Monthly Archives: August 2016
Canada is a vast country with six different time zones. It is surrounded by the contrasting Pacific and Atlantic seaboards. It has many rivers and lakes that can satisfy your urge to do some fishing or enjoy water sports. It offers a variety of sightseeing options, ranging from the urban centers like Ottawa and Toronto to the lonely and isolated Eskimo regions alongside the frozen seashores of the Hudson Bay.
Besides, the Rocky Mountains provide some breathtaking views of the valleys below. Here are some of the happening places to visit, or things to do, which will serve as a guide to an exciting tour of this large country.
The capital city, Ottawa is famous for its historic Rideau Canal, which is connected to the Ottawa river. Also, the Parliament building is a historical monument worth paying a visit to. You will also get to see a perfect blend of traditional and modern art in the various museums across the city. The Canadian Museum of History is one of them. Many historical artifacts are preserved here, along with their background information. The National Gallery is one more place which has a magnificent collection of photographs, sculptures, and artwork of many famous artists such as the Group of Seven, Tom Thomson, Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Van Gogh, Bacon, etc. If you are a crazy shopper, especially one who loves outdoor shopping, then ByWard Market is the place for you. This market dates back to more than 200 years. With a cheerful atmosphere at any time of the day, this place is an absolute must-see.
The Georgians invented wine making sometime in the 6th millennium BC, and so they’ve had plenty of time to perfect the art. The country’s medieval monasteries were veritable universities of viticulture, keeping meticulous records about grape varieties, terroir, and factors which affected production. Members of the church congregation were expected to tithe a certain amount of the wine they made for use as sacramental wine, and it was the most valuable asset that many of the churches possessed. Priests fortified the church wine sellers, and would defend them to the death!
Many of Georgia’s wine makers still produce wine using traditional techniques, and the resulting flavour is quite different from that of wines made using European methods. Firstly, every part of the grape — including the skin, seeds, and even stalk — is fermented along with the juice. This gives the white wines a much darker colour, and hence they are known as amber or orange wines. The wine is fermented in a qvevri, a pointed terracotta vessel similar to an amphora, which is buried in the floor of the wine cellar. The qvevri is lined with lime and beeswax, and as it is subterranean, the wine is at a constant temperature throughout the fermentation process. Due to its shape, the sediment naturally sinks to the bottom, so there’s no need for the wine maker to add sulphites to separate it from the wine.
It seems that every Georgian you meet has knowledge to impart about wine making! But as you travel around the country, there are definite spots of historical significance, and centres of expertise.
The earliest parts of the Uplistsikhe Archaeological Museum date from the 10th century BC. It’s a rock-cut monastery complex, similar in many ways to Cappadocia in Turkey, and amidst the vaulted caves is evidence of early wine production: 3m-long troughs in the rock where grapes were crushed under foot, and narrow channels through which the juice would flow into secondary troughs or pots.
The Ikalto Monastery, near Telavi, was an ancient academy, where priests were trained in theology, rhetoric, astronomy, philosophy, and wine making: the pillars of a good education. The recently restored complex of churches and ecclesiastical buildings is scattered with grape presses and wine cellars, and lines of discarded qvevris.
Why Northern Lights in Autumn?
For a start, it’s usually much warmer than the deep artic winter, so you won’t normally have to get kitted out in snowsuits or ski-gear. There is a chance of some snow and it’s not going to be tropical, but jeans and a heavy jacket will usually do the trick – maybe with a thermal vest underneath if things get a little chillier.
Most importantly for the avid Aurora Borealis hunter is that the snow clouds have not yet gathered in earnest and so the skies are much clearer. Cloud cover is the enemy, so the better the weather the better your chances of a sighting.
The lights are at their most frequent in late autumn, but the later you go the more the risk your hike will turn into a snowshoe trek so it’s your call.
September 21st is the start of the season so any time after that and you should be in with a good shot.
While September, October and November can produce Auroras to watch any of the deep winter months there are no guarantees any time of year.
The longer you stay and the more time you set aside the higher the chance you’ll see one or more displays. We’re also currently in the liveliest phase of the eleven-year solar cycle so now is the time to seek out this fickle phenomenon.
As well as the lights, there are a wealth of other things to see that are unique to the autumn months. While in winter some wildlife are still up and about, there are so many more that are active in autumn. It’s a particularly good time for bird watching as it’s the migratory season.
The autumn colours in the forests provide an unbelievable backdrop to see the lights, as the contrast between the amber tones of the trees and green of the Aurora is simply mystical, all made more intense by the depth of the darkness that surrounds it.
Where to see the Northern Lights?
As the name suggests, you’ll need to head north to catch a glimpse of the Lights’ ethereal show but beyond that it’s up to you as there various options to choose from.
Listed as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), polar bears face an uncertain future. But there is hope. In September 2015, the five states whose territories cover this spectacular animal’s range – Canada, Kingdom of Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia and the US – signed the Circumpolar Action Plan, a 10-year global conservation strategy to secure the long-term survival of polar bears, which number between 22,000 and 31,000 in the wild according to the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). While it’s too soon to measure its success, this joint commitment nonetheless offers some reassurance that these nations are dedicated to the species’ preservation.
Most people who have been lucky enough to eyeball a wild polar bear would agree it’s one of the most thrilling wildlife-viewing experiences on Earth. Still a relatively young industry, polar bear tourism is not without its challenges. An increase in human-polar bear contact in Norway, for example, has resulted in more bears being shot.
It can also be argued that the carbon emissions generated by tourists travelling to the Arctic to spot bears is counterproductive to the marine mammals’ survival. On the other hand, well-managed polar bear tourism is credited with inspiring visitors to see the necessity of safeguarding their fragile environment. If it’s a trip you dream of taking one day, read on for the best places to ogle these majestic beasts in their Arctic playground.
Canada: Churchill, Manitoba
They don’t call Churchill the ‘polar bear capital of the world’ for nothing. Every autumn, hundreds of polar bears gather on the shores of Hudson Bay near the town of Churchill to wait for the sea ice to refreeze so they can return to hunting seals. The world’s most accessible (and cheapest) polar bear viewing destination, Churchill has a well-established tourism industry. Tours are typically conducted in custom-made tundra buggies with indoor/outdoor viewing areas. These vehicles can get close to the bears without jeopardising human or bear safety, though the elevation of the viewing platforms can present challenges for photographers.
When to go: October and November is peak viewing season in Churchill, but some operators offer packages at their remote lodges in March, when mother bears emerge from their dens with their cubs. Bear watching is combined with beluga whale watching in July and August.
Operators: Tours range from half-day viewing tours to multi-day adventures staying in tundra lodges. Operators including Great White Bear Tours (greatwhitebeartours.com), Frontiers North (frontiersnorth.com) and Natural Habitat Adventures (nathab.com) enjoy better access to the Churchill Wildlife Management Area (the key viewing area) than others.
United States: Kaktovik, Alaska
While polar bear populations in the Bering Sea are thought to be decreasing, bears have become such a common fixture on Alaska’s Arctic coast in summer that a tourism industry has developed around their presence in two Inupiat Eskimo villages: Barrow and Kaktovik. Located on Barter Island, just off the coast, Kaktovik is the best place to spot them – lured by the opportunity to feast on the carcasses of bowhead whales that the community are permitted to harvest, polar bears can be spotted by the dozen hanging out on the sand islands that fringe the town. Visitors arrive via small plane from Fairbanks for three- to four-hour viewing tours conducted in small boats equipped for six guests.
When to go: Boat tours run from mid-August until late September/early October.
Operators: Northern Alaska Tour Company (northernalaska.com) runs a day trip from Fairbanks; several smaller operators including Akook Arctic Adventures (akookarcticadventures.com) offer multi-day photography-driven tours, lodging in Kaktovik.
Cost: At $1799, Northern Alaska Tour Company’s day trip is the cheapest tour. You may get a better deal booking flights directly through Ravn Alaska (flyravn.com), and arranging a viewing session with Kaktovik Tours (US$720; kaktoviktours.com).