I must admit I have never been a fan of the United States. Of course, the beaches on the West Coast are pretty, San Francisco has undoubtedly a special charme, and I really fell in love with New York. However, these are exceptions.
The large buildings, the bright lights and the mentality I encountered with many Americans is just not my cup of tea. I do understand why so many find it fascinating, but I personally never got really into it.
Therefore, I was a bit sceptical when entering the plane to visit my dad in Calgary, a rather big town in the Canadian state Alberta. In my mind, I simply imagined another US-American city, large, and without any own flair- and, even worse, without the nice warmth I could enjoy during my stay in California!
Little did I know how wrong I was. Certainly, the roads resemble the American streets. The buildings are just as tall (I was very well aware of this since my dad’s apartment wa slocated in the heart of the city, at the 3rd Avenue).
But the culture makes an incredible difference!
The people are so warm and helpful and very open-minded. I felt at ease talking to complete strangers. This was especially important to me since my dad had to work most of the time, and I had to explore the city and its surroundings on my own.
The timing of my 3-weeks stay in Calgary was perfect: It was the time of the annual Stampede, a huge and highly renowed Western- festival held every summer. As I could already see on my very first day in the city, everybody goes crazy: Houses, cafés and streets are decorated with cowboy-themed items. Hay bales were laying in fornt of pretty much every shop or restaurant. Stickers in real-human size covered large display windows.
On my first day, I wanted to stroll through the shopping streets in the city centre. Look what rode past me:In the next street, at a little square, there was life music! It was my first time to listen to actual country songs, and I loved it 🙂 I spent pretty much the entire afternoon in those pretty streets with the colourful and oldfashioned house fronts, and just inhaled the joyful atmosphere. On the day after, I decided to get myself an overview of the town. Hence, I got into the elevatro bringing me up all the way to the top of the Calgary Tower. It’s basicallly the twin of the Needle in Seattle, for those who have been there 🙂
Here, a great difference between the U.S. and Canada beacomes apparent: Do you see how small the city actually is? And how large the green spaces are? We lived in the third avenue, yet the river and its surrounding park were only a 2 minutes walk away! I never felt trapped, like I tend to do in other big cities with a lot of skyscrapers. On both sides of the river, there were cycle paths- and depsite the urban surroundings, I always felt as if I was in the middle of nature- partly because the animals seemed to feel the same, and therefore never hesitated to invade human spaces 🙂Also, I quickly discovered that Calgary, besides all the modern skyscrapers, has a lot of culture to offer: There are entire quarters where the town’s history is omnipresent. One of my personal highlights of my stay in Calgary was our day at the Stampede. My dad had bought tickets for the big Rodeo show! For me, being a horse lover, this was a dream come true. But the festival is not only about Rodeo, there are so many booths and food trucks on the entire ground of the festival. Also, aboriginal tribes present their culture as seen below:However, the most important thing for me was still the actual show. Not only were there many occasions where the cowboys showed their incredible balance…….but also, there were barrel races, fireworks and a big parade! We had amazing seats in one of the front rows, and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. If you ever consider going to Calgary, make sure to go there during the Stampede!
First, it’s just an incredible experience.
Secondly, don’t forget: It gets VERY cold in Canada during the winter months 😀After the show, we went to a beer tent, were country music was played and I felt as if I was in the real-life version of Footloose 😀 My second highlight were surely the two visits to the Rocky Mountains. Calgary is located very close (for Canadian means) to them: Only a two-hours drive away from the city’s borders, one can already find himself in the middle of the Banff National Park!
But honestly, I already found the drives impresssive! I find that the feeling of pure freedom and fresh air is so evident that you can even see it in the pictures 🙂
The best thing about Canadian Roads is that, because they keep going straight for ages, and are rather huge and pretty much empty, you don’t need to concentrate too much on the driving, leaving you with more time to admire the nature 🙂Before you ask: No, this picture is not edited at all (just like all my travel photos, by the way). The Moraine Lake near Banff simply IS this blue. I just couldn’t get enough of the scenery. I love how the glaciers paint little white stripes onto the grey mountains, and how the vast green forests add a great contrast to the rough rocky landscape.The small cities in the National Park had their very own charme as well. Most of them were wooden, or had ad least many wooden elements, making them blend in perfectly into the surrounding nature. While I took every opportunity to get a picture next to one of the crystal-clear rivers, they were simply too cold to get one where I was actually in one. I still like them though, and I am just realising how lucky we were to always have suc good weather, with a lot of sunshine- this definitely made my pictures even prettier 🙂Oh, and if you are wondering what a normal “park” looks like in Canada: There we go. This was a 5-minutes car drive away from my dad’s apartment! In case you have enough of natural sites by now, don’t worry, there is culture as well, which you can easily explore. For example, there is the Heritage Park Historical Village near Calgary, where you can discover life in Canada several hundred years ago- I felt as if I was in a Lucky-Luke cartoon 🙂
On my last weekend, we did a very special trip. On Thursday, we took the car up to a car par in the Banff National park, where we said goodbye to it until the following Sunday. Only equipped with a small backpack, we made our way thorugh endless forests, through piecful and untouched valleys and over crystal clear rivers. After a day’s hike, we reached the “hotel” we would stay in for the following nights: These cabins, even though they look rather basic, don’t have electricity and no own bathroom, were incredibly expensive to rent!
The reason for this was: They are only accessible by foot or on horse back. Thus, food and other items must be carried all the way up with horses, or brought with a helicopter. Also, the wood the cabins are made of was carried to the meadow by helicopter. Hence, the construction and maintenance of this accommodation certainly justifies the price. Moreover, the food was delicious! Plus, I really liked the atmosphere. At night, we could always hear animals walking around the cabins, and I did not dare to go to the toilet as I was scared to meet a bear 😀
I loved it there, it was incredibly peaceful, and we had an amazing view onto a small lake and a glacier. Is there anything more incredible one could wake up to?The following days were spent hiking all day, and falling into our beds at night 😀 The forests are like in a fairytale, and I really hope they will stay as untouched by humans as they were when I was there. I could not get over the idyllic location of our cabins! Doesn’t this look a little bit like a better version of Heidi?This is the lake we looked onto from our cabin window:Walking up steep mountains was totally worth it: I have never seen a more hostile yet more beautiful place.
I had an amazing time in Alberta, and I can only encourage you to get up and fall in love with Canada yourself. I am not exaggerating when I am saying that I am still dreaming of this time every now and then, and I cannot wait to go back. Most people I know who have been to Canada say the same, so it can’t be wrong 🙂