This week there is a touch of Hollywood in Gimli (New Iceland) with the arrival of about one hundred and fifty people, including Liam Neeson and Harrison Ford – all who are involved in a new movie K-19: The Widowmaker. They are here to stake out a site on ice covered Lake Winnipeg. Today Gimli residents are being treated to the incongruous sight of dozens of young men, mostly from Gimli, in the roles of Russian sailors playing soccer beside their submarine which looks as though it?s breaking through the ice.
Located on the west shore of Lake Winnipeg, Gimli was first settled by Icelandic immigrants landing at Willow Point in 1895. Ukrainian and Polish immigrants settled later in this area in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gimli is now widely known as the traveler?s paradise. Of course it has its charms in the winter months ? skidooing, cross country skiing, and ice fishing to name a few.
Summer though, for most people, is when Gimli is at its most appealing. In Norse mythology, Gimli means paradise. If your idea of a vacation is to spend your days sunbathing on hot sultry beaches, swimming, sailing, sailboarding, beach volleyball, sunbathing, boating, or fishing; this then might be your idea of paradise. There is a grassy, tree covered area near the beach, ideal for barbecues and family picnics. For the more adventurous there are the thrills of skydiving, motor racing or water-skiing. Four golf courses are within minutes of the town centre.
If you?re looking for a relaxing vacation, this is a place to kick back, enjoy the charms of the Interlake and renew your energy. If however, you are adventurous and your idea of fun is to jump out of a plane, ride a sailboard on rough choppy waters, or test your courage and strength by locking your legs around a wet slippery log and trying to knock your opponent off by bashing them about the body with a wet leather bag, you should most definitely consider including Gimli in your plans. We can’t guarantee that you will bump into any Hollywood superstars, but you can be assured you will have the time of your life and countless opportunities to see and do things that will definitely make you want to come back.
If all this activity whets your appetite, there is no shortage of restaurants. From Greek cuisine to delectable locally caught pickerel, the hungriest visitor will be assured of variety. Rullapilsa, Vinerterte and hardfish, all Icelandic favourites will be plentiful. As night falls you can stroll along the boardwalk enjoying the cooling lake breezes, soothed by the lulling sounds of lapping waves with colorful boats bobbing gently on the horizon.
Many prominent people have summer homes in the area including former Manitoba premier Gary Filmon. Hockey great Dale Hawerchuk has a cottage on Pelican Beach, minutes from the main beach. Gimli?s reputation for hospitality is such that Country Inns by Carlson have built a major hotel complex on the waterfront, and the World Boardsailing Championships were held here in 1994. If it?s comfort and service you want there is the Country Inn and a variety of other smaller hotels. There is also a good selection of English style B&B?s. Those wishing to be more self-sufficient can rent lakeside cabins and trailers.
For the utmost exposure to the great outdoors, there are numerous campgrounds where you can park your RV, pitch your tent and take full advantage of Gimli?s warm, balmy, endless summer nights. Be warned though when making reservations. You might have to book at least a year in advance on the weekend of the Icelandic Festival (August 3 ? 6 this year).
Gimli is blessed with an inviting kilometre-long sandy beach, which has been compared by well-travelled tourists to some of the best Mediterranean beaches. A word of caution though. On my Dad?s first visit to Gimli from Bonnie Scotland, he was unaware of just how piercing the sun in this part of North America can be. A group of us went down to the beach and Dad stayed behind to sit in the garden. He forgot to put on sunscreen and when we returned two hours later, he resembled a lobster and was being looked after by our paramedic friend Rob. So, if you?re pale skinned like my family, slap on the sunscreen, find some shade and enjoy the warmth.
One of our favourite early morning walks is down by the picturesque harbour which has room for 300 boats and is sheltered by a sea-wall covered in paintings by local artists. Any time after dawn you will find people fishing off the sea wall, swimming, walking their dogs, or simply enjoying the invigorating morning air.
Unique gift shops abound. Tergeson?s Store is a Godsend if you find you haven?t packed everything you need, and is also a haven for book lovers. Gimli attracts visitors from all over the world, particularly during Islendingadarinn (The Icelandic Festival of Manitoba), which brings many thousands of visitors to the largest Icelandic settlement, outside of Iceland itself. If you?re lucky they may even have Viking Boat Races, and you might also bump into a few fearsome looking Vikings.
As many as 50,000 people from all over the world will visit on this weekend. Last year the festival was attended by Magnus ver Magnusson (four time winner of the Strongest Man in the World), the President of Iceland and the heart stopping Icelandic Choir. Over the years there have been visitors from Japan, India, Switzerland, Portugal, Germany, Denmark and Great Britain to name a few, and of course there were as usual many visitors from Iceland.
Gimli is home to many writers and artists. Artist?s have claimed for many years that the unique light in this region is second to none. An art gallery can be found in the town centre.
A pleasant 80 km drive north of the province?s capital city of Winnipeg, will take you past the Hudson?s Bay Outpost of Lower Fort Garry, through the beach communities of Matlock, Whytewold, Ponemah, Winnipeg Beach, Sandy Hook and on to Gimli. These are home away from home to many summer cottagers and to a growing number of year-round residents. For those of you who just need a break away from the hurly-burly of life, treat yourself to a vacation filled with halcyon days and long starry nights under the wide skies of New Iceland. You might not want to leave…
For more information contact http://manitoba.worldweb.com/index.html
155 Carlton Street,
Manitoba, Canada R3C 3H8