Tag Archives: historical sites

Enger Tower Stands Tall in Duluth, Minnesota

The power of observation takes many forms. It can never be overrated or understated. The simplistic beauty of a sea view, towering pines of a forest and a city skyline all offer up splendid scenic beauty with the naked eye.

Duluth, Minnesota, situated on the shores of Lake Superior in the U.S., provides its own scenic sights from the Enger Observation Tower. The tower’s purpose was – and is – to delight visitors with its magnificent panoramic views of central Duluth, the Duluth-Superior Harbor, the North Shore, and the western tip of Lake Superior.

The well-worn 80-foot, iconic stone façade tower is perched high on the Enger Hill bluffs overlooking Lake Superior, rising 531 feet above the lake’s surface.Unger-Tower

As I hiked up the steep incline one sunny March afternoon, sidestepping piles of frozen ice and snow slowly melting into spring, I marveled at the stunning views in all directions. This area of Minnesota is already beautiful – the gateway to the famed North Shore – but at the tower summit, it truly was a majestic sight.

The stone tower itself was rugged in its own right as if knowing it needed to withstand the test of time through brutal Minnesota winters and the unforgiving weather systems that swirl over the shores of Lake Superior.

Dotted with cut window openings throughout the six-story tower, every angle offered a unique view. On the ground tower inserted into the wall next to the stairway is the Enger Observation Tower Marker dedicated to the memory of Bert J. Enger – Native of Norway, Citizen of Duluth.

The Back Story
The Enger observation tower story is that of a common immigrant laborer, Bert J. Enger, who left a legacy fit for royalty to the City of Duluth over an eight-year period.

Born in Hamar, Norway in 1864, Enger immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 13, although records do not indicate if he journeyed alone. He traveled the Midwest working on farms and sawmills in Wisconsin, iron mines in Michigan and northern Minnesota, and the wheat fields of the Dakotas. At some point, he lived on a farm in small town Pine City, Minnesota, approximately 88 miles south of Duluth. It was here that Enger met a business partner, and the two opened a successful furniture store in Duluth.

The former immigrant turned U.S. citizen demonstrated through his own life what so many immigrants fought for and believed in: America was a land of opportunity for an immigrant.Bert Enger

In 1920, Enger anonymously donated $50,000 to the City of Duluth that it might purchase 350 acres of land for a proposed golf course and park for public use. Discovering Enger was the benefactor, Duluth’s city council named the park after him. He continued to share his fortune with the city over the next decade.

Enger, a lifetime bachelor, suffered a stroke and died in 1931. His estate, which he had divided into thirds, bequeathed two-thirds toward a memorial project (Enger Tower), which Enger stipulated was to be “a suitable building on top of the bluff near the Twin Ponds in Enger Park, in the nature of a lookout station, built to accommodate tourists visiting Enger Park.” Around the structure, he directed “that the grounds be beautified and foot paths from all directions leading up to the building on the hilltop be constructed, and a parking space for automobiles be constructed below the paths. The paths are to be accessible to pedestrians only.”Enger-tower-sign

Enger further stipulated that his body be cremated and the ashes placed somewhere in the memorial building. His wishes were granted. Enger Tower was completed in 1939 and dedicated in June that year by Olav, Crown Prince of Norway and his wife Crown Princess Martha, honoring the native Norwegian whose vision and life in America proved that life indeed held enormous opportunities for immigrants. As a fitting testimony, more than 5,000 people attended the dedication.

Should you find yourself in the Twin Port city, regardless of the time of year, plan a short hike up to Enger Tower – open year round – and capture for yourself the breathtaking views.

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Kakopetria Village: Beauty, Serenity and Tragedy

Kakopetria (Greek for place of stones) is one of those villages brimming with history and begging to be explored.


Nestled into the side of the Troodos Mountain some 2200 feet high and surrounded by thick forest, Kakopetria is the highest village in the Solea Valley. The Troodos Mountain was formed from an explosion of a volcano in the area. When the lava stopped, it became solid.looking-toward-sea-from-Kakopetria

The higher our tour bus crept hugging the heavily vegetated roadside, the more I felt I was shifting further into the center of the earth. It’s difficult to describe the beauty and serenity – and, of course, photos never do justice – but try to imagine the lush green vegetation popping in and out of a forest of pine trees, majestic oaks and even wild olive trees. Hillside terracing spotlights various fruit-bearing trees, such as apple, pear, plum, cherry, apricot and fig that the villagers grow and cultivate.

waterfall-in-KakopetriaA gentle waterfall spilling into the basin within the old village offers melodic serenity and natural beauty. The village was built on the banks of two rivers, which join in the center of the 1500-inhabitant 14th Century village. A hike to the top of the village provides the most beautiful vista of the surrounding landscape as far as one can see. In fact, on a clear day the sea is visible off in the distance.

The entire village is under the protection of the Department of Antiquities requiring special permission if homeowners want to change the exterior appearance of their home. The village’s uniqueness are the narrow crooked lanes mostly impassable by car, and the distinct home construction. The lower portions are constructed with stones while the upper part with clay, mud and bricks. The houses all have tiled roofs and wooden balconies. I found the architecture very appealing.cool-architecture

Almost half way up the steep main street, we came upon the nondescript Church of the Transfiguration. We spent a few minutes inside the small church lighting a candle and snapping a few photos of the interior. I was surprised that even in this tiny remote village, the Greek Orthodox Church also boasted an impressive interior of iconostases. The elderly nun inside knew no English making it impossible to learn anything about the church.church-in-Kokopetria

Back out on the slippery and uneven stone-cobbled road, we walked past numerous winding side lanes the width of a bicycle path and not much more. I can imagine how easily it would be to get turned around if you were trying to find someone’s home. Fortunately for one enterprising homeowner, visitors searching for Irene’s house have a sign indicating the way. Lush green foliage and multi-hued flowers dotted the lanes and flower boxes adding color to the mostly shaded homes. Homeowners lucky enough to have room for a carport utilized the space to grow their own grapes.Irene's-house

There is another reason why this charming village has gained notoriety. Anchored at the start of the climb upward to the residential area is the famous Stone of the Couple. Following an ancient pagan custom of honoring Aphrodite, the goddess of love, newlyweds performed a ceremony by walking around the stone and making a wish. One couple was crushed to death when they lost their footing and tumbled down the rocky incline. From then on, the rock became known as the Stone of the Couple, although locals often refer to it as the Bad Stone. Even today a few couples honor the custom. Eleni, our tour guide, explained that many Cypriots continued to practice pagan customs after the advent of Christianity as many of these practices were deeply rooted in Greek mythology.stone-of-the-couple

Kakopetria is a popular summer and winter resort since its location offers visitors a respite from the sun-scorched temperatures of the large cities, most notably Nicosia, Cyprus’ largest city, an hour or so drive down the mountain. In the wintertime, the mountains are snow-laden offering outdoor activities popular with Cypriots. On weekends, people flock to the village and its handful of hotels are fully booked.

Wandering the narrow lanes and catching glimpses of older Kakopetrians in their windows and doorways smiling as we passed was an enjoyable reconnection with simplicity.

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Sharing Knowledge: Inspired by Tradition

From the intricately-carved white gypsum panels and traditional detailed lightscreens marrying side by side with softly curved vanilla arches, Katara harkens present-day visitors back to a yesteryear long, long ago marked by contrasts of old and new. Wandering the stone-clad walkways cooled by precisely-placed awnings above shielding the afternoon-setting February sun, it soon becomes apparent what Katara is all about. Culture, knowledge, and faith sprinkled with a heavy dose of traditions – all part of an extraordinary mission of imparting these precious gifts to the world; that is, one of generously sharing the power of modern-day knowledge.

Aptly named, Katara is actually one of the old names of Qatar dating back well into the 18th century. Fashioned after a traditional Qatari alleyway (al Fareeg), Katara’s grid incorporates the timeless features of Middle Eastern architecture inspired by centuries-old traditions. I duck into a quaint shop displaying original leather-bound Islamic art books, dwarfed by a heavy wooden styled wardrobe standing along the wall. Opposite are delicately carved pieces of art set off by colorful glass creations. It is both awesome and awe-inspiring at the same time.

The more than one million square meter (621 mile) complex prominently situated at the eastern coast of Doha, Qatar’s capital city, fronting an expansive esplanade and Al Yazwa public beach, just opened to the public in late December 2011. Katara’s architectural design vision as a top tourist attraction is already garnering rave reviews. Its randomly arranged buildings and facilities truly do replicate the feeling of an old traditional Qatari alley; dedication to detail never lacking right down to the copper looking drinking fountains. And true to original Middle Eastern alleyways, there is always a surprise waiting behind the next gentle turn or corner be it something as simple as a well-placed bench for a rest spell or a large, wooden door to cautiously open only to marvel at what one has just discovered. However, the one thing missing, I felt, were traditionally dressed Qatari guides eager to impart written information about Katara’s different venues, to verbally explain the overview of its mission, and to provide a detailed walking map of where everything was located so as to better understand what you are looking at. But since the cultural village has just so recently opened, perhaps that has yet to be implemented.

3 cones Amphitheatre2

With its impressively large outdoor amphitheater in the spotlight as the focal point (with planned concerts and performances scheduled for the upcoming spring and summer), smaller buildings housing drama theaters, a media center, various cultural and art societies, art exhibition halls, and an opera house offset it. Interwoven like palm fronds are scattered shops, a handcraft souq and restaurants/cafes featuring international cuisine. Katara is truly Qatar’s newest focal point.

The weekend day I visited, the “alleys” were mostly quiet allowing for ample time to wander aimlessly and explore without feeling rushed. It was a pleasant afternoon minus the hubbub of activity normally expected during the week and when performances and exhibitions are slated. Even the throngs of people enjoying the warm afternoon sunrays along the beachfront, as they sauntered up and down the walk that hugged the sandy beach, were temporarily inconspicuous to the rest of the world.

According to Katara’s public relations staff, “[there are] a group of buildings designed to host the various cultural, literary and art societies functioning in Qatar under one roof, with the main objective being to facilitate access of interested visitors and to provoke their potentials and to enhance the spirit of fair competition among them.”

In addition to the colorful palette of the onsite mosque greeting visitors as they enter, this cultural hub of knowledge also features three impressive dovecotes (pigeon towers) towering next to the mosque in traditional style – of which staff routinely feed the pigeons to encourage their stay. A modern looking Falcon Museum, located on the northeastern fringes of the grounds, that actually is a replicated red shroud customarily concealing this mighty bird of prey’s head, is also very unique. You can’t miss any of these three groupings due to their towering size, resplendent color and/or texture, and distinct individualism regardless of traditional styling.

Present-day visitors will find this 18th century village likeness with its decorative richness and imaginative symbolism not only equally impressive and welcoming, but also a reflection of what Katara’s mission embodies. This impressive complex most definitely has something to say.

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Qatar CultureWelcome! Since December 2011 I have been

Qatar Culture

Welcome! Since December 2011 I have been residing in Doha, Qatar, a small peninsula bordering Saudi Arabia in the Arabian Gulf.

Having lived off and on in Bahrain for four years, I immediately discovered cultural differences between the two Islamic countries as soon as I disembarked from the plane. The differences are not necessarily worse or better; rather, they are different due to the more conservative nature of Qatari culture and religion.

Periodically, I plan to post articles related to scenic sites, archaeological sites and cultural happenings around Qatar that I experienced for the first time. Image

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May 15, 2013 · 10:20 am