Calgary [Across Canada – part 6: 10.-13.04.2018]

The only things I knew about Calgary when I arrived were

  • The city had hosted the Olympic Games in the 80s
  • The hockey team was the Calgary Flames – I had played a lot of hockey video games on Sega and Nintendo in the 90s and had scribbled their logo on more than one notebook – and
  • The three Germans who studied in Calgary and who I had met in Lake Louise at the bonfire hated the town.

So challenge accepted.

Bad weather vs. good weather

For bad weather as you can guess I found my obligatory coffee and beer and I’m sorry that you have to go through this with me again. By now it feels like a mission to get at least one of these in every place I’m staying at. Like a personal scavenger hunt.

Working out for free in a nice GoodLife gym inside an old bank building – including the safe downstairs transformed into rental lockers – was on my bad weather list as well. The “3 times for free” advertisement made it possible and the trainer who informed me about the long term membership plans and I both knew that this was just formalities.

While the sun was out I explored the 8th Avenue, strolled around downtown and to the nearer parks. I had a walk around the neighborhood of Inglewood – which was pretty confusing after staying in Inglewood, Los Angeles, for two months – and along St. Patrick’s Island to be delighted by the fact that the landscaper aligned the small bridge with the outdoor tables and benches. Something like this is such a pleasing sight.

Monogramm and learning every day

The whole Thursday was covered in a cold snowstorm. So I attended a live stream “Introduction to UX Design” to figure out the similarities and differences to Design Thinking and combined it with the surprisingly good wifi and excellent drinks at the design cafe Monogramm. (Thanks for the coffee, Kurt! I picked a specially fancy coffee shop for your coffee.) I might have stayed there a bit longer than planed to add another couple of online lessons from my list into my brain.

And by the way you can walk through downtown even on such a day mostly without a jacket or getting wet. A walkway system (+5 walkways) of above corridors going through all the major buildings leads you through the inner city without the need to step into the coldness of Calgary’s winters and “springs” (or whatever you call the weather we have right now).

For your information: Canadian cops wear cowboy hats here and some have e-bikes. I haven’t seen a cowboy hat bike helmet yet, though. That would be the top bad ass.

Adult only night at Science Center

How cool is combining a beer and walking through a science center in the evening? So far I missed these events in other cities. But Calgary rocked it gladly on the day I was here with its Adults Only night out at the Science Center. The traveling whale exhibition from New Zealand with giant skeletons of whales, whale behaviors and the human-whale-relationship in the South Pacific (we were not allowed to take any pictures so you have to imagine it) was itself worth the visit but the creativity section stole the show in the end.

It’s amazing to see all these grownups trying out all different games (“Build the longest pipeline”), creative challenges (“Design your own stop-motion-movie”), fun and hilarious tasks (like getting surprised in front of a camera and watching your reaction in slo-mo afterwards) and having so much fun. And I was no exclusion. I guess I spent an hour each at building a pipeline and animating two stop-motion short movies.

And who can say he had a gin tonic on the green screen bridge of the USS Enterprise while being in control of security with his other dimensional black shadow standing behind him?

Ivana who I had met in the hostel and went to that science night with me and I had a good chat about traveling, working and all the different quirks of people while exploring the different exhibits.

We just got back to the hostel when she asked me “Do you want to have some kava?” and I think the combination of my stare in disbelief plus my very quick added yes was quite rare. I followed her into the kitchen and couldn’t help but asking where she got the kava from. “I bought it in Fiji in brought it all the way with me.” I felt so honored to get a share of this far travelled potion and we felt both very happy to have someone who knew the specialty of this drink here in the cold of Calgary. “So far no one liked my kava.” We had to laugh. Yes, it’s not an easy likable drink and you feel a bit like being part of a cult when you ask “Do you like kava?” and the other one gets that shine in their eyes.

The next morning she passed me a little share of her kava powder in a little plastic bag. “It’s too much for me and I found this little bag so you can enjoy it as well.” Unexpected I found a connection to Fiji here in this hostel in Calgary. And a precious gift for the next days to carry and enjoy with me.

Thank you, my friend.

This must be the place

I said goodbye to the nice gym and took a bus to the north to walk up Nose Hill. I sat down while I texted a bit with Germany to sort some important things out back home and got a last glimpse of Calgary and more important The Rockies. The beautiful sunny and clear day left the view to be nearly endless.

I returned to the city, walked a bit through the neighborhood of Kensington, got tempted to rent a kilt and made my way through town to Cold Garden – a small brewery with an unmarked entrance and good beer. And a very good spirit of people from all kinds inside. Dog-friendly, children friendly, loud, colorful. I sat silent and watched people, overheard conversation bits before a local guy sat down opposite of me and told me all about the beers here. He reminded me a bit of Michael, my friend from Nuremberg – only 37 days til the beer festival “Fränkisches Bierfest” which is well worth a visit. So I enjoyed listening to my new friend for the afternoon here, surrounded by more and more couples with all sorts of dogs, tiny and short haired to huge and fluffy. A giant disco pineapple was hanging from the ceiling and colorful lighted letters said “This must be the place.”

Slightly tipsy but happy I left Calgary and got on the overnight bus to Saskatoon. Goodbye, Rocky Mountains, for now.

Side note: Greyhound Bus

Another company that didn’t really make the leap to the 21st century yet.

For taking the Greyhound bus you need your ticket to be printed. No choice. Either you print out the “I show myself only once”-pop up window at the end of the online ticket purchase because in the email there will be no ticket attachment. Or you go to one of their shops to let the ticket counter print it out – but take care as the shops are not available at every stop. Only a pop up or pick up at a store – which is not at all stops. And make sure if you get two (connection) tickets to print them out on separate papers or you can’t ride the second bus. It’s true. Everything has to be in the right size and form on paper.

That reminds me of the story when one of my friends, Roswitha, who always went by train and tried the newest ticket features, took a train over 7 years ago and stared in the unbelieving eyes of a train attendant when she pulled out and unfolded a way oversized ticket – at least double the size. „My printer made a mistake back home“, was her answer when she smiled broadly at the conductor before he could protest and just continued trying to scan that giant QR code with his small device.

Yeah, an online ticket that has a barcode on it but has to be printed out. Greyhound Buses. But walking into the Greyhound Terminal in Calgary tells you more of the story of a once shiny and successful company. It feels like being in another time. Nothing seems to be refurbished since the day it was built. And having no competitor for a long time didn’t do them well.

Now it gives you the feeling of someone who has just given up caring at all.

The drive towards Edmonton and its skyline at night was still a beautiful plus. So I got to see at least a part of the city during my night bus ride to saskatoon. Yet being only slightly cheaper than the trains but sitting like a sardine in a can of sardines I guess I’ll take the train from now on again although I could sleep quite ok on the second bus.

One Comment

  1. Sounds like a very interesting time in Calgary! They say you can get all 4 seasons in one day there, and I think you experienced that!

    Brave soul taking the bus… on the other hand, you’re not waiting for freight trains to bump your schedule!

    Enjoy your travels! Thanks for the wonderful blog!

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