Traveling Tuesdays is going to visit a place starting with the Letter ‘O’.
When I started this series of stories, I discovered there was only one country in the world that starts with the letter ‘O’ and that is Oman. I have been to Oman and I wrote about that Arabian Gulf Country in Round One. So where do were go this time? I decided to tell you a little about Ottawa, the capital city of Canada.
Ottawa is located in the province of Ontario. It is known in to Canadians as the nation’s capital. The first image that comes to mind when one mentions Ottawa is the Parliaments Buildings. The Canadian Parliament consists of the Senate and the House of Commons. These buildings were officially opened on June 6, 1866, a year ahead of Canada’s Confederation in 1867. A fire on February 3, 1916, destroyed all but the Library. Reconstruction began and was completed in 1927.
The Parliament Buildings consist of three buildings located on a hill overlooking the Ottawa River. The Centre Block houses Parliament and adjoins the Peace Tower and the Library of Parliament. The East and West blocks are both administrative buildings. The surrounding open grounds are interspersed with monuments of important political figures.
The fire broke out in the Centre Block’s House of Commons reading room. The following morning all that remained were the building’s exterior walls and the Library of Parliament. The government began rebuilding the Centre Block immediately. A decision was made to include more office space so an additional floor was added to the original design. As a result, what was left of the original walls and the foundation was demolished and rebuilt with load-bearing concrete walls and a steel frame. It took over seven years to build most of the new Centre Block, which remained incomplete until the Peace Tower was finished in 1927.
The new Centre Block was also a memorial to the Canadians who fought in World War I. There are reminders of its dedication to fallen soldiers, including a Memorial Chamber in the Peace Tower that contains a record of each soldier’s name. There is a small engraving on the west wall of the building noting the capture of Vimy Ridge, France. A new sense of Canadian identity is evident throughout the building.
The Peace Tower is the dominant feature on Parliament Hill. The flag on top is changed each day from Monday to Friday and on days when it is flown at half mast. The flag is not changed on statutory holidays or during poor weather.
The Peace Tower clock was given to Canada by the United Kingdom in 1927 marking the 60th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. The original clock no longer works and has since been replaced. Visitors to the Peace Tower can view it on display in the Tower’s observation deck.
The Memorial Chamber is a quiet room near the base of the Peace Tower. The room, dedicated to the Canadians who died in conflicts around the world, is made of marble. The Chamber’s stained glass windows show the journey of soldiers from the call of battle to the return home. The floor is made from stone collected from the battlefields of Europe: Ypres, Sommes, Vimy and Verdun, to name a few.
The Chamber contains a massive stone central altar, which holds the First World War Book of Remembrance. The altar rests on steps made of stone quarried from Flanders Fields and is surrounded by seven altars that are made of stone and bronze. Each altar holds a different Book of Remembrance. These books contain the names of the more than 118,000 Canadians who fought and died in the service of Canada.
The Books are displayed open in glass cases. At 11 o’clock every morning, one page is turned in each book during a ceremony. To mark the 100th anniversary of the First World War, the six wooden altars in Parliament Hill’s Memorial Chamber were replaced by ones made of stone and bronze. As well, to mark the 200th anniversary of the signing of the peace treaty that ended the War of 1812, a new Book of Remembrance and altar were added to the Memorial Chamber.
The National War Memorial in Ottawa is located in Confederation Square and was originally built to commemorate Canada’s sacrifice in the First World War (1914–18). It now honours all who have served Canada in wartime. Sacrifices made in the journey from war to peace are symbolized by a series of bronze figures emerging through a great arch. Overhead, two figures symbolize peace and freedom. The impressive structure includes 22 bronze figures marching through the archway.
In May 2000, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added to the memorial. The remains of this unidentified Canadian First World War soldier were exhumed from Cabaret-Rouge war cemetery in France, close to Vimy Ridge, and flown to Canada where they lay in state on Parliament Hill before being interred in the newly constructed tomb at the base of the National War Memorial. The Tomb was the scene of a violent attack on 22 October 2014, when a lone gunman shot and killed army reservist Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing on ceremonial guard at the Tomb.
I want to share two more stories about Ottawa.
One is a winter activity. Skating on the Rideau Canal. Part of this fun experience is to stop and enjoy a Beaver Tail! They taste delicious!
The other is the annual Tulip Festival held each spring. Last week I told you about the Dutch Royal Family and the people of the Netherlands each sending 10,000 tulip bulbs to Ottawa every year.
The Gift is planted in two flower beds in Ottawa. One bed, at the Ottawa Hospital, Civic Campus, pays tribute to the birth of Princess Margriet. The other is the Queen Juliana Gift Bed in Commissioners Park. The tulips planted in these beds are in shades of pink and purple – Juliana’s favourite colours.
The Canadian Tulip Festival is held each year in May. This year the festival starts on May 10, and goes until May 20, 2019. Tulips are planted throughout the city. The largest display of tulips is found in Commissioners Park on the shores of Dow’s Lake, and along the Rideau Canal with 250,000 tulips planted there. Millions of tulips set the stage for a celebration of art, cultural, historic, culinary and family tulip experiences at various venues across the capital.
No matter when you visit Ottawa there is always lots to see and do. I hope I have given you a taste of what you can enjoy while visiting the Canadian National Capital in Ottawa, Ontario.
Be sure and return next week as Traveling Tuesdays visits a place beginning with the Letter ‘P’.