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Reports

Saturday, 5 July 2003
on the train --> Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada

That train I got on last night actually arrived later that night, on already the next day, at 12.30 AM at night in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Saskatoon will be my hosting town for a few days this week.


I had the fortune to have hosts who could pick me up. Not only help at this time of the night was already surprising to me, but also that fact that they could pick me up all the way at the train station.

If you are a non-North-American like me you might find it hard to understand that the Saskatoon train station is in the middle of nowhere, way out in the farmland, at some 20 kilometres from the city the station is named after.

In other words: the central train station of Saskatoon is not in Saskatoon at all.

When I got off the train I walked along the concrete platform (as far as I can call it a platform) to this high ceiling block building down the track (the train is some 30 cars long). In hat building, somewhat the size of a basketball field, was a waiting area with some seat, a VIA Rail counter and a table. On the table freshly dripped coffee was waiting for anybody interested.

I almost wanted to knock on my head. Free coffee? At a train station? Just like that? "Have some if you want," the one person employer at the station said.

For people living in Saskatchewan who might travel to Europe in the future: don't ever expect free coffee at the Amsterdam train station in The Netherlands (however you might get a coupon for a drink when your train is more than two hours too late, which occurs way more often)

Within half an hour after my arrivals my first Saskatoon hosts Darlene and Dave Stuttard picked me up. It was absolutely no problem to pick me up at this remote station at this time of the night. They were already happy if they could help me out with a stay in Saskatoon by inviting me over!

Around 2 AM we were relaxing in the living room of their northern suburban home, crunching on pieces of fresh fruit that Darlene had prepared, while Dave interrogated me about my travels.

Darlene had once seen me on Vicki Gabereau's talkshow. "I never watch that show and one morning I was ironing and that show was on. I immediately invited you over!"

However because she has a slow pre-internet computer connected to the internet, she can hardly read my website through her high speed connection. "Everything gets really slow and crashed when I visit a few web pages only," she said.

It was time to head to bed and wake up at a more appropriate time this morning. The Stuttards had shown me around and given me the guest room. Darlene and Dave sleep in separate bedrooms themselves. "Dave is one of the world's biggest snorers, so you might need your ear plugs tonight."


The ear plugs weren't necessary after all. I woke up after a great sleep in. It was Saturday, so the entire house had slept in. In the downstairs kitchen Dave prepared me a good filling breakfast-lunch bite.

As I had just arrived in Saskatoon, Darlene ordered Dave to drive me around and show me the city, while she went shopping for groceries.

I later found out that Darlene always does the grocery shopping on her own. "When all our kids had left the house, Dave suddenly asked me if he could come along with my grocery shopping." Darlene looked at me with big eyes when she told me this. "I said 'Why do you suddenly want to come with me, you haven't done any groceries in the last twenty years!'" I had a good laugh about that with her.

Saskatoon all started on the banks of the South Saskatchewan River that goes through the hard of a vast wheat-growing province. Saskatoon itself is a commercial, manufacturing and distribution centre with a population of around 236,000.

Saskatoon is Saskatchewan's biggest city, but here in Canada people have the uncommon habit that always the second biggest city becomes capital of the province, otherwise there is even less of a reason to go there (take Ottawa as an example for the nation's capital, Toronto is much bigger!). The capital city of Saskatchewan is the second and last city of the province, Regina.

Ontario Methodist founded the town as a self-control colony in 1883 and named it after the purple berry that grows in the region, but in spite of their enthusiasm the new settlement made an extremely slow start, probably because farming was quite unfamiliar to them and partly because the Northwest Rebellion in 1890 raised fears of Indian hostilities.

When the railroad reached the city centre (!) in 1890, there were still only 13 inhabitants at the beginning of the twentieth century. In the next decade, however, there was a sudden invasion of European and American settlers that the city expanded so the city became to be dominated by a group of entrepreneurs nicknamed 'boomers', under which management Saskatoon became the economic focus of the region.

Somehow, sometime, the people in Saskatoon seemed to have enough of the train tracks that cut the city centre in halves and got rid of the entire transport system. That might explain that lost train station out of town. What once was the train station, is now the entrance of the big shopping mall Midtown Plaza.

Dave drove me around to show me various sights of the city and told me lots of factual information about almost everything we saw, but when we got to the University campus where he started to name and explain every single building I had to calm him down a bit. Spare the effort, I said, some details I won't ever remember anyway and too much info only works mind-numbing. He understood that.

"Many people shop at malls out of town, so not many people walk through town here," Dave explained when I noticed a rather quiet city centre on this Saturday. We crossing the river and drove along the University of Saskatchewan grounds and went up and down Broadway Avenue, the "cultural centre" with theatres, alternative shops and cafés.

To be out of the house for another while, we settled on having a few beers in a local pub where Dave liked to look at the young people while he asked me questions about my travels so far.

Back home Darlene was already preparing dinner. Dave put a big plate of ribs on the barbecue and during our evening meal we enjoyed watching the Comedy Channel on the kitchen television.

Later this evening I connected my laptop to their internet connection and checked out which problems Darlene had with her computer. I told her that already a few hundred megabytes of virtual memory would speed up her computer considerably. And I let her update her pc with a visit to windowsupdate.com, where anybody can check if your computer is up-to-date and safe against hackers and if necessary get free updates.

Darlene went to bed early, while Dave watched some television in the basement television room. I was hooked on the net and wrote you this all at the end of the night.

Good night Saskatoon!

Ramon.