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Pickleball anyone?

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Pickleball anyone?

A few weeks ago, just after the nation-wide shutdown of almost all public facilities had reached or approached its peak, citizens began to speak out, some of them loudly and often, about the need for a quick return of sports.

Much of the noise was generated, of course, by those who wanted (and still want) the National Hockey League to complete its season and award a 2020 Stanley Cup – yes, even if the only acceptable playoff system finds room for an astonishing 20 teams.

Close behind in their enthusiasm were fans of the NBA, the NFL and Major League baseball. Many, notably supporters or horse racing, confirmed their major urge was betting: a simple chance to wager a dollar or two on the outcome of some physical competition worth notice, at least occasionally. Others in this part of North America spoke fondly of the exciting Toronto Raptors or hopefully that the Blue Jays were finally becoming competitive again.

Getting fans into the building was much less important than providing a spectacle of sorts on television. Those 40- to 50-inch screens provide all the insight many would require, and major-league teams would receive millions in sponsorship if only some way could be found to keep players from breathing on each other near the net, in the corners, under the hoop or at the plate.

Individuals who run or jump or throw in Olympic-style competition are also free to claim there is safe space around them as they practice.

Those noises are continuing, of course, but they have been dwarfed by a much larger group – golfers who maintain with commendable logic that their game takes place on healthy, green fields that cover dozens, perhaps hundreds, of acres.

The freedom to compete without rubbing shoulders was, or should have been, totally obvious, they insist. No need for two sitting side-by-side in carts. No need to continue the tradition of suddenly-dangerous handshakes after a good putt or pats on the head in consolation after a drive somehow finds nearby water.

To a lesser extent, the same could be said about tennis and badminton. The net provides a perpetual barrier.

And now, there’s another one: pickleball.

A friend mentioned this sport a few weeks back and a friend then recovering from knee surgery said she hoped to get back to playing as soon as possible. It first came into view a few years ago, when organizers of the Alberta 55-plus Games (now the Alberta Seniors Masters Games) volunteered to become part of the 55-plus event. A strong point was made that they should be trusted to conduct their own scheduling and playoff planning.

It’s safe to bet that pickleball is, or will be, in the works for future provincial senior competitions, if ever such multi-participant sports gatherings are permitted in this time of shrinking government investment in sports. Word is “It’s easy to play and helps get us into shape.”

My next exposure to this mysterious game came two years ago on the shores of Wasa Lake, near Kimberley. Operators of a tourist facility insisted the game was as much fun for spectators as for players. I did not have a chance to test that theory. Soon, I hope, another chance will come.

It’s worth noting that pickleball requires space about the size of a badminton court. Small rackets and balls are used. The net is standard size – whatever that means.

Most games, I’m told, end quickly and each point can be exciting. In this province, Eight zones have been established for competitive reasons. Registered members total more than 5,000. Leagues exist in major centres like Edmonton and Calgary, mid-sized communities like Lethbridge, Camrose and Red Deer, and smaller centres such as Rockyview and Rockyford.

When pickleball receives official clearance, I expect we’ll all learn quickly. Provincial executive members say it is the fastest growing sport in the province.

Pickleball, anyone.

Click here to read more of John’s stories.

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My European Favourites: Český Krumlov

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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.

Cesky Krumlov Castle from the photo terrace and from the Lavka pod Zamkem wooden bridge.

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.

 

Cloak bridge, entrance into the 4th courtyard and frescoes on the courtyard walls.

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.

A sundial, the second courtyard fountain and tower. The first courtyard and the red gate.

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.

The castle Bear Moat with bears enjoying bread, vegetables, apples and watermelon snacks.

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).

The Latrán street, a Trdelník vendor and the crucifix on Lazebnicky bridge.

 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.

The Český Krumlov old town square with the Marian Plague column and city hall.

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.

The St. Vitus church from the river, the old town’s Široká street and the three street junction.

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.

Panoramic view from the Seminary Garden and buskers on the Latrán Street.

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.

Rafters and canoers going down the Vltava Rivers’ weir and leisurely past the castle.

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

Azorcan Global Sport, School and Sightseeing Tours have taken thousands to Europe on their custom group tours since 1994. Visit azorcan.net to see all our custom tour possibilities for your group of 26 or more. Individuals can join our “open” signature sport, sightseeing and sport fan tours including our popular Canada hockey fan tours to the World Juniors. At azorcan.net/media you can read our newsletters and listen to our podcasts.

Images compliments of Paul Almeida and Azorcan Tours.

Click below to read Paul’s sobering story about Canada’s role in WWI.

 

My European Favourites – Canada in WWI Belgium

 

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Alberta

Update: Virtual concert raises more than $40K for Cancer Research

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This weekend’s Jammin’ For a Cure concert raised more the $40,000 for Cancer Research, with funds raised being earmarked for the work of Dr. Michael Chu, a clinician scientist at the Cross Cancer Institute. His research is for a new treatment known as Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.

The 18 hour live performance was a great event.  If you missed it, we have the links right here for you.

Friday:  Click here 

Saturday: Click here.

If you missed the show on the weekend, check it whenever you wish, and share it. The concert featured some really good performance from local, regional, national, and international artists.  A highlight for me was El Niven and the Alibi. After doing some crazy tours, one from Tijuana to La Paz, performing fully amplified street concerts, and another from Edmonton to New York, across to L.A. and back to Edmonton.  More than 400 shows over 3 years hones your skill, and this trio has a ton of skill.

Here’s a video they recently released called Likker.   If you like the thoughts of a mash up between a 6’5″ Freddie Mercury, Frank Zappa, Commander Cody, and then you put an old worn telecaster in this volatile combination of a man’s hands, and say to him, go out and do something magical, and maybe just a bit crazy, then El Niven should appeal to you. Click here to learn more about El Niven and the Alibi.

Original story from March 26, 2021

I think we can all agree that few of us have been touched more by cancer than any other disease. One of the organizations trying to make a difference is the Cure Cancer Foundation, founded by a group of volunteers with a desire to more directly fund research and treatment programs.

And, what better way to raise money than with live music. Let’s face, it’s been an awful year without clubs and bars open, and no concerts and festivals. So maybe take a break from Netflix this weekend and take some time and catch some amazing talent, many of whom you’ve listened to in your favourite venue over the years. Many have been very busy creating new work during this last year and I’m sure you’ll hear some excellent new music throughout the weekend. In fact, here’s something recent from Brett Kissell.

Juno and multi-CCMA winner Clayton Bellamy

Jammin’ For a Cure is a live concert event taking place over 18 hours, starting tonight at 6 PM when Alberta’s own Brett Kissel kicks off a night of great music with artists that include Clayton Bellamy, Martin Kerr, and Jesse Roads.  (The full list of talent and the schedule is below).

Saturday, the music begins at noon with Confounded Dials.  Some excellent solo artists and bands will perform throughout the day, including Josh Sahunta, Dahlia and the Villains, Stephanie Harpe Experience, Maria Dunn, Stevon Kayla, and John Hewitt.

Alfie Zappacosta kicks of the evening slate of acts Saturday night at 6 PM followed by artists like Hailey Benedict, Bardic Form, Amy Metcalfe, Kesara Kimo and guest Evrlove, and runs right through to 11:40 PM with Canadian Coldwater Revival closing the show.

I have been invited to appear on this bill as well and I’m pretty pumped to strap on a guitar and perform on Saturday at 3:40 PM for a 20 minute set. Having lost my mom to ovarian cancer in 1994, I do what I can to help.

And a big shout out to Jon Beckett and his talented, experienced team at Edmonton’s Production World for making all of this possible.

Remember these are free concerts.

Here’s the link for Friday (tonight).

Here is the link for Saturday.

Friday Line up

6-6:40 PM Brett Kissel

7-7:40 PM FKB

7:40-8 PM Olivia Rose

8-8:40 PM Clayton Bellamy

8:40-9 PM Stevon and Kayla Artis

9-9:40 PM Martin Kerr

10-10:40 PM Jesse Roads

11-11:40 PM Guitarface

Saturday starting at noon

12-12:40 PM Confounded Dials

12:40-1 PM Tracy Lynn Byrne

1-1:40 PM Josh Sahunta

1:40-2 PM Brenda Dirk

2-2:40 PM Dahlia and the Villains

2:40-3 PM Kaylee Caura-Lee

3-3:40 PM Kane Incognito

3:40-4 PM Lloyd Lewis

4-4:40 PM Stephanie Harpe Experience

4:40-5 PM Maria Dunn

5-5:40 PM Stevon Kayla and the Heavenly Band

5:40-6 PM John Hewitt

6-6:40 PM Alfie Zappacosta

6:40-7 PM Hailey Benedict

7-7:40 PM Bardic Form

7:40-8 PM Amy Metcalfe

8-8:40 PM El Niven and the Alibi

8:40-9 PM Darrell Barr

9-9:40 PM Kesaro and Guest Artist Evrlove

9:40-10 PM Danny Floyd Cole

10-10:40 PM Jusjrdn and DJ Kwake

10:40-11 PM Mightberea

11-11:40 PM Canadian Coldwater Revival

The whole purpose is to raise money.  Here’s the link to make a donation right now.

As well, there’s a host of great silent auction items you can bid on, from autographed jerseys to signed guitars. Click here to get started.

About Cure Cancer Foundation

Cancer doesn’t stop. No matter what’s going on in the world, Cancer is always there, hurting those we love. Jammin’ For A Cure will be raising money for Dr. Michael Chu, a clinician scientist at the Cross Cancer Institute, who is leading the charge with a new treatment known as Chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy.

This therapy turbocharges the immune system to create killer immune cells that can wipe out cancers. This alters the patient’s own cells to be a new “barcode reader” and find the hiding cancer cells. This treatment is predicted to make the most significant difference in blood cancers such as multiple myeloma, leukemia, and lymphoma patients, even those with multiply relapsed cancers.

We want to help fund great research like this to help Albertans, and people everywhere, receive the treatment they need. Your support will provide hope to people who would otherwise die of their cancer – despite all the best-known treatments. You are giving people a better chance of a cancer-free outcome and more time with their families, friends, and loved ones.

Todayville is very happy to support this event. Click here to read more stories on Todayville.

 

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