Ah, life at night. Some people say that night sees things that sunlight does not support… By that, they mean criminals, vampires, or things they do not like to see themselves. Let’s leave it at that, shall we? The night life I am talking about here is about light. Night light and lighting for photographs. Lots of times we see things in the evening or at night, even in the early morning before sunrise and we say to ourselves: “Wow, that would be a nice picture!”. So, if we have our camera with us (we always have it with us, right?) we prepare to take THE picture.

Comes next morning. What is this picture in my camera? I never took a picture like that? I must have been drunk!. Ok, scrap that last remark, none of my business.

Our first object of choice: The moon. Hmmm. if your moon pictures look like this one,

 Definitely a moon picture, right? Definitely a moon picture, right?

perhaps, you should take a look at another post of mine called Blue moon. Better pictures will follow immediately :-) . The next target of choice is the fire pit in the garden. “Nothing to it”, yeah, right. Except that you will have to have a very steady hand taking the picture. And around a fire pit we mostly have had something to eat or drink that makes the hands not as steady as we think they are.

Handheld fire pit Handheld fire pit

So, we take the fire pit and hope for the best.

Ok, enough talk about missed pictures, how do we do this right? Let’s see…

About 100 000 years ago the earth was in an Ice Age. No, this is not about my last date… During that period, most of northern Europe was covered in ice and snow.

In the north-east of Holland lies the province of Drenthe. Nowadays a nice place to be and lots of things to see. However, some of the things you can see are not very common in the world. This province has “Wandering Boulders”. Well, they don’t wander anymore, I can assure you, but they did move a few thousand kilometres during the last ice age, thanks to the moving ice. The boulders came from the north, today’s Scandinavia.

These boulders have been placed in a specific pattern for a specific use about 5000 years ago. That means that these monuments are older than the Egyptian pyramids! The original name of these monuments is “hunebedden” from the old Dutch for Hune or Huyne meaning Giant and Bed.

Hunebedden in Drenthe Hunebedden in Drenthe

Well, the name might explain everything, but… no. It does not. The stones have not been placed here by giants and they have not been used as beds. Anyway, even a giant must have enough brains to understand that this is a rather uncomfortable way to spend the night.

The stones have been compared to the Dolmen in France’s Bretagne, but there are still some significant differences.

Here, the stones are placed together and covered with even bigger stones. The entrance to the chamber is on the long side for example. The stones are placed in an East-West alignment.

Now, the picture above does not give you an inkling of the size of the stones. Let me place myself on one of them and you will see that they are quite big…

DSCF0136 Yours truly standing on a hunebed

Today, we cannot move these stones without heavy equipment. 5000 years ago they did it by hand.

We all remember the snowmen we made when we were kids. They were the most magnificent snowmen in the world. Or at least of the city, village. Maybe of the yard. Come to think of it, they looked perhaps a bit like a few lumps of snow fitted together to have a more or less human form. Adorned with a few pieces of coal for the mouth and the buttons, and a carrot for a nose. They were the most beautiful.

Of course we grew out of that and now we only make the same kind of snowmen with our kids. Some people however, never grew out of making snowmen. Finally they got better in making them. But after a while they wanted something bigger, better and less looking like a snowman.

This is where the Snow Sculptors start. In climates cold enough to get snow in big quantities in winter there is material to work with. Here in Winnipeg, we have to get the material from outside the city, we cannot leave the snow accumulate that much.

Once nicely packed it will be delivered as blocks in different places in the city. Just blocks.

That’s where the snow sculptors come in.

Snow sculptors on Provencher Blvd Snow sculptors on Provencher Blvd

Visibly they use very different tools to get their sculptures than I had when making my snowman… And they work with plans that not only exist in their heads.

Snow sculptors on Provencher Blvd Snow sculptors on Provencher Blvd

A few hours later, the weather got better and I got more colour in the picture. As you can see, the packed snow block is dense enough to support the weight of a man. My snowman didn’t even last until the end of winter! I definitely did something wrong back then.

As all Canadians are supposed to know, the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded on the 2nd of May 1670. But how did that idea start? Not all empires start overnight.

In fact, the HBC started as a “wager” to prove that the northern route through the Arctic and the Hudson Bay was just as effective if not more than the traditional route through the St Lawrence. So, a ship was built and commissioned to sail that route. Its name was the “Nonsuch”.

It was named after the Baroness Nonsuch of Nonsuch Park, Surrey, England, who was the mother of King Charles the 2nd's two natural sons.  The Baroness also bore the illegitimate daughter of John Churchill, who was the First Duke of Marlborough, and became governor of the Hudson's Bay Company in 1685. Familiar names in Manitoba, from whichever angle you look at them…

The 53 foot long ship sailed in June 1668 and arrived 118 days later at the mouth of a river. The crew called it River Rupert, after Prince Rupert, one of the eighteen supporters of the voyage.

After a typical inhospitable Canadian winter, they started trading fur with the Cree in the region. The same year they were back in London to show that the voyage had been a great success. Fur was in big demand and a ship full of furs was worth a fortune. So, the group of voyagers approached the King and asked to create a trading company. The King granted the request and the Hudson’s Bay Company was born on May 2nd 1670.

In 1968, the Hudson’s Bay Company commissioned the creation of a replica of the original Nonsuch for their 300th anniversary. This one was built in England using traditional methods and materials as they would have existed in the 17th century. The result is now displayed at the Manitoba Museum in Winnipeg.

The Nonsuch harboured in the Manitoba Museum The Nonsuch “harboured” in the Manitoba Museum

This new Nonsuch also had her share of voyage, in salt water as well as in fresh water. She has sailed in the Atlantic, in the Great Lakes and in the Pacific around Seattle and Vancouver.

The captain’s cabin on the Nonsuch The captain’s cabin on the Nonsuch

What is interesting to see is the size of the bunks in the captain’s cabin. If today we need beds at least 2m long, the bunks on the ship would need at least another 6 inches to meet our standards. But even if the beds are too short for our standards, the interior is beautifully done, all in hardwood and practically no mechanical-electrical instruments used. Sanding is done by hand, not with electrical sanders, and the varnish work is beautiful.

Wonderful winter! Frost and icicles everywhere, white snow and walks on the frozen rivers. Skating on the flooded roads and tracks. Wonderful. I love winter. In fact, I love all the seasons. I have also lived in places where there are only two seasons, dry and wet. That gets boring after a few months, though. No, I prefer real seasons.

Here in Winnipeg, all seasons are clearly there, one at a time. Sometimes a season may be a little short like last summer, but anyway it was nice to get a few days of warmth.

White, white, white…

View from the Forks Winnipeg, The Forks from the observation tower

This is what Winnipeg looked like when I arrived here for the very first time. I believe it was the day after my arrival, still jetlagged, that I went up there to contemplate the city. Completely snowed in, but clearly alive, the city. In Europe, if we get 5 snowflakes within a minute all traffic grinds to a halt. A few more snowflakes and even public transport shows signs of trouble. Here, everything continues as usual. Wow!

The next striking view in the city was St Boniface. Not familiar with its past, it looked like a ghost.

St Boniface St Boniface cathedral, Winnipeg

Seeing the graveyard in front of the church was kind of a shock to me. In Europe, graves are to be visited by those who really want to and not to be seen if you’re not in the mood. And then there’s that round hole in that wall… Easy to understand that that was a glass window, but then again: why did they leave that facade standing all by itself? The answer came later. The wall contains the remains of cardinals. They )the remains) had had a very heated time in the fire of 1968. But still this wall was a grave and should never be removed. So, the facade stays, the new cathedral is built behind it, on the premises of the old cathedral.