I thought the same – why on earth would you go to Winnipeg?! That mid-size city somewhere in Manitoba in the middle of nowhere. Even my Canadian friends where really baffled by my travel plans. But I could hardly say I had “done” Canada if I only checked out Toronto, right? Plus, we did have friends there that would make perfect hosts & tour guides. So off I went to wonderful Winnipeg. And, believe it or not, it was totally worth it!
The restaurant scene is pretty good and we even found a veggie-friendly Burger place called Boon Burger (pssst: they make the most delicious vegan Poutine you can imagine!) It was a real treat. I’m not even going to mention their veggie hot-dogs and soy milk shakes...
There are also some fantastic food stalls and shops, where you find everything from Matcha Lattes to Russian dolls, at The Forks Market. That whole area reminded me a lot of Covent Garden in London – a really pretty place to spend a Saturday indulging in good food & enjoying some live music.
Winnipeg city is best discovered on foot. My favorite walk is from The Forks all the way along the river to the Palais Legislatif. If you feel like practicing your French, check out Saint Boniface. It’s a very pretty place in the French Quarter with lovely cafes and great views over the city which makes for a nice walk along the river in the evenings. That said, if you are anywhere near that river in the warmer months, bring some insect repellent! I got eaten alive...
Granted, the city center is really tiny and there’s not an awful lot of shopping going on either although there are some malls outside the city. On the upside they do have a department store called Hudson’s Bay which is probably the equivalent to Macy’s in The States and I got some great bargains there.
The highlight of my time in Winnipeg was, however, the Canadian Museum of Human Rights. Hands down one of the best museums I’ve ever been to! It covers all major events in our recent history where human rights were an issue, not just in Canada but all over the world. From native Indians & Inuit, slave trade, apartheid and World War II up until today where there are still people being oppressed all around the world for their religious believes, the color of their skin or simply because of their gender or sexual orientation. The inter-active exhibitions were fascinating and moving at the same time – a great lesson in human history.
It was incredible to learn about what mankind is able to do – the good and the bad. How we treat others, mostly minorities without knowing their story or anything about their cultural background or their past – we judge them just because we see them as “different”. And that – judgment – was often all it took to create oppression, unfair treatment and wars over the past centuries. On the other side many of the exhibitions also celebrate the achievements of the people who fought for change.
The museum itself is an architectural masterpiece! From the outside as well as from within - go to the top level for a beautiful view over the city. In order to get from one exhibition to the next you will walk through long winding corridors which almost resemble a maze. I'm not sure what the architect's inspiration for this was but I imagine it like this: just like those corridors, life isn't always one straight line. It's going up and down and back and forth and you may as well get lost for a while , but if you remember what's worth fighting for -compassion, equality, peace & love- then you will come out on top - or in this case arrive at the next level of the exhibition.
Granted, it is an intense experience but to me it was well worth the visit.
If this museum was in Toronto or Vancouver, everybody would be talking about it! But it's awesome that it's not. You know why? Because it helps putting Winnipeg on the maps of the world as a wonderful tourist destination.
So next time you find yourself in the middle of Canada go and check out Winnipeg! And don't forget to try the (vegan) Poutine*!
Lots of love,
*Poutine: national Canadian comfort food - fries with cheese and gravy. Exactly.