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!

If you like the content that I produce and want to donate money towards the upkeep of my site, or buy me a cup of coffee please feel free to contribute towards it. I really appreciate it.

Eastern Europe Trip – Day 12 – Vienna, Austria

Today I woke around 7:00 am, as I had an early train to catch. I ate breakfast downstairs, before venturing off to Budapest’s main train station. I boarded the 8:40 am train to Vienna and sat next to two women who were from Ireland. We chatted about travel throughout the 2.75 hour train ride. When the train was crossing the border from Hungary to Austria some police entered and checked peoples passports. There was a group of younger Syrian men that were arrested by the police and taken off the train at the next stop. I presume that didn’t have the proper documentation, as I heard this is fairly frequent for this route.

I arrived in Vienna at 11:20am, and made my way to my hotel; Enziana Hotel Vienna. I was only going to be here the one night, as I booked this one free with a Hotels.com voucher. I booked another hotel for the rest of my stay in Vienna.

Before I dive into my day let’s talk about Austria’s history.

Austria’s History

Austria dates back to pre-Roman times and was settled by various Celtic tribes. The Celtic kingdom of Noricum was claimed by the Roman’s and made into a province. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the area was invaded by the Bavarians, Slavs, and Avars. Charlemange, King of the Franks conquered the area in 788 AD. As part of Eastern Francia, the core areas that encompasses Austria were left to the house of Babenberg. The first record showing the name Austria dates back to 996 AD, where it was written as Ostarrichi, referring to the territory of the Babenberg March.

In 1156, the Privilegium Minus elevated Austria to the status of a duchy, and in 1192 the Babenberg’s also acquired the Duchy of Styria. When Frederick II died in 1246 AD, this brought an end to the Babenberg’s. As a result of this, Ottokar II of Bohemia assumed control of the duchies of Austria, Styria, and Carinthia. In 1273 Rudolf von Habsburg became Holy Roman Emperor and defeated the Bohemian (Czech) king and in 1282 he made his son Albert Duke of Austria. The Hapsburg’s rules Austria for centuries, acquiring more territory and building up quite the empire.

Rudolf IV became Duke of Austria in 1358. He founded the great Vienna University during his ruling. In 1437 Albert II Duke of Austria also became king of Hungary and Bohemia (Czech Republic). In 1438 he became Holy Roman Emperor.

Starting in the 1500’s it was quite the rocky time for Austria over the course of the next few hundred years. In 1529 the Turks launched a siege on Vienna, but failed to capture it. Then the Thirty Years War occurred in 1618-1648. In 1684 the Turks tried to attack Vienna again, but an army of Germans and Poles helps drive them back. In the 18th century Austria ended up being quite prosperous despite even more conflicts; the first of which was the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), which ended up with Austrian’s capturing Sardinia from the Italians.

Emperor Charles IV didn’t have a male heir and had to persuade foreign powers and national assembles to accept his daughter (Maria Theresa) as the next ruler. In 1740 Maria succeeded him. The War of Austrian Succession occurred from 1740-1740 and Maria had to fight off the Prussians, French and Spanish.

In 1748 Maria’s husband Francis of Lorraine was made Emperor Francis I. He ended up dying in 1765 and was replaced again by Maria, and her son Joseph II (1765-1790). The Austrians and French ended up fighting a series of war from 1792 to 1815, and during the period in 1806 Napoleon dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. The ruler of Austria gave up the title Holy Roman Emperor and became Emperor Franz I of Austria.

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 and Austria declared its independence on November 12 1918. During the 1920’s Austria was able to recover, but was soon hit with the global depression of the 1930’s.

In 1934 the German Nazis attempted a coup and shot Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. The Austrian troops were able to defend against the coup this time, but the Germans were keen on taking over Austria. On March 12 1938 the Germans took control of Austria until the Russians invaded in 1945.

Governance of Austria was restored in April 1945, and by July 1945 Austria was divided into four zones controlled by the allies (USA, France, Britain and Russia). In 1955 Austria became an independent nation again, and joined the United Nations in 1955. Austria had tremendous economic growth in the remainder of the century. Austria joined the European Union in 1995.

Exploring Vienna

After checking into the hotel it was time to search for some food. Since it was a cold day I felt like getting some soup, so I stopped at a Vietnamese restaurant close to my first stop at Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien

After having lunch I walked across the street to Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, which is located at Maria-Theresien-Platz, a large public square and museum of modern arts located in the former Imperial Stables. Facing each other from the sides of the square are two near identical buildings, the Naturhistorisches Museum (Natural History Museum) and the Kunsthistorisches Museum (Art History Museum). The only difference between the nearly identical buildings are their façades. The Naturhistorisches’ façade has statues depicting personifications of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas, where as the Kunsthistorisches façade features famous European artists.

Across the street from the Art History Museum and the Natural History Museum is Museums Quartier, which is a beautiful district in Vienna that contains Baroque and Modern style buildings completed by architects Laurids and Manfred Ortner. The Museums Quartier houses the installation of large art museums such as the Leopold Museum and the MUMOK (museum of Modern Art Ludwig Foundation Vienna). The museums were renovated between 1998 and 2001 at a cost of € 150M ($218M CDN).

A short walk away is Volkstheatre, also known as the “People’s Theatre”. The theatre was founded in 1989 by the request of the citizens of Vienna to offer an alternative to the Hofburgtheater (Burgtheater).

A couple blocks away is the Palace of Justice building, which is a beautiful Neo-Renaissance building that was built between 1875 and 1881 The building was designed by architect Alexander Wielemans von Monteforte as the new residence of the Supreme Court that was established after the 1848 revolutions.

The Austrian Parliament Building is next door, however I wasn’t able to take a great photo of it, as it was currently under renovation. The Austrian Parliament Building is where the two houses of the Austrian Parliament conduct their sessions. The building, designed by Theophil Hansen, was built between 1874 and 1883 in a Greek Revival style. He designed the building holistically, aiming to have each element harmonizing with all the others, including the interior decoration, such as statues, paintings, furniture, chandeliers, and numerous other elements. The building was heavily damaged during World War 2, but was restored afterwards. The building contains over 100 rooms! One of the most famous features of the building is the Pallas Athens fountain in front of the main entrance, which was designed by Carl Kundmann.

Nearby is Rathausplatz, which is a beautiful large square in the centre of Vienna that is often used as a Christmas market. It is built right in front of the Rathaus (City Hall). The city hall building, designed by Friedrich von Schmidt, was built between 1872 and 1883 in a Neo-Gothic style. The building is used by the Mayor of Vienna, as well as the chambers of the city council and Vienna Landtag (German) representative assembly.

After enjoying a bratwurst, and some mulled wine I walked over to Burgtheater, which I could see across the street from the Christmas Market. Burgtheater originally opened in 1741 and is one of the most important German language, and most important theatres in the world. It moved into its current building, which was designed by Gottfried Semper and Karl Freiherr von Hasenauer, in 1888. In World War 2 the theatre was heavily damaged, and wasn’t rebuilt until between 1953 and 1955.

The University of Vienna is just half a block north of the theatre. The University of Vienna has some absolutely gorgeous buildings. The University was founded in 1365 by Rudolf IV, Duke of Austria, and his two brothers, Dukes Albert III and Leopold III. The impressive library at the University has over 7.1 million books!

Nearby Votivkirche Church was under renovation. Votivkirche Church is a beautiful Neo-Gothic style church that was designed by Heinrich von Ferstel, and built between 1856 and 1879. Following the attempted assassination of Emperor Franz Joseph in 1853, the Emperor’s brother Archduke Ferdinand Maximilian inaugurated a campaign to create a church to thank God for saving the Emperor’s life. Funds for construction were solicited from throughout the Empire. The church was dedicated in 1879 on the silver anniversary of Emperor Franz Joseph and his wife Empress Elisabeth. The church stands 99 metres (325 feet) tall!

The sun was starting to set, however I wanted to check out a few more places before I went back to the hotel for the night. A ten minute walk away was Strudlhofstiege, an outdoor staircase in Art Nouveau architecture style, that was opened in 1910.

My second last stop for the evening was the Spittelau Incinerator, which is waste-to-energy incinerator in the center of the city. It was built between 1969 and 1971. In 1987 a major fire destroyed major sections of the facility. Instead of tearing it down, it was rebuilt and it was decided that it would also become a public work of art. The environmentalist, nature lover and artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser was tasked with designing the new plant. The building was finished in 1992. Its colourful façade, the golden ball on the chimney, roof greenery and planted trees have made the new Spittelau unmistakable and a Viennese landmark. The facility processes 250000 tons of household waste every year and turns it into 120000 MWh of electricity, 500000 MWh of district heating, 6000 tons of scrap iron, and 60000 tons of clinker, ash and filter cake. This is enough energy to heat over 60000 homes!

The final stop of the day was Vienna’s Amusement Park, which houses Vienna’s Giant Ferris Wheel, and Prater Turm, among many other rides. It was amazing walking around the amusement park during dusk with all the rides lit up.

Vienna Giant Ferris Wheel, also known as Wiener Risenrad, is a 65-metre-tall Ferris wheel located in the Prater amusement park. The Ferris wheel was designed by British engineers Harry Hitchins and Hubert Cecil Boots, and constructed in 1897. It wore the crown as the world’s tallest extant Ferris wheel from 1920 until 1985. Prior to 1920 the 100-metre-tall Grande Roue de Paris, which was constructed in 1900, was the tallest Ferris wheel, but it was demolished in 1920, leaving the Risenrad to became the world’s tallest.

Prater Turm is a 117-metre high swing carousel in Wurstelprate amusement park. It is the world’s second tallest chain carousel, followed closely behind Eclipse in the Gröna Lund amusement park in Sweden. Prater Turm was opened on May 1st 2010. The tower has a mass of 200 tons and is anchored into a 16-meter diameter slab foundation that is two meters deep and weighs 720 tons. On the top of the tower there is a shiny gold onion done, which houses three 2.7 m clocks. There are also 1,200 LEDs in the top of the tower for night-time lighting.

After exploring the amusement park I took the metro back to my hotel, with a quick stop at a donair shop for dinner. I spent the rest of the evening working, before heading to bed.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 2 – Plitvice Lake & Ljubljana, Slovenia

Today I drove from Zagreb, Croatia to Plitvice Lakes, about a two hour drive away. On the way I attempted to stop at The Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija, however the road was closed off for the season to prevent continued degradation of the site by looters during the off-season. The Monument to the Uprising of the People of Kordun and Banija is a World War 2 monument designed by Vojin Bakić, and built by Veliki Petrovac on the highest peak of the Petrova Gora mountain range. The monument celebrates the uprising and resistance movement of the people of Kordun and Banija against Nazi-fascism, as well as commemorates the victims of the Nazi-fascism. The monument took ten years to build and was finished in 1981. At the time the monument was finished it was the largest postmodern sculpture in the world. After 1991, antifascist monuments and memorial complexes were neglected. This continues to this day as local people continue stealing the stainless-steel plates off the monument. I snagged a few photos from Google Maps (credit given to the photographers) so you can see what it looks like.

Photo Credit: Bara Fai – 2021
Photo Credit: Arwen Swan – 2021
Photo Credit: Uldis Strauss – 2019

Next stop was Plitvice Lakes National Park. Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest and largest national parks in Croatia. It became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. The park was founded in 1949 and is very well known for its beautiful lakes, pathways, and waterfalls. Entrance cost to the park is about $16 CDN, however expect to pay double when its not off season.

After visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park I drove about 3.5 hours towards Ljubljana, Slovenia. The border crossing took about an hour because they were checking everyone’s COVID vaccine passports. Before I dive into the rest of my day in Slovenia let’s talk about Slovenia’s history, which has a lot of overlap with Croatia.

Slovenia’s History

Slovenia is a relatively young country; being formed on June 25 1991. The history of Slovenia is very similar to that of Croatia; having been its neighboring country. Historically, Slovenia was part of many different states dating back to the Roman Empire, Byzantine Empire, Carolingian Empire, Holy Roman Empire, Habsburg Monarchy, the Republic of Venice, the Illyrian Provinces of the First French Empire of Napoleon I, the Austrian Empire, and finally the Austrian-Hungarian Empire until it broke up in October 1918.

As mentioned back in my brief history of Croatia; in December 1918 the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was formed. In 1929 this kingdom was renamed to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

During the beginning of World War 2 Yugoslavia had a neutral stance, but in March 1941 a coup was held by pro-British officers, and as a result the Germans invaded Yugoslavia on April 6 1941. The Germans set up shop in Croatia with the fascist Ustase in charge, but the Croatians were able to liberate them by 1945.

During the 1960’s nationalism re-emerged and more people were demanding autonomy. In 1971 Tito, the Communist leader put a stop to it, but he ended up dying in 1980. Communism collapsed in most of Eastern Europe in 1989, during the same time frame that many non-Communist organizations were being setup. In April 1990 elections were held and in December 1990 a referendum was held, with the majority of people in favor. On June 25 1991 the Slovene parliament declared Slovenia independent. This irritated the Yugoslavian army, so they tried to invade Slovenia a few days later on June 27 1991. They were held back by the Slovenian Territorial Defense forces and the police, and on July 7 1991 the Yugoslavians agreed to a ceasefire brokered by the European Union.

In December 1991 a new constitution was written, and on January 15 1992 Slovenian independence was recognized by the European Union. As was the case for many of the eastern European countries, Slovenia faced a long painful transition from Communism to Capitalism during the 1990’s. In 2004 Slovenia became a member of the European Union.

Exploring Ljubljana, Slovenia

When I arrived in Ljubljana, Slovakia my first stop was exploring Ljubljana Castle, a castle complex standing on Castle Hill, which overlooks the entire city. It was originally a medieval fortress constructed in the 11th century, rebuilt again in the 12th and 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The castle is depicted on the city’s coat of arms, along with a dragon on the top. The castle just finished a major restoration project that lasted from 2000 to 2019. There was also a puppet museum inside the castle, which was pretty neat.

After visiting the castle I drove to my hotel; BIT Center Hotel, to check-in, and do a few hours of work, which included a few meetings. After working I drove back to the castle to haver dinner at the renowned Strelec Restaurant. A reservation is a requirement here, however being off-season I just booked it in the morning and they were able to accommodate me. This is a michelin star quality restaurant, however it is not a michelin star restaurant. I was served a 5 course dinner, however it was more like 8 courses… I wish I had taken better notes as to what I ate, however I had a few favorites. My first favorite was the ravioli with truffles, cheese, and home made sour cream. My second favorite was venison with beet-root. Third runner up was beef tartar. The meal was finished off with chocolate ganache, ice cream, a sweet puree of some sort, hazelnuts, and gold foil. The meal cost me a total of $115 CDN, however it was absolutely worth it. It was one of the most enjoyable dinners that I’ve ever had.

Be sure to check back tomorrow while I explore more of Ljubljana, before driving back to Zagreb, Croatia to catch a flight to Belgrade, Serbia late in the evening.

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Iceland 2021 – Reykjavik

Today I embarked on my first trip out of Canada since October 2019. I would have travelled sooner, however the COVID-19 pandemic wrecked havoc on the entire globe for the last 18 months. I’m very fortunate that Canada’s vaccination rollout program occurred as quickly as it did, and I was fully vaccinated by July 2021. Iceland was one of the few countries that I was interested in visiting, that allowed fully vaccinated people to travel there.

This marks my 2.5th time visiting Iceland. I had previously visited Iceland in Summer 2014 with my dad, and I had a brief stopover in 2018 when I completed my France trip, which you can check out here. Getting there was a bit different this time, because usually I fly from Edmonton or Vancouver with Icelandair, however those routes were temporarily paused due to the ongoing pandemic. This time I flew WestJet from Calgary to Toronto, and then Icelandair from Toronto to Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland. I originally paid $1420 for an economy class return ticket, however I paid an additional $230 to be upgraded from economy class to business class for both of the departure flights. Previous trips to Iceland showed the economy class prices to be about half of what I paid. This is my first time experiencing the new business class seats on Westjet, and Icelandair, since they both refreshed their aircraft during the pandemic. I must say I was very impressed by both.

At the Calgary airport they verified that I had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that I had a negative anti-gen test prior to check-in. The Calgary to Toronto flight was on an older Westjet Boeing 737-800. Roast beef and mashed potatoes were served for dinner, which was actually quite food. Hot meals are a new thing for Westjet since they launched their new business class, but I think they have a hit here. The flight was quite smooth, with exception to the last 45 minutes approaching Toronto, due to a storm in the area.

In Toronto they again verified that I had received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and that I had a negative anti-gen test prior to boarding. The Toronto to Reykjavik flight was on a brand new Icelandair Boeing 737-8 MAX. The new business class seats are adorned in incredibly comfortable grey leather. Their older seats were more a blue leather colour, and were not the most comfortable. An incredibly generously sized dinner was served, which included chicken kababs over couscous and vegetables, alongside some fresh meats and cheese, and a cake for desert. I skipped eating the cake, as I’m not the biggest fan of sweets.

Upon arrival in Reykjavik I grabbed my bag and went through customs, which was very easy, and almost the same as usual, except I had to hand them some paperwork that I had pre-filled online. After exiting the airport I went and picked up my rental car, which was a Kia Picanto from Blue Car Rental. The daily rate was about $200, which is about the same as pre-Covid times.

After picking up the car I started a day of exploring, before I was able to check-in to my hotel at 3pm. First stop was Snorrastofa, a cultural and medieval center named after Icelandic historian Snorri Sturluson. I didn’t go inside, as I was just fascinated by the architecture style, which I would characterize as Medieval, and perhaps Art Deco (the white building).

Next stop was Hruanfosser & Barnafoss, two waterfalls located right next to each other, and about a 75 minutes drive North of Reykjavik. Hruanfosser is definitely the cooler looking of the two waterfalls, and is a series of waterfalls formed by rivulets streaming over a distance of about 900 metres out of the Hallmundarhraun, a lava field which flowed from an eruption of one of the volcanoes lying under the glacier Langjökull.

After taking in the gorgeous views of Hruanfosser I drove back to Reykjavik to check out the Reykjavik Art Museum Kjarvalsstaðir, one of three art museums run by the same company. This building was opened in 1973 and was the first building in Iceland specifically designed for hosting art exhibitions. Kjarvalsstaðir houses the works of one of Iceland’s most influential and recognized artists, Jóhannes Kjarval. The exhibitions at Kjarvalsstaðir focus primarily on modern art paintings and sculptures. Architecturally the building is considered a great example of Nordic Modernism, however I would say it closely resembles that of some Brutalism traits.

Perlan, a prominent futuristic looking building situated on top of Öskjuhlíð Hill, was the next stop. The site where the building is situated started out in 1939 as a single hot water tank to supply enough pressure to push water up to a 10 story building anywhere in Reykjavik. Over the next two decades five more tanks were built, however were later torn down and six were reconstructed in the later 1980’s. In 1991 the six hot water tanks became the base of Perlan, a building open to the public, housing a planetarium, exhibition of the role of water in Icelandic nature, a photographic exhibition, and “Wonders of Iceland”, which is an exhibition that shows Icelandic nature, glaciers, geysers, and volcanos. The tanks are still in use, and each hold 5 million litres of hot water to supply to city.

Perlan overlooks Reykjavik Airport (RKV), which only serves internal flights within Iceland and to Greenland due to its shorter runway lengths of only 4000 an 5100 feet. The first flight from the airport occurred in September 1919. Regularly scheduled flights started to occur in 1940 by Flugfélag Akureyrar (now Icelandair). The airport in its current form was built by the British Army during World War 2, and originally only had a grass surface. After the war the British Army handed the airport operation over to the Icelandic government. The airport underwent some renovations in 2000. There’s a lot of controversy over the airport as its considered noisy, takes up a lot of useful area near downtown, and poses a safety risk. There’s a few options being considered including leaving the airport as is, demolishing and building a new one close by, or demolishing and moving all flights to Keflavik International Airport.

Close to Perlan is Nautholsvik, a small neighborhood overlooking Reykjavik Airport, which includes a beach, and an artificial hot spring, where hot water is pumped into a man-made lagoon. It provides to beautiful views of airplanes landing, and boats coming and going.

Reykjavik Art Museum Asmundarsafn was the next stop. This is the second of three art museums run by the same company. The building was designed, worked in, and lived in by the sculptor Ásmundur Sveinsson. The white dome structure, built between 1942 and 1950, is surrounded by Sveinsson’s sculptures in the garden, and houses his work all throughout on the inside.

It was time to check-in to my hotel, named Hotel Muli. This is a self-service hotel where you’re provided with an entry code to the building and lockbox, where you can obtain your key. The room was newly renovated and had a fairly comfortable bed, as well as a nice rainfall shower. One thing to note about the hot water supply in most of Reykjavik is that it’s supplied by geothermal water, so has a bit of a Sulphur smell. It doesn’t bother me, but is noteworthy to others. I took a three hour nap before continuing on with my daily adventures.

It was time for me to eat some dinner. I walked to Islenski Barinn, which is highly regarded for its well-priced quality focused food. I ordered a Reindeer Burger and a beer. The burger was delicious and reminded me of an even more tender elk burger, which makes sense as they are both from the same family, however elk are typically much heavier than reindeer.

Next door to where I had dinner is the National Theatre of Iceland, a beautiful Art Deco building designed by Icelandic architect Gudjon Samuelsson. The building was built in 1950, and showcases Samuelsson’s beloved basalt columns. Another building similar to this is the University of Iceland’s Main Building, also designed by Samuelsson. I explored that building on a later day, so be sure to check back on a later post.

Close by is Hotel Borg, a beautiful Art Deco hotel that was opened in 1930. The hotel was originally built by Jóhannes Jósefsson, who competed in the 1908 Olympics, travelled around America in a circus, and then after returning to Iceland in 1927 felt like building a luxury hotel.

Next to Hotel Borg is Reykjavik Cathedral, a cathedral church built in 1796, and reconsecrated in 1879 after a large restoration.

Close by is Parliament House, located on Austurvöllur Square. The building was built between 1880 and 1881. Two additions to the building occurred in 1902 and 2002. The main building was built using hewn dolerite, a subvolcanic rock similar to volcanic basalt. Today only a handful of parliamentary items take place in the Parliament House, with most taking place in adjacent buildings.

It was getting late, and I was quite tired so it was time to head back to the hotel for some sleep. Be sure to check back shortly for the next installment in my Iceland series. In the next installment i visit the famous Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption, hike the Krysuvik Geothermal Loop, and attempt to visit the Blue Lagoon.

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2018-03-14 – Toulouse

Today I woke up at 8:00am. Toulouse has an amazing bike rental company called Toulouse Velo, which stands for Toulouse Bike. I rented a bike from right outside my hotel and rode towards the town Center where I grabbed some McDonald’s for breakfast before taking the tram up to The Aeroscopia Museum near the airport. The museum featured predominantly Airbus products, but had a few other products such as the Caravelle and not one, but two Concorde’s! The price was fairly reasonable at €12.50.
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The Caravelle, designed and built by Sud Aviation right here in Toulouse between 1955 and 1972, is such a unique aircraft because it had triangular windows, a unique T-tail arrangement, and was one of the first jet turbine powered aircraft to be built that was highly successful. The last aircraft was retired in 2005, a whole 50 years after it first flew. The only comparable jet turbine powered airliner that shares this same success would be the McDonnell Douglas DC9 or the Boeing 737 series, the later having just had its 10,000th unit produced and was recognized by the Guinness Book of Records. I also got to go inside the Concorde’s, an old Airbus A300, and a Super Guppy!
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After exploring Aeroscopia I went to the restaurant next door called La Ferme du Pinot, where I had a local Toulousian dish called Cassolette. Cassolette is beans, pork and duck confit; think meat and beans casserole. I really liked the aviation inspired chairs that were at the restaurant as well. Once I move into a nicer apartment or house I’d like to purchase one.
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After lunch I took the tram back into the city exploring lots of old architecture dating back to around the 1100’s and onwards including the old City Hall, Saint Sernin, and Church of the Jacobins.
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I went back to my hotel to relax for a bit before going out for dinner at the same place I had the donair last night because it was so good. After dinner I went to a local brewery/beer shop called La Matabiere, where I picked up four different beers; three IPA’s and one Amber. I head back to my hotel room and did some photo editing and drank the beers before heading out to do some night photography of the churches and old City Hall. I ended up going to bed around 10:00pm.
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