Portugal – Day 10 – Evora

Today I visited the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Evora. Evora’s history dates back over 5000 years ago, when the Lusitanians occupied the area. In 57 BC the Romans conquered the town, and built a wall around the town. The city was important for the Romans as it was the hub of several important trade routes. In 584 AD Evora came under the rule of Visigothic king Leovigild during the barbarian invasions. In 715 the city was conquered by the Moors, and was held until 1165 when Gerald the Fearless launched a surprise attack. The town then came under the rule of Portuguese king Afonso I the following year. Evora endured a few more attacks over the years, including The Battle of Evora in 1808, and the Liberal Wars in 1834. The city was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986. Evora has a variety of architectural styles including Romanesque, Gothic, Manueline, Renaissance, and Baroque.

The train ride to Evora took about 1.75 hours, and cost $20 return. The train station in Evora is about a 10 minute walk away from the city center. The entire city is walkable, and cars are not really required. First stop was the Chapel of Bones, and the Sao Francisco Monastery, which share the same building.

The Chapel of Bones is a small chapel attached to Sao Francisco Monastery. The chapel gets its name because the interior walls are covered and decorated with human skulls and bones. The chapel was built by Franciscan monks, and its estimated that over 5000 corpses were exhumed to decorate the walls of the chapel.

Sao Francisco Monastery is a beautiful gothic church that was built in 1376. Much of the church fell apart over the years, and was extensively rehabilitated in 2014-2015.

Praca do Giraldo is the main square of Evora. Many restaurants have their tables setup in the middle of the square, so you can enjoy your lunch and people watch. The square was used during the Spanish Inquisitions in the 16th century, and was also the location of the execution of Duke of Braganza in 1484.

I was starting to get hungry, so I had a burger and fries at Taska da Su Aqueduto. The burger was quite mediocre, however the fries were excellent.

Agua de Prata Aqueduct is a stone aqueduct built in the 1530’s. The 18km aqueduct was designed by Francisco de Arruda.

The Roman Temple of Evora was built in the 1st century in honour of Augustus, who was venerated as a god during and after his ruling.

Construction of Evora Cathedral started in 1186, however it wasn’t completed until 1746. The first building was built between 1186 and 1204. It was expanded between 1280 and 1340 in Gothic style. In the 14th century Gothic cloisters were added. In the 16th century Esporao Chapel was added into Manueline style. Finally, in the 18th century the large Baroque style main chapel was completed. This cathedral is the largest mediaeval cathedral in Portugal.

Graca Church is an old church and convent that was constructed in 1511. It is currently used by the Portuguese Armed Forces.

The majority of the streets are very narrow, and most of the buildings are painted white and yellow.

I also saw some pretty neat murals by the train station.

After taking the train back to my hotel I did some work, blogging, relaxed in the pool, and went in the sauna.

The following day was spent relaxing at my hotel until it was time to check out, and then I took the metro to the airport to check-in to my new hotel; Hotel Star Inn Lisbon Aeroporto. I had pizza for dinner, and then had an early night, as I had a 6:30am flight the following day.

The first flight of the day was on an Easyjet Airbus A320 to London Gatwick. I had a four hour layover in London, which I spent editing photos and having a delicious chicken burger from Shake Shack. My second flight was on a Westjet Boeing 787-9 to Calgary. Both flights were turbulence free, and arrived half an hour early.

This concludes my Portugal series. I don’t currently have any more trips planned until the summer, however hiking season starts soon, so be sure to check back soon.

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Portugal – Day 5 – Lisbon

I started the day off with an amazing buffet breakfast at my hotel, before walking to the Sao Bento train station to catch a quick Intercity train to Campanhã station, where I had a coffee while I waited for my train to Lisbon. The train ride to Lisbon took about 3 hours.

Before I dive into Lisbon, let’s explore a brief history on Lisbon. Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city, as well as Portugals largest city, with a population of 2.9 million people if you include its metro area. Similar to Porto, the area was originally settled by Celtic people, however much earlier than Porto. They settled in 1200 BC. The Roman’s, Moors, and Napoleonic’s then came and occupied the Iberian Peninsula, which we learned about in my writing of the Portuguese history. Lisbon was an important trade city, due to its port access. Lisbon became the capital city of Portugal in 1255. A fun fact that I mentioned before is that the ruler of Brazil became the King of Portugal during the 19th century, and the capital city was moved from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1808 to 1821.

I arrived at Oriente Station, which was about a 15 minutes walk to my hotel; Myriad by SANA. Oriente Station (Gare do Oriente) was specifically built for Expo ’98. It is covered by a translucent roof composed of a reticulated roof structure. It creates a very grand entrance to arriving passengers. The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This modernist station is a hub for the Lisbon Metro, high speed commuter train, regional trains, national and international buses, a police station, and even a shopping center. The train station has a lattice of reinforced concrete supporting the main floors, and a lattice structure of glass and metal covering the main floors and train platforms.

It was time to check into my hotel. The Myriad Hotel is adjacent to the Torre Casco da Gama Tower & Myriad Hotel. The tower is a 145 metre (476 foot) tall tower that was built in 1998. The 22 floor hotel was later built in 2012, and stands 72 metres (236 feet) tall. The tower was built in 1998 for the Expo ’98 World’s Fair. At the base of the tower, which is shaped like a sail, was a three-story building that served as the European Union Pavilion during the Expo. After the Expo was finished the three-story building was supposed to be leased out, but never found tenants, and sat vacant, with the rare exception for one-off events. Both the observation deck, and restaurant were closed in October 2004. Parque Expo eventually received permission along the riverside to build a 178 room luxury hotel. The three-storey building was demolished to make way for the 5-star Myriad hotel, which was designed by Portuguese architect Nuno Leonidas. In 2018 the panoramic restaurant named Fifty Seconds, was opened up in the space that was previously the observation deck, and now has a one-star Michelin rating.

After settling in for a bit it was time to set out and explore the Expo ’98 site. Expo ’98 was the specialized World’s Fair that was held in Lisbon from May 22nd to September 30th 1998. The theme of the fair was “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”. 143 countries participated, and the expo received over 11 million visitors. The idea for Portugal to host the World’s Fair actually dates back to 1989. The expo was built in a derelict area of the city, and ended up creating a thriving neighbourhood that left a legacy. The buildings include Oriente Station (see what I wrote above), designed by Santiago Calatrava; Portugal Pavilion, designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira; Lisbon Oceanarium New Extension, designed by Campo Costa Arquitetos; Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater), designed by Manuel Salgado (RISCO); Pavilhao do Conhecimento, designed by João Luís Carrilho da Graça; Utopian Pavilion (MEO Arena), designed by SOM; Torre Vasco da Gama (see what I wrote above), designed by Leonor Janeiro and Nicholas Jacobs; and Vasco da Gama Bridge, designed by Armando Rito.

Portugal Pavilion is the central hub, or jewel of the Expo site. Located along the Tagus River, this building has an enormous and thin concrete canopy (70 metres by 50 metres and only 20 centimetres thick) draped between two columns, creating a beautiful frame of the water. This beautiful building was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira. The canopy is formed by the catenary arc of steel cables draped between the columns (porticoes) which were constructed with pre-stressed concrete. This is essentially the same technology used in suspension bridges, and Calgary’s own Saddle Dome arena. It is designed as a stressed-ribbon structure, wherein the loose cables are stiffened with concrete to eliminate sway and bounce.

The Lisbon Oceanarium was built for Expo ’98, and is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The largest tank is a 5000 cubic metres! It was designed by Peter Chermayeff, the same designer behind Osaka Oceanarium Kaiyukan, which is one of the largest aquariums in the world. I went to Osaka in 2017, however I didn’t have time to visit it unfortunately. Inside the oceanarium there is a large collection of marine species (over 450 species, and over 16000 animals), including penguins, otters, sharks, rays, seahorses, starfish, etc.

Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater) is another Expo ’98 facility. It was a concert hall with a capacity for 873 visitors at a time. I wouldn’t call this building beautiful by any means, however it’s certainly unique. The building is comprised predominantly of corrugated metal that is painted blue.

Pavilhao do Conhecimento is an interactive science museum that was built for Expo ’98. The modern building was designed by Carrilho da Graça and engineer António Adão da Fonseca.

Atlice Arena, also known as the Utopian Pavilion, is a multi-purpose indoor arena that was built specifically for Expo ’98. It has a capacity of over 20000 people, and was designed by Regino Cruz, alongside Skidmoore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). SOM completed many large sporting pavilions in Portland, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Minneapolis, as well as the Casco da Gama Tower, where I stayed during my stay in Lisbon. This unique building certainly resembles a UFO. In the background of this photo you can also see Torres Sao Rafael & Sao Gabriel, which are two modern luxury condos that are located close to the Expo ’98 site. They both have 24 floors and are 110 metres tall, and are the tallest residential buildings in the country. They somewhat resemble sails.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge is a six lane cable-stayed bridge, designed by Armando Rito, that spans the Tagus River. It is the second longest bridge in Europe, after the Crimean Bridge. It was built to solve a major congestion issue on Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge, and eliminate traffic to have to pass through the city. Construction took place between February 1995 and March 1998, which coincided with the opening of Expo ’98. It is 12.3 kilometres long, 30 metres wide, and 148 metres tall at it’s tallest point. The longest span is 420 metres.

Telecabine Lisbon is a cable car that was built for Expo ’98. It covers a distance of 1230 m from the Aquarium to the Vasco da Gama Tower. Each gondola car can hold 8 people, and the route takes about 10 minutes to cover. This is how I took the pictures I posted above.

Also on site is a beautifully created piece of artwork of an Iberian Lynx, dubbed Bordalo II, by Artur Bordalo. He was tired of seeing trash strewn about the city, so he decided to do something about it and make art. This art has been on site since Summer 1999. I was inspired to find more of his artwork, so I will source that out on other days.

After exploring the Expo ’98 facility I explored other area’s of Lisbon, starting with a few subway stations.

Olaias Subway Station is located on the Red Line of the Lisbon Metro. The station, designed by Tomas Taveria, was built in 1998 and features beautiful art that was created by Pedro Cabrita Reis, Graça Pereira Coutinho, Pedro Calapez and Rui Sanchez.

Picoas Subway Station is located on the Yellow Line of the Lisbon Metro. That station, designed by Picoas Subway Station, was built in 1959. It was rebuilt and extended in 1982, and rebuilt again in 1995 based on the design of Dinis Gomes. What caught my eye was the classic Art Nouveau entrance, similar to some of the metro stations I saw in Paris.

Next to Picoas Subway station is Av Fontes Pereira de Melo 28 is an Art Nouveau building that was built between 1910 and 1914 as a residence for José Maria Marques. It was designed by architect Manuel Joaquim Norte Junior. Also next door was a really neat looking abandoned set of old buildings.

The Campo Pequeno Bullring was built between 1890 and 1892. It was designed predominantly for bullfighting, however it is also used for various other events. This beautiful building is of neo-Mudéjar style, a romantic style inspired by the ancient Arabic architecture of the Iberian Peninsula. The building design was based off an old bullring in Madrid that was designed by Emilio Rodriguez Ayuso, which was later demolished. The bull ring has a circular floorplan with four large octagonal towers on each cardinal point with oriental-looking domes. The Western tower is flanked by two turrets and serves as main entrance. The windows on the building also have a horseshoe shape.

The Museum Residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves is a fabulous Art Nouveau style building that was the former residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves, that was later converted into a museum showcasing 19th-cenutyr Portuguese painting and Art Nouveau art and artifacts. The house was originally built in 1904 for José Victor Branco Malhoa, who sold it after his wife’s death in 1919. He moved into a home in Praça da Alegria. Between 1919 and 1932, the house exchanged hands a few times, before Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves, a great collector of artworks, moved in. Upon his death in 1965, the house and all its artifacts were left to the State, in order to create a museum.

Sotto Mayor Palace was built for the Portuguese aristocrat Sotto Mayor in the late 19th century. He was one of the wealthiest people in Portugal at the time. In 1988 the Sotto Mayor Palace was made a property of public interest after a fire at the palace.

I saw a beautiful Art Deco building on R. Rodrigues Sampaio 50C. I couldn’t find any information about it unfortunately.

Nearby to this Art Deco building I also saw two more buildings I found quite interesting.

Cinema São Jorge is one of the most prestigious cinemas in Portugal. It was opened in 1950. It consists of three rooms; Manoel de Oliveira, with 827 seats; Montepio, with 150 seats and room for 250 standing; and “Room 3”, with 199 seats.

Parque Mayer is the theatre district in Lisbon. It opened in 1956, and closed its doors in 1995. The land was originally used as a garden attached to Palacete Mayer (now the Spanish Embassy), before it was used as an amusement park in 1921, before the first of four theatres was built on the land. Teatro Maria Vitoria was opened in 1922, and continues to function to this day, although it was almost destroyed by a fire in 1986. In 1926, Teatro Varidades was opened. That theatre also survived a fire, and eventually closed its doors in 1992, and is currently undergoing restoration. Teatro Capitolio, a modernist style building, was opened in 1931, and is still in use today, however was closed for a long period of time due to extensive water damage. The last theatre, was Teatro ABC, which was opened in 1956, and was demolished in 2015.

Before heading back to my hotel I grabbed a salad, banana, and some sparkling water. I ate my dinner and chatted on the phone with a few friends, before heading up to the pool and sauna to relax for a bit. Continuing on the water theme afterwards I ran myself a nice jacuzzi tub, while watching some of the new season of Mayday: Air Crash Investigation. After getting my fill of relaxation it was time to head to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, when I explore Sintra and Cascais.

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 15 – Melk Abbey & Vienna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Eastern Europe Trip – Day 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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Western Development Museum – Saskatoon

The Western Development Museum (WDM), 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.

When you enter the museum you’re presented with an indoor representation of a typical Saskatchewan town. There’s a long wide street with buildings on either side. I’ll go through every building and highlight a bit of history about them, before venturing on to different technologies that were developed in the 1900’s that made vast improvements into people’s quality of life; from farming techniques, automobile development, home improvements, electricity, running water, etc.

Telephone Operator’s House

Telephones were in place in many parts of Saskatchewan by 1910. The main switchboard in most small towns were typically located in the operator’s home. Shown below is what a typical telephone operator’s house would have looked like.

Harness Shop

Harness shops are some of the busiest shops in the small towns of Saskatchewan during the early 1910’s, since animals were the main workhorse, rather than vehicles. The shop keeper was often the town cobbler, and leather worker as well. Shown below is what a typical harness shop would have looked like.

Livery Stable

Livery Stables were used to provide house and feed for horses, which were the main workhorse of transportation in the early 1910’s. Horses were used to pull buggies, wagons, and farm equipment.

Blacksmith Shop

Blacksmiths had a wide variety of jobs ranging from the sharpening of slows, replacing horseshoes, repairing wheels, shaping iron into tools, and manufacturing replacement parts. Metal is heated in a forge, where bellows forced air through the fire to heat the iron. The iron is then held with tongs against an anvil and then shaped into the desired shape with a sledgehammer, before being plunged into water to harden it. Shown below is what a typical blacksmith shop would have looked like.

General Store

General stores are where the citizens could send or receive mail, buy foods, have a coffee, etc. Most items were loose, weighed and bagged, similar to how the modern day Bulk Barn does things. Shown below is what a typical general store would have looked like.

Real Estate Office and Law Office

The homestead system was based on the Dominion Land Survey (DLS). The Dominion Lands Act of 1872 offered up homesteads of 160 acres for $10 if the settler lived on the homestead for a minimum of six months every year for three years, as well as built a suitable home, broke at least 30 acres of land, and seeded at least 20 acres of land. These new homesteads were keeping the Real Estate / Law Offices in these small towns quite busy.

Dentist’s Office

In the early 1900’s dental services were usually performed by general practice doctor, and a dental office was only established after a community had developed to a considerable size to merit a specialist. A dentist usually began his practice with only a manually operated dental chair, and some basic equipment.

Doctor’s Office

Small town doctors were general practioners that faced a wide variety of medical situations ranging from pulling teerh, broken bones, delivering babies, as well as diagnosing and treating illnesses. Occasionally the illness or accident would be severe enough that the doctor would be required to visit that patient in their home, sometimes travelling many kilometres on poor roads.

Drug Store

Drug stores in the early 1910’s did more than count out pills prescribed by doctors. The usually had to mix out their own medications from raw materials. Mortar and pestle’s, scales, beakers, and a compression device were a common staple tool that allowed chemists to manufacture the pills prescribed by the doctor. Drug stores also carried specialty items such as photography equipment, grooming and hygiene supplies.

Royal North West Mounted Police (RNWMP) Detachment

Shown below is an example of what the RNWMP detachment in Watson, Saskatchewan looked like. The detachment had two police officers who lived and worked in the building.

Church

Churches are an important part of a community, and most small towns had a church.

School

Most schools in small towns were just a one-room schoolhouse. Most schools were poorly lit, and quite chilly.

Wing Lee Laundry

Many early laundries were operated by Chinese settlers who originally came to Canada to work on the Canadian Pacific Railway’s western section. The laundromats were usually the home and business of these settlers, with the sleeping quarters typically located in the back.

Sterling Hardware Store

Hardware stores offered a wide variety of items ranging from nails to lamps and tools.

Arctic Ice Company

Before electric fridges arrived to the scene food was kept in insulated ice boxes, and were cooled by a block of ice. In the winter months ice blocks were cut from nearby rivers and lakes. The Arctic Ice Company wagon delivered ice door-to-door for home ice boxes. While the electric fridge was invented in 1913, they were not common-place in homes until the 1930’s when they became more affordable, and safer refrigerants such as Freon were invented. Early electric fridges used ammonia, which wasn’t safe for home use because they often leaked.

Railway Station

Railways were critical to the existence of prairie towns. They brought settlers and supplies, and hauled away produce to other markets. Sometimes towns would relocate to be on a rail line so that they could survive.

Farm Equipment

There was a tremendous amount of farming equipment ranging from steam powered equipment, to gas, diesel and oil powered equipment.

Sod House

Sod houses were common place, especially towards the end of the 1800’s, start of the 1900’s. They were chepa to build, warm in the winter, and cool in the summer. This was the first home for many immigrants.

Bennett Buggy

In the 1930’s, during the Great Depression era, money for gasoline had dried up, so people improvised by repurposing gasoline powered vehicles into horse-drawn vehicles. The engines were usually removed, and straps were attached that could be pulled by a horse.

Depression House

The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression that occured from 1929 until the late 1930’s. It was the longest and deepest depression in the 20th censure. It started in the United States after a major fall in stock prices that began on September 4th 1929, and was worldwide news by October 19th 1929. This was also known as Black Tuesday. Between 1929 and 1932 the world economy shrank by 15%. By comparison, the Great Recession of 2008-2009 the world economy only shrank by 1%. Unemployment also rose to nearly 23%! Unfortunately also during these times the Canadian and USA prairies were also pummeled with severe wind storms which would pile dust against the side of peoples homes, sometimes up to the roof. Dust would even make its way inside the home and cover everything. An example of a depression-era home is shown below.

Rural Electrification

In the 1920’s homes were introduced to the magic of electricity, with the 32 Volt home electricity “Light Plant”. Light plants consisted of a gas engine (sometimes a wind turbine), an electric generator (also known as a dynamo), and a storage battery. The storage batteries consisted of sixteen 2 Volt gas storage batteries, usually split into two rows of eight to save on space. Farm light plants were typically stored in the basement and were installed on a concrete foundation to minimize vibration. The light plants could run small 32-volt appliances such as butter churns, washing machines, tools, and lights. Light plants provided electricity for many rural homes until the 1950’s, when the last of Saskatchewan’s rural farms were finally connected to the power grid.

Implement Dealer

Implement dealers were placed close to railway stations in order to take easily delivery of shipments of steam engines, gas tractors, and other agricultural machinery that was purchased by the citizens in the town for use on their homesteads.

Banks

In the early years of banking, each bank company issued it’s own currency. Banks in this era were built to give the impression of a solid and trustworthy image. Architecture during the 1910’s featured false columns on the front of banks, sturdy dark wood furniture, and wrought iron teller windows.

Craft Parlour

Craft Parlours provided women with craft supplies to make clothing, rugs, quilts, etc.

City Garage

Between the 1910’s and 1920’s cars were often sold by farm implement dealers who often knew very little about them. This often led to the need for a service industry to provide repairs and accessories for them, which spun the need for independent garages.

Boomtown Photo Studio

Photography equipment was not owned by the average citizen so if a professional portrait was required a visit to a city photo city was a necessity. City photo studies typically held a studio camera, a room with interchangeable backdrops, and a dedicated dark room to develop the film.

Fire Hall

Many Canadian homes are built of wood, and are susceptible to house fires. Making matters worse was older homes typically contained electrical wiring that didn’t have electrical grounding, and exposed wires (think rod and spoke inside walls with newspaper as insulation). Fire Halls were as much a necessity as they are now. Firefighting equipment – hand, steam, or compressed gas – stored in small wooden firehalls were operated by volunteer firefighters.

Town Office

Town halls were the centre of business and handled all local administration, and date back to early roman times.

Clock Shop

Clock shops in the early 1900’s were more than a place where people could buy clocks. The jeweler sold and repaired watches and clocks, handled china and silver, and acted as the local optometrist. Keeping time was a lot harder in the early 1900’s than our internet connected devices of today.

Butcher Shop

Electrical refrigeration didn’t exist in the early 1910’s. Food was preserved with ice and kept fresh in ice boxes. Butchers were an essential retailer as many families didn’t even have access to ice block service.

Newspapers

Today we can just look at our iPhones, or turn on our televisions to get the news, however at the turn of the 1900’s news travelled much slower. Newspapers were printed on a daily or weekly basis and delivered door to door. International news sometimes took as long as 1-3 months to reach Canada.

Barber Shop and Pool Hall

Barber Shops at the turn of the 1900’s often contained a public bath area where a person sat on the surrounding rim with his feet in the basin. Water drained through a small hole under the seat. Pictured below is a historic barber chair.

Transportation Gallery

The museum featured a transportation gallery that encompassed all sorts of vehicles from the early 1900’s through to modern times. There were even some electric vehicles and renewable fuel vehicles at the turn of the 1900’s that were quite interesting.

Believe it or not but electric cars have been around since the 1880’s. The very first electric car was developed by Gustave Trouve from Paris, France. Electric cars were widely used between 1881 and 1912, even more popular than gasoline / diesel powered cars. In fact six electric cars held the land speed record in the 19th century, with one of them reaching 106 kph in 1899, which was unheard of during those days. The internal combustion engine took over as the main engine of choice, until roughly the late 1970’s, when the fuel crisis hit. Electric vehicles eventaully started to gain traction again, including this weird looking vehicle called the ElecTrek pictured below. The ElecTrek was developed by Unique Mobility from Denver, Colorado. When it went on sale in 1982 it could reach highway speeds, however could only got 132 km (82 miles) on a charge, and ran on 16 heavy lead-acid batteries, which posed an issue with limited charge cycles and recyclability. The electric vehicle wasn’t quite ready for mass-production again. General Motors (GM)came close in 1996 with the EV1. The vehicle was highly favoured by its owners, however they lived a short life because in 1999 GMended production. There was also another catch because GM never let you purchase them, rather lease them for a 3 year period. Once the lease period was over GM crushed most of the vehicles, and distributed a few to museums. This was a huge blow to the electric vehicle scene. The 2000’s sat quiet, until Tesla came to the picture in 2003 and has since produced over 1 million electric vehicles. I myself own a Toyota Prius PRIME plug-in-hybrid, of which only 50,000 per year are produced. I love my car, and honestly don’t see myself driving a non electric vehicle here-on-in.

What do we have here? Pictured below is a McLaughlin Motors Model E35 powered by straw gas. Basically it was a regular vehicle that could burn straw gas. A gas bag was fitted to the car’s frame, with a hose to pipe the gas into the carburetor, and a valve that could be opened or closed depending on whether the car was run on straw gas or gasoline. The issue with running a car on straw gas was that the 300 cubic feet of gas had less stored capacity than 1 gallon (3.78 litres) of gasoline, so it could only go for an extremely short distance. This was one of the first “renewable fuel” vehicles ever produced.

Steam powered cars were prevalent until the end of the 1920’s In the early 1900’s automotive propulsion technology was highly experimental with gasoline, electric, and steam all contending to be the dominant technology of choice. Steam power was somewhat preferred during the late 1910’s to the early 1920’s because of its simplicity of operation, maintenance, and smooth / quiet ride. By the 1920’s steam was on its way out as gasoline alternatives were becoming significantly cheaper and faster. The vehicle pictured below is a 1926 Brooks steam car, of which only 18 were built. The car had only 38 moving parts, and featured unique technologies such as a flash boiler wrapped in 5 km of piano wire, and a body made of a light-weight composite fabric called Meritas.

Cobalt-60 Beam Therapy Unit

The original Cobalt-60 Beam Therapy Unit was an innovation in healthcare that had a worldwide impact in cancer treatment. Saskatchewan had a very high cancer rate developing between 1924 and 1941, and the government decided they would offer free cancer treatment to everyone living in Saskatchewan, and gave the green light to the University of Saskatchewan to develop the “Cobalt Bomb”. In 1951 the “Cobalt Bomb” was finalized to treat cancer. The very unit on display in this museum treated 6728 patients until it was replaced in 1972. Canada is a world leader in cancer treatment innovation for a terrible disease that kills 83,000 Canadians annually, and 9.8 million people worldwide.

I hope you enjoyed reading about all these fascinating facts as much as I did. If you visit Saskatoon I highly recommend visiting this museum. Be sure to check back soon as I continue my summer hiking adventures, and I also have an upcoming trip to Kelowna at the end of June. It’s also looking fairly promising for me to look again at doing my Eastern Europe road trip in the fall.

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Brooks Aqueduct, Red Rock Coulee, High Level Bridge

As most of you know COVID-19 has making its rounds around the globe, infecting over 1.34 million people so far and taking the lives of 74,000 people as of the writing of this article on April 6th 2020. I was supposed to take an Eastern Europe roadtrip starting on March 18th 2020, ending on April 7th 2020. This trip has been postponed until further notice, but I will complete it when it is safe and socially acceptable to do so. In the meantime I am following government guidelines and maintaining physical distancing from others.

Last weekend I needed to get out to get some fresh air. I didn’t want to be around others so I decided to drive around Southern Alberta with Julie to take some drone shots of some of my favorite places, as well as explore something I hadn’t heard of (Red Rock Coulee) until I did some reading online. This 800km journey was completed in my new to me 2018 Toyota Prius PRIME, which I picked up about a month ago. I’ve already put 3000 kilometers on it, and it costs just pennies per kilometer to drive. The average fuel consumption is under 4l/100km.

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First stop was Brooks Aqueduct, which is a defund aqueduct originally built by the irrigation division of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company in 1914. It was made of reinforced concrete and provided irrigation to the area for over 30 years. It had a capacity of 25 cubic metres (900 cubic feet) per second and provided water to over 113,000 hectares of land. Water to the aqueduct was provided by the Bassano Dam, and built as part of the same project on the Bow River. In 1934 the aqueduct was refurbished. In 1969 the Alberta and Canadian governments assumed the responsibility of maintaining the aqueduct, but it had already fallen into disrepair and was shut down. It is now considered a National Historic Site of Canada and is fenced off. I was very lucky in 2011 when I was able to walk on top of the Aqueduct before it was closed to the public.

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Our second stop was Red Rock Coulee, a Provincial Natural Area near Medicine Hat, Alberta. The area features large spherical red coloured boulders, some measuring up to 2.5 metres (10 feet) in diameter. These formations were formed from the erosion, exposing the concretions of shale, sandstone, siltstone, bentonite, and brown ironstone. This place reminded me of the Devil’s Marbles on my trip to Australia in 2016.

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The third and final stop was High Level Bridge in Lethbridge. I decided to fly my drone here, albeit it being a tremendously windy day. I regret my decision later, because it ended up crashing after only 5 minutes of flying due to not being able to combat the wind. Damage is minimal, but I have to wait until Amazon delivers me some new propellers. High Level Bridge was constructed between 1907 and 1909 at a cost of $1.3 million by the Canadian Pacific Railway company. The 95 metre tall bridge spans 1.6 km over the Oldman River near Lethbridge, Alberta and provided a solution to extremely steep grades that hampered railway operations for the company. The grade was reduced to only 0.4 percent and saved over 8.5 km of track. Transport of the steel to the bridge required 645 railways cars, and another 40 cars contained the equipment required to build the bridge. The bridge is the largest railway structure in Canada, and the largest of its type in the world.

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A video of this adventure can be found on my YouTube channel here.

Wash your hands religiously, maintain social distancing to flatten the curve, and stay safe. See you soon!

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Chicago!!!

Two weekends ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit my friend Chelsea in the beautiful city of Chicago, Illinois. I spent three glorious days in the Windy City eating and drinking my way through the amazing city, while soaking up the amazing architecture in this metropolis that 9.5 million people call home (2.7 million in the greater Chicago area).

Chicago, the third most populous area in the USA, was founded in 1780 and officially was recognized as a city in 1837. Chicago had a spectacular fire in 1871 which destroyed many homes and left over 100,000 people homeless. This didn’t stop the city from rebuilding and by 1900 the construction boom and population influx left the city as being the fifth most populous city in the world at the turn of the 20th century.

Chicago is now an international hub for finance, culture, commerce, industry, technology, communications, and transportation. It also is a massive destination for tourism, with over 58 million visitors annually!

Below is a handful of the photographs that I took on my weekends adventures with Chelsea. I also had the wonderful opportunity to meet many of her friends while I was there.

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Vietnam – Day 9 – Ninh Binh & Hanoi

Today I woke up at 3:30am when the power went out. The room became unbearably stuffy because there was no air-conditioning or air flow from the fan. I managed to finally get back to sleep before waking up again at 6:00am. I decided to go downstairs to get some breakfast and a coffee before getting ready to head out for the day. Oh by the way did I mention that my place has the cutest puppies I’ve ever seen!

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I started to ride my motorcycle into the town of Ninh Binh so that I could get more cash from the bank, as I was running low on cash. Sadly the motorcycle died and I had to do a walk of shame for about 1.5km before coming to a gas station. I filled the motorcycle up with gas, but sadly it still wasn’t working properly. I kept stalling out unless I gunned the throttle, but even then it would start to hesitate after a few seconds. I finally figured out a movement that seemed to work; hold the throttle full blast for 3 seconds, let off for a few seconds, and then repeat. I managed to get into town and pick up more cash.

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After picking up cash I rode the motorcycle to the Danh Thang Trang An boat tours, about 10km away. The motorcycle was really starting to act up now, and even dying for up to 10 minutes every few kilometers. Again, I figured out another trick; if I bounced on the bike up and down a lot, and then sloshed the fuel from side to side then it would eventually start if I help the throttle down half way. Eventually I got to the boat tours at about 10:00am. Along the way I did see this beautiful looking temple from the side of the road, as well as a very cool gateway.

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The boat tour lasted about 3 hours and cost 200000 Dong ($12.50 CDN). The tour took the group of four people through numerous caves and to a few temples. It was absolutely fascinating!

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After finishing the tour I rode the motorcycle back to the hotel, about 10km away. It took me over one hour to get back because the bike kept on breaking down. When I got back to the hotel I explained what was happening to the owner and she said that she would take a look at it. Unfortunately within 15 minutes she had already loaned it out to someone else, which I found to be quite dishonest.

I was feeling quite hungry at this point in time, as it was well past lunch time, so I decided to walk down the street and see if I could find something to eat. I came across this nice small restaurant called Sunflower Tam Coc and ordered some pho, salad rolls, and some fresh beer.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, checked out, and ordered a GRAB to the Ninh Binh train station. The fare for the ride was 80000 Dong ($5 CDN), but all I had was a 200000 Dong note for which he didn’t have change for. It wasn’t a big deal for me and I told him to keep the change, but he insisted on getting me the correct change. He ran around the six different stores asking for them to make change, all the while leaving me inside his car with the keys in the ignition and the engine running. I felt pretty bad for the guy. Remember, in Vietnam it is not customary to tip and many people will flat our refuse even if its a nice gesture. Oh and safety isn’t top priority in this country; take a look at his seatbelt reminder defeat with a plastic spoon!

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I was about 1.5 hours early for the train, but ended up talking with the nice young man from Chile that was backpacking around SE Asia. The train ride back to Hanoi took about 2.25 hours. After arriving in Hanoi I took a GRAB to the hotel I was staying at two nights ago so that I could pick up my passport before carrying onto my new hotel called Hotel Golden Art. Hotel Golden Art wasn’t the nicest, but it did the trick for the night.

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After checking  into the hotel I walked down the street to a fast food Bahn Mi place called Pho Bahn Mi. The food was absolutely delicious, in fact I ordered a second because it was so good. After having dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow when I take a brief pause from the Vietnam series to share a recent hike that I completed with my father to Plains of Six Glaciers, before continuing with my Vietnam series. The next part in my Vietnam series has me travelling to Ha Long Bay, so be sure to stay tuned!

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Vietnam – Day 8 – Ninh Binh

Today I woke up at 5:30am. I’m still struggling with this persistent jet lag, a whole 8 days later. I packed my bags and got ready, before heading down for breakfast at the buffet. After breakfast I walked about 10 minutes to the Hanoi central train station.

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There’s a few ways of obtaining train tickets; you can buy right at the station, or you can buy online from a third party which charges a small booking fee on top. Unfortuneately foreigners can’t book online through the REAL Vietnam Rail website unless you happen to have a Vietnam bank card, which I presume almost everyone won’t. Also one thing to note is that there are a lot of fake websites in Vietnam, and other parts of SE Asia for things like trains, airlines, museums, etc. You need to be extra diligent and do your research as they mostly all look the same. I read multiple travel blogs to ensure that I was picking the appropriate websites. Anyways, I chose to use the third party website called Balou, as it came the highest recommended. I only paid about $2 CDN more to book it online through them than just showing up, but it was a nice piece of mind knowing everything was taken care of beforehand.

The train departed Hanoi station at 7:30am and slowly crawled its way through the city before picking up speed. About 15 minutes into the train ride I realized that I had made a bad mistake… I forgot my passport and US cash in the safe back at the hotel. I called the hotel and explained the situation, gave them the passcode for my safe, and told them that I’ll be back tomorrow evening to pick it up. Phew, disaster averted.

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The train arrived at Ninh Binh station at around 10:00am. While exiting the station I booked a GRAB, which happened to be waiting right out front. It took about 15 minutes to drive from Ninh Binh train station to my accommodation in Tam Coc, called Tuan Ngoc Hotel. The fare was 76000 Dong ($4.35 CDN). After arriving at the hotel I dropped off my bags I decided to rent a motorcycle from the hotel for two days for a cost of 110000 Dong/day ($6.25/day). The motorcycle didn’t include gasoline so I had to find a gas station before I ran out of gas, as they had drained all the fuel out minus a few drops.

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First stop was Hang Mua viewpoint, about a 6km ride away. Something to note here is that you don’t take the first parking spot that people try to flag you down to because you’ll end up paying way more, and have to walk a fair distance. If you can drive past all the people standing in the middle of the road you’ll find yourself with parking right at the entrance for only 10000 Dong ($0.55 CDN). Unfortuneately despite reading this there was an extremely persistent group of very angry sounding Vietnamese women that wouldn’t get out of the road and pretty much forced me to park in their parking spot for 25000 Dong ($1.35 CDN). Obviously we’re not talking about much money here, but the fact they were so pushy left a sour taste in my mouth. Picture down below of where NOT to park.

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After a 15 minute walk from the very end of the road I came to the entrance of the Hang Mua Viewpoint, which had a nominal entry fee of 100000 Dong ($5.50 CDN). There is a small cave at the start of the steps up to the viewpoint with a tiger statue and some offerings from the locals.

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After viewing inside the cave it was time to start the hot and strenuous journey up to the vietpoint. 500 steps and about 20 minutes later I was dripping in sweat, but looking at an absolutely fantastic view of the karst sceneries of Tam Coc, as well as the Lying Dragon ontop of the mountain. I spent some considerable time up here getting the photos that I wanted to get, before heading back down so that I could get some lunch.

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After walking back to the bike I rode back into town to get some lunch from a restaurant, which I unfortunately forget the name of. I had some beef pho soup, but it wasn’t very good and the service was quite slow.

After having some lunch I rode a short distance away to Bich Dong Pagoda. The parking attendent wanted to charge me 30000 Dong ($1.65 CDN) but I ended up negotiating down to 20000 Dong ($1.10 CDN). I crossed over a bridge through some temple gates, walked a short while to the Lower Pagoda, before ascending 100 steps to the Middle Pagoda, which is built half inside of a cave. There are roughly 20-25 steep steps to the Upper Pagoda, which is fully inside the cave, which is also filled with bats. Bich Dong Pagoda was built by the two monks Tri Kien and Tri The in the early 18th century.

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It was starting to get extremely hot as it was mid afternoon, so I rode back to the hotel and hung out in the pool for a few hours.

For dinner I rode to the Bia Minh Beer Garden, which was just down the street. I probably could have walked but I was feeling lazy from my hike up all those stairs earlier today. For dinner I had a Hawaiian pizza, and a pork Banh Mi sandwich, along with a mini keg of fresh beer. I’ve never seen anything like it before; it’s a combination between a growler and a keg. This was some of the freshest beer I’ve had in SE Asia so far. During dinner it started to pour rain. After dinner I rode back to the hotel in the pouring rain and ended up going to bed at around 9:00pm.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow when I explore more of Ninh Binh before heading back to Hanoi.

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Vietnam – Day 7 – Hanoi

Today I woke up at 5:30am. Notice a trend here; I’m not really able to wake up at a normal time yet, despite being here a week. Breakfast at the O’Galley Majestic Hotel & Spa started at 6:30am, and I was starving, so I waited until it opened and rushed down to the basement. I was not disappointed at all; there was so many different options to choose from at the buffet.

After breakfast I went and visited the famous Hanoi rail track again, as they were on the way to my next stop which was a wall of ceramic murals along the Durong Tran Quang Khai highway, which was a few kilometer walk away. The tracks were less lively during the morning, than last night, but there were still some people doing food prep, and building repairs.

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The ceramic murals were quite intricate, and stretch a total length of 6.5 kilometers (4.0 miles). They were developed between 2007 and 2010 to celebrate the Millennial Anniversary of Hanoi.

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After visiting the ceramic murals I walked to the nearby Dong Xuan Market. One word can describe this place; chaos. This market has everything you could possibly dream of in one place, with some tremendous deals to be had on clothing, electronics, jewelry, etc. It’s absolutely packed and seems like a tremendous fire hazard waiting to happen, but it was still unique to see. I didn’t purchase anything there. The market was originally built by the French in 1889, and has been renovated many times since, with the latest iteration in 1994 after a fire broke out, almost destroying the market entirely… As you can see not much has changed. I noticed a ton of expired fire extinguishers stuffed underneath the escalators and stairs…

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After visiting the Dong Xuan Market I visited Bach Ma Temple. The temple was originally built in 1010, by the Ly Dynasty. It honors a white horse, which was thought to be an incarnation of a local river god. The temple was rebuilt in the 18th century after severe flooding damaged the original building.

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After visiting Bach Ma Temple I strolled over to Hoan Kiem Lake, which means “Lake of the Returned Sword”. An old wives tale suggests that in 1428, Emperor Le Loi was boating on the lake when the Golden Turtle God named Kim Qui surfaced and asked for his magic sword, Heaven’s Will. The Emperor came to the conclusion that Kim Qui had come to reclaim the sword that it’s master, Dragon King Long Vuong had given Loi during the revolt against Ming China. The Emperor gave the sword back to the Golden Turtle after finishing fighting the Chinese. I relaxed for a bit along the lake, taking pictures of the Turtle Tower, The Huc Bridge, and Jade Island.

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After relaxing along Hoan Kiem Lake it was time to find some lunch. I settled on a Japanese restaurant called Moto-San. I decided to have some ramen noodle bowl and some sushi while enjoying all the racy propaganda art strewn around the interior of the building.

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After lunch I walked back to the hotel, as I was feeling pretty exhausted and just wanted to relax at the pool. I got back to the hotel at around 2:30pm and relaxed by the pool with some beers until around 5:00pm.

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At 5:00pm I walked around the government area near my hotel and took some pictures of the buildings before walking to the very famous Bun Cha Huong Lien Obama, where former US President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate on May 23rd 2016.

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After dinner I took a GRAB back to the hotel for 32000 Dong ($2 CDN). I had to pack my bags as I was off to Ninh Binh early. tomorrow morning.

Check back tomorrow when I travel to the countryside and visit Ninh Binh, also known as the Inland Ha Long Bay.

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