Category: EVENTS

Greek Fest 2014 Victoria BC, Canada

My recent visit to this year’s Greek Fest 2014 Victoria BC, Vancouver Island. There is an estimated 100 Greek families in Greater Victoria who keep the Greek culture and traditions alive. Of which, best of course, are their traditional dances and the wonderful food – authentic succulent roasted lamb (with rice and salad), souvlakis and the great many delicious Greek pastries like Baklava, Koulouria and more. Not to forget the original Greek Coffee brewed to old tradition like Turkish Coffee, using the brass briki (the pot) Greek coffee is a strong brew, served with foam on top and the grounds in the bottom of the cup. Although it can be made in a different pot, the traditional small pot is best because it allows the proper amount of foam , very tasty.

The day was hot and special attractions included the many Greek dance groups from Canada and Athens, Greece. I love the Greek music. Of interest were also all the old and original artifacts still in the possession of the Greek families, exhibited in the adjacent Heritage Centre.

Very enjoyable weekend and lots of sunshine. [I didn’t stay to the end because I was there by bicycle, around 12km ride one way and then back again to Victoria City.] My video clips show various popular and also widely travelled dance groups, including the ELKELAM Dance Group from Athens Greece, the Dionysos Greek Dancers from Edmonton and from Calgary, both Alberta, Canada, and Diaspora Greek Dancers from Vancouver.

Salt Spring Island visit

Visiting Salt Spring Island Saturday Market. [ ].These are the biggest market days with lots of entertainment, happening on the largest of the Gulf Islands between Vancouver Island and the mainland British Columbia. From Victoria BC Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal (see also my last post on BC Ferries – [ ]) take the smaller ferry (vehicles and foot passengers) to Salt Spring. As this is a weekend and despite the market day is big and promises lots of visitors to the island, the ferry was 30 minutes late to leave the dock. Resulting in – on the island side – missing the local bus from Fulford Harbour to Ganges (about 20 km) [ ]. That is where the market unfolds. I was lucky in meeting a couple of nice ladies on the ferry who gave me a ride in their car from Fulford to Ganges. No parking there. Met them later again, they told me they did not find parking for almost one hour. So when you drive, it is quite expensive for ferry services (vehicle plus driver almost C$50), vs. walking onto Ferry (C$12). Secondly difficult to find parking anywhere near Ganges. The Market Days are always very busy. I decided early afternoon to take the bus from Ganges back to the Harbour for one of the ferries – that one also came in 30 minutes late. Lucky I had left my own car on the other side Swartz Bay Terminal (24 hr rate is C$12). To drive home to Victoria.

Why is it that in that community west of Victoria BC so many attacks are happening on cyclists enjoying a ride on the ‘Galloping Goose’ (name of our Western cycling trails) and also on folks just enjoying a peaceful walk on the same trails ?
Just yesterday I was on my bicycle in that same area around the time in the morning – it was after 10 AM – where close by another female cyclist was attacked on her mountain bike,  pushed off and the bicycle was stolen. [ ].
Since this where the actual cycling trails are nearby is a distance from my home – downtown Victoria – I had taken the BC Transit bus out to the western communities (loading my mountain bike on the bus), then got off at Colwood, near Langford, and starting from there on my bike.
Not long ago there were some more attacks reported – cougars spotted around Langford and the ‘Galloping Goose’ (one of the big cats roaming there was eventually shot), [ ] , and another female walking on that trail had also been attacked [ ].
I cycle a lot, alone, and consider myself lucky to be still alive (with all that heavy traffic especially outside the city core areas, and the lonely Galloping Goose cycling trails going thru some pretty wilderness areas). So, what is the matter with that Langford ? When I cycle on the other trails going north of Victoria up to Sidney, always safe.

BC Ferries & Vancouver Island

Living on Vancouver Island [] , there is no other way to get off the island other than by ferry. BC Ferries [ ] is one of the largest of such ferry operation in the world. The vessels are massive by any standard (I have seen other ferry operations in Europe, to compare). BC Ferries has a large fleet of different sizes vessels [ ].
Because Vancouver Island is mainly formed from rocks, above and under the water, negotiating large vessels requires good technology and expert handling. In addition, the presence of under water gas lines (see also Vancouver Island Pipeline marine rights of way,
Interesting points: It has happened in the past that a crossing has had its problems, either the vessel not being able to stop in time and hit the dock at the arrival area (example: [ ]. Or more serious, when in 2006 the Queen of the North (fifth largest in the fleet) collided with under water rocks and sank, with 101 people on board, mostly saved, two lost – never found. [ ].

I always enjoy taking a ferry trip to one of the Gulf Islands, Strait of Georgia, between mainland BC and Vancouver Island. Last weekend my trip to Salt Spring Island. (see also: next post on Salt Spring Island). Left my car at Ferry Terminal parking (cost of car on Ferry is C$35 + C$12 for passenger/driver, quite expensive for 35 minutes crossing). Disadvantage to not crossing with car is to have to rely on public transport at each end. That weekend the ferry was 30 minutes late both ways. Buses must run on schedule, meaning no ready transport from terminal harbour to town sites. Yet, the major ferries between Vancouver Island and the mainland (Vancouver) are usually on schedule.


[ ]

Couple of days ago (June 2014), near a popular walk/bike trail west of Victoria, BC. Knowing cougars, quite obviously when the big cat went towards the woman (who reported she was chased) the woman started running, triggering the natural instinct of a big cat and run after her. Was that really necessary to shoot the animal ?
According to today’s interview with Wildlife authorities, to tranquilize a wild animal and ship it back into wild and less populated areas is too stressful.
I know this area very well and I cycle a lot on that trail alone, and I always watch up and above along the rocks lining this section of trail – cats like to hang out high on rocks. Never had the opportunity to spot a cougar. On Vancouver Island encounters are although rare but happen time and again.
I am against the practice of killing a wild animal like the cougar, especially in our areas where there are cougars all around us and try to survive in the close vicinity of too highly populated areas like Langford, Western Communities.
(See also my post on cougars Vancouver Island: [ ])

I had decided by the end of 2006 to do a end-of-the-year Christmas cruise. At that time I had chosen Celebrity Cruises, on the Zenith. Zenith – this was an older ship and has been retired since – and Horizon were the first ships introduced to the Celebrity fleet
[ ].
The cruise was around 5 nights, embarking from Tampa, FL, ports of call including Nassau – Bahamas, Philipsburg – St. Maarten, San Juan – Puerto Rico, Key West, FL, past Miami and ending in port Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Both my flight to Tampa and from the disembarkation at Ft. Lauderdale, FL, were from Vancouver, BC.
As far as the ship itself goes, what I observed and experienced was not what I would call a nice, exciting and interesting Christmas cruise. The food had been standard as far as I recall. The cabin – being this was an older ship – started to take water soon after departure, such that I had to call a steward to pump it out. At night after dark, on the upper decks, unfortunately one could see the roaches running up the walls. Who knows, maybe my cabin on a low interior deck was close to the kitchen as well ? Effort had been put into preparing a real fancy Christmas dinner and Buffet including large fanciful ice sculptures decorating the tables. The towns of the ports of call were pretty much empty around this time of year. Maybe not a good idea to expect a shore excursion during that season to be worthwhile.

The “from hell” comment does not really refer only to the cruise and ship portion, but what followed after disembarkation once arrived at Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The ‘Flight from Hell’. (Dates: Approx. between 21 and 23 December 2006.)
The flight back to Vancouver was to take off from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to Dallas, Fort Worth Airport, TX, then on to Vancouver, BC, which should have gotten me safely in one day back to Vancouver. Instead, we had gotten into the middle of a hurricane. All regular planes wanting to touch down at Dallas Fort Worth Airport [ ] could not do so and had to be re-routed to Shreveport, LA. [,-93.828496,469m/data=!3m1!1e3 ].
Prior to landing the pilot had to wait for approval by the control towers and circle the air plane for quite some time (with advice that we are running low on fuel). Terrible feeling. Lots of families on board with smaller children.
Upon touch down and due to extreme airport security, we could not leave the air plane for five (5) hours. Even more terrible situation, as there was no water left on board, toilets could not be used and were all clocked up, children were crying.
Shreveport is a smaller airport, with a few landing strips only (most re-routed larger planes that night had to find a place to set down somewhere). When eventually leaving the plane, all passengers had to walk in those hurricane winds and heavy rain to the Airport building across a length of tarmac.

Then waiting in endlessly long lines for a solution. Where to go and spend the night. The airline American Airlines company eventually gave each passenger US$20 to spend the night in a motel. Twenty dollars for one night ? you must be kidding. It cost much more. I spend a terrible noisy night in there in that sleazy place. Next morning up early, some breakfast, then to the Terminal Hall and check out when to leave.

By noon finally we were allowed to leave (after re-fuelling the plane) and go on to Dallas Fort Worth Airport. There a situation like during a war. Passengers in all halls on the floor in sleeping bags (some had spend already days at that airport). Waiting for planes. To go home. Vancouver announced late that afternoon.
Amazing to observe passengers’ reactions. The first to crack were usually men, also presumably people who never experienced a war. I myself found the entire experience during those days and nights rather amusing. I went through an entire war, WWII, from start to end as a very young child. This here was nothing to me !

Lucky I had met earlier some nice people on board the ship, we shared some chocolate (the only food for a day and a night for us) while waiting in lines at that airport.
Anyways, finally got my return flight to Vancouver, landing at midnight. Another night at a hotel at Vancouver Airport. Next morning finally caught the ferry back home to Victoria, Vancouver Island.
Thanks for that trip !

Continuation of Part One {Alberta-Montreal}. Québec, still the largest province within Canada, and also the name of its Capital, La Ville de Québec/Quebec City. Situated high up on Cap Diamant, and looking down on the mighty St. Laurent River. Quebec, the cradle of French civilization in North America, distinct from the rest of Canada’s subdivision areas in terms of language and culture – French.
Why I love its capital city La Ville de Québec is, because of its special charm and uniqueness. Founded over 400 years ago in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain [ ], the city today has still retained its many stone walls and structures. Built high up (I believe 200 steps to climb up to La Haute Ville – the upper city), winters can tend to present a challenge. Therefore, houses have largely steeply slanted metal roofs, so that the ice and snow can slide off easily. When visiting the city in 2002 (previous visits during 1986), I slept overnight in my mini van somewhere at a quiet outside area. No problem.
When I visited again in 2008 for the 400 year celebrations of that city, I also took the time to check out some real estate. Amazingly, some of the old stone churches (Quebec is largely catholic) had been converted to condominiums. I walked up one such with an agent. It is narrow and with a steep staircase to the upper floor bedroom. A challenge as well !
My visit in August 2008 was one month long. I had then rented a suite with kitchen in one of the University of Quebec dorm buildings, E.Fleurie Uni. Quebec. Wonderful experience, all new modern furniture and kitchen, very nice admin staff on site. I paid $200 a week. Nearby the main Library (La Bibliotheque de Quebec rue Saint-Joseph Est, La Roche. Quebec has one of the largest networks of higher education institutes and universities in Canada. Also nearby a Dollar store. Very handy. Daily trips to Upper City (Haute Ville), climbing either steep streets or stairs built into the rock structures, returning to Lower City (Basse Ville). The city’s historical old walled-in section is in contrast to the other large modern buildings that make up this historical Capital. La Ville de Quebec has also one of the most beautiful and unique train stations.
In 2008 during the 400-celebrations of the city, daily activities (extending throughout the entire year 2008) fantastic sights , celebrations and presentations with folks from all over the world performing and visiting. Special events included the Grand Military Tattoo with many visiting international bands, and for the first time out of their country The Russian Army Choir and Parade Band. Because of their beautiful music everybody followed the Russians (like “Der Rattenfänger von Hameln”) back to their buses.
Couple of slide shows from this extended visit to Quebec in 2008 – incl. side trips to the Chutes de Montmorency (water falls) and north to Tadoussac, whale watching. [ ]

Sochi Olympic Winter Games 2014

I am sure this will be a super Winter Games. Exotic location by the Black Sea, “Russian Riviera”. My last visit to one of the resorts by the Black Sea was in 1967 – long time ago. Varna, Bulgaria. That was the week of the 7-day (Israel/Arab) war in June 1967. We arriving from the Netherlands, which was pro-Israel, wanting to also visit Odessa, Russia. But no can do ! Because of that war. Instead, at that time we took the boat to Istanbul, Turkey.

Now Sochi [ ] very near the Georgian border also on the Black Sea. There is good things, and there is bad: The Good – shortly before the end of last year, the Russian Parliament has accorded Amnesty to close to 25,000 prisoners, many of those political opponents of the Regime. (Appreciated gesture.) And many newly constructed super facilities and resort hotels. The Bad – the Head of Russia is now accused of corruption as by-product of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games, in the order of close to 30 billion dollar. (But then again, who is not ?) [Needs to be verified.]. More bad are the expected threats to the Games. Latest news: [ _news/2014/01/23/22418216-pentagon-will-send-two-warships-into-black-sea-in-case-of-olympic-terror –]

I like the Sochi official web site for the Games = [ ]. Neat little videos showing the mascots. Among those, the Leopard.

The Amur Leopard (from the most easterly Amur region of Russia by the Pacific) one  of the very endangered wildlife species. Also, my most recent symbolic adoption on behalf of the World Wildlife Fund (I have a half a dozen of those adoptions). Almost the same day that I adopt my beautiful Amur Leopard, one more of those charismatic big cats has been killed in China [ ]. Very distasteful, all that killing of endangered wildlife !!!amurLeopard0004

Orca – Blackfish

Blackfish” is the English translation of a word Pacific Northwest indigenous peoples gave to killer whales or Orca, holding them in respectful regard while keeping a traditional safe distance. [ ]

Myths: (1) Orca or Killer Whales are fish. No. (2) Orca are aggressive enough to attack humans. NO. The only attacks on humans, some fatal, occurred by Orca’s in captivity. This, one has to understand. (3) The large back fin of the orca always flaps over. NO. Only in orca’s in captivity. (4) The orca has one of the largest brains within the animal world. YES.

I was privileged enough to meet these wonderful creatures in 1978 when I and my little son visited Victoria, BC in Canada NW Coast, when the Marine Park SEALAND OF THE PACIFIC – Oak Bay Marina – was still in operation. One of the major attractions has been Tilikum, a big beautiful bull whale. All whales, it should be remembered, were kept in captivity in cages. They were also at that time thrown together independent of their ‘family’ or pod relationship, a dangerous concept because of frequent infighting among the animals.

Tilikum (“Tilly”) had been involved in several deadly attacks on humans. While at Sealand of the Pacific, he with two other orca’s submerged the trainer Keltie Byrne who subsequently drowned. That tells you: “do not play with 12000 lbs of killer whale assuming that they are only song birds.” These whales were frustrated with their captivity, their stressful lifestyle (kept at night in 20×30 metal pens), and the unnatural acts they were asked to perform for the public’s enjoyment. [ ]

SEALAND closed down 1993. (This facility like similar others for large marine animals had a dark history of acquiring their whales: separating them with boats from their pods and chasing them into inescapable waters, to then trap them and move them into the facility.) It is heart breaking to see how many marine parks exist on the basis of such abuse to an extremely intelligent mammal.  

Where is Tilikum now ? SEAWORLD Orlando, Florida. His life ? He lives in isolation, deeply unhappy, an intelligent animal that craves companionship and a whale family to share. The only thing it seems he shares is his semen that is collected and frozen for breeding purposes. More shocking news in a new book with interviews by former trainers= Toolbar .


The Kaltenberger Ritterturnier is the largest and longest lasting in the world. Held annually in July at Castle Kaltenberg, Geltendorf, Bavaria. It is a glorious time to spend among knights, musicians, artists and acrobats, watching archery tournaments and mingling with all sorts of folks in their medieval garments. Admiring the wonderful big horses of the knights. Not to forget the tasty down to earth food and world-famous Kaltenberg beer, brewed right here in the Castle.

The castle was built in 1292 and is currently under the proprietorship of Prince Luitpold of Bavaria, the great-grandson of the last king of Bavaria, Ludwig III. [Wikipedia]. Schloss Kaltenberg changed hands many times from 1292 until 1955 when it was returned to the House of Wittelsbach. Since 1870 part of the König Ludwig Schlossbrauerei is housed in the Schloss Kaltenberg. Over 100,000 hectoliters of beer are produced there. Prince Luitpold of Bavaria and his family currently reside in the castle. The castle also offers a ballroom for events as well as two restaurants. . [WIKIPEDIA]

In 2007 I spent several months in Munich and took the train from there to Geltendorf and up to the Castle grounds, to attend that year’s Jousting Tournament. Despite a cool day and rain starting at the begin of the Knights’ Tournament, this had been a totally enjoyable and exciting experience. For me as a horse person especially, as I have had my own horses shown, raised & trained for so many years in Alberta, Canada. The entire medieval atmosphere surrounding the grounds was uplifting.