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Published: September 4th 2019
We have breakfast in the historic main street of Fernie, where most of the buildings are classic old style brick. We read that this stems from the town’s rather chequered history. It was established in 1898 to service a fledgling coal industry, but most of the downtown area was then destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1904. The Council apparently wasn’t too keen on a repeat, so they brought in a law requiring all the buildings to be made of so-called fireproof materials such as stone and brick. The new downtown fared even worse, and was completely wiped out by an even larger blaze only four years later in 1908. This has been described as a “Dresden style firestorm” and was so intense that it melted brick and mortar, and completely wiped out the town in an afternoon. It was then rebuilt for a second time using the same sorts of materials, and fortunately most of those buildings have survived until today.
We drive up to the very extensive Fernie Ski Resort. This place looks like it probably really buzzes in the winter. The mountains are spectacular and it is apparently renowned as having the highest average snowfall of any
ski resort in Canada.
We set off on the long 200 km drive back to Lethbridge. The Highway is quite busy, but nowhere near as insanely busy as it was on Monday when it was backed up for kilometres as everyone was driving back to work at the end of the long weekend. Drivers here all seem to be very patient and well behaved. If you need to get into a long line of traffic from a side street, other drivers will just stop and let you in. If you tried to push your way in to a line of traffic back in Oz the other drivers would firstly all push up so that you couldn’t, and if you kept barging there’d be all sorts of arm waving, swearing and threats to you and your first born offspring, and violence would be a distinct possibility.
This courtesy and consideration for others seems to extend to all aspects of life here, and we’ve decided to elevate the Canadians to the status of “Most Polite People on the Planet”. The Japanese are very polite too, but they’ve been relegated to second place because some of their courtesy seems to go
out the window when they get behind the wheels of their cars; we always felt like someone wanted to run us over when we tried to cross the road in Tokyo. When a waitress dropped a whole tray of glasses in a restaurant here the other night, waking up all the patrons and anyone else within a two hundred metre radius, the only agenda item seemed to be to make sure she didn’t get any more embarrassed than she already was, so everyone just carried on as if nothing had happened. If this happened back home everyone would laugh and yell “taxi”, and do whatever else was necessary to make the person in question feel as self conscious as humanly possible. If someone holds a door open for someone here they seem compelled to keep holding it open for everyone behind them, even if that‘s a line of a hundred people. And they do it all with smiles on their faces. No one ever seems to hold doors open for anyone back home any more, they just let them slam in your face. I think I’m starting to sound like my mother.
We stop for a quick bite at
the small town of Fort McLeod. This was the original site of an actual wooden fort built as the North-West Mounted Police barracks back in 1874. It’s also notable as the birthplace of Joni Mitchell; the town that is, I’m pretty sure she wasn’t born in the fort.
We hangout with Emma and Michael in their apartment back in Lethbridge. Fortunately no one suggests we go axe throwing as they did when we were here earlier in the week. I wasn’t sure whether or not they were joking, but I now see that this is a deadly serious sport here in Canada, and that there’s a “True North Axe Throwing Centre” just down the road from our hotel. Now that I’ve thought about it a bit more I can’t help but wonder whether tossing a few axes around mightn’t actually be a pretty good way of getting rid of a bit of frustration after your football team had lost, or you’d just played golf.
We head off to get a closer look at the spectacular Lethbridge High Level Bridge, which takes the Canadian Pacific rail line across the very wide and deep Old Man River canyon. We read
that it’s the largest railway structure in Canada and the largest bridge of its type in the world. It was completed in 1909, and is more than 1.6 km long, and sits 95 metres above the river bed. They’re into ”biggest” things here. Michael points out his alma mater Lethbridge University building, which he says has the longest hallway in North America. I make a note to file this information away; I’m sure it will come in handy one day...
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