Holiday on Ice, Fish on ice, walking on ice, we can do it all in Winnipeg. In Holland, where I come from, we are happy if once in ten years we get 15cm of ice to hold the “elfstedentocht” a difficult but wonderful competition of skating on ice. Over 220km of natural ice must have these coveted 15cm, everywhere. Useless to say that that does not happen every year.

In Winnipeg, however, if there were only 15cm of ice in winter on any of the frozen water surfaces, we would call it a catastrophe. In Winnipeg, on the Red River we should be able to solve the (minor) parking problem of the city…

Parking on ice Parking on ice

Here we parked our rental car on the ice, in order to do some ice fishing. Didn’t catch anything, but it was a fun day. And the ice? Well if there is less than two feet (60cm) of it, you don’t try to park your car on it!

So, what else do we do on ice here?

A daytime festival is nice. But some travellers will want to travel by day and have some fun by night. The Festival du Voyageur will also accommodate you for this. While Fort Gibraltar is closing its doors at 9pm and you are kindly asked to leave, the rest of Voyageur Park gets livelier by then.

Also, for the photographers, the lighting gets more interesting, the place is full of coloured lights and this year’s choice is warm and cold.

The entry sculpture in the Park now looks like this:

Entry sculpture at Voyageur Park Entry sculpture at Voyageur Park

An eerie glow of red and blue, with the absence of all other colours, now there’s a challenge for your camera!

After a series of snow sculptures, perhaps now is the moment to look at some more lasting sculptures. Winnipeg has been the home of world renowned sculptor Leo Mol.

Leo Mol as he was known in Canada was born in 1915 as Leonid Molodozhanyn in Polonne, Ukraine. At that time Ukraine was still independent from the future Soviet Union, so we can drop the “The”. He studied sculpture at the Leningrad Academy of Arts from 1936 to 1940. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1940 he fled to Germany. In 1945 he went to Holland and three years after that he and his wife Margareth moved to Winnipeg.

Here in Winnipeg the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden is located in the Assiniboine Park. The sculpture garden contains more than 300 works of art by Leo Mol. More than 200 were donated to the city by Mr Mol himself. The rest comes from private collectors and donators. Sculptures of three different popes stand in the Vatican, in Winnipeg we can admire smaller versions of these sculptures.

Taras Shevchenko Taras Shevchenko

One of his famous sculptures is of Ukraine’s poet Taras Shevchenko. In the Assiniboine Park we can admire the head of the poet’s sculpture, for the rest you’ll have to go to Washington DC, USA.

So, what else can we find in the Leo Mol sculpture garden?

Travellers have always come to Winnipeg. Either to stay or to make money and then move on. Those who moved on took their value from the city and its economic possibilities. But they also left behind a little part of themselves and their culture.

Those who chose to stay left an even bigger impact on the life of the city. Winnipeg has the second biggest French speaking community of Canada, outside of Quebec. Among the first settlers were the Scottish with Lord Selkirk. Nowadays the French speaking community is easier to spot than the the followers of Lord Selkirk…

But this is in a fairly recent past. Originally the travellers to Winnipeg were Cree, Dakota, Ojibwa and so on for millennia before even a white man set foot on this continent. The Forks, the confluence of the Assiniboine river and the Red river was known for its community of traders and trappers. Today it’s still a place for travellers as well as for inhabitants. The rivers were famous for their troubled quality of the water. The water was always rather muddy, in the original tongues spoken here it was called winnipeg, or muddy waters.

Muddy water, the origin of the name of the city Muddy water, the origin of the name of the city

In the French quarter of the city, known as Saint Boniface, an idea started 41 years ago to create a festival to the honour of the travellers. It would present the cultures of the travellers, the ones that stayed or from the ones that moved on.

They called it…

Winnipeg is a beautiful place to live, I love it. And really not as crowded as many other cities with the same number of inhabitants. Of course that also may be a result of past… let’s say “miscalculations”.

When in the late 19th century Winnipeg was growing and growing, the general consensus was that Winnipeg was going to be the central hub for North America. Railways were planned, Union Station was big and powerful. Many government buildings were built with the future in mind, meaning “on the big side”. Roads, streets and avenues were large and comfortable enough to accommodate lots of traffic.

Then came August 15, 1914. The BLOW to Winnipeg’s future was given by the opening of the Panama Canal. Within a few weeks it was clear that Winnipeg would never become the big city that it had been designed for. Instead of 5 million people estimated, the number of inhabitants is now about 700,000. The better part of it is that rush hour only lasts 20 minutes.

From a photographic point of view there is a lot of interesting things from this glorious (to be) past. The Exchange district is full of old and interesting architecture, there are sky scrapers, although the sky in the beginning of the 20th century must have been a lot lower than today’s.

 

Exchange district high-rise Exchange district high-rise

An interesting “side effect” from staying a smaller city is that activities are blooming. Economical activities as well as cultural activities. Take the Festival du Voyageur or the Folklorama for example. Yesterday started the 41st Festival. The Folklorama is held in August. Lots of other activities are here to enjoy and to take pictures of.