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Niagara – The Water’s Thunder

15 August 2012 travel stories, USA 2 comments

Sights of USA: Niagara Falls

There are places in the world where you have the certainty that man cannot control nature in his well known dictatorial style. It’s when you’re facing a giant force that seems unstoppable. Niagara is such a place where you realize you’re still a tiny little creature, 2 meters high in front of the force…

In 1992, I was visiting the Rhine cascade in Switzerland, next to Schaffhausen, a spectacular cascade, but still not an impressive one. Ever since, I’ve dreamt to see one of the biggest waterfalls in the world, Iguazu (Brazil – Argentina – Paraguay), Victoria (Zambia – Zimbabwe), Niagara (USA- Canada) or maybe even Angel Falls, the highest cascade in the world in the Venezuelan jungle. I was close to Angle Falls in 2001 when I passed through Caracas airport on my way to Peru, but I didn’t quite have time for alternative routes, so when I had the chance to reach the famous cascade on the American – Canadian border an older dream of mine turned into reality.

The nearest airport is the one in Buffalo city, linked by direct flights to the big cities like New York or Chicago, and then you catch a shuttle directly to the small town of Niagara Falls. If you arrive on a Friday afternoon, especially during the summer, you’ve got problems, it’s almost like the whole New York State falls over the famous cascade for a weekend filled with adrenaline. Still, the effort will be fully rewarded. After some tens of kilometers bumper to bumper, at a certain moment, from far away one starts to see the steam rising from the cascade at sunset …”impressive, isn’t it?” tells me the Pakistani driver… Yeah, I can’t wait for tomorrow …

The Niagara cascades (they are actually two) has its origins in the level difference between the Great Lakes Ontario and Erie that are connected by a river. The name Niagara comes from the native language “Onguiaahra”, that means “thunder of the water”. I don’t even have to read about this much, I presume that the Natives were permanently in awe of the big waterfall, but also the first European to see Niagara in 1678, priest Louis Hennepin, was just as impressed. Starting then until the American – British war in 1812, the great colonial powers tried to obtain control over this strategic river, but eventually they came to a compromise and ever since, the famous cascades are divided between USA and Canada.

Around the cascades there are two towns with identical names – Niagara Falls, one is located in New York State, USA and the other in Ontario province, Canada. The Canadian town is by far better developed due to the fact that it is located facing the cascades, on the Canadian shore having been built a couple of skyscrapers that house big hotel chains, casino places, restaurants and many other attractions. The American town is a quiet place, amazingly enough, where nothing really seems to be happening, with a limited number of tourists (in comparison to the Canadian side) and with buildings some couple of floors high – surprising for the Americans that are passionate about their tall buildings.

I had to stay on the American side, due to the fact that I didn’t have a Canadian visa, where the panorama isn’t quite as spectacular as “over there”, but where you can still enjoy the beauty and greatness of the cascade- either you climb on a huge “trampoline” , either in the captive balloon in the middle of the main street in the Niagara Falls, USA, or by renting a helicopter or simply approaching the water fall by some tens of centimeters.

Niagara Falls is actually a complex of two huge cascades – the most spectacular being the Canadian one, also called “the Horseshoe Falls” because of its shape resembling a semicircle, a mountain of water high as a 16 floors building, that surrounds you from 3 sides and the American Cascade, a couple of meters higher, but not as spectacular.

Once here, together with the other 12 millions tourists that come here every year, you can’t miss the ferry stroll by the boat named “Maid of the Mist”, that carries the tourists on the river, two steps away from the two cascades, activity that started in 1846 (tourism has a very long tradition over here). I took this boat trip twice, because the water mountain that seems to fall over you is incredible. On the American side you can step down and get all wet under this water fall, because under the American Cascade there is a queue of very organized and wet people that walk, while being amazed of nature’s beauty. One won’t get bored even in the evening, the cascades are lighted for 3 hours, and afterwards the tourists go to restaurants, pubs or in the huge Canadian casino.

One interesting fact is that Niagara Falls is an extremely popular place for a honey moon – the tourist marketing calling this area “the worldwide capital of the honeymoon”, in a strong competition with Cancun, Bali or Zanzibar, but having in retrospect a much older tradition – starting 1803. Here, prince Jerome Bonaparte, the brother of the great Napoleon got married to a girl in Baltimore and spent the honey moon here (they divorced two years later, but this won’t get mentioned so much here, in a country where over 60% of all marriages end in divorce).

And if somebody’s interested in an adrenalin kick, by jumping in the fall, well, if you’re still alive, the rangers are waiting with a 10.000 American dollars fine (they also take credit cards). But this isn’t very original. Niagara’s crossing has a very long tradition as well. The first acrobats crossed Niagara on a rope around 1850, the most famous one being “the Great Blonde” who crossed Niagara several times in 1860 on a bicycle, blindfolded, with his manager on his back literally, on stilts or carrying a wheelbarrow. The first person to ever cross Niagara in a barrel was a teacher, Annie Taylor in 1901 , who taped the insides of the barrel with feathers and jumped in the Niagara waters… obviously, there were many who repeated this experience, lots losing their lives – the Canadian Dave Mundy is the first one who survived two “barrel trips” in 1993, and another celebrity to mention being the 7 years old boy Roger Woodward, who after an accident fell inside the fall and didn’t lose his life.

The weekend I spent in Niagara Fall , even without any barrel adventures was really special, some of my most beautiful days spent in the USA, far away from the hectic world of the big metropolis, a splendid place, that is hard to forget.

How to get to Niagara Falls

The closest intercontinental airport is Toronto, in Canada and from there you can reach Niagara in 2-3 hours. The closest US airport is in Buffalo and it has quite a lot of connections within US. In case you don’t like flying, Greyhound is quite helpful, but you will need 9 – 10 hours of travel from New York.

Where to stay

Most of the big hotels are in Canada, but in the States you can find almost all big hotel chains as well… the motels at the entrance in the Niagara Falls city are the cheapest.

Where to eat

We’re in the States, so junk food is quite at home here. McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, TGI Friday, Pizza Hut and many more other restaurant chains are here. I ate once at a Hard Rock Café and the food was quite good.

Visa

You need a visa, for the States and for Canada as well. Between these two countries there is a border checkpoint that you will not cross if you do not have a visa… Anyways, from both sides you can see the famous cascades, but the grand view belongs to Canada. If you require a USA visa you can apply for ESTA based on your eligibility.

Pictures of Niagara:

 Sights of USA: Niagara Falls

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Niagara from Balloon!

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Până acum există "2 comentarii" la acest articol:

  1. Miranda says:

    Great post, as an American I’ve seen so many pictures of the falls but these still manage to give me a new perspective – especially the night time shots with the city above. Thanks!

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