AROUND THE WORLD.ORG

travelling the seven parts of the world

Seward

 
Jul 24th, 2008
<<

Previous:


Anchorage
 

Next:


Kenai Fjords
>>

After we had successfully obtained a car for ourselves, the first thing to do was obviously shopping. We were in America after all. We promptly found an REI store, and spent nearly a four figure sum there. We thought it was a good investment - sleeping bags, and a bunch of other stuff related to them - as it would mean we don't have to use hotels, but can sleep in a tent (we had a tent and sleeping mattresses from our last trip to USA).

In retrospect, we never actually used any of this equipment in Alaska. All the nights we were in Alaska it was way too cold, rainy or windy, but usually all three. We just didn't have the guts to try out the tent in such abysmal weather.







Seward is only 200 miles from Anchorage, but this turned out to take quite a while. For starters, the car didn't exactly turn out to be perfect. I mean, it ran just fine when going downhill, it's going uphill that was, well, an uphill battle. When going uphill, you'd start off at 65 mph, and the engine would make a loud roar, and you could just see the little arrow in the speedometer slowly dropping while the engine becomes louder. By the time we're on top of the hill, we're doing 10 mph and wondering when exactly do we start rolling backwards.

Thankfully, we saved that for another day, but we did end up in Seward quite late (actually, mostly due to the shopping that was done during the better part of the day).

We stopped at the tourist center, which they call "Chamber of Commerce". I inquired about bears, and the old lady there did tell us that there was a grizzly female raiding the outskirts of town. I looked at my Bear Encounter brochure - "If the bear begins to feed on you, fight back!" I'll keep that in mind when walking around town.

The old lady fixed us up with one of the last rooms in town, at Seward Waterfront Lodging. It was actually a very well placed hotel, ran by a very nice couple. It was very warm and cozy, and a home feel. Though considering the fact that we got a room with no windows, a shared bathroom and a map that was not updated since the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was kind of a ripoff. I didn't mind though.



We spent the evening walking around Seward. Like most small American towns there wasn't much to it. Sometimes I'm amazed at how architecturally challenged Americans can be. Its as if all American towns have to by law conform to one architectural style - ugly. I mean, the setting for this town is absolutely incredible - a small bay, white topped mountains all around. It was harsh and beautiful all around. The town could be a tourist goldmine if only its exterior was more pleasing.



Seward itself is named after William Henry Seward, the man who negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia. The purchase price was $7,2 million and lots of people at the time regarded it a ridiculously high amount what was at the time considered unusable wasteland somewhere far off in the north. It was called "Seward's Icebox" and "Polar Bear Garden". The New York Tribune wrote:

Except for the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip of land extending along the southern coast the country would be not worth taking as a gift


Then, of course, they found gold, lots and lots of gold, giving birth to the Klondike Gold Rush, which gave birth to the setting of several of Jack London's books, which in turn gave birth to my inspiration to go to Alaska. I doubt I would go to Alaska were it still a part of Russia.

After the gold rush ended, they found oil, and they are still pumping billions of dollars worth of oil out of Alaska every year. Now most people say it was a ridiculously small price to pay for such a large area. The Russians are definitely biting their fingers over it, but in reality, at the time of the sale the Russian Empire was already stretched thin, and there were few people ready to travel half way across the world to live in one of the harshest climates with, at the time, no economic incentive (fur animals had already been hunted to extinction, and very few people dared venture inland). At the time of the sale, only 500 russians lived in Alaska, and it was only a matter of time before the British remove them and add the colony to Canada, so the Russian Tsar decided he might as well get a few million bucks out of it.

And so, a few dozen years later William Seward is regarded as a bit of a genius. Seward's Day is a holiday in Alaska.



The Iditarod trail is an over a thousand mile long trail from Seward to Nome. It is now a subject of the world's most popular Sled Dog Race, but the race itself now starts in Anchorage. Historically though, it started in Seward, where people got off the boat (and off the at the time very very short Alaska Railroad), lead to the town of Iditarod after which the trail is named (it is now a ghost town), and on until Nome.

Despite the fact that it was the middle of summer, the businesses of Seward did not fail to capitalize on the fact that Seward was the historical starting point for Iditarod - we were still offered dog sled tours!



We walked around town a bit more, ate dinner at some completely packed place, and went to sleep. There just wasn't a whole lot to do.



On the next day we went to an aquarium-type of a place, the name escapes me. I bet the word "wildlife" was in it, which generally means its a zoo. The whole place was small and an absolute ripoff packed with tourists, but we did see a gigantic seal that reminded me that yes, obesity is a problem here, too.

<<

Previous:


Anchorage
 

Next:


Kenai Fjords
>>