Sunday, September 18, 2011

Edmonton Highlights

Edmonton is a city in flux.  There are a few older buildings which reference the city's past as a frontier town and legislative centre of Alberta.  There is also much evidence of the Alberta oil boom: construction and supplies businesses, plenty of buildings recently and currently under construction.  Like many western cities, the blocks are large, many are empty, the streets are broad:  very little of the city seems of pedestrian scale.  The University of Alberta has a few older buildings, but most are built since the 1960's.  One of the newer buildings on campus is a centre for foreign students: a block long, four story structure that contains housing and all services a student might need.  See photo below.
HUB Building on U of A Campus, Edmonton
The Art Gallery of Alberta is another new building of interest.  Those in Seattle might describe it as a successful version of the EMP mess!  The main exhibit on the Conceptual movement in Canada was as ho-hum as the movement itself.  The new exhibit, Up North, however, was a fantastic multi-media installation.
Edmonton is also the home of the West Edmonton Mall, self-described as the largest indoor mall in the world.  The sensory overload of so much muzak, canned scents, and white lights is overwhelming.  The mall contains theme parks, hotel and conference centre (in the European Quarter), a Chinatown (see photo below) that is mostly a grocery store (resembles Uwajimaya in Seattle) where Asians actually do shop, an ice skating rink, and mostly international brand name stores of the "aspirational" variety.

On to things of a more organic and human scale nature.  There are several successful farmers' markets in Edmonton; we visited the oldest.  Great fruits and vegetables, crafts, baked goods, and excellent people watching.

Alberta is home to a large Ukrainian community, going back to the late 1800's.  The Ukranian Harvest Festival is housed in a replica of an Albertan Ukrainian village.  The various buildings are originals, replete with great furnishings and household items, that have been moved to this location, which also features demonstration wheat fields, farm animals, etc.

Near the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village is the Elk Island National Park, home to woods buffaloes and plains buffaloes.    There are camping, hiking, picnicking, and driving opportunities amongst the buffalo.

Other wildlife opportunities are to be found in Edmonton:  jackrabbits are found on people's front lawns!

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