Showing posts with label QUEEN VICTORIA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label QUEEN VICTORIA. Show all posts

Lake Louise Alberta Canada - How To Deal With Angry Bears

American GI's handing out gum to English boys during WWII

It was as a little boy in my hometown of London, England, in World War II that I first came to admire Americans. We would yell "got any gum, chum" at the US soldiers. They would then shower us with candy, which was quite something in those days of strict food rationing. Of course, at that time, I had no idea that I would myself eventually become an American. Long before my naturalization however, there was an incident that renewed my respect for Americans. We were staying in one of a group of log cabins high in the Canadian Rockies.

Log cabin

There were bears in the area. They showed little interest in tourists like us. They were more interested in finding food in our garbage cans. However, they could kill, if they were bothered. What impressed me most was their speed over the ground. For such bulky animals, they can certainly move fast.  They easily outrun any human. If one wants to escape from an angry bear, one cannot do it by running away.  I was aware of all these facts at the time, but had not quite worked out what to do if confronted by an angry bear. Therefore I was terrified, when I saw a bear looking in on me through the window of our log cabin.

The bear was not angry.  It was only looking for some scraps of food.  I guess that I was of no interest to it in that respect, because it soon moved off.  The next day I mentioned this incident to the American tourists staying in the next cabin. I asked them what I should have done, if the bear had jumped my through my window or beaten down my door. Should I have curled up in a ball and hoped that it would go away? Actually, I couldn't even have done much, since I was paralyzed by fear.
Bear looking through cabin window

"It looked through our window as well", the Americans told me, "so we just reached for our camera and shot a great picture". What a fearlessly American reaction! That incident occurred in August 1975, when I was visiting Alberta, Canada. It was a wonderful trip. I flew into the city of Calgary and rented a car. I first drove west up into the Rockies and thru the famous mountain resorts of Banff and Jasper. Then I traveled north to Alberta's capital city of Edmonton, and finally south down the interstate and back to Calgary to complete a long and memorable journey.

Fairmont Chateau Hotel on Lake Louise
Much of the mountainous resort area is designated as national park and remains completely unspoiled. The most spectacular sight was Lake Louise. It takes one's breath away.

The lake is located at the foot of the Victoria Glacier, which looms over it and is snow capped year round. The water in the lake is a milky blue, unlike any water I have ever seen elsewhere. Now the color of water is important. I doubt that the Caribbean would be nearly so popular, if the sea there was not that lovely turquoise color. The color of Lake Louise is likewise what makes it so popular.

Princess Louise
Incidentally, who was Louise? She was the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria after whom the big glacier nearby was named. The lake was originally called something else by guy who discovered it in 1882, but the government quickly renamed it in honor of the queen's daughter.

The lake is at 5039 feet above sea level and the village that sits on its shore is the highest permanent settlement in Canada. That village is dominated by Chateau Lake Louise, a large and very grand hotel built by the Canadian Pacific Railway Company at the end of the 19th century. Their aim was to attract wealthy Easterners to travel across Canada by rail in order to stay at the hotel.

What I have omitted entirely is the fact that Lake Louise is one of Canada's finest ski resorts. That is because I was there during a pleasantly warm August with a lack of snow on the ground, which makes skiing a bit tricky! However, one can still take advantage of the many chair lifts to reach a higher altitude. One can then avoid both a tiring climb and an angry bear.

This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on November 5, 2008.

Ottawa Canada - A Royal Capital

Prince William and Princess Kate
We drove into Ottawa, capital city of Canada, in the middle of June 2011. At the time, the city was preparing itself for the visit at the end of the month of William and Kate, who are one day likely to become King and Queen of this vast nation.  On July 1st, which is Canada Day, they will celebrate with Canadians the birth of the nation.  Ottawa will then host a great fireworks display attended by the newly married young couple.  To become King and Queen of Canada eventually, William and Kate will need to avoid divorce and William will need to survive his grandmother and father.  For their part, Canadians will need to retain their love of monarchy, which is also probable because Canadians love to distinguish themselves from their neighbors to the south.  When those neighbors regard their present Head of State in this age of Obama, they must surely reflect on what might have been.  Unlike the royal couple, there were no carriages or escorts of gorgeously red coated Mounties for us. Yet we can still tell you about Ottawa.  Why did such a city, small in relation to great Canadian cities like Toronto and Montreal through which we also passed, become the capital of the nation?  The credit or blame for that attaches to William’s great-great-great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who was asked in 1857 to select a new capital for Canada.  The original capital was the city of Kingston, which lies about 100 miles to the south of Ottawa and sits on the shore of Lake Ontario.  Unfortunately, Kingston also sits on the US-Canadian border and was therefore deemed to be indefensible in the event of another war with the US, similar to the War of 1812.  Consequently, a capital well to the north of the border was required, instead of Kingston, and Queen Victoria selected Ottawa.

Ottawa is one of the world’s cleanest cities and this is very evident to any visitor.  The Ottawa River forms the border between the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The city of Ottawa lies on the southern or Ontario side of the river. The city on the Quebec side of the river is called Gatineau. Geographically, the whole urban area seems like one big city with a river running through the middle and with plenty of bridges. Linguistically however, one notices that Gatineau is very much more French than Ottawa.   In fact, three major rivers meet in Ottawa.  In addition to the Ottawa River, there are the Gatineau River and the Rideau River.  The Rideau River runs south to the Great Lakes and to the St Lawrence River, which ought to have made life very convenient for the people of Ottawa. Unfortunately, rapids and waterfalls render parts of the Rideau River impossible to navigate, so the construction of the Rideau Canal was necessary to give Ottawa access to the sea.  The word “Rideau” is French for “curtain”, which is what the falls resemble in winter.  Ottawa is really cold at that time of year and then the frozen waters of the canal become the world’s largest skating rink as well as giving skaters convenient access to downtown Ottawa.    Downtown Ottawa is dominated by Government buildings, which include all the buildings related to Canada’s parliament and Supreme Court and the official residences of the Prime Minister of Canada and of the Governor General, who is the representative of the monarch in Canada. Then there is an abundance of statues, universities and museums.  Finally, there is a plethora of foreign embassies – 130 to be precise, although some streets seem to be nothing but embassies.  It is as well that, instead of opening an embassy in Ottawa, several dozen smaller countries rely on their US embassy to handle Canadian matters.

Russian Embassy in Ottawa

It was an Ottawa embassy that provided the West with the first evidence of the Cold War and the fact that our Russian allies were not as friendly as we had assumed.  The date was September 5th 1945, only a few days after World War Two had ended.  Igor Gouzenko, a cipher clerk at the Soviet Russian embassy in Ottawa, defected with a mass of documents showing a big Soviet spy network operating in the west and together with plans for a Soviet atomic bomb.

Algonquin Indians
As one drives around this impressive city, it is hard to remember that Europeans did not arrive here until a couple of centuries ago.   Before then, the Algonquin Indians lived here and the name “Ottawa” comes from the Algonquin word “adawe”, meaning “to trade”.  The first Europeans could not grow enough food to survive, so they began cutting down trees and transporting them by river to markets in the east. The timber trade enabled them to survive and Ottawa was soon thriving, even though few lumberjacks from those times could have imagined the very dignified city into which it has developed.

This piece, written by Bob, originally appeared on our website on November 9, 2011.

Coburg Germany - Birthplace of a Good Man

Pat and I share nothing in common with Queen Victoria of England and her husband, Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, except this. Nine months after their marriage in 1840, a beautiful baby daughter arrived. Nine months after Pat and I married in 1980, a beautiful baby daughter arrived. Twelve months after the birth of their first child, their second child arrived. Twelve months after the birth of our first child, our second child arrived.  Pat and I then gave up on producing children.  However, the Queen and her prince were only just starting. By the time Albert met his untimely death from typhoid fever in 1861 at the age of 42, the Queen had given birth to nine of his children. The story of Albert has always fascinated me because, as a Londoner, I have always been aware that my hometown is full of monuments to his memory. To mention but a few, London has The Royal Albert Hall, The Victoria and Albert Museum, The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens, and The Albert Bridge across the River Thames, which was his idea. Then London is also home to many pubs and bars named The Royal Albert or The Prince Albert. Yet the use of this name for watering holes is by no means confined to England. They are now to be found all over the world.

Click on player below to see Pat's video on the Ehrenburg Palace.

In the spring of 2010, Pat and I took advantage of an opportunity to visit the town of Coburg, where Albert was born in 1819. At the time of his birth, the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was an independent state and Albert was the second son of the Duke. Coburg today is in Bavaria, close to its northern border. The people of Coburg voted to join Bavaria in 1920, shortly after the abdication of the last duke. Coburg today has a population of 42,000 and lies at the foot of a mountain, from the top of which a huge fortress dominates the town. The construction of that fortress began in 1225 and Martin Luther spent six months there in 1530, when he was translating the Bible into German. Down in the town itself, we visited another castle, the Ehrenburg Palace. This building was the site of an 1860 meeting between Queen Victoria and Emperor Franz Joseph of Austria. I have already written about the Emperor on this website in an item entitled “The Emperor rides the Subway”. Coburg is a picturesque little town sitting astride the Itz River. It is easy to see why Queen Victoria loved it so much that she made six visits here from England. That may appear no big deal today but, before the invention of the airplane and the automobile and before widespread availability of railway tracks, it involved many days of uncomfortably bumping through Europe in a horse drawn carriage. The Queen is reported to have declared that, if she were not who she was, Coburg would have been her real home but that she would always consider it as her second home. That leads us to the question of who was she?

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
In the middle of the 19th century, Queen Victoria was the head of the largest empire that the world had ever seen and was undoubtedly one of the most powerful persons on earth. Albert was only 20 when he came from Coburg to marry her. He was a minor German prince, not even heir to the Duchy. It was a magnificent match for him. The people of the British Empire were at first highly suspicious of him and suspected him of marrying for prestige or money. By the time of his early death in 1861, he was widely respected throughout the kingdom and was exercising a huge influence for the good on the affairs of state. He is in fact the great great grandfather of the present Queen of England, Elizabeth II.

Queen Elizabeth II
The name of the British royal house since 1714 had been Hanover. On the 1901 death of his mother Queen Victoria, Albert’s eldest son (who then became King Edward VII) changed the family name to Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. However, during World War One, it was deemed prudent to change it once again and the name since then has been Windsor. Therefore, Coburg is a famous word in my native land.

Moving closer to the present time, Coburg would be a great location for a spy thriller by John LeCarre, who has set so many of his greatest novels in Central Europe. During the Cold War (1946-1990), Coburg was surrounded on three sides by communist East Germany. Coburg was situated on a little peninsula of land sticking out into communist territory. In 1946, Coburg was rumored to be the base for a revolt by free Poles against the Russian backed Polish government in Warsaw. Being little more than 200 miles from the Polish frontier, Coburg was one of the nearest cities to Poland in the free world. However, nothing came of the rumor about a revolt.

Finally, Albert is responsible for the popularity of the Christmas tree in England and America where, until the middle of the 19th century, the custom was virtually unknown. This had been a strictly German tradition, but Albert installed and decorated a Christmas tree each year at Windsor Castle in England. This innovation was widely reported and very soon everyone in England had their own Christmas tree.The custom then quickly crossed the Atlantic to America. Christmas trees are now to be found all over the world, just like pubs called The Prince Albert. Of all the many memorials to Prince Albert, a  beautifully decorated Christmas tree is probably the one which would have given him the most satisfaction and which would have brought back to him happy thoughts of his Coburg childhood.

This piece, written by Bob, was originally posted on our website on July 4, 2010.