Robert and I met five years ago in Madagascar. I was spending several months travelling Africa during the off-season from work in Saskatoon. Robert was on holiday from his job as a pharmacist in Germany.
Travelling solo across the Red Island we met on a multi-day tour. We paddled down the Tsiribihina River by pirogue (canoe) for several days. We slept on sand beaches and visited the country's famous baobab trees.
One of the first days I met Robert. We shared a pirogue while we paddled down the Tsiribihina River in Madagascar.
Over the last half-decade, we've kept in touch and exchanged details about other world trips we've taken. Earlier this year Robert messaged to tell me that he had decided to bike across Canada for six months. His journey would cover nearly 15,000 kilometres based on his route plans.
I've told fellow travellers I've met during my trips if they ever visited Saskatchewan they would have a free place to stay with a warm shower and spare bed. I'd also be their local tour guide. It's fun to share with others all the amazing places to visit in this province.
Robert happily took me up on that offer.
Meeting up with Robert in Saskatoon after nearly five years since our first meeting in Madagascar.
Robert kept me posted on his itinerary during the first two months of his trip as he travelled through British Columbia and Alberta. He arrived into Saskatoon early evening on a Monday - after more than 70 days on the road and more than 5,000 kilometres into his journey.
"Just last night I was hunted by a thunderstorm in the living skies. Today I am looking forward to seeing a good friend again after many years and to exploring the lively city life of Saskatoon after endless kilometres on the road. After several days of rain and thunderstorms, I was given a present. Saskatoon welcomed me in with the most beautiful summer weather." - Robert Fichtner
He biked into the province at Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park. He spent several days travelling north along Diefenbaker Lake with visits in Danielson and Douglas Provincial Parks. Biking about 80 kilometres a day, his journey was at a much slower pace than by car. This allowed him to fully appreciate each location he stopped.
The particular week he visited, I was swamped with work and couldn't join him on all his local adventures. Instead, I wrote him a suggested itinerary and joined in where I could to personally share with him my favourite locations in the city.
Here is how Robert spent his time in the city of bridges.
Downtown & Riversdale Neighbourhoods
"I arrived in Saskatoon and cannot recall a city in Germany with comparable green areas and trees. I am staying with a very good friend and at the same time I have the best guide from Saskatoon who shows me that the city has more to offer than what Lonely Planet shares." - Robert Fichtner
While I worked during the day, Robert began his visit in the city with a cycling tour into the Sculpture Park near campus and along the South Saskatchewan River. As a bike-friendly city, the cycle paths along the Meewasin Valley Trails make it possible to get from one place to another easy and fast. He stopped to watch pelicans fish at the weir and experienced a train going past on the CPR Bridge.
Spending the afternoon at Drift Sidewalk Cafe hanging out in a hammock, he treated himself to an extra two muffins. (He told me he could use the calories while he took in the century-old charm of 20th street and strolled down to the Remai Modern Museum).
University of Saskatchewan Campus
"Several students shared with me details on current exhibitions, what life at the university is like and a few great places to relax. Hospitality is a top priority in Saskatoon." - Robert Fichtner
As a U of S alum, I always love sharing the gorgeous campus with friends who visit. We spent an evening stopping by all my old haunts: the Airplane Room, the front of Thorvaldson and the Education building. We also stopped in to see the Museum of Natural Sciences. The life-size dinosaurs are always an impressive sight. We spent sunset at the fish pond at Boffins - one of my favourite hidden gem parks in the city in both summer and winter.
Wanuskewin Heritage Park
"I am fascinated by Saskatoon as a city of modernity yet it connects 4,600 years of settlement history with Wanuskewin Park. It is overwhelming to take a look at the ongoing excavations." - Robert Fichtner
A must-do stop while in Saskatoon is to explore the ancient history at Wanuskewin Heritage Park and stroll the pathways along Opimihaw Creek.
Robert joined in on a late morning Medicine Tour. As a pharmacist back in Germany, he learned of several uses of local wild plants by the First Nations and Indigenous Peoples of Canada. Joining in on a second tour, Robert was surprised to learn about the archaeological history in the park.
With artefacts twice as old as the Pyramids of Giza, Wanuskewin is currently seeking UNESCO World Heritage designation. They also have plans to expand the park by bringing in a small herd of bison.
The Berry Barn
"Anything that is off the highways is not as common for tourists to access and often unknown. For me, everything is new here in this country. But it's also helpful if you know someone who knows where there is something to discover. That's how I got out of town in the afternoon for a visit to the Berry Barn." - Robert Fichtner
For Robert's last day in Saskatoon, we drove out of the city to visit The Berry Barn. It felt only appropriate to share with him views of the Saskatchewan River from the patio over a slice of Saskatoon Berry Pie and a glass of Saskatoon Berry iced tea (does it get any more Saskatchewan than this?!)
We took our time savouring the pie, reminiscing on old memories and contemplating future dreams. Afterwards, we strolled through the berry orchards on-site. We offered belly rubs to the "guard dogs" - one of my favourite reasons for visiting the Berry Barn.
The next morning after several days of rest and site-seeing in Saskatoon, Robert packed up his paniers and pedalled off to his next adventure in Prince Albert National Park. Hopefully, it won't be another five years until we see each other again!
To follow the rest of Robert's bike trip across Canada, find him online at The Green Sprinter.