Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Blast from the past!

ONE of the things I liked most about eastern Canada (and USA) and looked forward to upon my triumphant return, is the history.  Sure sure, if you travel Europe, like I did in '02, '08 and '09... you'll see medieval castles, walled cities, ancient churches, Roman bridges, cobble stoned roads and really really old people!

I've stayed in pensions and hostales and hotels that were hundreds of years old, maybe even had foundations dating back a thousand years.  By contrast, Calgary buildings are dated in decades and in between we have the Maritime's. 

It's not unusual to see a sign proclaiming "founded in 1767".

Take the Fortress of Louisburg as one example.  Back in the day when French and English colonists were setting across ocean voyages in leaky, rotted wooden sailing vessels that were barely adequate for an English channel crossing, thousands of Frenchmen and women, Scots, Irish, Brits, Portuguese, Spaniards and others were sailing for weeks on storm tossed Atlantic waters, to the "New World". 

These colonists were either skilled in some trade, farmers, shipbuilders, slaves or explorers who, for some reason or other, made the dreadful crossing.  Hundreds of ships were lost in storms, ground to pulp on sandbars or otherwise simply vanished without a trace.

In 1713, three hundred years ago, France, attempting to ward off their English counterparts, who were just as determined to make the new found land their own... began the laborious process of constructing an immense fortress on the SE corner of Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia/New Scotland.)  This fortress was to house colonists and re-enforce their claim on New France.

Bleak, windswept, lacking clean sources of water, lumber to fuel the new colony, where nary a vegetable would grow, this lonely outpost thousands of miles from the homeland was to be the bastion of French dominion.  In its brief history it was lost to the British twice, when finally the Union Jack dispatched the upstart Frenchies on the continent. 

To be posted to this place must have been hell for the soldiers and common folk.


Today, about twenty percent rebuilt... it still looks sombre and bleak, laying just feet above high tide and open to the North Atlantic.

I've visited Louisburg several times over the years and still enjoy wandering the streets, hearing the guides in period costume explain the intricacies of life on the virtual frontier of civilizations. 

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