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 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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Czech Republic – Prague

I spent the last two days exploring the beautiful city of Prague. Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic, has an extremely rich history dating back to 1306 BC. I’m going to dive into the history of how the Czech Republic came to be, and then go into detail about the sights that I saw.

Prague’s History

The city was founded as Boihaem in 1306 BC by King Boyya. Around the 4th century BC a Celtic tribe appeared in the area and setup settlements, which eventually became suburbs of Prague. The region was named the Region of Bohemia, which means “home of the Hoii people”.

The Celts were eventually driven away by Germanic tribes. In the late 5th Century AD, during the great Migration Period following the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes living in Bohemia moved west and the Slavic’s moved in. During the next three centuries the Czechs and Zlicanis built several fortified settlements in the area, and eventually the fortified settlement where Prague Castle now stands today was built towards the tail end of the 9th century. The cathedral construction began in 1344, but wasn’t completed until the 20th century, but more on that later on. The area was an important trading center, where merchants from all over Europe came together.

In 1805, Vratislav II became the first Czech king. In 1310 the Holy Roman emperor John of Luxembourg became king of Bohemia. The city blossomed in the 14th century under Luxembourg ruling during the reign of Charles IV. Prague became one of Europe’s largest and wealthiest cities. In 1355, Charles IV was elected as the Holy Emperor and Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire.

During the 15th century there were religious conflicts between Hussite and the Roman Catholic Church in Bohemia. This was caused by Jan Hus’s church reform movement, which eventually led to his conviction and his death. This provoked Jan Zelivsky, a Hussite preacher, to rebel. Catholic councilor were thrown from the top of the New Town Hall, and Prague was then ruled by the Hussite’s. Unfortunately many historical monuments were destroyed and Prague Castle also became damaged.

In 1526, the Habsburg dynasty began ruling Prague. Prague Castle was reconstructed. In 1575, Rudolf II was crowned as the Holy Emperor. During the Habsburg Ruling Prague became known as the center of science and alchemy. Many famous scientists were attracted to Prague during this time.

The 17th Century was known as the Dark Age due to multiple uprisings starting in 1618. In 1620, the Battled of White Mountain took place and the Protestants were defeated leading to the loss of Prague’s independence. The Saxons began occupying Prague and the Swedes moved into Hradčany and Malá Strana in 1648. The city’s population started to decline, and roughly 50% of the population decided to leave.

In 1784, the city was divided up into four independent urban areas by Jospeh II; Staré město/Old Town, Lesser Town/Malá Strana, Hradčany and Nové město/New Town. During this time, the National Revival, a Czech nationalist movement began that brought the Czech language, culture and identity back into existence.

The Industrial Revolution was a booming time in Prague, with many industries setting up shop. In 1845 a railway was built between Vienna and Prague. There was a massive influx of people moving into Prague.

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

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

Petrin Tower

The Petrin Tower was built in 1891 and resembles the Eiffel Tower. It was built for the World’s Jubilee Exhibition and was completed in only four months. It was used as an observation tower as well as a transmission tower. The tower sits in the centre of Petrin Hill, about a half hour walk up steep paths. There are two observation platforms accessible via 299 stairs for 150 CZH ($8.50 CDN) or via an elevator for 210 CZH ($11.85 CDN). The stairs are setup in a double-helix structure allowing visitors to travel up and down concurrently. At the top you’re gifted with some beautiful views of Prague Castle and the surrounding area below.

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Prague Castle & Surrounding Area

Prague Castle is a massive castle complex that was built between 870 and 1929. It is considered the largest ancient castle in the world and occupies over 750,000 square feet of space. It is the official office of the President of the Czech Republic and was a seat of power for numerous kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room somewhere inside of it. It’s history began in 870 when the Church of the Virgin Mary was built. Eventually a Romanesque palace was erected during the 12th century, and numerous expansions and fires have occurred since.

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Charles Bridge & Old Town Bridge Tower

Old Town Bridge Tower was built in the late 14th century during the ruling of Emperor Charles IV. It was designed by Petr Parléř. It is on the south end of Charles Bridge. Charles Bridge was built between 1357 and 1402. It was the replacement for the damaged Judith Bridge that was built between 1158 and 1172, which was washed out in a flood in 1342. It was the only means of crossing the river Vltava until 1841. Many people congregate on the bridge and live music often occurs here.

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Dancing House

Dancing House, also known as Fred and Ginger; a nickname given to the Nationale-Nederlanden building, was designed by Croatian-Czech architect Vlado Milunić in cooperation with Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry on a vacant riverfront plot. The building was designed in 1992 and completed in 1996. The building recieved its nickname after the famous dancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, as the house resembles a pair of dancers.

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St. Wenceslas Church

St. Wenceslas Church was built in 1930 as a commemoration of the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia. This was one of three buildings built for the commemoration. The Art Deco style church stands fairly tall at 50 metres tall.

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The Church of the Most Sacred Heart

The Church of the Most Sacred Heart is a Roman Catholic church that was built between 1929 and 1932. It was designed by architect Jože Plečnik. This was one of the other buildings built to commemorate the 1000th anniversary of the death of St. Wenceslas, Duke of Bohemia.

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Church of St. Ludmila

The Church of St. Ludmila is a neo-gothic Roman Catholic church at Náměstí Míru (Peace Square). The church was built between 1888 and 1892 to honor St. Ludmila of Bohemia. The church has two 60.6 metre tall towers with bells and a tall cable with a portal above the main entrance, which is adjourned with sculptures.

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Narodni Museum

The Narodni Museum (National Museum of Prague) was originally founded in 1796 by the first president of the Society of the Patriotic Museum, Count Sternberk, who served as the trustee and operator of the museum at the time. The museum’s original focus was that of natural sciences. The museum became too small and the current location was built in 1818, but it didn’t actually acquire any historical objects until the 1830’s and 1840’s, when Romanticism arose. Today the museum houses over 14 million items in its collection. This is a must see if you’re into museums!

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Žižkov Television Tower

The Žižkov Television Tower was built between 1985 and 1992. It was designed by architect Václav Aulický. The tower is constructed of steel tubes filled with concrete. The tower was built for a fairly low cost of only $19 million. The tower stands at 216 metres tall and has an observation deck at 93 metres, a hotel room at 70 metres, and a restaurant at 66 metres.

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Astronomical Clock Tower

The Prague Astronomical Clock Tower is a medieval astronomical clock that was built in 1410. It’s the third oldest astronomical clock in the work, and the oldest clock still in operational use. The clock was made by clockmakers  Mikuláš of Kadaň and Jan Šindel. The clock mechanism has three main components; 1) the astronomical dial, representing the position of the Sun and Moon in the sky and displaying various astronomical details, 2) an hourly clockwork of figures of the Apostles, 3) a calendar dial with medallions representing the months.

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Stone Bell House

The Stone Bell House is named after the stone bell embedded in the outside corner of the building. The bell is said to be a reminder of the arrival of John of Bohemia to Prague in 1310, after the city was seized and occupied by Henry of Bohemia. The house was renovated to a Baroque style during the 15th and 19th centuries and lost most of its original Gothic image. The house underwent extensive renovations from 1975 to 1987 to restore much of this image, with the original Gothic façade being uncovered and restored.

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Old Town Hall

The Old Town Hall was built in 1364. The site where the Old Town Hall tower stands today technically was used as a town hall since 1338 when the councillors of the Old Town bought a large house from the Volfin family and adopted it for purpose. This was largely disassembled and the current tower was built in its place in 1364, with only the Gothic stone portal on the western side being the only remaining original piece. The Old Town Hall had numerous expansions as well as fires over the years.

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St. Nicholas Church

St. Nicholas Church was built between 1732 and 1737 on the site of a Gothic church from the 13th century that was dedicated to Saint Nicholas. An interesting thing to note is that during the Prague uprising in 1945, the church was used by the Czech partisans as a concealed site for Radio Prague, as the main building was attacked.

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Prague Metronome

The Prague Metronome is a 23 metre tall functioning metronome in Letna Park, which overlooks the Vltava River. It was erected in 1991 on the plinth left vacant by the formerly demolished 1962 monument of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. At the top of the Metronome you can see the absolutely amazing views of the city below!

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Expo 1958 Pavilion

In 1958, Brussels hosted the first World’s Fair after World War 2. Different countries have the opportunity to shape the Expo by contributing interesting buildings. In that year Czechoslovakia was the winner. The building was designed by architects Frantisek Cubr, Josef Hruby and Zdenek Pokorny exclusively for the world exhibition. The L-shaped complex had an extension for restaurants and consisted of three windowless areas, which were connected by two glazed aisles.

After the World’s Fair came to an end, the building was completely dismantled and taken back to Prague. Since 1961 only the former restaurant building still exists. The building is currently being used as an office building. Unfortunately, it was destroyed in a fire in 1991, but could be reconstructed again.

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Industrial Palace

Prague’s Industrial Palace, also known as Výstaviště Praha is an exhibition area that is used for exibitions, concerts and other cultural events. It was built in 1891 by Bedřich Münzberge in an Art Nouveau architectural style. The building is built of glass and steel and is divded into 3 independent parts; the left and right wings, as well as a middle hall with a 51 metre tall clock tower. In 2008 the Palace caught fire, which destoryed the left wing. The left wing is currently being rebuilt.

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Subway System

Prague’s Metro system has some particularly beautiful stations located on the “A Line”, which are worth seeing. The Metro system is comprised of 65 km of track and 61 stations. The system includes the A, B, and C lines, and started operations in 1974 with the A Line. Prague’s Metro is the fifth busiest metro system in Europe, serving over 1.6 million people daily!

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Various Photos

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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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