Juneau Know What I Mean?
The capital of Alaska, Juneau, is one of the most inaccessible
cities in the world – although it has its own network of roads in and around
the city, they don’t connect to any other roads in Alaska or Canada. There is
no railroad at all. If you want to get to Juneau, it’s by boat or plane: trains
and automobiles are definitely out.
it’s hardly surprising that the city has a very busy harbor – nearly everything
is brought in by sea. And one of the most valuable commodities that arrives
that was is tourists – Juneau is one of the most popular cruise destinations in
the world. In some ways it still feels like the gold rush town it once was –
there is a pioneering feel to Juneau, and its people are tough and resourceful
types. They’re also very friendly towards cruise passengers, as you represent
one of the major income streams of their town.
There’s plenty to see and do in and around Juneau. The Alaska
State Museum, on Whittier Street, is well worth a look around. The Museum is
just a short ten minute walk from the cruise ship docks – if you need
directions to the Museum or any other place in the city, drop into the Marine
Park Visitors’ Information Center, which you will pass as you leave the docks.
Museum’s permanent exhibitions offer a fascinating insight into Alaska’s past.
Although much of the interior of the state is all but inaccessible during the
winter months, the thousands and thousands of square miles of wilderness and
seemingly endless, inhospitable coastlines have long been valued for their
natural resources. Alaska has only officially been a state since 1967, when
statehood was awarded to mark a century of US ownership of the territory. The
land had been the home of native American peoples for millennia, but in the
eighteenth century the Russian Empire moved into the exploit the trapping and
mining potential of the country. When the Tsar’s government decided that a
territory so far from Moscow was more trouble than it was worth the whole thing
was sold to the US at the bargain price of $7.2 million dollars. A couple of
hours in the Museum will teach you all about the history of the Russians in
Alaska, as well as something about the cultures of the hardy native people.
your idea of fun is a bracing walk in the fresh air rather than a stroll around
a centrally-heated museum, you should head in the opposite direction when you
disembark from your ship and make for the Mount Roberts Tramway. The Tramway
will lift you high above Juneau city and into the beautiful alpine wilderness
of Mt. Roberts, from where you can enjoy what must be some of the best views in
the world open to casual cruisers and tourists. If you are of an active
disposition and you have a little longer than the usual one day cruise
stop-off, there are some great hiking trails up here. If, on the other hand,
you simply want to enjoy the great views to Admiralty Island, Glacier Bay and
the Chilkat Mountains this is a great place to do it.
If you want to learn more about the culture of the indigenous
peoples, the Mt. Roberts Tramway runs a small movie theater where you can watch
a short film about the way of life of the Tlingit, the regional Native American
people – the Tlingit are very much still part of Alaska, as much of the local
population is directly descended from the native tribes that dominated the area
before Europeans started to arrive in the eighteenth century.
If all the scenery and information has caused you to work up and
appetite, the Tramway company also runs an excellent high-level restaurant, the
Timberline Bar and Grill, which serves hearty, warming food and a selection of
fine wines and locally brewed beers. You can also browse the Mt. Roberts
Tramway gift shop for souvenirs to take home for friends and family.
Juneau is located on the Alaska panhandle, a long strip of land
that reaches below western Canada in the direction of the continental USA. As
such, it’s often the first – or last – stop-off point on many cruise tours of
the region, which tend to start and end at major ports like Vancouver and
Seattle. As your cruise ship slips its moorings and glides out, away from
Juneau, and into the calm, sheltered waters of the Gastineau Channel, you can
reflect that you visited somewhere that has all the wildness, and all of the
civilization, of Alaska in miniature.