the Ottawa facility had reached capacity. In 1963 and 1964 the government discussed the possibility of building a facility that would be functional within 2 years. The Winnipeg location was constructed between 1972 and 1976 for only $16 million. It’s an excellent example of Modernist (Brutalist) architecture style. The Winnipeg facility is responsible for producing the circulation currency of other nations. Since opening its doors in 1976, the Mint’s Winnipeg facility has produced coinage for over 130 countries. Along Royal Mint Drive is a flag of every country for whom the Royal Canadian Mint makes coins with. In 2015 there were 133 flags flying here, but that number varies, as agreements change.

Robson Hall is the law school of the University of Manitoba. This beautiful brutalist style building was built in 1969. It was designed by Ward Macdonald and Partners. This building is very distinct because it looks as if the low profile building is floating on stilts.

The Elizabeth Dafoe Library is University building that was built between 1951 and 1952. This brutalist style building was designed by Green Blankstein Russell.

The Buller Building was built in 1932. It is a beautiful four-storey brick and limestone building on the University of Manitoba campus that houses scientific teaching and research. It was designed by Arthur Alexander Stoughton and Gilbert Parfitt.

The John A. Russell Building is a two-storey brutalist style building that was built in 1959 to house the Faculty of Architecture. It was designed by Arthur James Donahue and Doug Gillmour. It was designated a historic building in February 2019.

The Administration Building is a three-storey brick and stone building on the University of Manitoba campus that was constructed between 1911 and 1913. The building was designed by local architects Samuel Hooper and Victor Horwood. The building originally housed offices, the post office, a reading room, classrooms, laboratories, a museum, and a library. The exterior of the building mainly consisted of Tyndall stone. The building is now used as the main administration building for the University of Manitoba. In 2019 the building was designated as a historic building.

The University of Manitoba Students Union building was constructed between 1966 and 1969. The five-storey building is another excellent example of brutalist style architecture. The design of the building had to maintain an unobstructed view from Chancellor Matheson Road to the Administration Building. This requirement to remain unobtrusive to the surrounding structures required some of the project below grade. The above grade facilities include dining space, offices and conference rooms, while the lounges, cafeteria, bookstore and open spaces for gathering were located below grade. This was also a central meeting points for all the climate controlled tunnels that connected the campus.

The Winnipeg Transit Fort Rouge Garage was built in 1969. The brutalist style 240000 square foot garage can accommodate up to 500 buses, and includes bays for washing, fueling, and daily maintenance checks.

The Neeginan Centre, was originally built as a fourth depot for the Canadian Pacific Railway between 1904 and 1905. It was their most opulent facility, and was the hub for many decades. In 1978 the newly-formed Via Rail took over passenger railway service and chose Union Station as its main passenger depot. This ended up being a death blow to the station, and by the late 1980’s the CPR’s office staff had all been relocated. The building remained vacant until 1992, when the Neeginan Centre moved in.

The Winnipeg Fire Fighter’s Museum was originally built as a fire hall in 1904, and remained as an active fire hall until 1990. It was designed by Alexander and William Melville, and was one of five fire halls built in 1904. The building design was used for 14 of Winnipeg’s fire stations. Again, I couldn’t go inside because of COVID-19.

62 MacDonald Avenue, also known as the UFO Condo’s, is a beautiful 40 unit condo complex that was designed by 5468796 Architecure and built in 2017.

The Winnipeg City Hall, also known as the Civic Centre, consists of two building separated by a courtyard. Both buildings were designed by architectural firm Green Blankstein Russell and Associates, and were constructed by G.A. Baert Construction in 1964. My favorite of the two buildings is the Winnipeg City Clerk’s Dept (Administration Building), which is a seven-storey high office complex that has a beautiful block on the top. These buildings both are a great representation of brutalist architecture style.

The Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre was constructed in 1970 and is an excellent example of brutalist style architecture. The building was designed by Robert Kirby, and has a seating capacity of 1970. The theatre was originally founded in 1958, and moved into it’s current home on October 31, 1970. The theatre received its royal designation from Queen Elizabeth II in 2010, and is also now onsidered a National Historic Site.

The Princess Street historic buildings are quite stunning. They resemble something out of an old movie. Winnipeg has been dubbed the Chicago of the North, and I can certainly see why with the view on this street.

The Cube Stage was constructed in 2012 for $1.5 million. It consists of 20,000 aluminum links and has a built-in lighting system, green room, and two performance levels.

80 Lombard Avenue is the home for Scott-Bathgate, a Canadian-based confectionary comapny. It is known for it’s Nutty Club brand of candy and nut products. The company chose “Can-D-Man” as its mascot, which you can see below. They occupied the building from 1945 to 2007, when they moved to a building on Alexander and Galt Avenue. The building the originally occupied was built for the Union Shoe and Leather Company. It comprised of three separate sections that were built in 1896, 1898 and 1907.

The Canadian Grain Commission Building is a brutalist style building that was designed by Smith Carter Parkin, and built in 1973. It relies on extensive use of pre-case concrete, and has a mushroom like appearance with the top of the building casting a silhouette over the rest of the building.

265 Notre Dame Avenue, previously known as the Canadian General Electric Building, was originally designed by Northwood and Chivers, and constructed in 1930. The Canadian General Electric Company opened the beautiful Art Deco style five-storey building on February 1 1931. The building was equipped with a sprinkler system, which was quite rare at the time, making it “fire proof”. In 1953 Canadian General Electric relocated their office to a space in St. James, and the building then was occupied by Winnipeg and Central Gas Company.

The Ambassador Apartments (Breadalbane) are a wedge shaped five-storey building built in 1909 by Macquarrie and McLeod. The building was designed by local architect John Woodman. Originally, the building had 60 units (12 on each floor), however the building was later renovated in 1927 to include 70 units. The building was extensively renovated in the 1980s when it was vacant, and is now considered a historic site.

The Winnipeg Clinic is a medical doctors building that was opened in 1948. This beautiful Art Deco style building was built in 1948. Actually, the building originated as a two-storey building in 1942, later expanded slightly in 1946, and later expanded significantly to an Art Moderne, a style of Art Deco, skyscraper between 1959 and 1961. There’s a ton more info on this building here.

The Worker’s Compensation Building (formerly Monarch Life Building), is located at 333 Broadway Street. This brutalist (modernist) style building was built between 1960 and 1961, and was designed by Smith Carter Searle Associates. The building, originally constructed for Monarch Life Insurance, was one of the largest post-war era building constructed. The east and west facades are windowless. In 1999 the building became the head office for the Worker’s Compensation Board. In 2011 the building was in fairly deserate need of repair, and the existing granite stone was restored, instead of replacing it with a more modern material. 4044 granite stone panels were carefully removed, repaired, and replace in their original location, following asbestos removal and the installation of a new building envelope.

The Fort Garry Hotel opened in December 2011, welcoming Grand Trunk Pacific Railway executives. It was dubbed as the new castle of opulence. In 1971 a fire roared through the hotel’s seventh floor, which left extensive damage to the hotel. Over 50 fire fighters were required to extinguish the building. The hotel was purchased in 1988 by Raymond Malenfant from Quebec. The hotel was closed for over a year and re-opened a year later. The hotel exchanged ownership again in 2009, and was rebranded as the Fort Garry Hotel, Spa and Conference Centre.

Union Station is the inter-city railway station for Winnipeg. It also previously contained the Winnipeg Railway Museum until COVID-19 shut it down. They’re currently looking for a new home. The station was constructed between 1908 and 1911 as a joint venture between the Canadian Northern Railway, National Transcontinental, the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, and the Dominion government. The station was an essential hub for decades. In the 1960’s train services started to decline, and today only two trains are serviced by the station; Via Rail’s Toronto to Vancouver service, and the Winnipeg to Churchill train. Today most of the terminal is used as office space for non-railway tenants, however its still a beautiful station inside, and out. In 2011 Via Rail undertook a $3 million renovation to the station to repair the roof, trainshed, and improve energy efficiency of the building. Gas efficiency improved by 82%, and electrical efficiency improved by 25%! Prior the the renovation the roof had no insulation, but now has R25 insulation.

The Canadian Museum for Human Rights was established in 2008. The building took only a year to complete and was finished by the end of 2009. It is located in The Forks area, and was established through the enactment of Bill C-42. From an architecture standpoint the building has 7 floors, including a 100 metre tall glass spire that overlooks Downtown Winnipeg. From an exhibition standpoint there are 10 core gallies that showcase; What are human rights?, Indigenous perspectives, Canadian journeys, Protecting rights in Canada, Examining the Holocaust and other genocides, Turning points for humanity, Breaking the silence, Actions count, Rights today, and Inspiring change. Visiting this centre was truly heartwarming, and I advise that you spent 3-4 hours here to get the full experience.

The Forks National Historic Site was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1974, however dates back much further to roughly 6000 years ago when aboriginal groups congregated in the area. Seasonal migrates routes first occured in the area, until fur traders arrived between 1734 and 1760. Between 1738 and 1880 Europeans arrived, and while the area remained a fur trading destination until 1880, grain production also became an area of focus. From 1880 to 1920 immigration became an aread of focus, and settlement and railway development was prevalent. Today The Forks consist of a skateboard park, restaurants, shops, park, art, etc.

The Esplanade Riel Footbridge is a modern side-spar cable-stayed bridge that spans the Red River. It was designed by Guy Prefontaine and Etienne Gaboury, and was built in 2004. The bridge is the only bridge with a restaurant in the middle in North America.

Paroisse du Precieux Sang, also known as the Church of the Previous Blood, is a unique looking catholic church was that built in 1968. The tipi-like church was designed by Manitoban architect Etienne-Joseph Gaboury. The church’s structure is made of a glazed-brick base, and the roof is made of wood and reaches a height of 85 feet. The church has a capacity of 525 seats, which circle the altar.

Restaurant – Nathan Detroit’s Sandwich Pad. Their sandwiches are Thicc!!! I had a delicious Montreal smoked meat sandwich and chicken noodle soup.

Restaurant – Gaijin Izakaya. I had a delicious bowl of very spicy miso ramen here. I highly recommend this place.

While I was in Winnipeg I was unfortunately exposed to a bunch of the protests that were occurring, and saw this person pulling a 5th wheel trailer with his tractor.

Be sure to check back soon for my next blog post. I have booked a trip to Portugal for March 9th, however it looks like Portugal has changed their rules since I booked my flight, so I may not be able to get into the country. Either way I will be going somewhere. Stay tuned!

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Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Last week I spent 4 days on a mini Canadian road trip to Moose Jaw, Regina, and Winnipeg. The first stop on my trip was Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.

Moose Jaw is Saskatchewan, Canada’s fourth largest city. The city has a population of 34000 people and was founded in 1903. Before the city was founded Cree and Assiniboine people used the area as a winter encampment. The narrow river crossing, abundance of water, and wildlife made it a great location for a settlement. Fur traded and Metis buffalo hunters created the permanent settlement at a place called “the turn” at the now present-day Kingsway Park. In 1881 the Canadian Pacific Railway officially arrive, and then the settlement was officially incorporated as a city in 1903. While I was here I took some architecture photographs, and ate at a delicious restaurant called Rosie’s Diner.

I couldn’t find much information on Saskatchewan Courts (W.G. Davies Building), however it quite appealed to me. It seems to have a brutalist vibe to it, with its extensive use of concrete.

The Moose Jaw Court House is a two-story historic building built in 1909. It made the use of steel and brick construction. The building is the older continuously functioning courthouse in the province.
The Moose Jaw Fire Hall (138 Fairford Street West) is a heritage property that was constructed in 1909 as Moose Jaw’s first fire hall. The Georgian Revival style building was designed by W.A. Elliot, a Brandon architect, who was also responsible for designing Moose Jaw’s Alexandra School. It was used as a fire hall until 1979.

Moore Gallery (76 Fairford Street West) was designed by Regina’s architectural firm of Storey and Van Egmond. The Classical Revival style building was constructed in 1910, and served as the Land Titles Building from 1910 to 1998, and held the distinction of being the only one of eleven surviving Land Registry facilities in the province to retain its original function. The building was fully restored in 1999.
The Walter Scott Building (12 High Street East) is a heritage six-story building faced with brick and Tyndall stone. It is very reminiscent of Chicago Style architecture, and was designed by Regina’a architectural firm of Storey and Van Egmond. The building was originally completed for the Moose Jaw Times Herald, and was the largest commercial office building in Saskatchewan at the time of completion. The building features Turner Mushroom support columns that flare at the top to provide support for the floors above.

St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church is a heritage two-story stucco-clad church that was built in 1900. The local Methodist congregation built this church in 1900, but out grew the building and sold it to the Roman Catholics who occupied it between 1907 to 1913. In 1917 it became an automotive garage for the Central Motor Company. It once again became a church in 1925. In 1927 the church underwent renovated by local architect Henry Hargreaves, and was renamed Knox Presbyterian Church, and again to St. Mark’s in 1967.

While I was here I visited The Tunnels of Moose Jaw. The tunnels are well known to have been used by Al Capone during the prohibition era. The tunnels were originally built to be used as utility tunnels for power and heating. Back in the days steam from boilers was used as heating. Steam engineers maintained the boilers and used the tunnels to avoid the elements (especially in winter). The original passageways ran under main street from the CPR Train Station to the Maple Leaf Hotel. In 1908 the tunnels were abandoned by the steam engineers and left empty. During the early 1900’s Chinese immigrants came to Canada to escape Chinese poverty and seek a better life. When they came to Moose Jaw they were employed as servants, railroad workers, laundry workers, or miners. They often hid in the tunnels to avoid “head tax” because they were unable to pay the tax due to their low wages. They also went into the tunnel to avoid the “Yellow Peril”. There were a lot of racist anti-Chinese people in Moose Jaw, which led to the Chinese escaping to the tunnels to avoid being killed or attacked. Unfortunately, racism still lives in our country, as well as globally. Following the “Chinese Era” was the “prohibition era” where Gangsters and rumrunners came to Moose Jaw and used the tunnels to manufacture alcohol. The Soo Line Railroad ran from Chicago to Moose Jaw and was frequently used to illegally transport the alcohol. It was rumored that the gangster Al Capone frequented the tunnels and the city of Moose Jaw. The tunnels were even used for illegal gambling. I wasn’t allowed to take any photos here, but I highly recommend visiting it. The acting was spectacular.

Capone’s Hideaway Motel is a themed hotel that has a 1920’s antique car perched on top of its sight, and is named after the gangster Al Capone, who was apparently a frequent visitor to the city, especially during the prohibition area.

The Old CPR Train Station, designed by Montreal architect Hugh G. Jones, is a Beaux-Arts style building built between 1920 and 1922. The building consists of a two-story waiting hall surrounded by single-story wings attached on three sides, as well as a six-story clock tower. The building is clad with Tyndall stone and red brick. The interior detailing includes wall medallions and reliefs of stone and terra cotta. The building is a protected heritage building, and currently serves as a liquor store.

While I was here I also explored some other buildings along the main street before having dinner at Rosie’s Diner. I had a nacho burger wrap, which was absolutely delicious, and had a great texture.

Be sure to check back soon for the next installment in this mini series, where we get to explore Regina. Also, I do plan on travelling again Internationally within the next month or so. I will either be going to Morocco & Portugal, or Bali, Indonesia.

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Victoria – Christmas 2021 – Part 1 of 2

For Christmas my Dad, Mom, and I flew out to Victoria to celebrate it with my brother and sister. I hadn’t been back to Victoria since Christmas 2019, and it was great to be back there. Before I dive into my adventures let’s explore the history of Victoria.

History of Victoria

Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia, is a very beautiful city with tons of beautiful architecture, and has quite a rich history. The city’s roots tie back to 1843 when a trading post for the Hudson’s Bay Company was built on a site of the Songhees (Coast Salish people) called Camosun (the native word was “Camosack”, meaning “rush of water”). The trading post was briefly named Fort Albert, before being renamed to Victoria.

The Songhees established a village across the harbour from the fort, and eventually moved to Esquimalt in 1911. The crown colony was establish in 1849. Between 1850 and 1853 a series of treaty agreements known as the Douglas Treaties were made with indigenous communities to purchase plots of land in exchange for goods. With these agreements in place a town started to be laid out around the site.

When there was news of the discovery of gold on the British Columbia mainland, Victoria became the port, supply base, and outfitting center for miners on their way to the gold field at Fraser Canyon. The population grew from 300 people to over 5000 within just a few days! Victoria was officially incorporated as a city in 1862. In the late 1800’s Victoria became one of North America’s largest importers of opium, serving the opium trade from Hong Kong and distribution into North America. The Opium trade was legal until 1908, when it was banned. Victoria became the capital city of British Columbia in 1871.

In 1886 the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway terminus on Burrard Inlet in Vancouver, Victoria lost its position as the main commercial hub for British Columbia. The city grew over the years to a currently population of 85000 people (365000 people in the Metro area). With this growth many impressive buildings and establishments were built including the Butschart Gardens, Craigdarroch Castle, the University of Victoria complex, Empress Hotel, etc.

Victoria December 2021

We flew out to Victoria on December 22nd 2021 on a Westjet Boeing 737-800. The flight was very full, and the take-off roll was extremely long due to all the extra Christmas baggage weight. The first 25 minutes of the flight was a very slow ascent with a moderate-high amount of turbulence, with the flight smoothed out significantly afterwards.

When we arrived in Victoria we picked up our baggage, and rental car, a Toyota RAV4, picked up some groceries, and then drove to my sisters condo. Mom, Isobel (my sister), Landon (her boyfriend), and I went out for lunch at the White Swan, while my dad picked up the keys to their Airbnb. I had a delicious poutine.

We walked back to my sisters condo, and I got to spend some time with her super cute dog named Monkey. She was a rescue dog that my sister picked up about three years ago. She’s really sweet natured.

It was time to drive to the Airbnb that my parents rented. One neat thing about their Airbnb is that to get into the car parkade you have to take a car elevator, due to the limited amount of space the building footprint occupies. It was pretty cool!

After hanging out with my parents for a while at their place, I walked a few blocks away to check-in to my hotel (Quality Inn Victoria Harbour) so that I could relax for a few hours. After relaxing for a few hours I went back to their place, where we ordered in some delicious Japanese food from one of our favoruite restaurants called Nubo. My brother Neil joined us. I had a wonderful chicken karaage curry ramen. It was extremely spicy, but delicious! We hung out for a few hours before I went back to my hotel to go to bed.

The next morning I woke up around 7:00am, had a shower, had some coffee, and picked up some Tim Hortons for breakfast before walking around for a few hours to snap some photos. First stop was the Christ Church Cathedral, a 20th century Anglican gothic style cathedral. The sun was directly behind the building, and I was using a Sony RX100v6, so the image quality is quite a bit different than you’re used to seeing.

Next stop was the Empress Hotel, is one of the oldest hotels in Victoria, dating back to 1908. Construction occurred between 1904 and 1908. The Châteauesque style building was designed by Francis Rattenbury for Canadian Pacific Hotels, a division of the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The 464 room hotel is currently managed by Fairmont Hotels and Resorts. During the early 1900’s the Canadian Pacific Hotels built numerous Châteauesque style hotels across Canada, including the famount Chateau Frontenac hotel in Quebec, which you can see in my blog post here. The hotel has features similar to the other Châteauesque hotels including stone and brick classing, steep pitched copper roofs, ornate neo-Gothic dormers and cables, and polygonal turrets. The hotel slightly deviates from the earlier Châteauesque hotels owned by the Canadian Pacific Hotels because contemporary architectural styles were also incorporated in the the design. The assymmetrical building has been expanded twice, with the first expansion occuring between 1910 and 1912, and the second expansion completed in 1928.

Nearby to the Empress Hotel is the Crystal Garden Building, which originally housed the largest salt water swimming pool in the British Empire. The building was opened in 1925. Salt water for the pool flowed through wooden pipes and was heated by the same steam plant that the Empress Hotel’s laundry facility used. The pool was eventually closed in 1971 due to rising operating costs, and aging equipment. In 1980 the building reopened as a community events venue and tropical garden, which housed thousands of plants and animal species. It was shut down in 2004, and the animals were distributed amongst various zoos across Canada. Sadly many died due to the stress of their sudden removal from their habitat. For a short period of 3 months in 2004 a new attraction, the BC Experience, was opened and featured a large topographical foam map, however the company went bankrupt. The building was renovated between 2005 and 2008, bringing it up to modern seismic and snow load standards. The building now currently houses many resatuarants and shops.

Also close by is the Royal BC Museum, which was founded in 1886. The current building was built in 1968, and is quite reflective of brutalism style architecture.

Next door is the British Columbia Parliament Buildings, which were constructed between 1893 and 1897. The buildings are a mix of Neo-baroque, Renaissance Revival, and Romanesque Revival architecture styles.

A short walk away is Huntingdon Manor, a 1890’s Victorian style hotel. Around 1890 the Pendray family purchased a block of property on Belleville Street. The family lived in a small cottage (today known as the Middle House), as the family built their new Mansion (today known as the Pendray Inn and Tea House). After the Pendray’s passed away, their children sold the Mansion to Mrs. Lewis, who used the buildings as a boarding house for young women, as was known as Loretto Hall until 1966. In the 1980’s the property was purchased and expanded with the construction of the Huntingdon Manor Hotel, styled after some of the finest first Canadian Pacific Hotels. Today the block of buildings is still run as the Huntingdon Manor Hotel.

It was time to grab some lunch, so I head back to the White Swan and had a sandwich and some beers, while catching up on messages from my friends.

After lunch I walked to Victoria City Hall. The Renaissance (Second Empire) style building was built between 1878 and 1890, and was designed by John Teague. The building was saved from being razed in 1963 to make way for the Centennial Square, however is now a protected building.

Across the street from Victoria City Hall is 1515 Douglas Street, a unique modern building, which caught the attention of my eye.

A short walk away is the Odeon Theatre on Yates Street. This Steamline Moderne (think Art Deco) building was built between 1946 and 1948. The facade of the theatre is recognizable by its theatrical, asymmetrical inward curving false front with projecting rounded canopy and neon ‘Odeon’ sign. The theatre was designed by Vancouver-based architect Henry Holdsby Simmonds.

I walked back to my hotel and spent a few hours there hanging out in my hotel room, and went in the pool for a bit, before heading back to my parents Airbnb for dinner. We decided that we liked last night dinner so much that we had the same thing for dinner. My brother joined us for dinner again. After dinner we hung out for a few hours, before I went back to my hotel.

Be sure to check back tomorrow for part 2 of my Victoria series.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 19 – Helsinki, Finland

Today is the last day of my Eastern Europe trip. I woke up early so that I could explore everything that I wanted to in Helsinki, Finland.

Near my hotel is Uspenski Cathedral, an Eastern Orthodox cathedral that was built between 1862 and 1868. It is the main cathedral of the Orthodox Church of Finland, and was designed by Aleksey Gornostayev. A fun fact about the cathedral is that over 700000 bricks were used in its construction, that were brought over in barges from the Bomarsund Fortress that had been demolished in the Crimean War. The church is designed in Russian Revival architecture style.

After snapping some photos of the cathedral I walked over to Senate Square, where there is a statue of Russian emperor Alexander II, as well as Helsinki Cathedral. The church was built between 1830 and 1852 as a tribute to the Grand Duke of Finland, Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. It was known as St. Nicholas’ Church until Finland gained its independence in 1917. The Neoclassical church was designed by Carl Ludvig Engel and Ernst Lohrmann.

Nearby is the Pohjola Insurance Building, built between 1899 and 1901. It’s a fine example of Finiish National Romantic Architecture. The building was the original headquarters for the Pohjola Insurance Company, and was designed by Herman Gesellius, Armas Lindgren, and Eliel Saarinen. The soapstone, and granite facades are intricately detailed. The main entrance has troll and bear statues on each side of the door, and because the mouths of some of the characters are slightly open, sometimes when people are passing by they leave cigarette butts in the mouths of the characters as a prank.

Just down the street is the Ateneum Art Gallery, which is housed in a beautiful building designed by Theodor Hoijer, and was completed in 1887. The facade of Ateneum is decorated with statues and reliefs which contain a lot of symbols.

Across the street is Helsinki Central Station. The central train station was designed by Eliel Saarinen and opened in 1919. The design was finished in 1909, however the national romanticist style (similar to Art Nouveau) train station took 10 years to be completed. I love the four male statues holding the orbs; I think they look really neat. Over 400,000 people use the train station daily!

Right next door to the central train station is the Finish National Theatre, which is a 1424 seat theatre that was built in 1902. The National Romantic style theatre was designed by architects Onni Tarjanne and Heikki & Kaija Siren.

I then took a bus to Puu-Vallila, a colourful wooden house district that dates back to 1910. The district was built for the working classes during the 1910’s and 1920’s. It was designed by architects Karl Hård af Segerstad, Armas Lindgren, Jussi Paatela and Toivo Paatela.

I then took another bus to Kallio Church (Kallion Kirkko), which is a beautiful Art Nouveau style Lutheran Church designed by Lars Sonck, and built between 1908 and 1912.

A short walk away from the church is Mehiläinen Helsinki Ympyrätalo, also known as “Circle House”, a circular modern style office building that was built between 1960 and 1968.

I then took a bus to view a very strange piece of art called Sibelius-Monumentti. The monument is dedicated to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, and was unveiled by Finnish artists Eila Hiltunen in 1967. The monument consists of 600 hollow steel pipes welded together in a wave-like pattern, and weighs over 24 tons!

I then took another bus to Temppeliaukion Church, a Lutheran Church that is built directly into solid rock. It is also known as the Church of the Rock. Plans for the church date back to the 1930’s, however construction was delayed because of World War 2. After the war construction didn’t start until 1989, and was finished the remaining year. The interior was excavated and built directly out of solid rock. Natural light enters through the skylight surrounding the center copper dome. The church is used frequently as a concert venue due to its excellent acoustics. The church organ is comprised of 3001 pipes!

Kamppi Chapel, also known as the Chapel of Silence, is a very small, yet beautiful modern chapel located in Narinkka Square. It was built in 2012.

It was now time to get some lunch, as I was getting rather peckish. I took a tram to Löyly Helsinki Restaurant and had a delicious burger and seasoned fries. The restaurant is also home to a beautiful terrace overlooking the ocean, and saunas.

Final stop was Suomenlinna Fortress, located 20 minutes away from Helsinki by boat. It’s a maritime fortress built during the Swedish Era from 1748 to 1808 to protect their maritime fleet. It was taken over by the Russians from 1808 to 1917, when Finland gained its independence. It is.a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It was now time to take the train back to the airport and check-in to my hotel; Hilton Helsinki Airport, which I received for free from a Hotels.com voucher. The room was very well appointed, and I ended up working, having a bath, and chatting with friends during the evening.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 17 – Tallinn, Estonia

Today I woke up at 530am to catch the train to Vienna International Airport to board a flight to Tallinn, Estonia. I flew on a Lauda Europe (on behalf of Ryanair) Airbus A320. Lauda Europe was having financial difficulties a few years ago, so Ryanair purchased them. It’s interesting because the plane is still painting in the Lauda Europe livery, and the staff still wear Lauda Europe uniforms.

It was raining when I arrived in Tallinn. The airport is very close to the city center, and just a 10 minute tram ride away. I boarded the tram and took it to my hotel; Hotel Metropol, where I checked in around 11:00am. I dropped off my bags and went out to explore the sleepy city of Talllinn.

It was approaching lunch time so I stopped in at Pizza Grande for pizza and a diet coke. Food in Estonia is very inexpensive; I believe the pizza and coke were only about $10.

Close to the Pizza Grande is Viru Gate, two ivy-covered watchtowers, built in the 1300’s, that mark the entrance to Tallinn’s Old Town. The main road that enters the Old Town is also quite stunning!

After a short walk through the Old Town I arrived at Freedom Square, a plaza on the South end of the Old Town. It was created by Tiit Trummal, Veljo Kaasik, and Andres Alver. It was a parking lot prior to 2010. The War of Independence Victory Column is located in the square. The column, which stands 24 metres high and consists of 143 glass plates, commemorates all those who had fought for freedom and independence during the Estonian War of Independence (1918-1920).

Nearby is Kiek in de Kök Museum and the Tallinn Bastion Tunnels. The artillery tower was built in 1475 and stands 38 metres (125 feet) high, with walls 4 metres (13 feet thick). Over the years the tower was renovated multiple times, until it became obsolete in 1760. It is now home to archives, and some floors were even converted to apartments. The Bastion Tunnels date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The town was constantly worried that it was going to be attacked, so they constructed high bastion walls around the outside of the city, as well as tunnels under the base of the walls so they could safely move around soldiers and ammunition. The tunnels eventually became forgotten, and were not found again until 2003 when workers digging a foundation near the Vabamu Meseum of Occupations and Freedom found them. During World War 2 some of the tunnel were used as bomb shelters. During the Soviet occupation the tunnels were modernized by adding electricity, running water, ventilation and phone lines.

Close by is Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, a Bulgarian Orthodox cathedral that was built in Neo-Byzantine style. Construction started in 1882, and was completed in 1912. The church has the capacity for 5000 people!

Next to the cathedral is Toompea, also known as Cathedral Hill. Toompea Castle is situated on the hill, and is topped by Tall Hermann tower. Toompea is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I then walked about 15 minutes to Telliskivi Creative City, an art focused venue that features studios, cafes, bars, and restaurants. There were some buses and trains close by at a place called DEPOO, that were converted to restaurants.

After visiting Telliskivi Creative City I walked to Towers Square, which gets its name from the Town Wall towers that border one of its sides, and the fact that numerous church spires can be seen from there.

One of those churches is St Olaf’s church, which was was originally built sometime in the 12th century. It was believed that it was the town center for old Tallinn’s Scandinavian community before Denmark captured the town in 1219. The church was originally Roman Catholic, then became Lutheran during the European Reformation, before becoming Baptist in the 1950’s. From 1944 until 1991 the Soviet KGB used St. Olaf’s spire as a radio tower and surveillance point. You’ll learn a lot more about the KGB in my next blog post.

Final stop before heading back to the hotel was Linnahall, also known as Tallinn City Hall, or originally Lenin Palace of Culture and Sports. The building is situated in the harbour, just beyond the walls of the Old Town, and was completed in 1980. The 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow, however since Moscow wasn’t by the ocean and didn’t have a suitable venue to stage the sailing event, it was decided that Tallinn, the capital of the then Estonian SSR, would be the perfect place to host it. The building was built to host the event, along with the Pirita Yachting Center, and a few other sports and entertainment facilities. Unfortunately the building has now fallen into disarray. The skating ring was closed in 2009, and the concert hall in 2010.

When I arrived back at my hotel I decided to go into the hotel spa for 1.5 hours. The hotel had a swimming pool, four hot tubs, a steam room, and three sauna’s of various temperatures. It was a very delightful experience, for only $14! You can stay for a maximum of three hours.

It was time to have some dinner at Restaurant Olde Hansa, which was recommended to me. The restaurant gives an authentic medieval experience with dishes that are cooked according to recipe’s over 700 years old, as well as live music. I had three different kinds of game sausages (bear, wild boar, and elk), served with mashed turnip, cranberries, and something else I couldn’t recognize that was quite delicious. Desert was oven-baked herb and juniper cheese. Overall the total cost of my meal was a bit pricier, but not too bad, about $60.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 15 – Melk Abbey & Vienna

Today I woke up around 7:00am to catch a 7:55am train to Melk Abbey, a Benedictine Abbey, located about 1.25 hours West of Vienna. I had breakfast the same McDonald’s as yesterday, since that was the train station I was departing from.

Melk Abbey is located in the town of Melk, on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Danube river, adjoining the Wachau valley. The abbey contains the tomb of Saint Coloman of Stockerau, as well as the remains of several members of the House of Babenberg, Austria’s first ruling dynasty. The abbey was first founded in 1089 when Leopold II, gave one of his castles to Benedictine monks from Lambach Abbey. A monastic school, the Stiftsgymnasium Melk, was founded shortly after, and the monastic library soon became recognized for its extensive manuscript collection.

The current Baroque style abbey, designed by Jakob Prandtauer, was built between 1702 and 1736. The frescos on the roof were designed by Johann Rottmayr. The abbey somehow escaped dissolution under Emperor Joseph II, when many other Austrian abbeys were seized and destroyed between 1780 and 1790. The abbey also survived the Napoleonic Wars and World War 2. After World War 2 the school returned to the abbey, where currently 900 pupils attend. There are approximately 30 monks that currently serve the Monastery. Unfortunately I was unable to take any photos inside the abbey, so I have just a few photos of the exterior of the abbey.

After exploring the abbey I ate lunch at Rathauskeller, one of the oldest restaurants in Melk. It’s been serving customers for over 350 years. I had a wonderful Veal dish and a local beer.

After lunch took a train back to Vienna. When I arrived in Vienna I had some time to check out Wotrubakirche Church, before heading for dinner.

Wotrubakirche Church, also known as the Church of the Most Holy Trinity, was built between 1974 and 1976 on a model designed by Fritz Wotruba. Sadly Fritz died before the completion of the church. At first glance this church represents a piece of abstract architecture or sculpture. This brutalist style building is comprised of 152 asymmetrically arranged concrete blocks that weigh 1.8 to 141 tons. During the Third Reich in World War 2 the church houses German Wehrmacht barracks.

It was now time to head to dinner at Brasserie Palmenhaus, a neo-classical greenhouse that was built between 1823 and 1826 according to the plans of Ludwig Gabriel von Remy, raking from the designs of the greenhouse at Schönbrunn Palace. The rear wall of the building is part of the old city walls of Vienna. It was later demolished to make way for a new Art-Nouveau building, built between 1902 and 1906, designed by Friedrich Ohmann. The building was renovated between 1996 and 1998. The central part of the building houses the restaurant, the left wing houses a butterfly garden, and the right wing serves as a greenhouse. I chose to have a wonderful mushroom ravioli, and a few beers.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 13 – Bratislava, Slovakia

Today I decided to catch a train to Bratislava, Slovakia to explore the small, but beautiful capital city. The train ride took about 1.5 hours, and I arrived around 10am. I left my bag at my hotel, which I ended up picking up at the end of the day, because I would be switching hotels.

Slovakia’s History

Slavs originally settled in the area in the 6th century AD. They were soon conquered by the Avars, but eventually drove out the Avars by the 8th century. In the 9th century Slovakia became part of the state called Great Moravia, which included parts of Germany, Hungary, and Poland. The Moravian empire ran from 830 AD to 906 AD, during which time Slovakia was converted to Christianity. The Moravian empire was destroyed by the Magyars (ancestors of modern Hungarians). Slovakia would be under Hungarian ruling for the next 1000 years.

During the Middle Ages the mining of gold, silver and copper ended up driving economic development. In the 13th century Germans settled in the country and town life flourished. In 1526 the Turks won the battle of Mohacs causing Hungary to be dismembered. Slovakia and parts of Hungary came to be ruled by the Hapsburgs of Austria. Slovakia was now part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

During the 19th century nationalism was a growing force in the Austrian Empire, with many Hungarians and Czechs becoming increasingly dissatisfied with Austrian ruling. In 1848 a wave of revolutions occurred across Europe, but the Austrian monarchy was still able to maintain power until 1867, which the Austrian Empire was split into two halves; Austria and Hungary. The Austrian monarch remained king of both independent halves. Towards the end of the 19th century the area surrounding Vienna grew rapidly.

In 1914 Archduke Ferdinand, the heir of the Austrian throne was assassinated, which led to World War I. In October 1918 the Austro-Hungarian empire broke up. Prague became the capital of the independent Czechoslovakia after the fall of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918. During World War II Prague was occupied by the German Nazi’s. After the war, Czechoslovakia was re-established as an independent state. In 1946 the communists became the dominant party and formed a coalition government with other socialist parties. In 1948 the communists seized power. In the 1950’s the country suffered harsh repression and decline, and many Stalin style practices were adopted by the Communist Part of Czechoslovakia (KSC). Eventually these people in charge of the KSC were executed.

On November 17th 1989, the Velvet Revolution occurred, which ended communism making Czechoslovakia a democratic country. In January 1990 the first democratic elections were conducted, with Vaclav Havel becoming the president. On January 1st 1993 Czechoslovakia was split into two independent countries; Slovakia and Czech Republic, with Bratislava becoming the capital of Slovakia.

Exploring Bratislava, Slovakia

In Bratislava I explored New Slovak National Theatre, Historical Slovak National Theatre, The Blue Church, Schöne Náci Sculpture, Man at Work Sculpture, Michael’s Gate, St. Martin’s Cathedral, Bratislava Castle, and Most SNP (UFO Bridge).

The New Slovak National Theatre was designed in the early 1980’s, and construction started in 1986. The building took 21 years to complete due to lack of funding. The building was finally opened on April 14th 2007. The building is designed to hold roughly 1700 spectators.

Historical Slovak National Theatre was constructed between 1885 and 1886. It was based on a design by Viennese architects Fellner & Helmer, who designed theatre buildings in 10 European countries. This building was designed for roughly 1000 spectators and was illuminated by 800 gas lamps. This wasn’t Bratislava’s first theatre through, as it replaced a former Classic style theatre that was built in 1776 and demolished in 1884.

The Blue Church, also called the Church of St. Elizabeth, is an Art Nouveau Catholic church that was built between 1909 and 1913. The façade was originally painted in light pastel colours, but the church later received its characteristic blue colour, which makes it stand out.

Schöne Náci Sculpture is a bronze statue dedicated to Schöne Náci (real name Ignác Lamár). He was the son of a shoemaker and grandson of a famous clown and brought happiness to the streets of the city. He would walk around the Old Town in a top hat and tails, greeting women with the words “I kiss your hand” in German, Hungarian and Slovak. He received free food from many of the café’s in the city, and took the occasional cleaning job.

Man at Work Sculpture is a bronze statue of Čumil, also known as “the watcher”. It is a statue that reflects a typical communist era worker who is not bothered about the work he is doing. Viktor Hulik commissioned the piece in 1997.

Michael’s Gate is the only city gate that has been preserved and is one of the oldest buildings in the town. It was originally constructed in the 14th century, but was destroyed between 1529 and 1534. It was rebuilt in its current form between 1753 and 1758. The tower stands at a height of 51 metres tall and has a statue of St. Michael placed atop the tower. The gate received its name from the nearby Saint Michael’s church. Unfortunately it was under renovation when I was there, so nothing exciting.

St. Martin’s Cathedral is the largest and one of the oldest churches in Bratislava. The gothic style cathedral was built into the city’s defensive walls when it was constructed in 1452. It’s 85 metre (279 foot) tall spire dominates the Old Town’s skyline. In 1760, the top of the Gothic tower was struck by lightning and replaced by a Baroque one, which was subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1835. It was reconstructed in 1847 and topped by the crown of St Stephen. The church was re-Gothicized between 1869 and 1877.

Bratislava Castle is a massive rectangular castle that built on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. The area was originally settled on thousands of years ago because it was strategically located in the center of Europe at a passage between the Carpathians and the Alps. The Boleráz culture (the oldest phase of the Baden culture), were the first known culture to have constructed a fortified settlement on the castle hill, around 3500 BC. The hill was occupied over time by the Celts, Romans, Slavs, Nitrian Principality, and Great Moravia until the current castle was built in the 10th century, with extensive modifications being made until the 18th century. The castle, which has four prominent towers (one on each corner), was built originally in 9th century with many modifications being made until the 18th century. The castle features a central courtyard with an 80 metre (260 foot) deep water well. The tower on the southwest corner is known as the Crown Tower because it housed the crown jewels of Hungary from the mid 1500’s to the mid 1700’s. In 1811 a fire was accidentally started by garrisoned soldiers. From 1811 to 1953 the castle’s state gradually deteriorated and the military even sold parts of the main castle buildings as construction materials. It was even attempted to demolish the remaining structures to make was for government offices and a university district, but that never came to fruition. Instead, in 1946 the ruins were opened to the public, and in 1948 the town even constructed an amphitheater in the northern part of the castle site and used for about 15 years in the summer to shown films. It was decided to restore the castle in 1953, and the restoration took place between 1957 and 1968. It was chosen to restore the main building to the Baroque style, which was the last state of the castle when it caught on fire. Some of the other older buildings were restored to Gothic and Renaissance styles. Numerous other reconstructions have taken place since, with the latest reconstruction being the Honorary Courtyard in 2010.

Most SNP, bridge of the Slovak National Uprising, is also commonly referred to as the UFO Bridge. It was built between 1967 and 1972 and spans 431 metres across the Danube River. It’s an asymmetrical bridge constructed of steel, and suspended from steel cables. It features a restaurant and observation deck atop a 85 metres (278 foot) pylon.

Before heading back to Vienna I had lunch at a delicious restaurant called BeAbout, where they make home-made hamburgers. I had a jalapeno burger with onion rings and fries, which was absolutely delicious!

After catching the train back to Vienna I decided to check out a few places before heading back to the hotel including Belvedere 21, Belvedere Palace, the Embassy of France, and the Soviet War Memorial.

Belvedere 21 (21er Haus) is a modernist style steel and glass building designed by Austrian architect Karl Schwanzer. It was constructed in 1958 to be used as a pavilion for the Expo 58 in Brussels, and was later transferred to Vienna to house the Museum of the 20th Century. It was originally nicknamed 20er Haus. The building was used as storage for contemporary art works between 1979 and 2001. Between 2009 and 2011 it was remodeled by architect Adolf Krischanitz and renamed 21er Haus to reflect the 21st century. The building is currently used as a museum showing contemporary art by Fritz Wotruba.

Belvedere Palace is a comprised of two beautiful Baroque palaces (Upper and Lower Belvedere), as well as the Orangery, and the Palace Stables. The Lower Belvedere Palace was built between 1712 and 1717. Upper Belvedere was built between 1717 and 1723. Some extra work was required at Upper Belvedere at risk of structural collapse, so between 1732 and 1733 a vaulted ceiling supported by four Atlas pillars was installed. The buildings were built on request of Prince Eugene. When Prince Eugene died he did not leave a legally binding will so it was decided by Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI to give the Palaces to the Prince Eugene’s niece Victoria. Victoria was the daughter of Eugene’s eldest brother Thomas. Inside was a bunch of amazing art pieces, which you can see below.

I couldn’t find much information on the Embassy of France, however it’s a beautiful Art-Nouveau style building.

The Soviet War Memorial is a semi-circular white marble colonnade partially enclosing a 12 metre tall figure of a Red Army Soldier. It was unveiled in 1945 to commemorate 17000 soviet soldiers who were killed in action during the Vienna offensive in World War 2.

It was time to pickup my bags from my hotel that I stayed at the previous night, and then I checked into my new hotel, which would be home for the next four nights; Hotel Urania. The hotel was quite beautiful, however I can’t recommend staying here based on the useless WiFi. It made working in the evenings a very frustrating experience.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 11 – Budapest, Hungary

Today was my last full day in Budapest. I had a quick breakfast and took the bus to All Saints Roman Catholic Church. This church was built in 1975, was designed in a brutalism architecture style, and was the first church in Budapest that the Communist regime allowed to be built. The previous one was built in 1948. The state provided no money, so the congregation had to rely on social workers for labor and very cheap building materials. Architect István Szabó, a man of faith himself, also working for free, designed all of the interior decorations and the furnishings himself.

Next door to the church is the Imre Makovecz Mortuary Chapel, which was originally built in the early 1930’s. The chapel was destroyed during World War II, and was eventually rebuilt. The building underwent full refurbishment in 1991 and resembles the inside of a human chest. The ribs are made of hardwood and coffins are placed where the heart would be. There was a funeral occurring when I was here, and I wanted to be respectful of the family, so I didn’t take any photos.

I took the bus back into the city and walked by the Turkish Bank House, an Art Nouveau style building, which was designed by Henrik Böhm and Ármin Hegedűs in 1906, The facade is almost entirely glass-covered, and in the upper gable it sports a Secessionist mosaic by Miksa Róth called Patrona Hungariae, which depicts Hungary surrounded by great Hungarians of the past.

Close by was Gresham Palace. The Four Seasons Hotel (Gresham Palace) is a beautiful example of Art Nouveau architecture style. It was constructed in 1906 as an office and apartment building, but is now used today by the Four Seasons Hotel chain. It is located right along the River Danube and looks absolutely stunning. During World War 2 it was used as a barrack by the Red Army. It became fairly run down and was used as an apartment during the People’s Republic of Hungary. After the fall of communism in 1990 the national government turned the property over to the city. Oberoi Hotels entered into an agreement to manage a hotel in the building in 1991, but due to legal battles it never happened. In 1998 Gresco Investments acquired the building. Together with the Four Seasons the building was renovated in its original Art Nouveau architectural style for about $85 million. Building ownership again changed in 2001 (Quinland Private of Ireland) and 2011 (State General Reserve Fund of Oman), but the Four Seasons continues to operate and manage it. In front of the hotel area few statues, which include Count Istvan Szechenyi, and Ferenc Deak.

It was then time for lunch so I stopped in at the First Strudel House of Pest, which was opened in 2007. It features a really unique Split Flap Display, similar to what you would have seen at an airport decades ago, and you can watch the staff make fresh strudels all day long. I had a savory strudel, and a coffee. If you end up visiting here make sure to checkout the bathroom; it’s pretty neat!

After lunch I walked by the Dohány Street Synagogue and the Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial. The price for the synagogue was more than I would have liked to pay, so I didn’t go inside.

The Holocaust Tree of Life Memorial was designed by Imre Varga in 1991. It was paid for by the late American actor Tony Curtis for his Hungarian-born father Emanuel Schwartz. The memorial stands over the mass graves of those murdered by the Nazis between 1944 and 1945. The names of some of the hundreds of thousands of victims are inscribed on the metal leaves.

The Dohány Street Synagogue is the largest synagogue in Europe, with a capacity for over 3000 people. Designed by architect Ludwig Förster, it was built between 1854 and 1859 in a Moorish Revival architecture style. The building suffered extensive damage during World War 2 bombings and was not repaired until 1998. The restoration took 7 years! I forgot to take a daytime photo, however here’s a night time photo I took on my first night.

The final, and what I think was the best stop of the day, was the Aviation Cultural Center Museum (Aeropark), located near the airport. I took the express bus 100E back to the airport, and walked to the museum. Fortunately there was nobody else at the museum so I received a private tour from a wonderful man named Zainko Geza. He worked with Malev Hungarian Airlines for 47 years as an aircraft mechanic. If you like old soviet era aircraft I highly recommend checking out his website. The museum featured a bunch of old Soviet era aircraft including Lisunov Li-2, Ilyushin Il-14T, a pair of Ilyushin Il-18V’s, Tupolev Tu-134, Tupolev Tu-154B-2 (which resembles a Boeing 727), a pair of Yakovlev Yak-40E’s, Antonov An-2M, Mil