02 October 2002

CN Tower - Architectural feast, scary glass bottom, height champion

---- CN Tower // Toronto // Canada Oct'02 ----

The CN Tower is a 553.33 m concrete communications and observation tower in Downtown Toronto. Built on the former Railway Lands, it was completed in 1976, becoming the world's tallest free-standing structure and world's tallest tower at the time. It held both records for 34 years until the completion of Burj Khalifa and Canton Tower in 2010. It attracts more than two million international visitors annually.

Its name "CN" originally referred to Canadian National, the railway company that built the tower. Following the railway's decision to divest non-core freight railway assets, prior to the company's privatization in 1995, it transferred the tower to the Canada Lands Company, a federal Crown corporation responsible for real estate development. Since the name CN Tower became common in daily usage, the abbreviation was eventually expanded to Canadian National Tower or Canada's National Tower.

The idea of the CN Tower originated in 1968 when the Canadian National Railway had a desire to build a large TV and radio communication platform to serve the Toronto area, as well as demonstrate the strength of Canadian industry and CN in particular. These plans evolved over the next few years, and the project became official in 1972

The antenna was originally to be raised by crane but during construction the Sikorsky S-64 Skycrane helicopter became available when the US Army sold off theirs to civilian operators. The helicopter, named "Olga", was first used to remove the crane, and then flew the antenna up in 36 sections. The flights of the antenna pieces were a minor tourist attraction of their own, and the schedule was printed in the local newspapers. Use of the helicopter saved months of construction time, with this phase taking only three and a half weeks instead of the planned six months.

=> How to get there:
Toronto is well-connected with international flights to most destinations

=> Best time to visit: I was there in autumn and it was already pretty cold, try to visit in late spring or summer. Being by the Great lakes winter brings really cold temperatures and snow

=> Where to stay: For a treat, try Le Royal Meridien King Edward, opened in 19003 is a comfortably large, grand, traditional hotel located in the heart of the financial district. Many of the hotel's original features have been lovingly maintained

=> How to get around: Rebting a car is quite a useful thing to do. If you drive, beware or parking regulations, we got a fine! Alternativelly, taxis are relatively inexppensive and public transport accessible. Bike riding is common and there are lanes everywhere. The city is pretty flat.

=> What to do: Go up the CN Tower and take photos looking down through the glass floor. Scary! Niagara Fallls (desrving a seprate post) are only 1.5h away. Go see a game of Hockey, the national sport, it is exhilarating and exciting even if you don't know the rules, it is a fast-paced aggressive sport not for pussies. Visit the renovated Art Gallery of Ontario designed by Frank Gehry. Try food from all around the world. Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world with 49% of the population born outside of Canada. Toronto is big on comedy clubs, check out Second City or Bad Dog Theatre Company. Take a walk along the Waterfront. Stroll back in time in the Distillery District, North America's largest and best preserved collection of Victorian industrial architecture. It's an atmospheric part of town, and new life is being breathed into it all the time

=> Practicalities: 

  1. Toronto does feel like any large American city despite being in Canada. It is rather unsafe (unlike the rest of Canada) and can be daunting. Be careful at nights when violence hits some of the most popular clubs and the entertainment area of town

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