Friday, 26 February 2016

The Big Adventure – part 3: Winnipeg to Quill Lake

Blog 9

This week is part 3 of my travelogue of the trip from Mississauga to Vancouver. On our third traveling day, we made it from Nipigon to Winnipeg.

When we reached Winnipeg, I was shocked about the number of fast food and family restaurants. I had never seen anything like it. Each restaurant chain did not only have one site but another one every couple of hundred meters. I already had the impression that Canadians ate out a lot more often than Germans. The sight of all these restaurants made me wonder if the people in Winnipeg even had a full kitchen or just a huge refrigerator to cool their coke bottles.

We went for dinner in a Chinese restaurant with cheap red plastic chairs and light brown tables without tablecloths, but bright plastic flowers in a flower bench to divide the room. The dinner matched the decor: The mediocre food was carelessly heaped on our plates. Definitely, not what I was used to from the Chinese restaurants I went to in Germany, where a lot of effort was put into the atmosphere as well as into the presentation of the food.

When we finally reached the hotel room which had a big bed, sofa, desk and TV, I was exhausted from all the impressions of the day.

The next morning, we woke up to heavy rain and temperatures, which were hardly above 0 degrees Celsius. We were sure we had made a trip back in time. Winter in May was a new concept for me. In the Rhine-Main area where I am from, the weather is rather mild, with temperatures between 9 and 20 degrees Celsius in May. Even in winter, there are hardly any days where the temperature is below 0 degrees.

We had planned to spend the day in Winnipeg, but many of the sights were closed until the beginning of June. Our visit to the Forks, a must-see attraction according to the tour book was a disappointment. Only the foundation of the forts was visible, and it was unbearably cold.

Our next stop at the Assiniboine Park did not lift our mood either. The park was fantastic but on a day when you wouldn't send out a dog, we certainly did not want to walk in a park and watch the animals. Unfortunately, we did not find the conservatory which houses a botanical garden with thousands of exotic plants.

When we continued our drive, we saw snow covered fields and even had a snow shower. I was frustrated, especially with regard to the fact that the temperatures in Germany had been already in the mid-twenties since the end of April.

A detour brought us to Minnedosa, a beautiful small town which resembled a town in the Italian Alps.

Crossing the Riding Mountain National Park, we were rewarded with a beautiful landscape. There were so many lakes, most were still completely frozen. Suddenly, a moose appeared on the side of the road. We stopped and were even able to take a picture which did not turn out too well but at least we could prove that we saw a moose.

We continued our way through the Duck Mountain Provincial Park. From the tower of the Baldy Mountain, which is with 831m the highest mountain in Manitoba, we had a fantastic view. I thought the mountain looked more like a hill. It is surprising that everything seems to be so gigantic here in Canada but when it comes to mountains, they seem pretty small compared to vastness of the land.

The park was mainly undisturbed by humans. We saw another moose and some deer which appeared only meters away. I found them as fascinating as the many frozen lakes which were glistening in the sun. The weather had improved the further we drove north, even though it was still quite cold.

At the end of our trip through the park we almost had to turn around because of the high water which had resulted in some road closures. It seemed we had reached the end of the world. On both sides of the road there was nothing but fields. Many of the small towns had longer names than you could pronounce before you had crossed the town. We spent the night in Quill Lake, a small village in which we could not even find a restaurant. Our delicious dinner consisted of chips and sweets.

Do you have any tales to tell from winter weather after the end of April? I would like to hear what weather stories you have to tell.

Please return back to my blog next week, when I continue the travelogue with the next leg of our trip which brought us to Edmonton.

Friday, 19 February 2016

The Big Adventure – part 2: From Nipigon to Kenora

Blog 8

Last week, I started to write about the trip my future husband and I took from Mississauga to Vancouver. We wanted to see as much of the country as possible and took our time to reach our destination. Ingo wanted to show me “his” country and hoped I would love it enough to stay in Canada with him.

During the first two days of traveling we make it to Nipigon where we spent the night. The next morning, there was not a single cloud in the sky. First, we visited Thunder Bay. Immediately at the entrance of the town, we spotted the Terry Fox Memorial, from which we had a phenomenal view over the bay and the city. This was the first time, I heard about the courageous young man who tried to cross Canada on foot at the age of 18 years to collect money for cancer research. This alone would be more than remarkable, but it was even more sensational because he had already lost one leg due to cancer. He made it almost to Thunder Bay, all the way from Newfoundland in the East of Canada, when the cancer forced him to give up.

We continued to the Kakabeka Falls in the Kakabeka Falls Provincial Park. However, the
thunder of the rushing water was rather timid due to the low water level.

At the nearby Beaver Post Shop we saw amazing craftworks from aboriginals, like mittens made out of moose leather and the prices reflected this high quality craftsmanship. Too expensive for a couple who gave up their well-paying jobs for a new beginning. Instead, Ingo bought me a small amethyst as a souvenir.

The landscape started to change on our way to Ignace: there were vast areas of deforestation as well as many dead trees. It was very sad to see even though we also saw areas where saplings promised a return of forests.

Due to the change of time zones, we had an hour and decided to continue to Winnipeg. While looking for “Golden Rock”, a ghost town from the mining boom we got lost and ended up on a feeder road of a highway which would have been declared merely a farm road in Germany. It took us about half an hour on this gravel road before we reached a paved road. This little detour also made us miss the sight of Dryden's statue of Max the Moose.

Closer to Kenora, along the Lake of the Woods, the scenery was breathtaking again. I wish we had had time to go for a walk but we wanted to reach Winnipeg before darkness.

Once we crossed the border to Manitoba, the landscape changed. First, there were still some deciduous trees along the road but all at once even these disappeared from the scenery. The highway is straight as a die, framed on both sides by fields. It was very tempting not to race along as if we were on the German Autobahn.

To be continued...

Thank you for your interest. If you would like to find out what awaited us in Winnipeg, please make sure you return to this blog next week again. You can also subscribe to this blog so that every update will directly be send to your email address.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Big Adventure - part 1: From Mississauga to Nipigon

 Blog 7

On May 10, 1995, Ingo and I started our trip from Mississauga to Vancouver. I was fascinated by the huge rocks on both sides of the roads, the many lakes and the vivid greens of the spring landscape. I noted in my journals that I would love to live here if I were an animal.

Our first stop was Parry Sound where we climbed up an observation tower from which we had a fantastic view over the Georgian Bay. 

Following the Georgian Bay, we drove through Sudbury to Sault Ste. Marie. This part of the road was like a slalom course due to the many potholes. Nevertheless, the route along the Lake Huron was breathtaking and very calming.

We decided to stay overnight in Sault Ste. Marie. When we arrived around 9 PM the city seemed deserted. It was quite cold with a fierce wind.

While in town, we visited the Ermatinger House, the mansion of a wealthy fur trader of the 19th century. The stone building was professionally renovated and hosted the original furniture. Ladies in area costumes guided us through the rooms.

Following Highway 17 we continued to Lake Superior Provincial Park, where we visited the impressive rock paintings of Agawa Rock. The sacred pictographs of animals, canoes, and people were created by the Ojibwe Indians. It was an adventure to walk along the unsecured path along the cliff-face rising high above Lake Superior. While the path was rather flat, some of the the rocks were quite slippery.

Our next stop was Wawa, which is a small community situated on the Trans Canada Highway between Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay. The name comes from the Ojibwe word for "wild goose", wewe. As many visitors, we wanted a picture of the famous giant statue of a Canadian Goose, the landmark of the town. However, instead of the original which is situated at the entrance of the town we took a picture of the wrong wild goose, one sitting on the roof of a motel. We only found out about our mistake when we saw a newspaper article with the picture of the real goose. Too bad! I guess we are not good at chasing wild geese.

Making our way to a picnic area in Rossport, I was terrified, and in tears when a big athletic dog ran barking towards us. This was not the last time that I would be confronted with my deeply rooted fear of animals, and dogs in particular. Despite this incident, we enjoyed a nice picnic with view of the bay and the softly rippling water.

On our way to Nipigon where we spent the second night, we drove towards the sunset. The sky was dark purple and the dark orange ball of the sun bathed the landscape in a warm light. Breathtaking!

I was at awe at all the beauty we saw during our drive along the Lake Superior. Such vast areas of pure nature, and water everywhere. Once we entered Lake Superior Provincial Park, there were hardly any populated areas. From time to time, we saw a couple of houses. I was wondering where these people worked. They had to drive hundreds of kilometres to go shopping. Kids would be hours on the road in their school buses. Would there be any medical care?

The vastness of the land was just unbelievable. How could we still be in Ontario? I have to admit that I did not know much about Canada before I came here. I had never been outside of Europe. Once, we had decided to move, I received a couple of books. However, it it is one thing to see images of Canada in a book and another to experience the size in person while driving through this big country. Ontario alone is three times the size of Germany. You can cross Germany from North to South in about twelve hours by car. In no time can you travel to all of the other European countries.

What has been your furthest trip so far? Maybe, you came to Canada as an immigrant. What were your impressions and struggles? If you enjoy my experiences as a visitor to Canada, please come back to my blog next week.

Friday, 5 February 2016

A Canadian Wedding

Blog 6 

My first social event here in Canada was the wedding of Ingo’s friend’s twin sister at the beginning of May in St. Catherines. I was very nervous to meet some of Ingo`s friends for the first time, and had no idea what was awaiting me.

I had already heard that the size of the stone on the engagement ring is a make-or-break deal. It symbolizes the man`s love for his bride to be. I should have figured that the wedding itself would also be bigger than your regular German wedding. However, I had no idea how much staging went into the event. I had never known that there usually is a rehearsal ceremony and a rehearsal dinner the day before the wedding.

When we entered the lavishly decorated church, I I could hardly believe my eyes. Waiting on both sides of the altar were a long row of bridesmaids and groomsmen, and all of them in matching outfits. There were ushers who guided us to the right side of the church, depending on whether we were part of the bride`s or groom`s circle. Everything was very formal.

In Germany, you have to get married during a civil ceremony at the local registry office to make the marriage legal. If the couple wishes to celebrate a religious wedding, they will have a second ceremony at church, usually the next day but sometimes even months later.

The whole process seems to be a lot less opulent. It starts with the engagement rings. Instead of buying an expensive diamond ring for your fiance, the same rings are worn for both the engagement and the wedding. They are just switched from the left hand to the right hand during the wedding ceremony.

Since July 1998 no witnesses are required for the civil service, but up to two can be named. The catholic church still requires two witnesses, but for a protestant ceremony witnesses are optional. Most brides pick a maid of honour and grooms a best man.

After the church service, there was a break of a couple of hours when the newlyweds and their parties their official wedding photos. When we finally arrived at the hotel, the members of the wedding party were all lined up and we congratulated everyone of them one after the other.

In Germany, everyone will make their way to the bride and groom but the rest of the bridal party will be greeted in a less formal way when you mingle.

Another weird concept was the cash bar during the reception. It certainly made sense to me after I found out how expensive alcohol is here in Canada, but something like this would be unthinkable in Germany. The same way, no host would ever consider suggesting a potluck. Every good German host would consider this as an insult to her capabilities of servicing her guests.

After seeing this elaborately staged event, I decided that a wedding would not be in my immediate future. Little did I know...

Just days after the wedding, we left for our trip to Vancouver. Ingo always wanted to move to Vancouver. Therefore, we decided to take the time to drive from Mississauga to get the know a little bit about the Canadian landscape and culture.

If you want to relive the amazing adventure that was in front of us, please return to my blog next week.