Sep 182015
Excursion - Cleveland, OH 1 Seeing a new city is always a thrilling experience. But there is probably no "best" way of how to get a feeling for the place; getting a map and navigating the public transport system to and from the city center from the suburbs (in  this case Rocky River) surely is one of the more rewarding options and, to my mind,  probably better than driving by car on congested roads, with road works forcing you to make unexpected detours and then not finding parking space. Another option in some cities is a hop-on-hop-off touring bus system which can also open up surprising insight into the workings of a city. But surely there is hardly any better way to explore a city than with a personal guide who really knows the ins and outs of his hometown like Mike. And combining that with a kayaking tour around a city that is divided by a river and situated directly on Lake Erie is an unforgettable experience! After a 20-minute drive to a public boat launch on Cuyahoga River near the city center  we got into our kayaks and paddled upstream first, past the "Irishtown Bend", where during the 1830s Irish immigrants settled after their flight from their famine-stricken home country.  Being mainly excluded from Cleveland society, their lives revolved around work in the construction of the city's railroads and the building of the canals. After expanding into other areas of the city, the Irish finally left the dirty and marshy huts. Today this area is merely a historical site with archaeological value. The view from the river is clearly dominated by the stark contrast between the remnants of a once thriving industry and the highrising towers of modern banking structures. The transition to a city of culture, education (Universities and clinics) and services that has taken place since the 1980s is evident everywhere. Turning downstream, we passed several impressive bridges and came to a monument commemorating the Potatoe Famine in Ireland in the 1840s which led to the great number of immigrants that formed large parts of the city during the following years. Nearby a replica log cabin reminds of Lorenzo Carter, who arrived in 1797 as the first settler on the mosquito-infested marshy Cuyahoga River, and was later joined by his wife Rebecca and their nine children to form the nucleus of what today is Cleveland. ( We passed "Jacob's Pavilion", an impressive huge tent to accomodate music events, the mooring place of one of two tour boats, the "Nautica Queen", and the Cleveland Aquarium with walk-under aquarium pools. We proceeded past fashionable restaurants and bars (Shooters, Music Box) which would not turn up their heat until after dark but looked promising from a clubber's perspective. Paddling under a very low railroad bridge (don't panic if a train should pass 40 cm over your head the moment you're beneath it!) we reached the mouth of the Cuyahoga river and, leaving the deserted architectural gem of a Coast Guard post to our left, turned right on Lake Erie to explore the sights of  the harbor and the city. The first major structure we passed as we paddled along Cleveland-Cuyahoga port is the impressive "First Energy" football stadium, home of the Cleveland Browns, followed by the Museum Steamship "William G. Mather". Going into that harbor basin we reached the "Great Lakes Science Center" and the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame", which, when seen from above, has the shape of a record player! In the next basin we got a good look at the Submarine "Cod" from WW2 which served in the Pacific - it sure had to come a long way to end up here. From this turning point on our tour we passed the "Lean Dog", a swimming restaurant, and passed "Burke Lakefront Airport" which was busy with private planes coming and going. Air-racing venues once took place here until a serious accident. ( After our return to the boat slip we had a nice lunch at Merwin's Wharf, a recently opened very busy retaurant right on the river. The Walleye Tacos with corn salsa and a salad were delicious! The day was far from over! Mike took me on an hour's drive to have a close look at the different parks of the city and along the shore. Lakewood Park not only had beautiful houses but also offerred a wonderful view of the skyline of Cleveland. The Cleveland Metropark system manages and maintains up to 60 miles  of continuous park landscape around the metropolitan area (  and is Mike's favorite "Playing field" for his impressive number of sports activities: In the summer he replaces his Nordic skis with roller-skis, he rides his mountain bike and his road bike, he runs, does triathlons with cycling, kayaking and running, exercises in the lake, uses his dumbbells  in his basement  ... and all of that at least 8 times a week, if I didn't miscount 🙂 In the evening we met up with Dianna, Mike's wife for a delicious salmon bbq and to watch the sundown over Lake Erie. What a wonderful way to conclude an eventful day!        
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