Ottawa city guide

Ottawa? Otta-what now? Are we talking about that province in Japan? Nope, Ottawa is the Canadian capital. It's that quiet, unpopular kid in class that gets the best grades. No one notices Ottawa, because the USA, the loud and obese brat hogs all the attention. Years pass, kids graduate and Ottawa grows up to be an amazing, educated young man with a bright future. The USA still feasts on ice-cream while building walls from sticks and manure. I'm joking… but am I that far off?

It was in the 16th century that expeditions began scouting the North American continent, the French and the British called dibs on Canada. I'm fascinated by that age of discovery and the pioneers that made the very first steps on this new continent. It's chilling and hard to empathize with for a modern man. They arrived on the ships and they didn't know what to expect. Just imagine the looks on their faces: "okay, what do we do now?". The ingenuity of these people, the scavenging skills, the entrepreneurship is mind-blowing. I've watched "The Revenant" many times, so don't tell me how important the fur trade was. That and timber trade built the foundations of what we know as modern Ottawa. And now this beautiful country pioneers in different, modern matters. The standard of living, public healthcare, education, low crime rates, or being decent human beings. We could all learn from the Canadians.

Exterior view of the Great Hall, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

The National Gallery, Canada's national art museum, built of glass and granite, located opposite to the Canadian Parliament

Ottawa stands at the core of this almost-utopian country as one of the most livable and least polluted cities in the world. It also has a distinct, European feel to it. Traditions like the change of guard at the neo-gothic Parliament Building contribute to this experience. A long-standing ceremony, which might give you a little déjà vu since the guards look almost exactly like the Queens Guard in London. The building itself houses many secrets such as an impressive library, but don't miss out on exploring the surrounding area. The Centennial Flame Fountain combines water and fire to commemorate Canadas 100 years as a confederation. The Whispering Wall, a very unique sculpture is close by. It's almost 10 meters wide but its design allows for a peculiar phenomenon when two people sit at the opposite sides they can communicate via whispering. Makes you wonder if it was made like this on purpose or by accident. They say it's some science thingy with soundwaves. The entire hill complex where the Parliament stands upon feels like it was taken from a Disney movie. There are many more similarities between Ottawa and medieval European cities. The canals for example, with waterfront café's during summer and the world's longest ice rink during the winter season. Snack on fried Beaver Tails to warm yourself up, a simple pastry with toppings but people are crazy about those.

The buildings of the Canadian Parliament on Parliament Hill in Ottawa at sunset

The Canadian Parliament buildings in Gothic Revival style situated on Parliament Hill at the southern bank of the Ottawa River

Ottawa is home to plenty of museums. I visit museums only when I have no other choice or when I feel like having a good yawn. But even I would find something interesting among wonderous exhibitions in the Diefenbunker Cold War Museum or Canada Agriculture and Food Museum. But my personal favorite way to enjoy Ottawa are the haunted walks. This city has some messed up landmarks like the Old Jail, "the most haunted building" in North America. People are actually running a hostel there and you can stay the night in one of the cells. The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is the first luxury hotel built in Ottawa. Some people on Titanic were actually on the way to attend the official opening, including the commissioner. Word is his ghost patrols the corridors, checking if everything turned out to his liking. It's probably all bullshit but it adds even more character to this enchanting city.

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