Just four short years ago, Juliane Mark was asking where the best places to go in Prince Rupert were, what one can do here and what exactly northern coastal living looks like.
Today, she’s on the exact opposite end of the same conversation, working as a manager with Pioneer Guesthouse and informing newcomers to Rupert of all its known and maybe not so well-known destinations.
Juliane, a German-born Prince Rupert resident, came to the city four years ago from Europe. Born and raised in Naumburg, Germany, an historic town dating back 1,000 years to medieval times, she attended post-secondary in nearby metropolitan Leipzig, then worked in Hamburg. Juliane felt like she needed a change of scenery around 2010 after a few years on the job.
“Basically I decided I wanted a break because once you’ve seen a job for a couple of years you pretty much know how it works, and I wanted something new,” said Juliane.
So, Juliane acquired a work and travel visa and, after a brief stint in Toronto and Montreal, found herself on the east coast in Halifax.
“I hate flying, so I tried to find the shortest destination basically from Europe,” she said.
After a “freezing” but “amazing” six month stay in Halifax, Juliane knew she wanted to see the rest of the vast number of different geographical locations Canada has to offer.
So she boarded a cross-Canada train taking her to Vancouver during which she was able to take in the prairies and more.
“When you’re on a plane, you just sit there, but when you’re on a train you see the landscape change and you really just get a feeling of how big this country is,” explained Juliane in fluent English.
“The prairies were super interesting and the Rockies were really cool.”
Juliane knew English from learning the language back in Germany and through dealing with her old job in Europe where she had numerous English contacts.
“I guess it’s like here and French. You learn a little bit in school, but then you’re thrown into deep water here and you really get to know it,” she said.
Vancouver was nice, but Juliane wanted something more adventurous. She had already visited the city in the late 1990s and while the city didn’t really look the same, it also didn’t matter to her.
“I didn’t want to come here for big cities, because Europe is full of big cities. So, once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. It was really about getting places you don’t normally see, like small communities. That’s where you have a chance to get to know almost everybody and you get to see what people are doing,” Juliane said.
“[Vancouver] is nice to visit for one or two days, but after that you get kind of bored … you have to sit in a car for hours to get from [Point] A to B and most of the time, the car doesn’t even move.”
Shortly after arriving, Juliane was on the move again.
“In May 2011, I took the first day cruise on the Inside Passage [north along the coast]. That was not the plan, but it happened,” she said.
Arriving in Prince Rupert without a reservation in any of the hotels, Juliane found Pioneer Guesthouse, a quaint hostel-type accommodation for travelers. She quickly became manager of the facility.
“I found a job over at the [North Pacific] Cannery Museum and I helped out at the Pioneer a little bit during the summer because they were looking for somebody [to do] housekeeping and all this. Then they told me if I ever wanted to come back, I could,” said Juliane.
After applying for a second working visa as a young professional, Juliane moved into front desk and then management work at Pioneer. She especially loves exchanging stories and tips with newcomers from all over the world who stay at the inn.
“The biggest group [the Pioneer gets] is still Canadians from B.C. and Alberta and Americans. Then lots of Germans and Australians. What I always find funny considering the size of the country, is there’s lots of Belgians. I think, proportionally, it’s the biggest group. In August, there are lots of Italians, so [groups come from] all over the place. Even exotic places like Taiwan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,” she said.
“We make sure if people want to do something here that we pick the right spots to recommend,” Julian added, saying that for each month, Pioneer offers tips on places to go involving a unique Prince Rupert attraction such as Eulachon runs, skunk cabbage explorations and the like.
While she’s strayed from the area a few times, there seems to be a magnetic pull about Rupert that just keeps making her come back.
“I went over to Haida Gwaii and came back and then I went up to Alaska and came back – I always kind of came back here,” she said.
Juliane even organized Bike to Work Week B.C. for the past two years here in Prince Rupert and is thrilled when she hears feedback from participants who keep at it even when the week is done.
“This year we had way more people bicycling because maybe the weather’s better. On nice days on the waterfront, there’s lots of families who go down with kids, so that’s really amazing to see. [The hills in town] make it more fun. You don’t always go straight – you go up and then eventually you come down again,” said Juliane.
The master orator is also teaching a conversational German course at Northwest Community College this October and February for a total of 20 hours each course. Anyone interested can contact the college at www.nwcc.bc.ca or at 1-877-277-2288.
Most of all, Juliane just loves the spots she finds herself in around the area. Whether it’s kayaking to the Digby Island beaches, exploring the trails or cycling along the highway, the Rupertite is proud to call the North Coast her home.
“You have to work for your experience [here]. It’s not super easy to find spots and also to get on the trails and just to get to the top of Mount Hays, it’s not like there’s a lookout point or a restaurant sitting there waiting for you at the top. You really have to work to find out spots, but its kind of nice because I think that’s what makes the people in town here [so great],” she said.
“If you just come here and expect a big show or something, you’ll probably leave after a couple days because you find nothing that you like. But if you’re really here to invest your time and energy, you get so many rewards back.”