Vancouver, 6 September 1893

Vancouver is of a fully American vintage as the area now covered by the city had been dense jungle in 1885 that had to make way for the small but rapidly growing settlement. Six years after its foundation, the settlement could already be declared a city which now has 20.000 inhabitants and is besides the capital Victoria the most important city of British Columbia as the endpoint of the Canadian Pacific railway and starting point of the transoceanic steamer lines to  Japan and China continuously gains in importance and is in pole position in the fish and wood trade of the North.

The construction stages of Vancouver followed the often described American pattern: first roads, then electric lighting and finally domestic buildings. The latter, incredibly sketchy and for the most part built out of wood can be divided into two groups: They are either „practical buildings“ and thus nothing more than boxes for keeping humans and their possessions or they are „beautiful buildings“ that resemble with their turrets, bays and red paint, an output of a complete lack of taste and constructed in villa style, the houses children put together out of the material from the well known building block kits. These villas are often surrounded by tiny gardens of only a few square meters where the lawn is well tended and appears in a luxurious green. Cities such as Vancouver consist of a core of houses that contain shops and public buildings. Having passed through them, the regular rows of houses end as often only one or two buildings stand in a long-winded avenue with an overblown name. In between is land for sale and the roots of chopped giant trees and the remains of burned trees emerge out of the dense weed.

Such a community makes for a very chastening impression as it immediately shows that its inhabitants are only directed towards profit, the quick earning of money and organize their lives only according to this task and are bereft of the sense for beauty or comfort. What is not profitable, public structures, avenues etc, is mostly discarded. Instead the electric railway whizzes through the streets and many thousands of telegraph and telephone wires are hovering over our heads.  Everybody rushes to do business, urges and hastes. One does not see happy faces. Friends rush past each other without a heartfelt greeting as this would cost them time. Sometimes dubious figures or ragged Indians can be seen in the streets whereas the latter offer a disgusting sight in their degeneration totally ruined by the consumption of fire water and in nothing resemble their proud ancestors, the former owners of this land.

The streets in the most central part of the city of Vancouver are covered with tarmac, all others with much dirt. The sidewalks consist of strong planks of the most beautiful cedar wood. Public buildings have been constructed according to the local taste very quickly and in no less than pleasing form such as the  court of justice, multiple schools etc.

The largest landmark of Vancouver is Stanley Park, a reserve Reserve on a peninsula surrounded by sea bays which still has part of the gorgeous ancient trees that are protected here from profiteering utilization.

The path to the long wooden bridge that connects Vancouver to the park over a sea arm shows on both sides how the splendid jungle are cleared here. A ruthless war of annihilation is undertaken against these 500 to 600 year old cedars, thujas and Douglas fir trees that have reached a height of more than 100 m and a circumference of the trunk of 8 to 10 m and now have to make way so that space can be cleared. The most gorgeous wood that would represent a fabulous value at home is used here to almost exclusively as fuel for locomotives. In most cases a forest is burned down as the saw and the ax are not working fast enough. It hurts to see these mighty patriarchs of the wood be destroyed in vain and on thousands of hectares to see only the remains of former beautiful stocks as withered trunks rising into the sky that are charred at the bottom.

Fire kills these giants that are then, if necessary, cut down and completely burnt. The digging out of the roots means the final step of making the soil fit for agriculture. The cleared ground then remains fallow for multiple years before it is plowed and cultivated. In the whole surrounding area of Vancouver is full of smoke and glimmer. Everywhere one hears the ax strike and even there where there is currently no prospect of starting cultivation at the moment the wood is still burned down by fire in the mean time so that the obstacle is removed for all future eventualities.

After these images of destruction the eye refreshes itself by the sight of the splendid forest of the Stanley Park, the trunks full of ancient force that had set roots here hundreds of years before and under which only the elk and the bear moved while only rarely the steps of a redskin or the call of a wapiti interrupt the deep silence. Now there are everywhere beautiful paths and English inscriptions that prohibit hunting or any kind of destruction and announce the names of various parts of the park. Pale ladies drive around under the the trees for a stroll or arrange picknicks under the shady tree cover. Many of the tree giants has grown over-mature in time, its trunk foul in the interior and the tree top dead but it still remains standing for a human lifetime, imposing by its huge dimensions. One of these dead colossi has a circumference of 12 to 16 m, so that 12 persons can comfortably be accommodated in its interior. We see here cedars, thujas, Douglas and other fir trees, especially the beautiful balsam fir (Abies balsamea) with blueish-gray leaves on the lower side as well as spruces.

Even though the giant trees stand in rather close proximity and thus permit little light to penetrate, the undergrowth is extremely luxurious. We meet here  particularly tree and bush species that are common in Europe too such as maple, alder, hazelnut, poplar, willow etc. Noticeable is the mighty growth of the raspberry and blueberry bushes that form almost small trees and from which one could even make cuttings. Long moss and lichen hang picturesquely from the lower tree branches and the thick entanglement of the undergrowth. The park is enlivened by the numerous channels and bays where one can spot large salmons jump into the air. The mountainous mainland of Canada on the opposite side creates an effective background for the park.

As there was no game in the park despite the hunting prohibition, a zoo has been created at the exit — apparently as a replacement —  in which two American black bears (Baribal, Ursus americanus), two beautiful sea eagles with snow white heads and tails as well as a much harried monkey were living in their cages.

After this truly enjoyable excursion I returned to the city to watch for some time the  outstanding games of some members of the Lawn Tennis Club. I would have gladly joined the game but I lacked the courage given the skills displayed here.

Links

  • Location: Vancouver, Canada
  • ANNO – on 06.09.1893 in Austria’s newspapers.
  • The k.u.k. Hof-Burgtheater is closed for summer until 15 September. The k.u.k. Hof-Operntheater is performing the opera „Aida“.

 

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