It has been almost three years since we both moved up to Yellowknife. Neither of us knew what to expect from this place that we would soon call home. Even on the Internet there was not too many information about the north and Yellowknife. A lot of things surprised us at the beginning, things that became more natural with time. We have chosen seven of them for this article.
- Driving on the lakes. There is a whole web of plowed roads on the numerous lakes. Some of them are public, like those which connect remote communities with the rest of the world. Others belong to diamond mines, which use winter roads to ship in all sorts of supplies like fuel, machines, and building materials. There are also private roads on smaller lakes, connecting numerous remote cabins to the main road, which during the summer are reachable only by boat.
- The phrase: “Oh it must be warm, because it is snowing”. Three years in Yellowknife helped us to realize that weather is a very relative topic. Very often you hear someone or even yourself saying: “Oh wow, it is warm today, only -20 degrees Celsius” or “It feels like a spring. The average temperature is only -20, and days are getting longer”. I was shocked when I saw kids playing outside during the break at school in -30, especially since when I traveled to Houston a few years earlier and the all schools closed when the temperature dropped to 0°C.
- Driving distance is another very relative thing. The closest city to Yellowknife is Edmonton, 1600 kilometers away, which means that on average it takes 16 hours long hours of driving to get there. Most of the way the road is straight. By straight I mean there are no turns or even slight curves for many kilometers. There is just a few small communities on that route and two towns in Alberta, High Level and Peace River, where gas stations are the main attractions.
- Alcohol restrictions. In Quebec and in Poland, where we are from, getting alcohol in the middle of the night or when doing groceries is totally normal, so it took us a while to get used to the new restrictions. The only places to buy alcohol in Yellowknife are two liquor stores, open Monday to Saturday 11 AM to 10 PM. Besides that there are also restaurants and bars. First ones can serve alcohol only with food and they can be open Monday to Sunday. Bars can be only open from Monday to Saturday, and the last call is at 2 AM, after that time it is illegal to sell alcohol. So if you are thinking about a glass of wine to your Sunday dinner, you better get it earlier. Otherwise you will have to eat out.
- Ravens! First of all, they are just huge up here. They live along with people, you can see them hanging out outside of the grocery story, or local restaurants. They are also the main reason of the power outrages in the town. Staying at the ornithology ground, it was a bit of shock to see seagulls during our first spring up here. There is no sea or ocean nearby, yes we have a lot of lakes and one of them has a sea size, but they are still just the lakes.
- Leaving a bar in a summer time at 3 AM, to be struck by sun light outside and that horrible feeling that you spent the whole night at the bar, even if you actually didn’t. It just doesn’t get dark here for a couple of months.
- Kijiji or Craiglist don’t exist in Yellowknife. It doesn’t mean there is no rooms to rent or stuff to buy. Everyone uses the local web page: yktrader.com and use it pretty extensive. Most of the people check it out on a daily basis even if they don’t plan to buy anything. The posts from yktrader are very often the topic of locals’ conversations. It is not a surprise, since sometimes you can find really interesting stuff out there, like for example a polar bear pelt a few weeks ago.