It´s cold, and a damp chill is slowly winding its way up my worn-out denim jeans. A myriad of different impressions is bombarding my nervous system, still worn out from the long flight across the Indian Ocean. Next to me: Chickens and bus seats, and people conversing in loud, passionate sounding voices I cannot understand. The people are carrying the chickens, not the other way around. Or is it?
The massive culture change must be getting to me somehow. It all seems a bit of a blur, but suddenly the scenery changes and jolts me wide awake with its awe-inspiring beauty. Finally, the 90-minute journey over bumpy country roads is coming to an end! Not that I don´t enjoy feisty chickens as travel companions, but I do enjoy gazing upon mesmerizing, majestic mountain ranges thinly veiled by blue shaded fog that much more.
“Common, let´s drop our luggage off at the hotel and get ourselves a nice warm pear tea. It´s freezing, and I can barely feel my feet anymore!” my travel companion states. “Sounds like a plan!” I answer distractedly while taking in the cozy beauty of picture-perfect Yangshuo all around me. Its contrasting appearance to Guilin, the city we had arrived in and where we had oddly enough been the only people who had left the plane, is staggering.
Where Guilin suppressed the soul with its tightly stacked grey upon grey high-rise buildings, leaving barely enough room for one’s being to breathe, Yangshuo is an entirely different matter. It opens your heart and feeds you images straight out of nature´s endless palette of spellbinding imagery. The picturesque resort town in Southern China´s Guanxi region is set amid pinnacles like Bilian Feng (Green Lotus Peak) and is a pure paradise of all shades of green and blue and grey and wonder.
A popular destination for hiking and rock-climbing enthusiasts alike, Yangshuo is undoubtedly a charming little minx. She first winks at you and then enchants you with one single gaze, transporting you to an exhilarating world of wonder and possibilities. Visitors can choose between countless intriguing options: From quaint Li-river tours to warming Pot-Luck meals, and from healing Qi Gong classes to exciting Bamboo-rafting experiences – a world of Chinese-wonderland- options awaits.
After a lovely little tea-time time-out, we head to our hotel. Once in my cozy room, I flick through a very artsy Yangshuo travel guide that someone seems to have forgotten on the bedside table…
The booklet whispers to me through the subtle magic of the written word:
欢迎亲爱的访客, Huānyíng qīn’ài de fǎngkè, welcome dear visitor! The ancients bid you welcome. You are blessed indeed, as Guilin’s scenery is the finest under Heaven. Show respect and gratitude to the land and its people always. For thousands of years, this spring of poetic radiance and harmonious splendor has inspired countless artists, poets, and musicians alike. Know that their creative electricity still dwells all around you in the rivers, trees, and majestic mountains. And give thanks to both the seen and unseen sources of your vitality, the gift of your life.
Know, esteemed visitor, that here in Yangshuo, you will feel protected by the strong Qi (life force) of the mighty karst mountains. You will be washed clean off your worries and doubts by taking in the gentle beauty of the two rivers. Remember that too much fear imbalances your kidney energy, so take time to quieten your mind with the help of some ancient Chinese wisdom in the form of Tai Chi or Qi Gong. It might please your Spirit to soak in a natural hot spring in the Moon Water Cave or to strengthen your Wood energy, your inner adventurer and warrior, by practicing the art of rock climbing. Wherever your choices and your path may lead you, always remember: Be not afraid of growing slowly, be afraid only of standing still.”
A knock on my door – my travel companion awaits, and our very own Yangshuo adventure is about to be born. Through which of the many doors laid out before us will we walk? Join me in practicing the virtue of patience, and find out more in the next post. As the ancients would say –
Patience is a bitter plant, but its fruit is sweet
Back to you, dear reader:What is the most inspiring location you have visited so far? And why did it inspire you? As always, I would love to hear from you:) Stay well and curious!
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You smell… deliciously enchanting. You lure me in with your seductive beauty and your one-of-a-kind magnetic force field. You are sincerely one in a billion and there could never be another that speaks to me the way you do… And even among an ocean of beautiful other creatures that sparkle in their very own magical light, it´s you who dives deep into my soul and makes me feel a resonance of a thousand lifetimes past that all lead to us merging in this sacred moment in time.
“Ready to keep walking? It´s getting late and they are gonna close soon!” My travel companion doesn´t seem to notice my special moment with the deep red colored tulip that I have just connected with in the midst of a sea of gorgeous flowers while exploring the mesmerizing beauty of the Keukenhof gardens in Lisse, Netherlands.
All these oceans of flowers exude effortless elegance and playfulness at once, is what I’m thinking while I’m trying NOT to think. Being in the moment is what the hype is all about, isn’t it? To bridge the barriers between ourselves and the object of our desire, or contemplation-admiration, to let ourselves fall fully into the magic of the unrepeatable moment. So why the f… am I still thinking?
A short sigh escapes my throat. I blame the thinking-overload on the long car ride of the past days: The Keukenhof gardens in Lisse are namely just one of quite a few stops of the road trip through the Netherlands that my travel companion and I had embarked upon five days prior. The adventure had taken us from Hamburg in Germany over lively student town Groningen in Northern Holland, picturesque beach town Wijk aan Zee, and Holland’s cosmopolitan capital Amsterdam to the world-famous tulip gardens named Keukenhof, located a mere 30 minutes from the life-affirming capital.
And we have only just arrived at Lisse, where sweet countess Jacoba Van Beieren (1401- 1436) once gathered even sweeter fruit and scrumptious veggies from the Keukenduin (kitchen dunes) for the kitchen of Teglingen castle, and in this way lay the foundation for what would become the world’s largest and most famous flower park. The longer I meander along seemingly endless rainbow-colored fields and inspirational gardens full of mesmerizing tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, orchids, roses, carnations, irises, and lilies, the easier it seems to get for my thoughts to dissolve into nothingness. And the more the joy in my heart and soul take center stage, allowing me to deeply absorb the rejuvenating, sparkly beauty that’s all around me.
How often do our thoughts pretend to protect us from what we are observing, while in truth just creating concrete walls between the artificial life and projections of our minds on the one hand and whichever facet of life we are interacting with on the other hand?
“The art of living and the art of being must be intertwined“, I hear a majestic yellow-golden tulip whisper as I bend down to admire her unique beauty from up close. “Is that so?“, I ask her softly and with a hint of barely withheld scepticism, carefully watching out for the nearby Asian tourist group that’s taking happy snaps all around me.
“And the art of being is what exactly? “, I dare to throw another question at the flower-queen. My journalistic zest for inquiry cannot be halted, not even by a whispering flower. She remains silent, just gently swaying her head in the soft breeze as if mocking me a little.
The art of being is maybe, so I ponder while spotting a giant pair of traditional Dutch clogs in the distance, journeying beyond thought. Journeying to that place within that is always still, always at peace, always-eternal. That place that doesn’t know anything that’s not peace. That lies deeper than all the events and worries of this life, deeper than any losses we might experience, deeper than any heartbreak or pain. A holy, wholy place that can be reached when we become still, slow our breaths, go within.
I have arrived at the pair of giant yellow Dutch wooden shoes and swiftly jump right into them, a bubbling laughter paving its way out of my throat, a little piece of me entering the world like a joyful mandala of hope and trust.
And for a moment, all else is forgotten. Everything that was weighing on me before is healed by bathing in one of life’s best medicines, spontaneous, free laughter – a colorful and healthy pill we could pop much more regularly by simply getting playful, silly, grateful, and carefree. Who told us that being serious and restrained was more important than creating enough time to just be, and enjoying ourselves and our world with an open heart? That might be another question for the mighty flower friends to answer… Because nature is and has always been one of life’s wisest and arguably quietest teachers. And quiet brings forth truth… universal truth as well as the truth of your own heart.
Back to you, dear reader: Where in the world do you most feel yourself? Which surroundings bring you back to a peaceful, content state? As always, I would love to hear from ya! Stay well and curious:)
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“Andiamo, andiamo, dai!” (“Come on, come on, let´s go“) A cacophony of sounds bombards your senses. There are roars, shrieks, human yells. The strong and sweet scent of sweat jostles you out of your floating state. All around you, you can taste, hear, and feel the essence of adrenaline, urgency, and danger – intermingled with a kinda cruel notion of fun that many in these years of Roman glory and Roman power are accustomed to. This IS the Colosseo, after all, the largest ancient amphitheater ever created, built on the blood, sweat, and tears of Roman Empire slaves between the years 72 and 80 AD.
But back to this frozen moment in time, in which you, yes you, are merging with history by becoming a part of it. All of you is prepared: from your dust-covered feet in those itchy sandals to your intimidatingly shiny silver armor, your wrapped leather and cloth strips over your arms and wrists, to your dark, tightly curled hair and your fiery eyes. You are fully aware of the fact that you could easily die here. But you would at least die for honor, and with bravery- what more could an intimidatingly strong and well-built gladiator like yourself want? Apart from, obviously, freedom and at least one decently sized and delicious “gelato”, ice-cream, at pretty-picturesque Piazza Navona in that world´s best gelateria that you had heard so much about…
The Eternal City cloaks itself in images of artistic divinity and endless stories of passion, compassion, and cruelty, just like the one you just caught glimpses of by morphing into a striking gladiator of days long past. Rome is haunted by tales of human trials and human errors, and by memories of fascinating individuals such as the many valiant gladiators, who were usually slaves brought in from outside of Italy but who stemmed from within the borders of the Roman Empire. These braver-than-brave humans fought for their lives and the amusement of the masses in the Colloseo, which remains one of the iconic symbols of Imperial Rome up to this day.
Through its many neighborhoods, its hidden alleyways, charming piazzas, and its small and big and holy churches, Rome quietly tells the tales of its myriad of former citizens whose legacy remains buried in the forgotten part of its history. And through its imposing architectural feats, like the Pantheon, the Castel Sant´Angelo, or the imposing St. Peter´s Basilica, it reminds everyone blessed enough to lay eyes on Rome´s glory of its undeniable importance in world – and art history. From legendary emperors such as Marcus Aurelius to the crème de la crème of art-defining creative mavericks such as Michelangelo, Rome is like an oasis to the Spirit of those who yearn for endless inspiration and passion.
It´s a place that immediately lures you in, a place that makes you feel alive- deeply, undeniably, passionately alive! To hear the honking of the Vespas, to feel the warm sunshine on your skin, to see and observe people who seem to have emerged straight out of Aphrodite´s drawing book of immaculate beauty adorning the streets, their gazes briefly merging with yours – to lose yourself in a maze of impossible artistic magnificence, of ethereal and eternally live-giving aesthetics unsurpassed by any other city in the world.
The eternal city truly touches visitors in a way no other place can – or at least that´s what Bella Roma did for me, when I spent a month there back in 2007 to visit friends and to take part in a fantastic two-week- Italian language course in Rome. Those weeks filled my veins with so much ispirazionemeravigliosa (marvellous inspiration) that I cannot help but turn to these memories whenever I need to recharge my in-awe-with-life-batteries. I recall contently meandering through Rome´s art-filled streets at night and almost being able to feel the presence of Venus aka Aphrodite incarnate in the air. The Roman counterpart to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, who symbolizes love, passion, procreation, beauty, and pleasure, seems to be palpable wherever you find yourself in Italy´s capital.
You´ll catch a glimpse of her when strolling through impossibly charming, funky and bohemian Trastevere and admire the countless trattorias and artisan shops in the neighborhood. You´ll encounter Aphrodite by exchanging glances with the impossibly stylish Roman ragazzi e ragazze, all of whom seem to ooze sensuality and a sense of composed pride, as if they were very aware of how intricately the fabric of this exceptional place is woven into the very depth of their being.
You´ll most definitely feel touched by Aphrodite´s eternal beauty while eating yourself through heavenly dishes such as supplì, a fried rice-ball mixed with ragù and mozzarella and cooked to perfection or artichokes alla romana, braised artichokes stuffed with herbs and sprinkled with lemon. These might just be the only artichokes that know how to caress your palate and that subsequently melt in your mouth like little forbidden bites of heaven. Also, of course, try all different types of Pizza available – I promise, you´ll never want to go back to eating frozen Pizzas from your local supermarket aisle ever again!
And let me just chip in from my personal experience – I still recall the sheer mind-blowingly delicious taste of a humble Roman panini from my first visit to Rome 19 years later on! Yes, that´s how mind-boggingly exquisite Italian food in Italy is! Sigh, Sigh, Sigh.
By the way, you´ll also feel Aphrodite´s gentle a-muse-ment when taking in the sublime art and architecture of the city – from Bernini´s statue “Apollo and Daphne” in the Galleria Borghese to Michelangelo´s Moses in the Basilicia di San Pietro in Vincoli. And those are only a few of countless priceless pieces of art in this city that literally breathes and exemplifies classical art in its many forms: from paintings and sculptures to frescoes, architecture and food-art.
Wait! Aphrodite just whispered something into my ear… she has a beautiful message and announcement for you! Yes, just you! – She wants you to know that there will be another post on Rome´s delights in the future and that there is aspecial treat in the works for all the ladies who would like to reclaim their inner Goddess! What about that?
A Gypsy at Heart will be offering a 6-week- Goddess Yoga + Healing arts course for women on Saturdays starting in about a month´s time (specific date to be announced)! Feel free to let me know in the comments if you would like to participate or would like to have more information on this, ladies:)
Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever been to Rome, and if so, what were your absolute highlights? As always, I would love to hear from you:) A presto, cari amici!
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Hello dear friends and readers from around this whirlwind-globe!
How is everything in your world? Or, may I say, our world?
I feel that the private and the collective are flowing more together, are impacting each other more than ever before this year in a way. And I feel strongly that what the world needs now…. cue song…is love sweet love!
So, following a mission of contributing more wholesomeness, peaceful, and life- affirming vibes to the individual and collective, I wanted to share a few offers with you that I am currently facilitating. Please reach out to me if any of it resonates with you, I would love to hear from you.
Gypsy offering numero 1:
Want some LANGUAGE FUN in your life?
As a trilingual Cultural Scientist (M.A.) with more than seven years language teaching experience under my belt, I am stoked to be offering a limited amount of weekly language classes again – Spanish, German, and English, to be exact. My current focus is on conversational classes as well as having a FUN time together, focusing on your favorite interests, goals, and topics (think music/ art/ travel/ cooking/ or whatever else you love)! It will basically be a bit like reading a post of A Gypsy at Heart, just with loads of interaction, learning, and realtime-fun:)
–Do you feel your GERMAN needs some brushing up (might also offer introductory classes if wanted)? Let me know! I am German with a Cultural Scientist (M.A.) degree from a German university (Leuphana University Lüneburg), and plenty of German teaching experience under my belt.
–Do you love SPANISH, but need a buddy to improve your skills? Great news: I am Spanish and have had a Spanish language teaching business for years and have taught Spanish to plenty of students from 28 countries in Australia and worldwide. You can check my business and some cool testimonials out here.
—-Do you feel your ENGLISH is getting rusty? Hit me up!I´m a trained TEFL-teacher and have lived for 5 years in Asia and Australia.
I am looking forward to hearing from you. Just email me: mariaelena@agypsyatheart and we will figure something out. Feel free to share if you know anyone who could benefit from this offer.
Gypsy offering numero 2:
Some of you might know from the A Gypsy at Heart About section that I am a trained Yoga- and Wellness Teacher with 20 years of Healing studies under my belt. Yep, alright, you got me – I am a TOTAL nerd!! No kidding.
However, what´s important here is how I can be of service to YOU with all my nerdiness. I am considering offering Healing and Wellness coaching in the future – if that sounds like something you could be interested in, just send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can chat.
I have also created a GUIDED MEDITATION for you guys – you can find it here. It´s a simple, easy, and soothing way to get started on your meditation journey. I consider meditation and mindfulness to be absolutely essential to maintaining our cool in times like ours. And these tools work!
Meditations have a host of science-backed benefits, which include:
Better focus and concentration, lower levels of stress and anxiety, improved self-awareness and self-esteem, improved tolerance for pain, and much more!
I hope you´ll enjoy! Regarding the remote classes, I do just offer a limited amount of sessions, so get in touch and secure your spot 🙂
Maria Elena/ A Gypsy at Heart, email@example.com
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“Psst…I’ll tell you a secret.” He tilts his head and looks at me with an intriguing gaze. “All you see here, in all its inexplicable splendor, was once only a dream, a vision… La vida es sueño, no? (Life is a dream, right?)
Is Barcelona’s most eminent artist-architect really quoting sixteenth-century poet and writer Pedro Calderon de la Barca here, or are the sounds I hear distorted by the loud noises coming from the proud and fierce Catalan protesters nearby? “Sí sí, you heard it just right”, the middle-aged man with the dreamy yet determined look in the eyes assures me. He must be some kind of mind reader on top of being a surrealist genius! “Come on now, I‘ll take you along on a tour of my Barcelona, si vols? (If you like in Catalan)
Alas, how can I refuse? It’s my fifth time in the vibrant capital of the Spanish province of Catalonia, and I am definitely molt (very in Catalan) keen on hearing all the good stuff straight from the freaking talented horse’s mouth.
Parc Guell´s abundance of whimsical mind-adventures
The first sight we visit is one of my favorite sights in Barcelona, the infamous Parc Guell, a surrealistic art lover’s dream par excellence, where stunning viaducts, whimsical grottoes, and impossibly romantic winding staircases enchant visitors and bring them back in touch with the endless excitement and exuberance that lives within us in the form of our inner children.
Think Charlie’s chocolate factory meets Alice in Wonderland meets Mary Poppins doing a tapdance on Salvador Dali’s head and you might grasp the level of plain-fun-creativity that you will encounter at Parc Guell. “Ah el meu parc….” (Ah, my parc in Catalan), Gaudi enunciates with a mix of nostalgia, longing, and pride in his voice.
“I don’t want to brag, but some people out there would say that this is undoubtedly one of my masterpieces!Good old Eusebi Guell was indeed a loyal friend, patron, and successful entrepreneur, and I received many a commission from him. To be honest, some of them never even made it off paper… but let’s go back to my parc, shall we?”
“Sure”, I mumble curiously in reply, while taking in the myriad of multicolored ceramic fragments that decorate the snake-shaped- form bench on the parc’ s magnificent terrace.
Everyone loves an escape from time to time, and Park Guell makes Spirits and humans feel so fine
I hear the tantalizing yet calming sounds of drums emerging from the pine-tree lined park to my back, and I let my gaze wander attentively over the horizon, where the bustling Barcelona cityscape meets the Mediterranean ocean, waters glistening in the warm Spanish (or shall I say Catalonian?) sun.
“ L’ estimo tant aqui” (I love it so much here,in Catalan), Gaudi sighs while taking a puff from his pipe. Where did that pipe just come from?! Probably just manifested out of thin air. Anything is possible, right?
Gaudi continues: “I even had my own home here – the Casa Museu Gaudi in the Carrer d Olot occupies the house where I once lived. ” I sense the architect´s sadness about having to leave his house behind when moving into Spirit form and offer to get going. “Shall we explore more of your masterpieces?”, I ask him encouragingly. “Sounds good. Let’s head to La Sagrada Familia next – I don’t want to brag, but some peeps do say it’s one of my masterpieces!”
“What inspired you to create all these mind-blowingly beautiful architectural jewels?”, I ask him curiously while we admire the Nativity facade of the Sagrada Familia church. My journalistic, inquisitive mind cannot be halted, not even by Gaudi in spirit form giving me a tour deluxe of the stunning seaside city’s famous sights.
“Well, you know”, he is quick to answer while eyeing his yet-to-be-finished modernist church with some recognizable pride – andwho could blame THAT man and surrealist genius for it!
Inspired by nature: The birth of a genius
“They say you just understand live in hindsight, and as a Spirit, I can confirm that theory. As a child, I was a bit of a delicate flower, so I had to spend lots and lots of time resting at my family’s summer house in Riudoms, it must have been around 1859, 1860 or so. Mind you, that was before Social…how do you call it again?… Media and all thattook over people´s minds.
So there I was, Antoni Gaudi i Comet, inventor-to-be of a new and incomparable architectural language that defied classification..just resting away amid nature. The irony is: Having that much time to contemplate the secrets of nature filled me with an indomitable will to recover, to live, to create, to feel the rush of a life well lived in my veins, to explode in a symphony of creativity, pure life-force, and endlessly attractive manifestation of my essence...Wouldn’t you agree that Nature is the supreme mistress and crowning achievement of the Creator?“
“Sure,” I reply hesitantly.
“So, what you see here, and in my many other works like Casa Mila or Casa Battlo, is me following the very patterns of nature, honoring its laws, and tracing its course – what you see is me plus divine inspiration plus mother nature’s bountiful beauty manifested. But that´s enough chatter, let’s head insidenow …”
Where the holy and the whole meet: La Sagrada Familia
While Gaudi and I step into the UNESCO listed church, and one of Europe’s most unconventional houses of worship, located in the northern part of Barcelona, I am immediately filled with an energy of inexplicable and crystal clear peace. The kind of peace that washes away any thoughts, questions, or concerns, and lets you float effortlessly in the ease of your own being, content, safe, and nourished within every cell of your body and every inch of your soul.
“Magnificent, right?”, Gaudi whispers awe-inspired by the creation he set in motion. The Sagrada Familia holds an energy all of its own, and yet, one that’s unmistakably universal. The peace in it touches us at least as deep as the 18 spindly towers of it that are soaring above all others of Barcelona´s monuments are high.
“Spirituality, or maybe rather mysticism, and a rebellious spirit are oftentimes intricately connected“, Gaudi muses while we slowly meander through the magnificent interior of the church.
“Take my example – I was commissioned in 1883 to design my Basilica as a neo-Gothic church, that’s what the powers to be expected me to do. Instead, I followed the longing of my own spirit| being and went for it – I created a pretty cool signature example of my acclaimed surrealistic Art Nouveau architecture. How would you young people, well, alive people, call it nowadays? Ah yes- going with the flow! I went with the flow, and had no rigid ideas or plans in mind – instead, I altered to and added to the plans as work progressed. John Lennon knows best – Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans, and so it was! My egoic mind thought that the Sagrada Familia (Holy Family in Spanish) would be finished after 10 to 15 years, and here we are, 2020, pandemicky times, and still a work in progress!”
I take in the opulent and decorative details of the ceiling and admire how the colorful stained-glass windows facilitate the flow of ethereal light into the interior. Then, Gaudi lightly taps me on the shoulder and says goodbye with a twinkle in his eye. “I have to leave to discuss new project ideas with Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe, the famous German architect, now, and he is REALLY into punctuality. Those Germans! But, my dear, keep this in mind – the Sagrada Familia is a work that’s in the hands of God and the will of the people – and so is the state of this amazing, confusing, and colorful world that you are blessed to live in, don’t you think? Adeu!”
Back to you, dear reader: If you could meet one artist, dead or alive, who would it be, and why? As always, would love to hear from you! Stay well, wild, and curious:)
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Hello my lovely fellow bloggers, friends, and readers,
cool news!! My fabulous friend Miriam from Out an´About – the best blog on Australian travel adventures ever – just published my first ever guest post on Western Australia´s top spots to visit. If you are itching for some virtual adventure AND a bit of amore and romance, this might just be up your alley! If you haven´t checked out Miriam´s blog yet, please do – it is inspirational, uplifting, and just a true treat for the soul!
Much love, and enjoy your weekend and week, wherever you may be 🙂
Australia has a massive and magnificent coastline. Though I’ve seen much of it, one of my dreams, when we can travel again, in 2021, is to drive the length of the West Australian coast. To leisurely take in the splendour of those red earth roads, wild gorges and big blue skies. The last time I was in WA I was only 19! Next year, when state borders re-open, my dream is to head off in our van and discover our homeland wonders from the top to the bottom.
In this post I’m delighted to welcome fellow traveller, wanderluster and gypsy at heart Maria Elena. Some of you may know her already and, if you don’t, you’re in for an absolute treat. Her writing, zest for life and adventurous spirit is infectious and will captivate and transport you.
Living in Spain, but with a part of her heart still in…
Some moments in life call for the unique archetypal power and magic of fairy tales to console us, to cloak us in their warm embrace of sparkling pixie dust and story-foam, and to replace our salty tears with sweet and tender smiles of ease and well-being.
As coincidence or fate would have it, I have just the right kind offairy tale up my Gypsy-sleeve. Wanna lean back, pour yourself your favorite type of tea, and be whisked away to a world of almost-pure imagination? Your storytime-wish is my command – los geht´s (let´s go)!
A tale of two brothers
Once upon a time, there were two brothers. One was called Jacob Ludwig Karl. The other was called Wilhelm Carl. They were pretty smart cookies and excelled in academia, cultural research, and literature. The brothers had a shared passion: they just LOVED to travel deep into the past and mine for the golden nuggets of forgotten truths. While on their their intrepid adventures, they met some astonishing storytelling-heroines like Dorothea Viehmann and poetess extraordinaire Annette von Droste-Hülshoff.
These heroines shared age-old wisdom in story-form with the German brothers from Hanau, and the brothers Grimm (yes, that was their full name) passionate storytelling-fire led them to set the stories in stone aka on paper and gift us with the Grimm´s fairytales, originally known as Children´s and household tales, first published in December 1812 and containing 210 unique fairytales. Oh, curious side-info: The Grimm´s were also fab enough to found the immensely valuable fairytale science (“Märchenkunde als Wissenschaft” in German).
Venturing into charming Red-Riding-Hood-country
Germany´s magnificent forests and charming towns and villages build a lot of the backdrops of Grimm´s fairytales – and, like magic wands/ wants it… drumroll, German yodel song, drumroll: the brothers did invite us back to where they used to live and where they frequently felt the gentle caress of their muse. This place is, up until today, known as “Red-Riding-Hood-country“, located all around Kassel and Marburg in Hessen, right in the heart of Germany. Pretty cool to go on an outing with such outstanding personalities of German and European Cultural history, right?
“Bist du bereit?” Rotkäppchen wartet schon auf uns!” (“Are you ready? Little-Red-Riding-Hood is already waiting for us!“), Carl Grimm enunciates excitedly in his Hessian accent while greeting us at one of the entry-points of the famous “Knüllwald“, the Knüll-forest in the densely wooded region of the Knüllgebirge (Knüll hills).
The magical forests of Knüll
“Klar, los gehts!” (of course, let´s go!), I reply, dragging you along:P. All around us – majestically towering larch trees, rich green leaves rustling in the light breeze, and picturesque quiet valleys that seem untouched from any notion of acceleration, just at ease being left to their own being.
After a short hike in the rural area of Knüll (darn, Wilhelm Grimm forgot to tell us to bring proper hiking shoes! These lofty scholars again with their heads in the clouds), we reach the Wildpark Knüll wildlife park.
“There! Little Red Riding Hood! Can you see her?”, asks Carl Grimm with a pleased look upon his face. “Nah, all I see are horses!“, I reply enthusiastically.
Or do I glimpse a little girl in a cute red cape vanishing into the woods in the distance? No time to figure this one out – Wilhelm Grimm is impatiently tugging me by my sleeve. “There he is, the rascal! Up to no good, as usual!”
What the wolf doesn´t tell
A gorgeous wolf appears in front of us, his silvery-grey fur almost sparkling a little in the gentle sunshine. For a moment, I wonder – did the brothers Grimm not mix something up here, and mistake this gorgeous, wild, and honorable creature for an off-track human? Why would a wolf be after a little girl in a red cape? Do wolfs not usually go for prey like deer, elk, bison, and moose, or beavers?
Mmm, something to ponder indeed. I decide to keep my admiration for the wolf to myself, though. By the way, check out the fantastic book “Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music and Wolves” by acclaimed French pianist Helene Grimaud – she literally lives with and around wolves, when not playing on the stages of this world, and has astonishing things to say about the true nature of these intriguing animals.
Checking out Sleeping Beauty´s enchanted abode
“Oh, ich hab langsam Hunger!” (Oh, I am slowly getting hungry!) Let´s head over to Sleeping beauty´s place – she is probably out like a light, but her place ist really erste Sahne (first class, literally: first cream)“, comments Wilhelm Grimm.
Half an hour later, and we find ourselves at Sleeping Beauty´s cozy abode in Homberg/Efze, a sleepy (obviously) and charming little town not far from the enchanted forests we had just visited. Unfortunately, Sleeping Beauty must have fallen asleep somewhere else as she is nowhere to be seen. And I so wanted to quiz her on how to sleep like REALLY well! Ah, next time. The brothers Grimm show us around and also share a little gossip on the town of Homberg, which is just one of many, many stops along the 600 km long German fairy tale route that reaches from Bremen in Northern Germany to Hanau in Central Germany, not far from where we find ourselves now.
A lot more happens that magical day in Central Germany, and if there is one thing I would love for you to take away from this, it´s that miracles and magic are real and do happen… never lose faith, be prepared for good things to come to you, and keep your heart and mind wide open!
Back to you, dear reader: What is your favorite ever fairy tale? And: Do you believe in magic, and that there is more to life than what we can see? Or are you a die-hard realist? As always, I would love to hear from you:)
On a different note: I am considering offering a limited amount of fun German and Spanish language and culture classes again! In case you want to find out more, just get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org Bis bald:)
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Aloha amigos, amigas, readers, tired of BS- ones, Zen-ones and people of the internet!
How are you all holding up? If you find this year´s collective happenings just a teeny tiny bit tedious, hey, you are not alone. But fear not – a fun distraction is here. What would you say if I invited you to come along on a very non-tedious, light, insightful, and hopefully entertaining time-travel-ride? No, we are not going back to 8000 BC Egypt, and neither to the light and fluffy Middle Ages. We are traveling right back to February 2020, to a time that´s a measly six months ago, and yet feels like a completely different lifetime in many ways. Do you feel me?
Anyways, back to the time-travel-journey at hand. Drumroll… please say hello to A) A Gypsy-at-Heart´s first-ever video interview and B) The fantastic Andrea Hogan, an all-around marvelous traveler, serial ex-pat, and dear friend who hails from Mexico and has lived in such fantastic places as Southern France, Switzerland, Germany, as well as Queensland and Western Australia.
Throughout our interview, you´ll get to hear fabulous insider-tips on the best travel experiences from around the world and you´ll find out what hilarious stuff can happen to you if you tour France while sleeping in a 400 Euro-car. You ll also find out how to save money while traveling, how to spice up your daily life with a travel-mindset, and many, many more insightful and fun bits of first-hand-travel-wisdom.
Back to you, dear reader: Do you prefer to watch videos, read posts, or listen to podcasts? What did you enjoy most about this video? And which is your Number-one- travel-destination you would love to explore? As always, I would love to hear from you.
If you enjoyed the video, please subscribe to the A Gypsy at Heart- You-Tube-channel and gift me a little like. Arrigato and cheers, mates 🙂
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Be fluid. Be adaptable. Flow around obstacles, ever so gently. Yet remember that you also have all the might of the stormy oceans within you, a strength that can swallow ships whole, a power that just needs to be acknowledged and, if necessary, liberated. The power to break-a-way, to follow your very own path, be it without, or indeed, within.
The storm from the night before is still casting its shadows, the waves on crystal-clear Lake Geneva are testimony to this. I feel the strong winds whipping against my face and almost blowing my purple beanie away. I hold on tighter to my beanie and myself, standing strong like a tree amidst the currents that swirl all around me, my gaze fixated on the crescent-shaped lake. It´s still so tumultuous out there that even the famous Jet D´Eau fountain, one of the city’s most famous landmarks, does not grace onlookers with its spectacle.
Morning musings in diplomatic surroundings
Lake Geneva, also known as Lac Léman, offers a pure pleasure paradise view: the majestic lake shared between France and Switzerland lures my thoughts away from the mundane and towards the transcendent with its unbelievably pristine waters and the Alps visible in the distance. The diplomatic hub Geneva´s watery playground gives me a tiny glimpse of the magnificence that I´ll be privileged to witness later in the day.
This day would be all about the holiest of live´s building blocks, the component that makes up up to 60 per cent of our bodies, the essence of life that nourishes us, cleanses us, and beckons us to immerse ourselves in it to refresh and purify ourselves and start afresh…
After admiring Lake Geneva and soaking up the interesting, kinda stern atmosphere of the diplomatic hub´s city center and the cobbled old town (I somehow can´t help but feel a vibe of “Don´t mess with me or I´ll haunt you with a massive paper trail”), it´s time for a stroll and a quick lunch. Fortunately, we stumble upon a perfect little eatery with healthy and delicious meals called Qibi which provides us with more than enough fuel to do a little window shopping and marvel at some sights.
Heading to a place of French watery magic
We had also eyed off visiting major sights like the Temple de St-Pierre (cathedral of St. Pierre) or the Palais de Nations (United Nations headquarters, a center of world diplomacy). Somehow, though, we feel a stronger pull towards our new destination – I had just recently learned about Annecy in a travel guide book on France, and the sound of it had sounded too darn magnifique to be true! While the mesmerizing Swiss-French landscapes with their imposing mountains irradiated an undeniable power that could be witnessed through the car window, my thoughts seemed to merge with the promise of the upcoming travel chapter. Again and again, some long-ago read quotes on the magic of water crossed my mind:
“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.” — Kahlil Gibran
“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” — Isak Dinesen
“Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” — Lao Tzu
Why is it that we tend to long so passionately for the ocean, the lakes, the rivers of the world? Is it because it´s where we can reunite with the essence of our true home, where we can wash off the density and stagnation of the world and become one again with our innocent, radiant, and eternal selves? Might places of water offer us ways to make our light shine again and sparkle with a renewed hope of trust and faith?
Falling in awe in Annecy
Be it as it may, Annecy would, in any case, bring me closer to the awe and reverence towards life that radiant natural settings ignite. After dropping our luggage at the hotel and having a little nap, we made our way down towards the primordial reason for our detour. So there we were, unsuspectingly driving through a cute French city and suddenly… an INCREDIBLE panoramic view appeared on the horizon. Was I excited? You bet I was – I was freaking spell-bound!! Completely enthralled, just like in-the-first-throes-of-romantic-love, or when just about to open your favorite package of snacks. I mean, snacks!!
Anyways, back to the bluer-than-blue, any-painter-would-die-to-stand-in- front- of- this- view. Picture the Caribbean ocean, just casually set in the middle of a French town, and surrounded by the commanding Alps. Pretty darn cool, hey? By the way, Annecy is just a one-hour drive away from Montblanc, at 4810 meters the second-highest mountain in the whole of gorgeous Europe. So yeah, that type of Class A mountain excellence was dotted all around Lac Annecy, creating a sublime contrast of rock and strength to the clear waters of le lac (the lake).
Exploring le lac: From urban beaches to aviaries
Once we had arrived at our destination, we started leisurely meandering along its shore and taking in the indescribable beauty of the place. Lake Annecy, which for any curious geography-nerds out there, is located in the Haute-Savoie region of France, is fed by mountain springs and known for its clean water, which we got to marvel at for hours. After a while, our stomachs started to object to endless walks with no French food supply. There seemed to be something of a French siesta thing going on, though, as all the restaurants we headed to were closed for the early afternoon. What´s a hungry girl to do? Raid the nearest supermarket, of course!
So off we went to a charming little supermarche where we got to indulge in buying some excellent local produce and more. Did I mention that in France, EVERYTHING tastes delightful, bursts with flavors, and feels like a soft embrace of your tastebuds? Yes, every single item we tasted soon afterward on our impromptu-picnic tasted “formidable” (fantastic), and that included packaged supermarket-salads! Go figure. French Savoir Vivre in action, right?
Btw, there are a few cute urban beaches and many more things to discover around the lake, such as lovely pleasure boat rides in summer. Inviting waterfront restaurants and wine bars offer lake views, the scent of fresh mountain spring water, and relaxed dining. At its north end, Annecy has a cute medieval old town with canals and bridges called “Annecy-Le-Vieux” – the perfect spot to end our excursion for the day.
Lovely people, stay tuned for my next post, which will be VERY different to anything shared so far on A Gypsy at Heart. I am super-excited to be kicking off a whole new side to sharing for you – think fun, excitement, guests, and more! Will you join me?
Back to you, dear reader: What is your favorite watery destination and why? How exactly does that place make you feel? As always, I would love to hear from you:) Stay well, wild, and curious.
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It´s long. It´s colorful. It´s kinda exotic. It´s just lying there, big, bold, and beautiful, lazing around in the light summery rain.
Is it a giant tree trunk gone bonkers? Is it a vehicle coming straight out of a South-East-Asian fairytale? It might be the latter, but then again, how would I know – this is my very first time in incredible, majestic Thailand after all!! I do know one thing, though: I have been here all of five minutes, and I am already in love. Maybe even head over heels in love!
Moonson musings and first impressions
It´s the middle of October and the rains, as I will learn during the next weeks, are a reliable force to be reckoned with throughout these monsoon months… Sometimes they appear as a welcome friend that ever so lightly taps on your shoulder and caresses your sun-kissed cheeks, sometimes they like to make a dramatic entrance and throw a thunder-clothed tantrum as if they, and only they, own the place. Which they kinda do, when they turn into torrential downpours that sweep away almost anything that dares to defy them, which is not a rare occurrence during the rainy season, that typically lasts from July to October.
Besides rains, there are dazzling beaches here on Thailand´s largest and most developed island jewel Phuket. Glorious, long, sandy, dreamy, inviting beaches like Kata Beach, Freedom Beach, Katai Noi Beach, or Karon Beach, some of them with the typical longboats (yes, the tree trunks aka fairytale thingies!!) dotted around, and smiling Thai fishermen working around them.
Running into the Andaman sea while the rain is in its friendly light appearance-mode is a particular pleasure: The sea waters are warm and all-encompassing, while the light rain pattering onto your head and face feels refreshing and invigorating at the same time. Add the visual deliciousness of the pure green-blue waters and an incomparable view to the experience, and you might begin to feel in your deepest core what makes Thailand´s islands so irresistibly alluring.
Burmese Beach encounters and Buddhist notions of peace
My two weeks in Phuket are an excursion into a wonder-full world of kind, gentle people, fantastic, albeit at times hair-raisingly spicy meals like Tom Yum Kung (a soup dish with a fried chili and chili base, ay ay ay!), to-die-for-massages (try a Thai massage at Sweet Lemongrass Massage in Patong – ay ay ay!) , and raunchy nightlife (head to Soi Bangla Road for the authentic, loud, obnoxious to outragingly fun version of Thai nightlife pleasures). There are also humbling temple visits, seasoned with an abundance of exquisite nature settings- lush tropical vegetation and picture-perfect beaches.
Our hotel is located a five-minute walk from Patong beach, and so I often meander along massage-parlors with petite and very pretty Thai ladies offering their services, flashy souvenir-shops, and restaurants, till I reach the shores of the Andaman sea.
I love chatting with the young guy whose name I have forgotten, a refugee from Myanmar who, like the around 130.000 others who share his fate, fled eastern Myanmar due to persecution by the Myanmar army since the beginning of 1988 and found a new home in Thailand. Many of them still reside in nine refugee camps along the Thailand-Myanmar border. The young man working as a watersport-instructor at Patong beach, probably the liveliest and most activity-packed beach in all of Phuket (think Jetskiing, banana boat rides and the like) has been lucky in that regard, even though his friendly, charming demeanor might belie the pains he must have experienced.
“Smile to it” must be the motto of the Thai people in general anyways – a motto which is inextricably linked to their TheravadaBuddhist faith, which is practiced by 95% of the population. Buddhism is not just an abstract concept here like it is for so many people in the West. It´s strongly anchored in daily life, which is clearly made visible through the many shrines and temples all around. Meditation is a key aspect of Buddhist practice – and guided meditations are often a great starting point in learning to meditate!
For me, the distinct mentality of the Thai people, their gentleness, kindness, and caring ways are definitely a distinct feature of this culture. Buddhism and beaches – two undeniable highlights of the Southern Thailand island experience!
Sensual serenity at the beach and tantalizing time-travel at the temple
It´s a marvelous and rejuvenating gift to your own soul to explore some of Phuket´s divine beaches such as Laem Singh beach, a tropical, hidden paradise with thick, green bush, and large rock boulders, where you can rent a bodyboard or snorkeling kit from the nearby restaurants, and enjoy Phuket´s colorful underwater world of wonders. Just out of this world!! Well, really, in it! So, lucky us!!
To amp up your inner tranquility and peace, there´s nothing better than heading to one of Phuket´s 29 temples, such as Wat Phra Thong or Wat Chalong. My own visit to Wat Chalong was simply awe-inspiring. The atmosphere of peace and serenity as well as equanimity that the temple itself, as well as the present monks irradiated, was palpable, the many golden Buddha statues, opulent flowers and intricate temple architecture a feast for the eyes and soul.
Walls and ceilings were beautifully decorated with vivid paintings illustrating the life of Buddha. I vividly remember being somehow completely mesmerized by a painting depicting a monk, clad in bright orange robes. I must have stood there for twenty minutes or so, just taking in all the details of the picture and feeling completely at ease and peace…
Wat Chalong is generally frequented by a myriad of locals and tourists alike who come to pray and pay respects to several revered monks. These were the founders of the temple, Luang Pho Cham and Luang Pho Chuang, who led the citizens of Chalong Sub-district in a fight against the Chinese rebellion in 1876 and assisted the injured with their knowledge of herbal medicine. If you do visit (entrance is free, yay), just be mindful of the required dress code and behavior to be observed in any Thai temple.
To enjoy a guided meditation, a Yoga class, as well as an e-book with my best kept relaxation secrets, drawing from my background as a trained Yoga teacher, Wellness trainer and Healing-Arts-student with 20 years of experience, just join the waiting list here. You might very well get to sleep better and lengthen your attention span by starting on your meditation journey!
Where is Leonardo hiding? Searching via Speed-boat from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi
To finish off our Phuket-adventure, let me give you a quick description of an outrageous excursion to dreamy Ko Phi Phi island on a leaky speedboat, guided by a flamboyant ladyboy. Imagine this: You are stepping aboard a speedboat that, clearly, has seen better days, but of course, that´s just an uninformed guess. You are too caught up in checking out your fellow passengers, a bunch of cool cat-Russians, three cheeky Australians, and about a dozen more voyagers from different cultural backgrounds, to observe the boat more in detail.
Also, there´s a charming Thai ladyboy explaining all kinds of things in a nonchalant and relaxed manner, so how could there be anything to worry about? A few minutes in, and you start to understand why: While the rains have started to pour down from above, the ocean water seems to leak through the bottom of the speedboat. You are completely soaked in a matter of seconds, while determinedly holding on to your speedboat-seats. Halleluja, what a ride! Is it from heaven, is it from hell? Who knows, really.
Fortunately, there are some beautiful stops to be had before anchoring off the coast of Ko Phi Phi for the day. First off, it´s time to get the snorkeling gear out and jump into the deliciously warm waters – a date with colorful fish is on the cards. Who doesn´t love the heavenly quit under the water´s surface and a sneak peek at the world under the sea? I surely loved every minute of it! Next off, our group gets to hang out just off the beach of an island inhabited by crazy monkeys.
We get to feed them, always mindful of them not getting too cheeky and stealing our valuables. Last, but not least, it´s time to explore the island that the famous movie The Beach made so famous: Ko Phi Phi. Truth be told, the beach and view were stunning AND also – freaking overcrowded with tourists! But – it might be a different experience if you choose to stay there longer and get to explore the island more in-depth… On a different note, Leonardo was nowhere to be found. Ah well, nothing beats swimming with colorful fish anyways! Sorry, Leo 😛
Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever been to Southern Thailand? If so, what were your impressions, and what did you like best? Also, what is your dream island to visit in the future? As always, I would love to hear from you! Thank you, and stay well, wild, and curious:)
Images: This time, all images (minus one haha) are from Pixabay and Pexels, as my Southern Thailand photos went missing. They probably preferred to stay on the island, is my guess… can´t blame them!
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Traveler, Writer, Artist, Journalist, Language and Yoga teacher, Cultural Scientist. The author of "Speak in Spanish- Fun and motivation on your learning journey" as well as the multicultural novel "Von Fischbrötchen, Sangrianächten und Chaoswelten". Love animals, the arts, laughter, traveling through inner and outer worlds, the healing arts.
Weltenbummlerin. Reisende in inneren wie in äusseren Welten – in Gedanken, Büchern, Filmen, Meditationen, im Schreiben – sowie in fremden Ländern und Kulturen.