The most beautiful sunsets you might ever see.

I’ve often written about the other places I’ve been, but so far other than a few offhand comments I’ve never really described where I live. Alright. I’m in a good mood and I feel like typing, lets see how this works out.

Calgary, Canada. Many people see it as a commercial city, the home of the Alberta oil companies, a strictly business city of wealth and power. That’s true to an extent, Calgary is a new city and it shows. An extremely new city that really only ever came into being with the sudden boom economy of oil in the 1970’s-80’s that boosted its success and the Winter Olympics it hosted in 1988. Since then it has grown into a thriving city of over a million with a distinct vibe all its own. You will not find any distinct old monuments here, no stylishly outdated architecture or mighty old Cathedrals, it’s fairly uncommon for a building to be over 50 here never mind a hundred or more, so if it’s history that you seek when touring the world this is not the city to be. That said being new has its advantages; the streets are well designed and easy to navigate, the buildings in good condition and usually well kept, the streets are clean and the people generally quite friendly compared to many older cities which have had time to grow old and bitter about its success. Indeed, if I were to picture Calgary as a person it’d a be a young man, well kept and clean shaven in an expensive suit. Nice enough fellow really, very keen and work minded however and his buddies Edmonton and Vancouver often tell him he needs to relax and take a break every now and then because for someone his age he’s far too uptight. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a good guy, he just needs to learn to relax and have some fun. I mean he’s what 150ish? That’s still a kid and yet all he does is work work work.

But lets not stop here. Unlike most other places I’ve visited, I *know* Calgary. With my habit of exploring and wandering aimlessly on foot, I like to think I know this city better than most people ever will. So when in most of my rundowns I give a description of the places vibe and what I saw and did there, here I can give details. Let us begin.

In Europe, Germany and UK especially, there are some spectacular parks. Hyde park in London is breathtaking, and in Bordeaux France there are some amazingly lush and green gardens. In Germany they have a love of greenhouses and more exotic plants as well as landscaping. Calgary doesn’t have anything like that, not really, what it does have though are parks with of a different sort of beauty. Where in Europe the gardens and parks are well tended and tailored artistic creations Calgary has natural preserves; fields of wildflowers springing up from the ground among the light shrubs and twisted old poplar and willow trees. Perhaps you might catch a glimpse of a deer among the tall grass, there are a few that live in Fish Creek park, or a rare birds nest within the trees. It’s a different form a beauty than the structured man-made parks of older cities, a sort of place that is only enhanced by the cities youth, carefully preserved slices of the wild in the midst of the city. Another example: There’s a pathway along a small waterway called Nose Creek which follows the twists and turns of this small creek and the train tracks alongside it, and when the weather is right and the city is quiet, it’s easy to picture yourself stepping through time as you wander down this path. The sounds of birds in the trees and the gentle wooshing sound of tall grass being blown by the breeze, that distinct yet not entirely unpleasant smell of a trains grease and oil that makes ones mind turn to western movies and cowboys, the soft lulling of the water. It’s idyllic and easily one of my favourite walking paths.

That’s not to say there arn’t atleast some attempts made to make a tailored park for relaxing and fun. In the Downtown area there is a place called Prince’s Island Park which is a favourite for downtown business men and women to enjoy a nice lunch or for families to have picnics. Connected to downtown via bridges to the more stylish and artsy district known as Eau Claire, it’s also a favourite hangout for buskers and street performs. I’ve seen a street magician performing a few times now who’s particularly good, and if the weather is nice it’s common to have at the least one or two people playing their guitars somewhere with the instruments case or a hat before them for spare change. It’s heavily wooded in places and has well tended flat lawns in others, benches are plentiful as are small gardens and even a cafe, meanwhile Canadian Geese and other winged wildlife are a regularity there which seems to stun most tourists as whenever I’m in the area you’ll see at the least two obviously tourist families pointing excitedly at our geese while snapping pictures of their relatives with the poor birds in the background. (And when will you realize those are wild animals folks, please stop letting your children wander too close, those birds can be mean when provoked as anyone who’s encountered them as a child themselves can tell you.)

The city itself is a massive suburban sprawl with a very centralized downtown that stands out starkly in the otherwise flat prairie lands. A collections of Tall skyscrapers of polished glass all crowded together with the notable Calgary tower among them. Travelling through the city is fairly easy once you figured out the public transportation system but I can imagine it could be frustrating for visitors. The LRT is the main transit system which branches out from central downtown into the more suburban areas, an above-ground train system that’s free to use downtown but otherwise costs the same as a bus ticket for travel to or from the downtown district to other outlying areas. Relies on an honor system rather than booths like you’ll find in subways but is occasionally patrolled by transit cops who’ll ask to see your ticket and will fine you if you don’t have one. Traffic isn’t really my concern seeing as I’m not much a driver (Aka I don’t drive because I’m too cheap!) but it can and does often get congested on the streets around 4:00 PMish when work usually lets out and everyone is rushing to get home. Drivers arn’t too bad in general, and there are plenty of walking paths and traffic stop-lights for pedestrians like myself to use. So getting around isn’t hard once you’ve got it figured out. Not bad.

But there are also some downsides. For one while the city is getting crowded thanks to it’s unusually quick growth. Too many business, not enough people to work all those businesses, yet too few houses, so it’s common to see NOW HIRING signs all over the place, even the occasional ‘closing because we don’t have enough staff’ sign and service can be lacking in many venues. Meanwhile housing costs have skyrocketed so when people DO move here for a job, they suddenly discover that actually living here might be more expensive than planned. It also means that there are quite a few homeless in the city and that tents being pitched along pathways and in parks is depressingly common, and although its not as bad as many other places yet, it could prove a major problem in the future. Calgary is also a bit of a business city, as I stated earlier, which means that entertainment can be annoyingly hard to find sometimes. Oh it’s there if you know where to look, but compared to say Montreal or Vancouver, Calgary is a relatively boring city at times. Whether that’s really a good thing or a bad thing is up to you…

But then there’s the view. If there’s one experience I’d like to describe from here, it’s this. Calgary is a prairie city that sits on the borders of the mountains, this causes some strange weather effects such as a neat little thing we call chinooks. Hot air will rise over the mountains from the western coastline then descend over and into the prairies making the weather often windy and unpredictable at best. Calgary is particularly known for its warm winters where a chinook wind will blow down from the mountains and while everywhere else is suffering -20c temperatures we’re relaxing in t-shirts and enjoying the warm breeze, next day will be cold as usual and perhaps the next will bring another burst of warm winds, it’s hard to tell. But besides making weather forecasting a headache for poor newscasters, this also produces some of the absolute most stunning sunsets (And sunrise, although I like my sleep so I rarely see those myself.) you will ever see. This effect isn’t really uncommon, any city situated nearby mountains will get it to some degree, Calgary just happens to be perfectly placed for some spectacular views you have to see to believe.

Lets play pretend here, try to visualize what I’m describing. I’d say close your eyes, but that wouldn’t work out so well considering this is written, so just ‘pretend’ your eyes are closed as you read to help you picture it. You’re on a steep hill, tall brown grasses billow in the warm winds that brush against your skin pleasantly. From up here you’ve got a good view of downtown Calgary with the Rocky mountains clearly present in the background as a jagged outline in the distance contested only by the tall glass towers of mans creation. To the east and away from the mountains the sky is a dark purple, black almost from the clouds while to the west and the mountains it’s clear but for a few wisps of cloud that form a whimsical pattern in the sky. And as the sun descends you see it; those black clouds slowly being lined with the most bright pinks and oranges you can imagine, bright patterns standing out starkly among the clouds. You tilt your head upwards and the entire sky above you is a pitch black with those wonderful patterns of oranges and pinks throughout, the patterns slowly and lazily shifting even as you watch from that same warm breeze you feel now. Then you look back down towards the horizon and you see that amazing sky reflected in the windows gleam of the tall skyscrapers of downtown, and for a moment you don’t see Calgary, but you see a painting that can’t be real: The distant horizon is a jagged series of mountains with the sun descending behind it, the sky a perfect soft blue but for a few wisps of white cloud, then starts the big dark mass of contrasting purples and pinks reflected in the mighty crystalline spires before you. It’s getting dark by now so some of the houses are turning on their lights, and while the horizon is still a bright blue, before you you see a scene where the ground is a series of sparkling star-like lights with that central series of crystal spires and the sky that twisting contrasting mess of dark and light colours, and perhaps you wonder if you’re still standing and if the world hasn’t turned upside down, the warm winds still tugging at you making you wonder if you arn’t flying. The illusion quickly fades, the sun descends fully and the sky goes back to a simply dark cloud that makes you wonder if it might not rain or snow later. But for those few brief seconds it lasted, it’s one of the most amazing experience you will ever have.

Doing a quick google picture search brought up a few results and here’s the best I could find, and here’s another. Picture the sky from the second with the skyline of the first, and you’ve the picture I’m describing.

Calgary has its flaws and its annoyances, but in the end after I’ve walked back down that hill and I’m on the train home, all is forgiven. I know, I’m a bit of a dreamer to enjoy this stuff so much and I’m sure reality will come crashing down on my head someday and leave me a nice proper drone, but till then here’s to beautiful sunsets in shiny new cities! Calgary ain’t the greatest city in the world, but hell, it’s my home and I love it here.

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One Comment on “The most beautiful sunsets you might ever see.”

  1. pennyb22 Says:

    You Have An Awesome Blog Keep Up The Good Work ..Cheers šŸ™‚

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