Red Deer businessman Rob Saik, Founder of the Agri-Trend Group of Companies, recently had a chance to visit with Microsoft Co-Founder Bill Gates to discuss the future of Agriculture.
Saik says the seeds were sown for this meeting after he spoke at a Ted-X event in Red Deer a couple of years ago. He says the question he asked the audience that night was: “Will agriculture be allowed to feed $9 billion people?” Saik says his presentation primarily focussed on people’s misconceptions around G.M.O’s or Genetically Modified Organisms or Crops and how they are used in modern agriculture. Turns out Bill Gates actually saw that talk and then told people at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, that they too should watch the presentation. Saik says that began a whole series of events, like a book that he published that talks about agriculture technology and the development of a movie project called “Know GMO”.
Saik says his meeting with Bill Gates was organized by an off-shoot of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called “Global Good” and was held at the “Intellectual Ventures Lab” near Seattle on May 3rd. He says Gates was very knowledgeable on the subject and very keen on trying to figure out how agriculture can help solve world hunger.
In our second post featuring Rob Saik’s meeting with Bill Gates, Saik talks about the impressive list of people at the meeting and his optimism that Agricultural Science and Technology can help solve the world’s hunger issues. However, in order for that to happen, Saik says people need to know more about the good that G.M.O. or Genetically Modified Organisms or foods can do.
My European Favourites: Český Krumlov
Český Krumlov is the most picturesque medieval town in the Czech Republic, and one of the best small town destinations in Central Europe. Český Krumlov is located in the South Bohemia Region of the Czech Republic about a two hour drive directly south from Prague and only thirty minutes from the nearby city of Ceske Budejovice. It is only about thirty kilometers from the Austrian border, and Linz is only an hour away. It is a natural stop from Prague to Salzburg, and we frequently stay in Ceske Budejovice, where many of our hockey groups play games or train at former NHL and Czech hockey star, Jaroslav Pouzar’s arena.
Český Krumlov’s old town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is nestled in between a meandering river and is surrounded by lush green hills and a towering castle above. With narrow cobblestone streets and a mixture of baroque and renaissance architecture, this could be the backdrop to any fairytale.
After we enter the town, we will park our bus across the street from a little park, called the Deer Garden, that is dwarfed by the back side of the Český Krumlov Castle. To get up to the castle, there is a path at an incline just on the right of the park or there are stairs up to the castle located at the back right of the park.
Once you reach the top, on the right you will find the eleven hectare castle garden. The garden includes a cascade fountain, an outdoor amphitheatre with a revolving auditorium, the Bellaria summer palace and the castle’s winter riding hall, which is now used to host special events.
If we go left instead of going into the park, a few steps away is a small gated entrance to a terrace that you should not miss. The terrace offers a spectacular panorama of the river, the town below, the castle on the left and the surrounding area. Your camera will be busy here and, at times, you will have numerous people jockeying for position to get that perfect shot. Please note that the terrace is not always open in the evening.
Český Krumlov Castle
The Český Krumlov Castle dates back to 1240 when it was built by the Witigonen (Vitkovci) dynasty. In 1302, the Rosenberg dynasty became owners of the castle, and you will see their family’s five petalled rose logo at various locations throughout the city. In 1622, the castle was transferred to the Austrian Eggenberg family who expanded the castle, including adding the unique baroque theatre that bears their name. Today, the local brewery in Český Krumlov is named after the Eggenbergs. The Schwarzenberg family took over the castle from 1719 until 1947 when it was transferred to the Czechoslovak state. The castle complex, with five courtyards, is listed as a Czech National Monument and is listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
What would an old castle be without a good ghost story? In medieval times, the appearance of a White Lady during the day or night was an omen that someone in the family would soon die. At the Český Krumlov Castle, legend has it that the castle is haunted by their own White Lady, Perchta of Rosenberg. Her husband treated her poorly and on his death bed he asked her for forgiveness. She refused and her husband cursed her. Since her death, her ghost has haunted her former husband’s estates including the castle.
When we leave the photo terrace, we cross the fifth castle courtyard surrounded by the baroque castle theatre and the renaissance house to the white and grey Cloak Bridge. The bridge, which offers more great views of the old town and river, has three stories above the arched walkway that connect the castle to the theatre.
Entering the area called the Upper Castle, we pass through two small courtyards, named the fourth and third castle courtyards. The courtyards’ facades were painted in the 16th and 17th centuries. The frescoes painted on flat walls use the “trompe–l’oeil” technique to create the optical illusion that the walls are three-dimensional brick with intricate stone decorations and inlayed statues. The “Upper Castle’s” renaissance interiors are palatial with an important collection of paintings, tapestries and furniture. The castle’s underground foundations, called the Wenceslas Cellars, are a labyrinth of pillars and arches. Exiting the third courtyard, we go down a steep and windy passage way, which may have been used for vehicles.
Arriving at the second castle courtyard, we find the Burgrave’s house from 1578. The Burgrave, or “Count”, was the governor of the town, with judicial and military powers bestowed on him by the Holy Roman Emperor. From 1742-1948, the lower floor of the Burgrave’s house was used to house the Schwarzenberg grenadier guard.
The courtyard has a stone fountain from 1641 in the middle and the colorful castle tower in the corner. The tower and the adjoining “Hradek” building are the two oldest parts of the castle. If you climb the tower, you will get amazing views of the castle and the town.
To access the first courtyard, we cross a small bridge that has a Bear Moat below. There have been bears in the moat since 1707, and most times we can see them walking around or eating their vegetables and fruit. Unfortunately, we don’t always see them as they like the area under the bridge. This is the largest courtyard and was used as an agricultural area and animal enclosure. We leave the castle through the Red Gate and continue until we reach the Latrán street where we turn right. A few meters away on your left is the entrance to the Monastery.
Monastery of the Minorites
After the castle, the monastery is the second largest historic complex in Český Krumlov. The medieval monastery was founded for the brothers and sisters of the order of St. Francis of Assisi in 1350. St. Francis gave the name “Friar Minor” or “Minorites” to the Franciscans. The order of St. Clare, “Poor Claires” or the “Clarissas,” is the name of the female branch of the Franciscans. The monastery church located in the center of the complex separates the convents of the Minorites (here from 1357-1950) and Clarissas (here from 1361-1782).
Latrán Street and Lazebnicky Most
The renaissance area just outside the castle and across the river from the old town center was once the home of castle servants. Today the cobble stone Latrán Street’s colorful houses are full of shops, cafes, restaurants and artist galleries. Just off the Latrán, you will find artist workshops featuring paintings, iron works, statues and furniture. Some of these artist workshops are decorated with interesting murals.
Undoubtably, you will be hit by the sweet aroma of the chimney cake or Trdelník. The Trdelník is a rolled dough which is wrapped around a thick spit, baked over hot coals and topped with sugar, walnuts and sometimes cinnamon. You can find variations of this treat throughout the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary.
Connecting the Latrán street to the old town is the wooden Lazebnicky bridge with a large crucifix in the middle. Form the bridge, you have a magnificent view of the castle above, the Vltava river meandering its way around the town, and the riverfront houses and restaurant patios of the old town.
Historic Old Town
Once you cross the bridge, if you go forward on the Radniční street for about a hundred meters you will arrive at the Town Square. Instead, we will turn right and take the curved Dlouhá Street with interesting cafes, restaurants and hotels. At the end of the Dlouhá street, we arrive at the Široká street. Turning right we will come to the old mill where we can see the waterwheel still turning and we get another great view of the castle. We continue in the other direction leisurely making our way down the wide and vibrant Široká street until we reach a junction where three streets meet. This is a very picturesque little square with colorful buildings decorated with frescoes.
Only a few meters away from this junction, we find ourselves in the Český Krumlov town square or Náměstí Svornosti. The square has served not only as a market in medieval times, but also as a place of execution. The large white building with renaissance arcades is the 16th century Český Krumlov Town Hall. The four coats-of-arms painted on the façade of the building are those of the Eggenbergs, the Schwarzenbergs, the town and of the Czech state of Bohemia. Like many towns in the Czech Republic, the square has a Marian Plague Column with a fountain at the center. The plague columns give thanks to the Virgin Mary for the end of the plague that killed many throughout Europe in the 17th century. The beautiful buildings adorned with stucco decorations and frescoes around the square once belonged to the town’s upper class and have been restored to their original splendor.
Church of St. Vitus
From the town square you will see the 19th century spire and tall roof of the Roman Catholic church of St. Vitus. A short climb up Horní Ulice street you will reach the church entrance. The gothic church has a white interior with an impressive vaulted ceiling supported by stone columns. The tall but clear gothic windows allow light to flood the nave and they push your eyes upwards to the magnificent ceiling. Dating back to the 13th century when the site became a place of worship, the church has undergone a few additions and changes over the years. The church is the burial place of notable Bohemian families including generations of the aforementioned Rosenbergs and Schwartzenbergs.
Not far from the church is a little garden called the Seminární Zahrada, or the Seminary Garden. The garden is part of the Regional Museum, which used to be a seminary for the Jesuits. Like the terrace by the castle, this garden is one of the best spots in town to get that spectacular panoramic photo. The castle and tower are prominent in the background, seemingly rising above a sea of the red tiled roofs below.
Rafting on the Vltava
As you leave the old town back to the parking area, you will cross the Lavka pod Zamkem wooden bridge which leads to the Deer Garden. The bridge offers a few more photo opportunities of the river, the castle and the Cloak Bridge. One of the most interesting things to see from the bridge is the wier on the Vltava River that has a spot on the right for rafters to slide down from the higher water level to the lower level. Rafting is very popular, and in summer months you will see raft after raft leisurely floating down the river. The Malecek Rafting company offers canoe and raft rentals with trips of various durations from a thirty-minute trip in the city center all the way to half-day and full-day trips further down the river. They also offer a fifty-minute historical cruise on a twelve-person wooden raft. In the middle ages and beyond raftsmen used the Vltava to transport goods and raw materials like wood and salt. Today, people can enjoy this experience in amazing surroundings.
Český Krumlov has many small museums worth visiting. My favourite is the Museum of Commerce (Muzeum Obchodu) located in the old town just as you cross the Lazebnicky bridge. The museum has recreated shop interiors, shop machinery and advertising from the early 1900s. Individual packaging of products, like we are used to today, was non-existent. They have a great display of metal dispensary containers where customers would get their coffee beans, sugar, flour or other goods. They also have old style metallic advertising signs for sale. Across from that museum, there is an antique shop with very unique items and next door is the Fairytale House & Puppet Museum.
Other museums you may want to visit in Český Krumlov include the Museum Fotoatelier Seidel, the Egon Schiele Art Centrum, the Moldavite Museum (Muzeum Vltavinu), the Regional Museum and the Torture Museum. There are many other little museums around town worth visiting. Nearby, hikers enjoy climbing the 1,084 meter high Mount Klet’ and guided tours of the Graphite Mine.
Český Krumlov is the second most popular tourist destination in the Czech Republic. I have been to this medieval town numerous times with my tour groups and I am always excited to include it in my itineraries.
Explore Europe With Us
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Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.
Click below to read Paul’s sobering story about Canada’s role in WWI.
Paul Almeida: My European Favourites in 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1!
Salzburg, Austria by Paul Almeida
Salzburg is one of my favourite mid-sized cities in Europe and Austria’s fourth largest city, with only about 150,000 residents. Geographically, it lies at the foot of the Eastern Alps, close to the German border and is bisected by the Salzach River. The compact old town, with medieval and baroque architecture is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is easy to explore on foot. Salzburg is visited annually by millions of tourists from around the world and our Azorcan tour groups often list it as a favourite stop.
5 FUN FACTS
Salzburg literally means “Salt Fortress.” The reigning Prince-Archbishops, the city and the region became wealthy mainly from the salt mines in the area, trade and some gold mining. Don’t miss the opportunity to visit a salt mine in the area to learn more about the extraction of the “white gold.”
The 11th century Hohensalzburg is one of the largest and best preserved medieval fortresses in Europe. You can walk up the path to the fortress or you can take the Festungsbahn funicular railway located just off the Kapitelplatz. From the fortress, you can enjoy some of the best views of the city and the surrounding area.
Composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, and you can visit his birthplace which is also a museum. You can’t miss the bright yellow building at No. 9 Getreidegasse with “Mozart’s Gebursthaus” in gold letters on the façade. The Getreidegasse is a pedestrian street with shops and restaurants. The ornamental wrought iron signs on the building facades harken back to medieval times. The Schlosserei Wieber shop on the Getreidegasse is a traditional metalworking shop that also continues to make these signs. The city celebrates Mozart Week festival in January around his birthday. A friend once joked that “Mozart was my favourite composer, now he’s my favourite decomposer.”
The famous Salzburg Festival, established in 1920 and which features some of Mozart’s works, is held each summer for five weeks starting in late July. With approximately two hundred drama, concert, and opera events and a quarter of a million visitors, it is a huge undertaking and an important driver of the local economy. The festival celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2020 but unfortunately plans had to be scaled back due to the corona virus pandemic.
The Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music,” about the Von Trapp family was set in Salzburg and movie fans love to search out film locations in the city.
Some of the most popular places to seek out are St. Peter’s cemetery, the Mirabell Palace and gardens with the Pegasus fountain, the Horse Pond, the Residence Square with it’s baroque fountain, Schloss Leopoldskron and the Nonnberg Abbey. The Rock Riding School, which was initially built to be a cathedral but was changed to a riding school by the Prince-Archbishop, later became Salzburg’s favourite concert venue. This is where the real Von Trapp family won the 1936 Salzburg Music Festival. There are other film locations located in the surrounding areas and there are tours that focus on the Von Trapp’s and the movie.
4 POINTS OF INTEREST
A walking tour of Salzburg usually starts at the Mirabell Palace gardens. The Palace was built by a Prince-Archbishop in 1606 and has a grand marble hall that is popular for weddings. The view from the palace’s gardens to the Hohensalzburg fortress in the summer when the geometrically laid flowers are in bloom is amazing. The Grand Fountain in the centre of the garden with four mythological statues representing the elements (Fire, Air, Earth, Water), the Dwarf Garden, and the Pegasus Fountain are popular photo stops. The best way to cross the Salzach river to the old town from the Mirabell gardens is the pedestrian Makartsteg Bridge which is usually adorned with numerous “love locks.” The locks are inscribed with the lovers initials, attached to the fencing and the key thrown into the Salzach.
As you cross the river to the old town (Altstadt), go to the right and you will find the Monchsberg lift which takes you up to the Museum of Modern Art (Museum der Moderne). The café at the museum is a great place to have a cappuccino and cheese strudel as you admire the view of the old town. The Monchsberg, which was named after the Benedictine monks, is one of five mountains or hills in Salzburg. The Monchsberg plateau has a hiking path through the forest that you can take and enjoy scenic views all the way to the Hohensalzburg fortress. The city has a mountain inspector’s office (Bergputzer) to check the mountain for possible falling rocks. In 1669, an avalanche of rock landed on the city below and killed over 200 people.
On the University Square (Universitatplatz), you will find the Grünmarkt or green
Market that goes back to the 18th century. The farmers market still has vendors selling fruit, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads and pastries. It’s a great place to sample local products, or grab a quick lunch or a pretzel. The Kollegienkirche or University church dominates the square, and there are several historic buildings surrounding the lively square.
A short walk from the University Square will take you past the Alter Markt square with the St. Florian Fountain and into the expansive Residence Square (Residenzplatz). The square has a magnificent baroque fountain decorated with four horses snorting water, giants, dolphins and a triton. Here is where you can find horse drawn carriages to enjoy the city centre at a leisurely pace. The Residence museum on the square is a testament to the immense wealth and political power of the Prince-Archbishop’s of Salzburg. The lavish state rooms and painting collection make it a top attraction. The 17th century baroque Salzburg Cathedral or Dom on the square is connected to the Residence. The Cathedral has religious relics of St. Rupert, an impressive pipe organ, plus an ornate ceiling and dome. The baptismal font is the same one used to baptize Mozart.
3 INTERESTING ACTIVITIES
To fully understand the significance of salt to the fortunes of Salzburg take a short trip to the Salzbergwerk Dürrnberg, which is located on the Dürrnberg above the town of Hallein. After supplying you with miner’s overalls, you will go by rail deep into the mountain where you will walk through the tunnels, go down two long slides and take a raft trip across an underground salt lake. The very informative tour explains the history of the mine from the age of the Celts to modern mining methods. After the tour be sure to visit the SALINA Celtic village to see how life was 2,600 years ago.
The Red Bull Hanger 7 at the Salzburg Airport is an impressive glass structure that houses the Flying Bulls historical airplane and helicopter fleet plus a collection of Formula 1 race cars. Austrian Red Bull founder and billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz is the owner of the hanger and the collection. If you like cars or planes, this is a must stop when you visit Salzburg or have a layover at the airport.
The imposing 900 year old medieval Hohenwerfen Castle, surrounded by the Berchtesgaden Alps, is located about 40 km south of Salzburg and overlooks the town of Werfen. A funicular takes you from the parking area up to the castle’s interior courtyard. The castle has an extensive weapons exhibit. The main event is a birds of prey demonstration from the Salzburg Falconry Center in the exterior courtyard with falcons, kites, vultures, and eagles. Some of these birds are huge and have no problem walking amongst the spectators. Be sure to check the daily times of the demonstrations in advance.
2 LOCAL DISHES TO ORDER
Tafelspitz is a popular Austrian dish of veal and vegetables that is simmered slowly. The broth is served separately as a first course then the veal and root vegetables are accompanied by apple-horsradish and chives.
Salzburger Nockerl was invented in Salzburg in the 17th century. Nockerl are vanilla flavoured dumplings dusted with powdered sugar and served with fruit jams or sauces. The warm dumplings arrive in three mounds to represent the three hills that surround Salzburg.
1 BEVERAGE TO ENJOY
There are eleven breweries in Salzburg, and the city is known as Austria’s beer capital. The Stiegl brewery has been privately owned since 1492. The Stieglkeller, located below the Hohensalzburg fortress, is a restaurant and beer garden that offers great views of the old town.
Established in 1621, the Augustiner Brau brewery and tavern is the biggest in Austria with indoor seating and a beer garden. In addition to great beer, you can purchase traditional dishes from food stands located inside the hall or the brewery.
Salzburg is a university town and has a lively café, beer garden and nightlife scene.
In addition to Mozart Week and the Salzburg Music Festival locals celebrate Fasching, Easter and harvest festivals. Salzburg’s Christmas markets are very popular and some shops in the old town specialize in Christmas.
Paul Almeida is the President of Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing tours and his company has taken thousands of people to Europe on custom group tours since 1994.
Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom group tour possibilities and to see our signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours individuals can now join.
Check out our newsletters, and listen to our podcasts at azorcan.net/media
Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.
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