I didn't really know what to expect from Winnipeg, I had done very little research prior to leaving Rossburn. I had heard a fair amount about Toronto, Montreal and other major cities from people in Lake Louise. Most people seem to be from Toronto, but have also been to Montreal. However no-one seemed to be from Winnipeg, or have been there so first hand experience was sparse.
Kristen, a friend who I used to work with back in Guatemala, contacted me via Instagram saying she was living in Winnipeg and offered me a place to stay. So that was something, Winnipeg went from that "unknown city" to "that unknown city and Kristen lived in". Sometimes I think it is better to arrive at a place with little prior knowledge, that way you haven't developed a premature and potentially inaccurate and distorted opinion of the place. The most extreme example of this is something known as "Paris Syndrome" - is a transient mental disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or going on vacation to Paris, as a result of extreme shock derived from their discovery that Paris is not what they had expected it to be - Wikipedia
Without an opinion on Winnipeg, I arrived with no expectations, just a few places to visit. So what was my opinion on Winnipeg after leaving? Really good. It actually reminded me of Manchester in some ways. It was a city that wasn't too big or small, had a good variety of bars and live music venues and a few museums to visit.
Museum of human rights. Housed in a building that looks like a giant middle finger are a long series of corridors and galleries that start at the base and ascend further up into the building. Maybe it was designed this way, as you continue on your journey, reading about human rights you ascend as a person? In some ways the experience makes you feel a bit sad, you think to yourself "what have I done with my life?" But it also inspires you, to go out and do something and to be a better person. The experience sort of breaks you down and builds you up again.
Manitoba Legislative Building. In some ways this building is a contrast to the human rights museum. Rather than a modern ascending gallery dedicated to human rights, this building is cold, square and suspiciously well endowed for a government building. Built entirely from large stonework and laced with imported Italian marble, giant statues, archways, domes and a big fuck off golden statue at the top. This building leaves you thinking that the budget for it's construction was extremely flexible and generous. Never the less, walking through it's hallways was a good experience. There is something about the feeling of smooth marble under the feet.
Assiniboine Zoo. There isn't anything special about Assiniboine zoo, if anything it is actually quite an ugly zoo, compared to my high standards. The walkways are cracked and some of the exhibits looks slightly tired. Parts of the zoo have a worn down feel to them. Although there are some new areas like the new Churchill exhibit, the centrepiece being a family of polar bears. There was some construction work going on as well with new exhibits being prepared. I guess you could say Assiniboine Zoo is up and coming.
Winnipeg Art Gallery. Admittedly I have always been a bit negative towards art. When I think of art I think of some lunatic who plastered a blank wall with their shit and then declared it as "art" and then sell it for a large sum of money. I also think of the supposed public art installations that have appeared in Calgary. The notoriously awful giant blue ring that cost $470,000 of tax payers money. And if that wasn't bad enough, this was topped by the $500,000 Bowfort Towers which can only be described as a bunch of dull rocks on poles. This installation was supposed to be a nod towards the Indigenous tribes of the area, but the work ended up offending them as the installation looked like traditional burial scaffolds. It would be like if an Indigenous artist wanted to create an installation for the European settlers and built a giant gravestone. But not all art is a waste of money, right? In fact art, in many forms is extremely important. As Churchill is very famously quoted, when asked to cut funding for arts during the war, his response was "then what are we fighting for?”. I guess you could say I am a recovering art cynic and going to Winnipeg Art Gallery was part of my therapy. It was alright I guess, some work I liked, others I didn't. I think I still have a long way to go on my way to becoming someone who can truely appreciate all art.
And a big thanks Kristen, you were an awesome host.