Old and New in Winnipeg

by Peter Morrell on 20 January 2014, 11:01AM

Aboutmygeneration.com Peter Morrell goes on a spectacular rail journey and finds Winnipeg is full of very interesting revelations.

Many people have told me about the ‘Hermetic Code’ of the Manitoba Legislative Building in Winnipeg, Canada. The building, at the geographic centre of North America, is based on the layout of King Solomon’s Temple and ancient symbols are hidden in plain view. Add to this the imminent opening of the Museum for Human Rights; it made the city a highly attractive destination to visit. To enhance the adventure even more my wife and I travelled the 1,250 miles from Toronto to Winnipeg by train on VIA Rail’s service, The Canadian. There is a four-hour stopover before the train continues west to Vancouver giving through passengers the chance explore the city on a bus tour, so we hopped on board to get acquainted with the location of the main sights before settling in for our three-day visit.

The Ark of the Covenant on the Manitoba Legislative Building

Our first stop was the new Museum for Human Rights, which we would hear a lot more about later. Next was the St Boniface church where the spiritual leader of the Métis people, Louise Riel, is buried. The Métis are a distinct ethnic group in Canada; the result of marriages between the Canadian First Nations people and settlers from France and the UK.

The Leo Mol Sculpture Garden

A short ride out of town is the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden in Assiniboine Park, home to more than 300 works of this prolific, world-renowned artist. Mol, a Ukrainian by birth, sculpted many of the 20th century’s most famous people. The tour ended back at the railway station and we strolled to and we strolled to The Forks in the heart of its vibrant downtown.

Old Rail Carriage at The Forks

The Forks area has a history dating back 6,000 years and sits at the confluence of the Assiniboine and the Red River. Railway company buildings have now been converted to a vibrant mix of shops and restaurants selling all sorts of local produce, clothes and souvenirs. We were tempted by the stall selling handmade Ukrainian Pierogi dumplings and cabbage rolls, a hint of Winnipeg’s multi-culinary heritage.

Restaurant in the Exchange District

An exciting afternoon lay ahead as we were taking the Hermitic Code Tour of the Manitoba Legislative Building, the main catalyst for our visit. The architect, freemason Frank Worthington Simon designed and built a new King Solomon’s Temple, with dramatic symbols ‘hidden in plain sight’. From the decoration on the exterior with Christian, Greek, Egyptian, Babylonian and Jewish iconography to the use of the Fibonacci sequence, Golden Ratio and Sacred Geometry in the design, you know that this is something special. Inside, the huge main staircase, of three sets of thirteen steps, is guarded by the statues of two huge bison while the faces of Athena and Medusa stare down at you. At the top of the stairs, under the dome, is a circular balustrade that looks into a lower chamber. Ahead was a mural by Frank Brangwyn, the British artist; the painting showing half hidden images of Christ and the Virgin Mary.

The Bison in the Manitoba Legislative Building

To the left a peek through a set of double doors revealed a room 20 cubits square, the biblical measure of Solomon’s Temple’s most sacred room, the ‘Holy of Holies’. Outside, above the window of this room, was a stone war chest resembling the Ark of the Covenant, which traditionally rested in the temple’s inner sanctum. Finally we descended into the lower chamber, known as the Pool of the Black Star. I stood on the Star, my voice sounded muffled like I was under water, a strange and inexplicable experience. Presiding over all of this, at the top of the dome, was the golden statue of Hermes, messenger of the Gods and guide to the underworld. The tour had more than lived up to all its expectations.

Gandhi outside the Museum for Human Rights

Winnipeg grew from an influx of immigrants, both from North America and further afield, and the city still has an upbeat, pioneering spirit about it. The arrival of this diverse mix of people has left an indelible stamp on its cuisine, as we discovered on an early evening foodie tour of the Exchange District. The architecture in this district is why the city is called the Chicago of the North. The tour, ‘Devour the District’ started in the Old Market Square, a hive of activity preparing for the Winnipeg Jazz Festival, one of the city’s many music events.  We moved from French to sushi and Latin American to pizzas in a few blocks, it was an excellent culinary showcase. This high standard continued the following evening with dinner at the Deseo Bistro. Chef Scott Bagshaw distinctive tapas menu included a memorable dish of chorizo and figs in a punchy oriental sauce.

Museum for Human Rights

Opening on 20 September 2014, the new Museum for Human Rights is Canada’s first Federal museum to be built outside of the capital Ottawa. The museum has a striking appearance, designed by award-winning architect Antoine Predock and it takes visitors from darkness to light. We toured the outside, which gave us an insight into this forthcoming attraction. Starting at the ‘Roots’ of the structure visitors ascend via a series of bridges, that are enclosed in glass walls shaped like the folded wings of a dove, to a 23 storey Tower of Hope. Its presence is already having a major impact on the city.

Sir William Stephenson, The original James Bond

Sadly our time in Winnipeg was over and we had enjoyed every minute of it. Travelling to the city by train had been a highlight and our stay had been packed with countless fascinating cultural and culinary experiences, and the surprising revelation that it was the home town of the real James Bond and Winnie the Pooh.

For more information about holidays to Winnipeg, visit www.travelbag.co.uk

To find out more about Winnipeg go to www.tourismwinnipeg.com

Author bio: Peter Morrell is editor of www.aboutmygeneration.com & www.culturalvoyager.com

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