Director and writer Drew Hayden Taylor was living in Dawson City, Yukon when he noticed that there were planes full of German tourists arriving in Canada’s westernmost territory. He was surprised to discover that Yukon’s biggest tourist market after the United States is Germany.
There were German language tour companies and brochures in German at the local tourist information centre. There was even a direct flight from Frankfurt to the 25,085 strong city of Whitehorse.
Curiosity piqued, Taylor travels to Germany to investigate, a story he tells in the CBC Docs POV documentary Searching for Winnetou. He discovers a German obsession with Indigenous North Americans back to a series of novels about a fictional Apache Indian called Winnetou. Written at the end of the 19th Century by an author who’d never been to North America, the series depicts a romanticized ideal of the old West and the Indigenous people who lived there that captured the imaginations of generations of Germans.
As Yukon outfitter Werner Walcher points out, many Germans arrive in Yukon’s boreal forest ready for adventure with a Winnetou novel in their pocket.
1: Tons of nature.
With a population density of 0.1 people per square kilometre, Yukon has all the nature and solitude that German hobbyists crave. German forests, by contrast, are far from wild. They’re heavily groomed and extremely orderly. And where there is real forest there is almost never solitude.
2: It’s easy to get there.
You might not be able to get to the Yukon from Toronto without a long stopover in Vancouver stretching your journey to 14, 16, or even 20 hours. But if you want to visit from Frankfurt Germany, you can fly direct to Whitehorse on a 767 jumbo jet.
It’s usually faster to get to Whitehorse from Germany than from Toronto. Really!
3: They are the perfect target market
According to the department of tourism, The Yukon has increased tourism 25 percent in the last decade by targeting German markets. It’s a “hip” place for Germans to visit.
4: It might feel like home.
As of the 2011 census, 3,203,330 Canadians claim German heritage.
German immigrants to Kitchener-Waterloo, (formerly Berlin) Ontario recreated Munich’s legendary Oktoberfest festival in their new home. It’s now one of the largest Oktoberfests in the world, pulling in almost a million people every year for beer-soaked, lederhosen-wearing festivities.
All the way up in Yukon Territories where German expats run hotels and tour companies, German is one of the largest non-official languages spoken. You’ll hear and see it everywhere; in travel brochures, on restaurant menus and at hotels.
5: The amount of daylight is the same.
Although Canada likes to promote itself as “The Great White North,” most Canadians actually live in the “Great Multicoloured South.”
Berlin is at 52.5 degrees latitude, just north of Saskatoon at 52.1 degrees. No part of Germany is as far south as Montreal.
Germans are accustomed to long days in summer and short days in winter. The idea of being “north of 60” is perfectly normal for most Germans.
German law limits beer ingredients to barley, hops and water. It prevents brewers from competing with bakers for wheat and rye and keeps the flavour notoriously predictable.
Although our two biggest brewers aren’t German (in fact, they're not even Canadian anymore either), Molson Pilsner and Labatt Blue Pilsner are available in most parts of the country. The familiar flavour will wash away any homesickness.
In the Yukon, the best selling beer is Yukon Gold, flavoured with Saaz hops from Bohemia!
7: Real First Nations peoples.
From the Inuvialuit of Tuktoyaktuk to the Mi’kmaq of Halifax the original inhabitants of what we now call Canada are alive and awesome. They might not be anything like the characters from Karl May’s Winnetou novels, but if you ask respectfully, they will be happy to explain their culture and share stories.
The real people here are a lot more interesting. And bannock is delicious. Especially with tea.
8: If the list only has seven reasons, Canadians apologize.
Sorry. And thanks for never asking us to say “eh”. Or “about”. We appreciate that...
Oh, wait...! We like all cultures, so you are welcome for a visit.