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Thursday, September 21, 2023

A Week in Canada - A Visit to the Icelandic Community of Gimli

 Based on the recommendations we had received at the Manitoba welcome center a couple of days earlier, we decided to journey north from Winnipeg to take a brief tour of the "Interlake Region" between Lake Winnipeg and Lake Manitoba.  We planned to visit three towns, Gimli, Arborg and Selkirk.

Gimli is about an hour's drive north of Winnipeg.  On our way out of town, we passed by the notable Holy Trinity Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral.  The five-dome building is an impressive sight reportedly modeled on Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, Ukraine.




A short distance north of the city, the scenery quickly became agricultural with views of grain fields and sunflowers dominating.

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Gimli, a town of about 2,400,  lies on the shore of Lake Winnipeg and has a large Marina; it was founded almost 150 years ago by a colony of Icelandic pioneers seeking seeking escape from harsh economic conditions compounded by the eruption of a volcano.



Nestled along the town's shoreline among many nice homes, we came to "Viking Park," a reminder of the town's proud heritage.

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The metal panels partially encircling the rather menacing looking Viking recount the history of the founding and growth of Gimli.  They also describe Runes - the ancient symbolic "alphabet" of the Vikings who left numerous carved stones behind during their voyages.




Minnesota has a famous runestone found at Kensington It is certainly plausible in the minds of some that Icelandic Vikings, after discovering America, explored Lake Winnipeg, traveled the Red River south into Minnesota and ended up at Kensington. 

Linda gave the Viking statue a close inspection.



From the statue, we walked out for a tour of the harbor.



The harbor is protected from lake waves by a large seawall that has been decorated with murals painted by local artists.





One of the murals depicts a notable event in the town's history from 1997 when an Air Canada 767 flying from Ottawa to Edmonton ran out of fuel and was forced to glide to a landing on the abandoned runway of the former Air Force Base at Gimli.  A fascinating story, now remembered as the "Gimli Glider."



The harbor, largest on Lake Winnipeg, features a large collection of boats and an impressive harbor master's office with lighthouse.

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Fresh fish fillets are available along the dock.



The harbor is home to the M. V. Namao, a large research vessel that travels extensively throughout Lake Winnipeg.



At the end of the seawall, the harbor entrance presents an attractive view.




Our next stop in Gimli was at the New Iceland Heritage Museum in the heart of the town.  Exhibits tell the story of declining conditions in Iceland and both the hardships and opportunities found in the new land.

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By the 1890s, Poles and Ukrainians followed the Icelanders and brought their diverse agricultural skills to the area.



Before leaving Gimli we made a stop at the famous Sugar Me Cookie bakery.  The bakery is listed as a "must visit" in most info about Gimli. Vinarterta, the cake of New Iceland, is touted as the most famous product of the bakery. Second on the recommended list is the butter tarts. We tried both with the butter tart being favored by us.



Tuesday, September 12, 2023

A Week in Canada - Winnipeg, Manitoba

After reaching Winnipeg, our first priority was to visit the provincial capitol, known as the Manitoba Legislative Building.

Our first glimpse revealed a massive building in a large park-like setting.  



We parked the car and walked out toward the front;  Linda continued up onto the steps of the building while I moved out toward the entrance to the ground to capture the whole building.  She is visible in both of the following pictures.



Atop the dome, there is a seventeen foot tall statue of a golden winged messenger, variously described as the Roman god, Mercury, or "like Mercury."  Cast in bronze in France during World War I, he had a long multi-year voyage before making it to Winnipeg, arriving in 1919.  He was only bronze up until 1951, when he was upgraded with gold leaf.

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The grounds surrounding the 300 foot wide building occupy 30 acres and have a few statues of local interest but also include a statue of the Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who is held in high regard in Canada.

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We then passed by the city's railroad station and headed down toward an area known as "The Forks" near the French Quarter where the Red River and Assiniboine River meet. 

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We first visited the current Cathedral of St. Boniface (1972) located behind the 1906 facade visible at the very bottom of this next photo.



 In front of the cathedral lies the grave of controversial Louis Riel, "father of Manitoba."   Riel was executed after conviction for treason in 1885.

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The cathedral of St. Boniface has a long history, growing with the surrounding community until a large stone building was constructed in 1906.  This building was destroyed by fire in 1986 leaving only the present facade and a bit of surrounding wall.  The facade was preserved and a new cathedral constructed behind it. 

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At the edge of the Cathedral park, near the riverfront, there is a monument to the fallen soldiers of World War I from the Canadian west.  This served as a prod for me to pick up a book that I had on my "to read" shelf for some time, "Storm of Steel" by Ernst Junger, essentially a diary of four years in the trenches of northeastern France by a German officer - highly recommended.

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Winnipeg's notable Human Rights Museum occupies a nearby plot of land easily reached by crossing a pedestrian bridge over the Red River.



The Forks area extends over to a touristy shopping and dining area where I was able to pick up a coffee mug for my travel-mug collection.


On our second day in the city, we traveled out to suburban Winnipeg to visit the Canadian Mint, an impressive, new building.  They have a great many customers in the form of nations who have contracted out their coin manufacturing.  


Here, I am standing beside the model for the obverse side of the Canadian dollar coin, affectionately known as the "loonie."


The mint offers carefully guided tours of the minting operation and has a variety of souvenir coins.  I was surprised to learn that pianist Oscar Peterson was not only Canadian but also honored with his portrait on a limited edition run of Canadian dollars in 2022.

Our next stop was the Assiniboine Park along the riverfront.



There we strolled thorough a very well presented English Garden which leads to the Mol Sculpture Garden.  There are a number of large Mol sculptures presented in lovely settings outside and a large collection of smaller sculptures inside.

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We concluded the day with a pleasant dinner in the lively "Little Italy" neighborhood just three miles from our hotel.  A band was set up in the street and as a crowd gathered, they provided pleasant accompaniment.