Colorado – Day 3 – Ghost Towns

Today was a day of exploring old ghost towns. We woke up around 8:00am, got ready, and had breakfast at our hotel. Breakfast was French toast, sausages, and scrambled eggs. I ended up skipping the French toast.

First stop was Ashcroft Ghost Town. Ashcroft was a silver mining town that was founded in 1880. At the height of Ashcroft’s boom, over 2000 people lived there. High transportation costs, poor shallow silver deposits, competition from nearby Aspen, and the 1893 silver market crash ultimately lead to the demise of the town. By 1895 the population of the town decreased to less than 100 people. In 1912 the U.S. Postal Service stopped mail delivery, which ended up being the final blow to the town.

Most of the homes in Ashcroft were insulated with burlap or newspapers. This was necessary because the town, nestled around 10000 feet above sea level, received over 18 feet of snow annually and was quite cold. The homes were built in an East / West orientation to receive as much warmth as possible from the sunlight.

At its peak, Ashcroft had 20 saloons. Nearly 75% of the population were single males. Saloons, bars, and men’s clubs offered the lonely miners a distraction from their hard work. The average employee spent about 10-15% of his $142 yearly income on liquor.

After visiting Ashcroft we drove North to Glenwood Springs, and then headed East towards Georgetown. On our way to Georgetown we stopped in Eagle to have some delicious sandwiches at Pickeld Kitchen & Pantry. I had an Italian sandwich, and I can honestly say it was one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever had.

After having lunch we continue driving towards Georgetown, with a slight detour towards Eagle Mine, and the historic Town of Redcliff.

Eagle Mine is an abandoned mine near Gilman. Mining at Eagle Mine began in the 1880’s, initially for gold and silver, but eventually zinc in its later years. The mine was operational until 1984. After the closure of the mine in 1984, a 235 acre area, which included 8 million tons of mine waste, was designated as an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Site. EPA Superfund sites are designed to investigate and cleanup sides contaminated with hazardous substances. 70% of the time the responsibly parties pay for the cleanup, with 30% of the time the cleanup is unable to be funded by the responsible parties. According to the EPA, the mining operations at Eagle Mine left a huge amount of arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead and zinc in the soil and were leaching into the Eagle River, which threatened the dinking water supply in nearby Minturn. By the early 2000’s it was concluded that the remediation efforts of the EPA had significantly reduced the public health risks and improved the water quality in the Eagle River.

After looking at the mine from afar, since it was all blocked off, we drove to Redcliff. Redcliff was incorporated in 1879 and currently has a population of 282 people. It is a former mining camp situated in the canyon of the upper Eagle River. The town site is concealed below Highway 24, which passes over the Red Cliff Truss Bridge.

The Red Cliff Truss Bridge spans 471 feet (144 metres) over the Eagle River, and was built in 1940 for a cost of $372000. The bridge went more than 60 years before needed remediation work. In 2004 the bridge deck was replaced with a widened deck, and the steel was repainted, for a total cost of $3.6 million.

After our little side adventure we continued on our drive to Georgetown. We checked into our hotel, the Georgetown Lodge. It was a no-frills motel with two queen sized beds for about $100/night. After checking into our hotel we walked around town exploring the 1870-1890’s property’s before going for dinner at the Silverbrick Tavern, which is joined to Guanella Pass Brewing Company. We enjoyed a beer and had a meat lovers pizza to share. It was Chicago Deep Dish pizza style, and absolutely delicious.

Colorado – Day 1 – Ghost Towns

It’s been a few years since my Dad and I went on a father-son trip somewhere. This year we decided to go to MColorado. Dad and I had been talking about doing some hiking in Maroon Bells, Colorado for quite a few years.

We flew on a direct United Airlines flight into Denver on an Airbus A319. After landing in the mid-morning we picked up our rental vehicle, a Ford Explorer, and started off on our journey.

First stop was Bass Pro Shop to pickup some bear spray, followed by a quick lunch at Good Times Burger & Frozen Custard. Dad and I both just had a burger, and a diet Pepsi.

After lunch we drove to our first major stop of the day; the Argo Gold Mine and Mill. The Argo Gold Mine and Mill is a former gold mining and milling property located in Idaho Springs, Colorado. The mill at the entrance of the tunnel was in excellent condition, and remains intact over 100 years later. The Argo Tunnel was built between 1893 and 1910. Over $100 million of gold, and $200 million of other high value ores were mined prior to the tunnel closing in 1943 due to a major flooding accident when they tried to blast the Kansas Boroughs area. The flooding spilled thousands of gallons a minute of acidic water (pH 3) all over the area. A federal moratorium was also placed on gold mining during World War II, which didn’t help. In 1976 the mine was purchased by a local investment group led by James Maxwell, who wanted to showcase a prime example of the Colorado gold rush mines. It was renovated and reopened as a tourist attraction. In 1978 the mine was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Working conditions at the mine were brutal, with the average worker only living 3-5 years after starting work there. In 1996 a waste water treatment facility was built to treat the acidic water, which was still flowing at a fairly high rate of a few thousand gallons per minute, because the acidic water was killing the fish. In 2015 a 5 foot thick concrete wall, and a dedicated pipe and valve was built to contain the water and control the flow rate to a more manageable 700 gallons per minute. Overall the mine and mill tour absolutely impressed me.

After visiting the gold mine and mill we drove to our next stop; Blue Lake. Blue Lake is a man made dam that provides drinker water to Blue River and Breckenridge.

It was then time to head to our hotel, Mountain Chalet in Aspen. The drive went over the Independence Pass Continental Divide. Standing at just over 12000 feet above sea level, this beautiful drive offered stunning views of the valleys below. It was pretty chilly up top; only 6 degrees Celsius or so.

Just after passing the top of the pass we found a historic mill site called Farwell Mill #2, which was part of Independence Ghost Town. It was a 20 stamp mill that crushed gold ore. The mill was originally opened in 1879 as a 10 stamp mill, however it was quickly realized that an expansion was required, and Farwell Mill #2 was opened in 1881 with an additional 20 stamps, along with the Brown Tunnel to deliver a greater load of ore. By the end of 1883 the major veins of the mine were fully extracted, and the mine was quietly closed. The mine re-opened in the 1920’s with a new gold rush, however it only produced small amounts, and was later abandoned again.

The total drive from Denver took about 8 hours with all of our stops. I suspect you can get there in 4.5-5 hours without stops. After checking into our hotel we walked to a restaurant called Brunelleschi’s, which was recommended to us by our hotel concierge. I had a pizza, and dad had some asparagus and mushroom risotto.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at a grocery store to pickup food for tomorrow. I ended up writing my blog, and chatting on the phone for a bit with Julie, before heading to bed.

Uluwatu – Bali, Indonesia

Today we woke up fairly early (6am), since we had gone to bed so early the night before. We got ready and walked to a nearby coffee shop called Refresh. I had a breakfast wrap and a chai latte, and Julie had an oatmeal bowl and a chai latte. The coffee shop had a cute dog named Coco, who constantly wanted to be played with.

After breakfast we rented a scooter from our hotel , a Honda Scoopy for $7/day, to go exploring for the day. We made our way towards Karang Boma Cliff, but had to stop and get some gasoline before continuing on our way. Gasoline on the island isn’t typically obtained at gas stations, but rather from 750ml booze bottles from people’s houses, since they are few and far between. The gas is green / blue in colour and smells distinctly different than it does at home, since it is much less refined. At home gasoline can’t contain more than 10 ppm of sulphur, and minimal amounts of benzene, but in Indonesia it contains 500 ppm of sulphur, and very high percentages of benzene. It gives it a very sweet smell, but the exhaust fumes are pretty overwhelming when stuck in traffic.

After obtaining gas we drove to Karang Boma Cliff, which involved a few kilometres of driving on a very rocky and bumpy gravel road. When we arrived a local lady showed up about 30 seconds later on her scooter and charged us about $1 to park our scooter there. She also had a wide variety of drinks for sale, so we purchased a Coke Zero for about $0.80. Karang Boma Cliff was absolutely stunning, and I even threw up my drone for a bit, but it was fairly windy, and I was exceeding the maximum winds it could handle for the majority of the time. At the cliff we met this lovely young lady from California, and her photographer friend who lives in Malaysia. We chatted for a bit before continuing on with our adventures.

Next stop was Uluwatu Temple, a Hindu temple sitting on top of a 70 metre (230 foot) cliff overlooking the ocean. The temple was established in the 11th Century, and has been expanded a few times since. The temple is inhabited by over 500 Macaque monkeys, who are notorious for stealing visitor belongings. In fact, while we were there someone’s cellphone got stolen 30 seconds before we arrived. A fun fact is that Scientist and experts on primate behavior have conducted studies on the Macaque monkeys in the area and have concluded that these monkeys are quick to learn bartering behavior, and pass it down to their young offspring.

Upon leaving the temple I noticed that the front tire on the scooter that we rented was quite flat, so I asked some locals where the nearest spot was to get it fixed. It was about 3km away, so I drove there slowly to get it topped up with air for $0.10. Apparently this Honda Scoopy scooters use innertubes inside of the tire, and the bouncing around on the bumpy gravel road early on this morning let the majority of the air go. After topping it up, it didn’t give us any grief for the rest of the day.

After topping the tire up with air we went for lunch at Nourish Cafe & Pizzeria. I had a Truffle Cheese Pizza, and Julie had a Falafel Bowl. Following lunch we picked up our laundry that we had dropped off yesterday, and went back to the hotel to relax for a bit.

In the evening we rode to Suluban Beach to watch the sunset. There was roughly 200 steps down to the beach, which wasn’t a problem on the way down, but gosh it was brutal walking back up in the sweltering head. Afterwards we went back to Uluwatu Temple, and watched a traditional Balinese Fire Dance, which lasted about an hour.

Following the Fire Dance we stopped in at Loca Warung for dinner. I had a salad, and Julie had some crispy vegetable rolls. After dinner we went back to the hotel, dropped off the scooter, and crawled in for the night.

Regina, Saskatchewan

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

Regina is the capital city of Saskatchewan, Canada, and is the second largest city in the province, after Saskatoon. Regina currently has a population of around 240000 people. Regina was previously the seat of government for the North-West Territories, of which the current provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed in 1905, and Regina became the capital city of Saskatchewan in 1906. The site was previously called Wascana (“Buffalo Bones” in Cree) prior to being renamed in 1882 in honour of Queen Victoria. While I was here I took some architecture photographs, and picked up a delicious sandwich from Italian Star Deli.

The University of Regina Heating Plant supply’s heated and chilled water to the University of Regina campus buildings. The pyramid shaped concrete building was built in 1967 in brutalism architecture style, and somewhat resembles a grain elevator. The build has removeable end walls to easily allow mechanical components to be swapped out.

The Saskatchewan Legislative Building was built between 1908 and 1912, and houses the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. The Beaux-Arts style building was designed by Edward and William Sutherland Maxwell from Montreal.

The Government House, built in 1889, was constructed as the residence for the Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, who’s territorial headquarters were in Regina until the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were created out of the territories in 1905, and Regina became the capital of Saskatchewan. The building then became the vice-regal resident of Saskatchewan until 1944, when it was vacated until it was returned to official ceremonial use in 1984. The Modified Italianate architecture style building was designed by Thomas Fuller.

Embury Heights is a 14-storey senior housing complex that was built in 1979. It is a very good example of brutalist architecture.

The Federal Building (1975 Scarth Street) is a beautiful historic Art Deco style building that was built in 1936. The four-story building was originally build as part of a nation-wide Great Depression program to create employment and improve and consolidate federal government services.


The SaskPower Building is a 14 story flowing curvature office building that was built in 1963 for SaskPower. The building is a great example of modern architecture, and was designed by Joseph Pettick. At the time of its completion it was Regina’s tallest building.

I explored quite a few other buildings while I was here, before picking up my spicy salami sandwich from Italian Star Deli. It was absolutely scrumptious!

After I finished exploring Regina I continued the drive towards Winnipeg, which took about 6 hours. After checking into my hotel, the Howard Johnson, I drove to One Great City Brewing Company, where I had a delicious pork belly pizza and a few beers, before calling it a night.

Be sure to check back soon for the next installment in this mini series, where we get to explore Winnipeg. 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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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 7 – Last Day in Belgrade, Serbia

Today was my final day in Belgrade, Serbia. I slept in until 7:30 am, went downstairs, purchased a sandwich from a shop below, and was eating it when I ran into the receptionist arriving for work. We chatted for a bit before I went out on my adventures for the day, and I owed her money for the airport transfer because she forgot to charge me when I checked in.

It was raining cats and dogs today, and my shoes were starting to get some fairly large holes in them. I felt like a wet dog the majority of the day. The first stop was the Old Belgrade Railway Station. The railway station was opened in 1884 and remained open until just a few years ago in 2018. It was designed by architect Dragutin Milutinovic in academism style. Trains were relocated to a new railway station, and the current one was repurposed into a museum.

A very short walk away are two unique buildings; The Railway Museum, and the Ministry of Defence. The Railway Museum was founded in 1950. The first exhibition was held in 1953 and feature the History of Yugoslav Railways. The museum features over 40,000 objects, however, I didn’t go inside as it was closed today.

The Ministry of Defence building was constructed between 1957 and 1965 and was designed by Nikola Dobrović. The building was built in two parts; building A and building B. Each building was on either side of Nemanjina Steet. The building was destroyed fairly extensively during the NATO bombings of Yugoslavia. It was actually bombed twice, nine days apart. The building was not repaired for over a decade, however, since building B was much less damaged parts of it are still used by the Ministry of Defence of Serbia. In 2005 it was added to the list of protected buildings. In 2015 the first phase of reconstruction of Building A was started, for the purpose of structure collapse prevention. In 2017 the government decided to demolish most of building A, with the obligation to rebuild it to its original appearance once the country has funds. The reason for this decision was that the reconstruction costs were about 7.7 million Euros, whereas the demolition cost was only 1.5 million euros. Over the years there were talks about converting building A into a luxury hotel, building a monument, or building a museum.

It was starting to rain even harder, so I took the bus instead of walking to the Temple of Saint Sava. The Temple of Saint Sava, also known as the Church of Sant Sava is a Serbian Orthodox Church that was designed by architects Bogdan Nestorović, Aleksandar Deroko, and Branko Pešić. The building is built in a Serbo-Byzantine and Neo-Byzantine architecture style. The church took an extremely long time to be built due to a variety of factors. Construction started in 1935 and the building is still under construction, with work scheduled for completion sometime this year. When Yugoslavia was under occupation by the Germans in 1941 the church was only 10 metres (33 feet) high. The incomplete building was used as a depot by the German army. After the war, the church was unable to receive permission to complete the building until 1984. The church has a symmetrical layout and a 12,000 square metre (130,000 square foot) gold mosaic that should be complete sometime this year.

After visiting the temple I took a bus to see a quirky building called the Toblerone Building, which gets its name from it resembling that of a bunch of pieces of Toblerone chocolate pieces stacked on one another. The Toblerone Building is a Brutalism style building designed by architect Rista Šekerinski and was completed in 1963.

I took the bus back to my hotel, where I purchased a salad from the shop below. I chatted with the receptionist for a bit, ate my salad, and relaxed, before heading out to see the Nikola Tesla Museum. The Nikola Tesla Museum is dedicated to the life and work of Nikola Tesla. It has over 160,000 documents, 2000 books and journals, 1500 photographs, various objects and instruments, and over 1000 plans and drawings. The Nikola Tesla Archive is a UNESCO Memory of the World Programme register since 2003. The museum is housed in a residential villa that was built in 1927. It was used for various purposes until the museum open on December 5th, 1952.

The final stop for today was an automotive museum that I found close to my hotel. There were a few dozen fairly well-preserved cars in there, which were fun to look at. Sadly, the roof of the building is leaking, and some of the cars are getting water damage.

For dinner, I had a comically large slice of pizza from a pizza place around the corner, and it was only $2.45. It was basically 1/3 of a 14″ pizza!

Tomorrow I fly to Budapest, so be sure to stay tuned for the next part of my series.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 5 – Novi Sad, TV Towers, and Smederevo Fortress

Today was my second day in Serbia. I woke up around 7am and chatted with the receptionist on my way out, and headed Boutique #1 for breakfast, where I had an espresso and another prosciutto omelette for breakfast, but it wasn’t as good as the previous day’s restaurant. After breakfast I walked across the street to the Marriott, where I picked up my rental car that I had rented online last night. I usually use SIXT when I rent in Europe, and this was no exception. I was given a Renault Clio 3-cylinder, which was comically slow.

First stop on today’s adventure was was Iriški Venac Tower, about an hours away. Iriški Venac Tower, a 170 metre tall TV tower built of concrete, near Novi Sad, Serbia. The tower was built in 1975, and was used until 1999 when it was bombed during the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

Next up was the abandoned Spicer Castle, about 30 minutes away, which was built by the Spicer family from 1890 to 1892. The castle interior was decorated in secession style. The building was featured in many horror movies that were filmed in Serbia. Sadly the building was recently fenced off due to vandalism occurring, so I was unable to see the inside. I’ve attached some pictures of the inside, and given credit to the sources. The road to the castle was absolutely stunning with fall colours!

Photo Credit: Teodora Zivanovic
Photo Credit: Rejko Keravica

Close by is the city of Novi Sad, where I parked my car, and walked around, as well as ate some lunch. Parking was a bit of a strange scenario, which I eventually figured out. It’s not clear that you need to go to a tobacco kiosk, purchase a scratch ticket for $0.65 CDN, scratch off the hour you want to park, and then display on your dash. Since I was parking for a minimum of two hours I had to buy two tickets. This is an extremely inefficient system in my opinion, but hey it works!

My first stop on my walk around Novi Sad was Petrovaradin Fortress. Construction of the fortress started in 1692 and was completed in 1780.

My second stop was Saint George’s Cathedral. The Serbian orthodox church was completed in 1905 on the same grounds that the ruins of a church that was built in 1734, but was destroyed by a bombing in 1849. The cathedral was closed on the inside, so I was unable to enter, however the exterior is quite beautiful.

Looking Southwest you’re presented with the beautiful street of Smaj Jovina.

I was getting hungry so I stopped in at Dobri Dim Gastro Pub, and had a Cubano sandwich, and an IPA beer. The owner and I chatted for a bit, and she gave me a few other recommendation to see around town.

After lunch a few minutes away is the Roman Catholic Church of the Name of Mary. The Gothic Revival style church was completed between 1892 and 1894, and is 72 metres (236 feet) tall. It replaces a church that once stood the very same ground, and was also destroyed by a bombing in the Hungarian Revolution of 1848.

Next stop was Menrat’s Palace. This beautiful Art-Nouveau style building was completed between 1908-1909, and was designed by Lipot Baumhorn.

Close by is the Serbian National Theatre. The current theatre was opened in 1981, however the theatre was founded in 1861 during a conference of the Serbian National Theatre Society. It’s hard to pin-point a style for this building however I’d say it somewhat resembles mid-century modern, despite being in the wrong decade for that style.

The final building I wanted to see in Novi Sad was the Provincial Secretariat for Education, Regulations, Administration and National Minorities & National Communities. Wow, what a tongue twister of a name! The building is also called Banovina. This building houses the Government of Vojvodina, which is an autonomous province of Serbia. This Art-Deco style building was designed by Dragisa Brasovan, and was built between 1936 and 1940.

It was then time to do some more driving. About 1.5 hours away (back towards Belgrade) was Avala Tower. Avala Tower is a 205 metre (672 feet) tall telecommunications tower located on Mount Avala. The original tower was constructed between 1961 and 1965, but was destroyed in 1999 during the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia. It was reconstructed between 2006 and 2010. The original tower was designed by architects Uglješa Bogunović and Slobodan Janjić, and engineer Milan Krstić. The tower had an observation deck, and was the only tower in the world to have an equilateral triangle as its cross section, and one of very few towers not perched directly into the ground, but more so standing on its legs. The legs form a tripod. The rebuilt tower looks essentially the same but is 2 metres (6.5 feet) taller than the original. Today was an extremely foggy day so I could barely see the building, however it made for some really neat photos!

Another hour away is Smederevo Fortress. Construction started on the fortress in 1428, with the inner city being completed by 1430. It was further fortified in 1459 after the Ottoman Empire overtook the city. Restoration started in the late 2000’s, and is currently being considered as a possible nomination to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

I drove back to Belgrade airport, dropped off the car, got a PCR test for my travel on Tuesday to Budapest, and then took the bus back into Belgrade. It was about 8pm and I was getting hungry so I stopped at a restaurant called Guli, which my dad and sister ate at a few years ago and had recommended to me.

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Alaska – Part 2 of 2

Friday October 1st 2021

Today I woke up at around 830am, made some coffee and oatmeal, and hit the road. I drove into Denali National Park, however could only make it in about 14-15 miles before being confronted by a gate. I had read that I should have been able to go about double that distance, however the weather had turned so they had closed more of it off. That’s okay because I had ran into a guy who said that he spotted a few moose around the 10 mile marker. I spent about 2 hours here taking photos and videos of the moose. It was a very enjoyable experience!

After watching the moose I drove North towards Healy where I ate a meat lovers pizza at the Totem Inn. There was a snowfall warning in effect and the weather was starting to turn, so I decided to end my cabin adventures a day early and drive back to Anchorage.

On the drive back to Alaska I came across an abandoned building called Igloo City. The building was originally constructed in the late 1970’s by Leon Smith. He envisioned it as a hotel, however it was never completed because of code violations, and lack of funds. The windows were undersized, and there were not enough emergency exits. The building exterior is constructed of nearly 900 sheets of plywood with a urethane coating. There’s also a gas station here, that closed down many years ago. The building was recently up for sale for only $300,000 USD, however there are no takers.

When I arrived in Anchorage I drove to a popular lookout point of the entire city, which was absolutely beautiful. You could see airplanes taking off from both Anchorage Ted Stevens International Airport, and Merrill Field. I even caught a glimpse of an old FedEx MD-11 Freighter.

After enjoying the viewpoint I drove into downtown Anchorage and took some pictures of a few signature architectural gems including the Gaslight Bar, Holy Family Cathedral, Fourth Avenue Theatre, Federal Building, and Wendler Building.

The Holy Family Cathedral is an Art Deco style church built between 1946 and 1948. A fun fact about the church is that Pope John Paul II visited the church in 1981, and attracted a crowd of over 80,000 people.

The Fourth Avenue Theatre, also known as the Lathrop Building, is an Art Deco style building that was built between 1941 and 1947. It took so long to complete because World War 2 put a halt to it. The building has served as a 960 seat theatre until the 1980’s, as well as a television station, restaurant, a penthouse apartment, banquet facility, and now sadly lies in disrepair.

The Federal Building is an Art Deco style government building built between 1939 and 1940. The most distinctive features of the concrete building are the tall, vertical window units that visually add height to the low mass of the structure. Numerous exterior changes have occurring including the original steel window systems being replaced with aluminum-clad wood systems with wider muntins and mullions than originally designed. The original entrance doors have been replaced with dark bronze aluminum doors that do not match the original design. The original bronze stair handrails have been replaced with painted steel handrails of a modern utilitarian design.

The Wendler Building was built in 1915 by Tony and Florence Wendler, and is the oldest commercial building in Anchorage. The building was originally built elsewhere, but moved to its present location in 1985. It was used by the Wendlers as a store until 1925, then converted to a boarding house, then a club, and now a store front.

After exploring downtown Anchorage I checked-in to my accommodation for the night; Aptel Studio, which was a large kitchenette style apartment. After checking in I drove to the nearby Resolution Brewing Company, and had some of their beers. They had Belgian style beers, however I thought they were quite mediocre. After having the beers I had some Vietnamese soup, and picked up some bear spray from Bass Pro Shop for some hikes in the coming days, before heading back to the hotel for the evening to write my blog and edit my photos.

Saturday October 2nd 2021

Today I had to get a covid test for my return flight home, so I drove to the hospital parking lot, where I was told I could get a free test. Turns out they were only the rapid tests, so I had to drive to the airport to get the test. At the airport I was notified that they only issued TMA tests, because there was a shortage on PCR tests. This was fine with me, as I cross referenced with the Canadian Government website, and they said it was okay.

After getting my covid test I picked up a breakfast burrito from a delicious burrito from Burrito Factory, which is oddly positioned in the middle of a Chevron gas station. Next, I drove towards Seward, with a few stops including Potter Section House, and Exit Glacier. Potter Section House is a historic site featuring a restored house and buildings that were a part of a railroad section camp that maintained a section of the Anchorage-Seward railway. There’s a large train snow blower at the site as well.

I continued the 1.5 hour drive to Exit Glacier, stopping numerous times to take photos of the beautiful scenery.

Exit Glacier is located in Kenair Fjords National Park, and is one of the most accessible glaciers in Alaska. It is rapidly retreating, having retreated approximately 187 feet (57 metres) in just one year (2013 to 2014). It received its name for serving as the exit for the first recorded crossing of the Harding Icefield in 1968.

After visiting Exit Glacier it was time to grab some lunch, so I stopped at Chartermark Seward. The fish and chips were excellent, however there could be some improvements made including letting people seat themselves, rather than wait 20-30 minutes to be seated when there was plenty of available tables. The staff were super friendly, however were overworked.

After lunch I drove south towards Tonsina Creek, where I completed a 1.5 hour hike to where Salmon were trying to swim up stream. It was neat to see, however the optimal time was about 2 weeks ago. There was a lot of dead Salmon there from failing their journey.

After completing the hike I drove around town looking at all the murals, before checking into my accommodation at Trailhead Lodging. I had about 3 hours of work I needed to do, so I spent the rest of the evening working.

Sunday October 3rd 2021

Today was my last full day in Alaska. I woke up around 7am, drove to Safeway to pickup a sandwich for lunch, and pickup my breakfast and coffee from the Starbucks inside. I drove about an hour towards the Portage Pass trailhead. To get to the glacier you need to pay a $13 USD toll to travel through the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, which passes under Maynard Mountain.

The Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel is very unique as it allows cars and trains to pass through it, but only single file (also known as bimodal). The tunnel is 13,300 feet (4100 metres) long, and is the longest highway tunnel, and longest bimodal tunnel in North America. The tunnel was originally excavated between 1941-1942, and was only originally used as rail, however was upgraded for bimodal use between 1998 and 2000. Traffic direction alternates every half hour.

Upon arriving at the Portage Pass trailhead I had to do some pretty severe off-roading for about half a mile, as the road was washed out. The hike took me about 1.75 hours, however I have to admit I only completed about 80 percent of the hike as I was having to bushwhack a lot towards the end due to a storm the previous day. I’m convinced the best view was at the top anyways.

After completing the hike I ate my sandwich in the truck, while waiting 20 minutes at the tunnel to drive back through it. Next stop was the Alaska Aviation Museum, where I nerded out quite a bit. On display was a rich history on how aviation came to be in Alaska, including history on how some of the airlines came and went. There was also an old Alaskan Airlines Boeing 737-200 on display.

After exploring the museum I quickly stopped at Anchorage Depot to snap a photo. Anchorage Depot, is an Art Deco style building that was built in 1942. It was enlarged in 1948.

It was dinner time at this point in time, so I stopped at a Vietnamese place for some Pho, before trying to check-in to my hotel; the Merrill Field Inn. Unfortunately the hotel was completely not as advertised. When I pulled into the parking lot at the Merrill Field Inn I know that I wasn’t going to be staying there because it looked really gross, and there was a bunch of people leaning over balconies smoking and drinking. It looked like a trailer trash place, and nothing similar to the photos online. Regardless, I obtained a key, and when I opened the door of the room it smelled quite badly of cheap air freshener, and there was a cigarette on the floor. I went back downstairs and asked for a refund, and booked myself in at the Clarion Suites, which was much better.

Again I had quite a bit of work to do this evening so I worked for a few hours, and was getting hungry again so I ordered a Hawaiian pizza from Flattop Pizza. I continued working, and went to bed at around 10pm, as I had an early day ahead of me.

Monday October 4th 2021

Today it was time to fly home. I had to wake up at 3am, as my first flight was around 6am. I dropped off the truck, and went to check-in at a counter, since I was unable to online because they want to do document checks to ensure I had my negative covid test. When I went to check-in the agent had an issue with my paperwork because I had gotten a TMA test, which was still an accepted form of test. The reason I had gotten a TMA test is that Anchorage had a shortage of PCR tests. After politely negotiating with her, and two other supervisors they let me have my tickets. It’s frustrating that the Delta system says something completely different than the Government of Canada website.

After obtaining my tickets I went and purchased an Egg McMuffin and coffee from McDonald’s to eat while I was waiting to board my flight. First flight was a Delta Airlines Boeing 757-200 from Anchorage to Minneapolis. In Minneapolis there was a 4 hour layover, where I thought I could stay in a lounge for a bit, however the lounges that I was eligible for were all closed. I decided to eat a Rueben sandwich, fries, salad, and a beer at Twins Grill. The food was excellent. I ended up passing the time by chatting with a few people on the phone, and watching a movie named Percy, which is about the Saskatchewan farmer who went up against Monsanto in a lawsuit against seed patents.

The next flight was on a Delta Airlines Embraer E175, one of my favorite commute jets to fly on since the seating arrangement is only 2×2. I arrived around 9pm in Calgary, and my Dad picked me up from the airport. This time I had no issues at Canadian customs, like I did when I came back from Iceland about a month ago.

Be sure to check back soon, as I have a few more hiking related posts, and then I’m off to Europe for a few weeks to explore Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Estonia, and Finland.

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Iceland 2021 – Krysuivik Geothermal Loop & Fagradalsfjall Volcano Eruption

Today marks the second day of my trip. I slept pretty well and wasn’t really suffering from too much jet lag. I did wakeup at about 2am for a brief period of time before going back to bed.

For breakfast I attempted to go to a few bakeries however it was too early and they didn’t have anything besides donuts available, so I went to Subway. First stop of the day was Krysuivik Geothermal Loop, about an hours drive away. Along the way I decided to stop by the side of the road to take some drone shots of the volcanic scenery around me to realize that my memory card had failed… but don’t worry I had a second one… sitting in my work laptop back at the hotel. I drove all the way back to the hotel, picked up the second card and tried again. By now it was already nearly noon! In the distance on this drone shot you can see Fagradalsfjall Volcano’s smoke from it’s ongoing eruption. I’ll be hiking that later today.

Krysuivik Geothermal Loop is a 7.7 kilometer loop in Southwest Iceland the features a lake, and a geothermally active area. It is situated above Seltun, a very colourful Geothermal area below that I had a chance to visit with my father in 2014 when we went to Iceland. The hike starts off right away up a fairly steep hill, gaining 314 metres. Make sure to look backwards so you can see Seltun.

After the large climb you slightly descend to Amarvatn Lake, a very colourful lake, which I suspect is a volcanic crater lake due to the way it looks, however I can’t mind much information on it. A volcanic crate lake is a lake in a crater that was formed from explosive activity or collapse during a volcanic eruption. Dad an I visited one such lake in 2014, called Kerið.

The trail continues around in a big loop, as you can see from above. It offers beautiful views of the mountainous area surrounding it. Along the way I came to the geothermal area, before continuing the loop around the lake.

After completing the hike it was time to grab some lunch. I remember from my 2014 trip with my dad that there was a restaurant called Papa’s that serves delicious pizza in the nearby town of Grindavik. I drove about half an hour to Papa’s, and wow it didn’t disappoint. I had a pizza called Papa’s Surprise, which consisted of pepperoni, ham, mushrooms, jalapenos, garlic, cream cheese, and black pepper. You could even see the volcano erupting from Grindavik!

After having lunch it was time to visit the Fagradalsfjall Volcano eruption (also known as Geldingadalsgos), which has been ongoing since March 19th 2021 at about 9:40pm. This was one of two primary reasons for me to visit Iceland, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. There’s a few dedicated places to park your car for 1000 ISK ($10 CDN). The 3km one-way hike to the volcano takes about 45 minutes and is flat for 2/3 of the way, before entering a series of switchbacks. The view was certainly overwhelming, and was nothing like what I had imagined in my head. You can also view a video I took of the volcano on my YouTube channel here. You’ll also notice that there was a helicopter there, because you can pay some companies to drop you right off at the base of the volcano!

After visiting the volcano I was going to visit the Blue Lagoon, however when I arrived I found out that the tickets were sold out for the day. I booked a 9am ticket for the next day. It was time to drive back to Reykjavik for dinner, about an hour away. I had some beef soup at 101 Reykjavik Street Food, which was recommended to me on one of the travel series I watched a while back. While the presentation wasn’t the best, the soup was delicious, and the beef was so tender.

After dinner I walked around for a bit and took some pictures of one of my favourite churches in the entire world, Hallgrimskirkja. The church is one of Reykjavik’s best-known landmarks, and is the tallest church in Iceland, standing 74.5 metres (244 feet) tall. The church took 41 years to build; starting in 1945, and completed in 1986. The church is a mixture of different architectural styles but is predominantly that of expressionist neo-gothic. I can definitely see some brutalism and art deco mixed in there as well. During it’s construction it was criticized for being too old-fashioned and a blend of too many different architecture types. Inside the church there is a large pipe organ built by German organ builder Johannes Klais from Bonn. There are 5275 pipes arranged in 102 ranks and 72 stop, and they weight approximately 25 tons!

I continued exploring around downtown Reykjavik for a bit before heading back to my hotel to go to bed. Be sure to check back soon for the next installment in my Iceland series. In the next installment I explore the Blue Lagoon, see some waterfalls, see Iceland’s fourth largest glacier, the town of Vik, the basalt formations at Reynisfjara Beach, and hike to the Solheimasandur Plane Wreck.

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Saskatoon

Two weeks ago we decided to take a trip to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan for the long weekend. We took an extra day off to turn it into a four day weekend. During the 7 hour drive to Saskatoon I ended up having quite a few work phone calls, which made for a quicker trip out. For lunch we stopped at A&W in Oyen.

Accommodation was at the Delta Bessborough, a historic grand railway hotel originally built for Canadian National Railway. The ten-story Chateauesque-style building was opened in 1935. The hotel was designed by Archibald and Schofield, who also designed two other hotels for the Canadian National Railway; Hotel Vancouver, and The Nova Scotian. The hotel features 225 guest rooms, three restaurants, a fitness centre, pool, conference rooms, and a massive waterfront gardens. The 8th floor was closed off for renovations, however we managed to sneak up there to check out what the hotel would have looked like before it was renovated in 2003.

After checking in to our hotel it was time to get some dinner. We walked over to Las Palapas, a Mexican place that was recommended to us. On our way to the restaurant we walked through the historic Nutana neighbourhood. Some of the buildings here were built in the very early 1900’s.

At Las Palapas we shared some tortilla chips as an appetizer. For our main meal I had some tacos, and Julie had enchiladas. We both agreed that the food was excellent.

After dinner we walked down the street to Prairie Sun Brewery for some potent potables. I picked up some Pink Himalayan Salt IPA’s, and Julie picked up some ciders. We walked back to our hotel and spent some time in the pool and hot tub, before crawling into bed and watching some Man in the High Castle on Amazon Prime.

The next day we woke up around 8:00am and had breakfast at Broadway Cafe. I had eggs benedict with hashbrowns and Julie had a scrambler without eggs. The food was fairly mediocre, however the 1950’s décor was beautiful, and the staff were very friendly.

After breakfast we drove through the neighbourhood of Varsity View to find the few surviving examples of Art Deco homes that were built in the 1930’s. I had heard that Saskatoon had quite a few examples of these homes still around, however many of them were in bad shape.

After driving through Varsity View we parked the car and walked through the University of Saskatchewan campus. The University was founded in 1907. The original building, The College Building, was opened in 1913 (now declared a National Historic Site of Canada). Since then numerous other colleges were established; Arts & Science (1909), Agriculture (1912), Engineering (1912), Law (1913), Pharmacy (1914), Commerce (1917), Medicine (1926), Education (1927), Home Economics (1928), Nursing (1938), Graduate Studies and Research (1946), Physical Education (1958), Veterinary Medicine (1964), Dentistry (1965), and School of Physical Therapy (1976).

Remai Modern Art Museum

After walking through the University of Saskatchewan campus we drove to the Remai Modern Art Museum. The museum was established in 2009, however has only been in its current building since October 2017. The museum has three floors with two different collections distributed amongst them; the two main collections being the Mendel Collection, and the Picasso Collection.

The entrance is beautiful and modern, with nice leather seats, a fire place, and cool light fixtures hanging from the ceiling.

The Mendel Collection is a permanent collection featuring 7700 works by artists including Emily Carr, Lawren Harris, Cornellius Krieghoff, and William Perehudoff.

The Picasso Collection, on the second floor, is also a permanent collection. It features ceramics and linocuts by Pablo Picasso, and features 405 linocuts, many of his beautiful wife Jacqueline. Linocuts, also called linoleum cut, are a print made from a sheet of linoleum into which a design has been cut in a relief. An interesting thing to note is that some of Picasso’s designs included 50 lays of linoleum, and if he made a mistake anywhere along the way, he had to start over again.

After visiting the museum we went and got some ice cream from Homestead Ice Cream. I had Saskatoon Berry and Lemon in a waffle cone, while Julie had Licorice and Saskatoon Berry in a cup. If you’re a lover of ice cream you have to eat here!

Western Development Museum

After getting some ice cream we drove to the Western Development Museum (WDM), which was established in 1949, and has been in its present location since 1972. There are technically four WDM’s, located at Moose Jaw, North Battleford, Yorkton, and Saskatoon, but the area of focus is Saskatoon. The Saskatoon one is called 1910 Boomtown, and focuses on the boomtown era of 1910’s, as well as features vintage automobiles, trains, farm equipment, and other memorabilia. There’s a tremendous amount of content to write about this museum, so I’ll release it in a separate post, and eventually link it here.

After visiting the museum we went back to the hotel for a bit to relax, before heading out to dinner at Bon Temps. Bon Temps is an authentic Louisiana Cajun / Creole style restaurant. I had a delicious brisket served with corn, green beans, mashed potatoes, and a jalapeno corn bread. Julie had scallops served with green beans, mashed potatoes, and a jalapeno corn bread. We also had some adult beverages to go along with our meal.

After our meal we walked to the 9 Mile Legacy brewery, which was unfortunately closing in 10 minutes, so they were no longer serving any pints. I picked up two cans to-go, and we walked back to the hotel and went in the hot tub before going to bed.

On our final day in Saskatoon we went to Hometown Diner for Breakfast. I had a breakfast poutine, and Julie had a delicious chicken bacon club sandwich.

After breakfast we drove to the farmers market, which was extremely underwhelming, so we quickly left. Next up was the Saskatoon Forestry Farm Park & Zoo, which was excellent! The zoo is a National Historic Site of Canada (designated in 1990), and was created in 1966. There were over 30 different types of animals on display including Bald Eagles, Burrowing Owls, Great Horned Owls, Grizzly Bears, Lynx’s, Swift Fox (which escaped!), Dingo’s, Pygmy Goats, Bison, Pronghorns, multiple types of Sheep, Alpaca’s, Meerkats, and Capuchin Monkey’s.

After visiting the zoo it was time to grab some lunch. We drove to Odla, which actually happened to be right next door to the Broadway Cafe that we ate at the other day. Odla is a fine example of farm to table. I had a delicious hamburger, which was the BEST hamburger I’ve ever had in my life, and Julie had a grilled vegetable and quinoa plate.

After having our delicious lunch I drove to Crossmount Cider Company, which was a short 15 minute drive south of the city. The craft cidery is built next to a retirement community and overlooks a man-made wetland area, where you can few all sorts of birds while enjoying some ciders. We decided to both get a flight of sample ciders. The cidery was established in 2014.

After visiting the cidery we drove back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit before going to Thirteen Pies Pizza & Bar for dinner. I had a pizza called The Midnight Meat Train, which included sausage, meatballs, bacon, provolone, mozzarella, jalapenos, and tomato sauce. Julie had a pizza called The White Walker, which included roasted mushrooms, provolone, mozzarella, ricotta, white sauce, prosciutto (added extra), and truffle oil. We barely at half of our pizzas before calling it quits because we were full. We packed up our leftover pizza and started to walk back to the hotel. On our way back we both decided that we would give our leftovers to a homeless man who looked fairly hungry. I also snapped a photo of a very cool brutalism building called the Sturdy Stone Centre. The Sturdy Stone Centre, designed by the architecture firm of Forrester, Scott, Bowers, Cooper and Walls, is a 13 story building that was built in 1977. Floors 3 to 7 are used as a parkade, with the remaining floors used as office space.

The rest of the evening we spent watching more of our Amazon Prime series called The Man in the High Castile, as well as some time in the hot tub, before going to bed.

The following day we had breakfast at OEB before driving back to Calgary. I had my favourite dish there, a breakfast poutine called Soul in a Bowl. Julie had some smoked salmon on gluten-free bread.

On the way home we were supposed to stop at the Saskatchewan Sand Dunes, however due to an immense amount of rain the road to the dunes was inaccessible. I only made it about 100 feet before getting stuck, needing a tow out from a friendly Saskatchewan family.

Well that concludes this series, but be sure to check back soon as I have a trip to Kelowna in a few weeks, as well as plenty of upcoming hikes, including trip to Lake O’Hara in July.

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