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What a Pleasant Surprise

semi-overcast 73 °F

Hi there!

Visiting Calgary, Alberta's largest city, was a delight. Only about 30 miles from where we are staying it took very little time to get into 'Center City'. After parking near the Calgary Tower in the downtown we walked a short distance to the downtown Fairmont hotel and had the Conciere arrange a City Tour and lunch in the 650' Tower's revolving restaurant. It gave us a literal 'overview' of the city while enjoying a nice salad & chardonnay.
The 3 hr. city tour was narrated by a local Calgarian lady who was very knowledgable giving interesting facts on 'her town'. She explained that Calgary was established in 1881 by the Canadian Pacific Railroad as a water & fuel stop as the railway worked its way west toward the Rocky Mountains. The site was chosen where the Bow & Elbow (not kiding!) rivers come together. Within a year a community sprung up. The British/Canadian government established a Fort Calgary nearby, manned by a regiment of R.C.M.P. soldiers, to protect the rail workers and to keep peace with the Indians. About 20,000 Chinese laborers (coolies) were hired by the railroad to blast, fill, and tunnel through the Rockies to Vancouver. That was in the 1880's and today there is a significant Asian population (75,000) in Calgary, many of whom are rail-worker descendants. She told us that the railway project through the mountains claimed one life a day due to the difficult hand labor and dangerous working conditions.

Calgary is probably best known for its Calgary Stampede held 10 days each July. It is a city-wide party which begins with a parade down Main Street which draws 100,000 people. The western events of broncho riding, calf roping, chuck wagon racing, etc., etc. attracts 1.2 million people over the course of the 10 days. Prizes amount to over $1M! This requires not only a professional organization to plan and coordinate it but over 600 volunteers from the community donate their time and efforts toward the event. The park where this is held looks like a State Fairground.

The locals are proud of their professional sports teams. The NHL Calgary Flames, and the CFL Calgary Stampeders play in their "Saddle Dome".
The City of Calgary is one of the richest cities in Canada due to its Oil & Gas industry. Every major petroleum company has high-rise office buildings downtown. In 1984 the city was host to the 1984 Winter Olympics. Our guide shared that it was one of the few Olympic games that made a profit. This was made possible by the small army of volunteers, several thousand in number, who worked with the Committee for the Games to make it a success. Many of the facilities from those games are still in place, such as the ski jumps, bobsled and luge runs, oval speed skating rink, etc. The Mayor and a Olympic Organizing Committee is actively working to submit a bid for the 2024 games.
A city of 1.2 M people, it is home to two universities, and 4 regional hospitals. It is amazing to drive over the hill and see this metropolitan area sitting in a bowl-like valley in the middle of nowhere. Plains extend as far as the eye can see. About 1 hour to the west, of course, looms the Rocky Mountains. Forest fires rage in these mountains so the views were hazy from the smoke in the air. All said, our visit to Calgary was a very pleasant one.

Posted by dixter 07:04 Archived in Canada Tagged calgary visit

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