Day 14: Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie…

Wednesday, 11. July 2007, Manitoba, Canada.

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Breakfast hall of our Marlborough Hotel in Winnipeg. We leave the city with mixed feelings: While the previous large cities seemed more European, Winnipeg is a provincial capital in the midst of the prairie, far outside and without any input from beyond. Tourists like us are rare, often we were asked: “What are you guys doing down here?”. Winnipeg has a lot of homeless indians and few attractions, staying one day would have been enough.

Frühstückshalle unseres eleganten Marlborough-Hotel in Winnipeg. Wir verlassen Winnipeg mit gemischten Gefühlen: Schienen die bisherigen Großstädte im Osten eher europäisch, ist Winnipeg eine Provinzhauptstadt mitten in der Prärie, weit draußen und ohne jeden Input von außerhalb. Touristen wie uns sieht man hier wohl selten, regelmäßig wurden wir gefragt: „What are you guys doing down here?“. Auf die Frage nach netten Cafés empfahl uns ein freundlicher Busfahrer das Osborne-Village und schenkte uns gleich die Busfahrkarten dahin. Damit wir „die Penner und Skater nicht sehen“. Osborne-Village sei wie „Berlin-Kroizbörg“. Und dass Düsseldorf im Krieg ziemlich zerbombt wurde, wusste er auch. Insgesamt: Viele obdachlose Indianer und wenig Sehenswertes, ein Tag Aufenthalt hätte gereicht. Zum Glück hatten wir dieses angenehme Hotel zufällig im Internet gefunden.

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First Nation People in Winnipeg / Indianer in Winnipeg

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Heritage Museum at the Trans-Canada-Highway, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Canada. The Museum shows how the early settlers lived in this area. Once again we’re the only visitors.

Freilichtmuseum am Trans-Canada Highway, Portage la Prairie, Manitoba, Kanada. Hier kann man sehen, wie die ersten Siedler vor über 100 Jahren lebten. Wir sind mal wieder die einzigen Besucher.

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Old classroom / Alte Schulklasse

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The Bison, nearly extirpated by the settlers.

Der Bison, von den Siedlern fast ausgerottet.

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Ukrainian church / ukrainische Kirche

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In an old waggon / In einem alten Zugwaggon

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Some kind of squirrel, we see them quite often here.

Irgend so ein Hörnchen, läuft einem hier ständig über die Füße.


20,000 Miles Canada/USA: Travel Overview


5 thoughts on “Day 14: Winnipeg, Portage la Prairie…”

  1. Irgendwie reicht die unheimliche Atmosphäre der verlassenen Museen und Strassen bis hier… passt bloss auf, das ihr nicht in einer Twilight-Zone-Zeitschleife in einem Puppenmuseum gefangen bleibt…

  2. Hi .. I love your website and your travels and I am loving hearing your foreign perspective on things. It seems you did a massive amount of research for your trip and I really am a fan.

    My name is Michael Kerr, I am a Designer and Application Developer. I was born and raised in Winnipeg, lived and worked in Vancouver and now live in Montreal. My son Cory who has just started college lives in Winnipeg with his Mother and works at the Marlborough Inn where you left your “silver box” It’s likely that he made your breakfast that day. You have to excuse the girls working cleaning your rooms there. They make very little money and the types of Mac Laptop toys you keep your music collection on are likely beyond their budgets and out of their sphere of knowledge, hence the “silver box”, obviously having less access to wealth has not damaged their character, your very lucky to have it back. I’m sure it was not sent back to you out of ignorance. Most of the world lives with less. Much of Canada is working class and poor despite our reputation as a comfortable country.

    I have to point out some things to you about Winnipeg having grown up there. While there are a lot of Indians on the street very few are actually homeless. They drift up North and back from the reserves and live outside the boundaries of white society as they have there for thousands of years. Most have more money than the average home owning white person but they do often do not use banks, stay on the move and drink too much when they are in the city. The Indians in your photos may look rough to you but they are hardly poor or homeless. In fact they look like pretty regular people and not that bad off for Winnipeg Natives. Many make an excellent living up North in the winter or fishing in the summer and spend part of their time in the city. Most are excellent people, just like whites who are have a much more abundant homeless presence than the Indians in Winnipeg but in Vancouver around the downtown, Broadway and Main street and Hastings areas of those cities. Most Indians communicate across vast distances up North via skype, msn or ICQ, where they live in huge communities in magnificent places with little or only seasonal road access. They use large networks of tribal connections and families to move in and out of the city. They do not want to look like or live like you and I. One of the community leaders described the urban natives in Winnipeg as being like forest animals in the city. They are out of their element there. If they can be called homeless it is because we have destroyed and stolen their home. Assimilation is not their goal. Self government is what they are fighting for and they are making progress.

    While Winnipeg is remote and seems to have no wealth it has a very active arts and music community. The city has produced some great musicians. Chantal Kreviazuk ( Under These Rocks and Stones), The Wyrd Sisters, The Guess Who ( American Woman, No Time, Share the Land, These Eyes), The Crash Test Dummies( The Superman Song, God Shuffled His Feet), Bachman Turner Overdrive ( Elvis’ favorite song “Taken Care of Business”), Biff Naked ( who I used to play shows with when I was younger), Loreena McKennitt (amazing songwriter), The void ( my own band when I was younger ;) ), Holly McNarland ( Numb, Sour Pie ), The Welfare Starlets ( worth a look ), If you don’t know these artists you are missing some huge American pop music history :) look them up online or grab them on Limewire. Not that they will be your cup of tea but they come out of Winnipeg poor art culture which is a very cool scene if your in it.

    I hated living in Winnipeg and love Montreal and Vancouver but I hate to see Winnipeg being painted as a “not worth noticing” sideshow to the rest of the country. It has an amazing history and its people are rough and tough and nothing like the rest of Canada. It’s the real deal like it or not :) I love you guys and your travels as I said. I hope I haven’t offended you with my comment. I hope there are more journeys to come for you two. I’ll be reading about them.

  3. Michael: What we see and describe here is only a short first sight and our very personal, subjective point of view. We don’t see this blog as a travel guide with all relevant information of the places we visit. It’s just the diary of our short stops and our very own impressions. Most of the time we intentially did not visit cultural institutions because we didn’t have the time and just walking through a city was more interesting to us, we wanted to see the country.

    The Marlborough Hotel was one of the best places we stayed at on our whole journey. We were very happy with the smooth handling of our lost hard drive case and calling it “the silver box” was very comprehensible to us – and also funny. We didn’t want this to sound negative.

    We didn’t talk to many Indians but most of them scrounged for some change (in front of the hotel) and were not very friendly. This was our experience in one and a half days.

    Your comment is very informative, it adds perfectly to the post. We very much appreciate any local’s point of view here. Thank you very much!

  4. Having spent too many years in Winnipeg, I can sympathize with your impressions. The Natives have massive social problems (for one reason or another) and this is a terribly visible scar on Winnipeg. Murders, theft, and other petty crime are high in relation to other Canadian cities. Public safety is generally lacking, particularly in the city centre where you will find the most homeless people. The province of Manitoba is nice (quite beautiful actually) but Winnipeg itself is not interesting or pleasant, and many people in Winnipeg are the type you would be better off avoiding.

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