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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“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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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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It is late afternoon in Bali. World-famous Kuta beach resembles an overcrowded anthill: a messy mix of surfers, retired Australians with big bellies enjoying their Bintang beers on plastic chairs, partying youngsters and Balinese either socializing in the sand or selling all imaginable types of products. Some also offer up drinks from improvised mini beach bars as well as mobile Rasta style hair braiding services or massages.
The muggy and stifling heat of an average tropical day at the end of the dry season is finally easing up. Palm trees along the narrow beach promenade mercifully stretch out their long leaves to shelter the gathering onlookers who await the dramatic sunsets of Bali’s Southern Coast.
The Balinese Sea Turtle Initiative
In between all the hustle and bustle, a giant turtle raises its head and commands attention. It belongs to the Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Center, an initiative created by…
Aloha there in front of the screens, how are ya? Ready again to revel in some soothing and inspiring travel-dreams after our travel movie inspiration post part 1? Well, allrighty then, your wish is my command! Read on for part two of the best ever travel movies 🙂
Vicky Cristina Barcelona – Spain
First things first, this is a Woody Allen movie. But – it´s nothing like Annie Hall or some of his other works. Well, it might have some similarities with his enchanting cinematic creation “Midnight in Paris” in which the glorious Paris of the “années folles” (“crazy years”) the 1920´s, comes alive. Anyways, back to bountiful Barcelona, the location of Allen´s playful tale “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” about, that´s right, Vicky and Christina (played by Scarlett Johansson) in Barcelona.
The protagonists are American girls in their twenties who spend a wild, inspirational, kinda loco (crazy) summer in Catalonia´s capital. This includes but is not limited to plenty of creative endeavors, a dalliance with a somber yet sexy Spanish artist (played by Javier Bardem), AND his eccentric ex-wife (stunning Penelope Cruz), and delightful explorations of the Barcelona-cityscape.
Australia – Antarctica (lol, got ya). Down Under.
Australia – this is the continent of incomparable natural beauty and power, of endless red outback deserts and countless pristine beaches, of a paradisiacal variety of animals, as well as of the world´s oldest Spiritual wisdom tradition. The epic movie bearing the same name does this treasure chest of a continent justice – Baz Luhrmann´s cinematic masterpiece was filmed in the wild and rugged Kimberley- region of Western Australia. It tells the story of a woman (played by divine Nicole Kidman) who travels to Australia to save the cattle ranch she inherited. In the process of doing so, she befriends a local called Drover (Hugh Jackmann hottie-alert) who then helps her accomplish her mission.
When you think of Australia the movie, think mind-boggling cinematography that captures the passionately intense colors of the Australian landscapes- Think fascinating time-travel to the chaotic times of the Second World War. And think adventure, drama, passion, romance, and epic rivalries. You will also learn more about Indigenous Australians, the world´s oldest living people, and about true resilience that defies all the odds. What´s not to love?
The beach – Thailand
Sawadee khaaa! My trip to Phuket in Southern Thailand took place almost a decade ago, and yet the images of its soul-soothing beaches remain as fresh as when I first set foot on the blessed soil of this gorgeous island jewel.
“The Beach” storyline plays out not far from there – the movie was filmed at Maya bay on Ko Phi Phi. (I might write a post on my crazy speedboat-ride-experience from Phuket to Ko Phi Phi in the future, would you be interested to read about it? Let me know in the comments– Kop khun kha – thank you!).
The Beach tells the story of Richard, a young American played by Leonardo di Caprio, who is very keen on his very own treasure hunt. Aka he suddenly finds himself in possession of an odd map that is supposedly gonna lead him to a secret island paradise!
Richard convinces a French couple to join him in his quest for more happiness and adventure, and so the story of stunning images out of Thailand in the year 2000 begins. “The Beach” lures viewers in thanks to its youthful fervor, beautiful tropical settings, and a deeply felt sense of adventure that oscillates between invigorating and unsettling throughout the movie.
Kon-Tiki – South Pacific
If you are in the mood for the real deal in ADVENTURE movies (in capital letters!!), then look no further than Kon-Tiki. An epic tale inspired by real events, Kon-Tiki tells the story of Norwegian adventurer´s Thor Heyerdahl´s incredible bravery and pioneering spirit. In the 1940s, Heyerdahl (played by Pål Sverre Hagen) suspected that the South Sea islands were originally colonized by South Americans, which contradicted the widely accepted paradigm of the time.
Imagine this: In 1947 Heyerdahl decided to prove his theory, and, accompanied by five brave friends, set sail from Peru. Heyerdahl did this despite his strong fear of water (!!) as well as his inability to swim (!!!)
Can you believe that?! Told ya, ADVENTURE in capital letters!:P The courageous men embarked on a balsa-wooden raft (!!!) which was, you know, pretty basic – the only modern equipment aboard was a radio. Probably because the importance of great music can never be underestimated, right?
The crew, therefore, needed to navigate just like they used to in the very, very olden days – using the stars as well as ocean currents. It took them three incredibly tedious and exciting months at sea before reaching their destination. And boy, were those three months packed to the brim with exciting encounters and moments! But, see and watch for yourself. It´s truly gripping stuff!
TheBest Exotic Marigold Hotel – India
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a charming tale of a bunch of open-minded British retirees who decide to explore new horizons by “outsourcing” their retirement to more affordable and exotic India. The hotel that gives the movie its name looks fabulously enticing on paper. However, when the retirees, played by the creme de la creme of British actors such as Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith arrive at their destination in Jaipur, the hotel turns out to be a mere shell of its advertised self. Despite their initial disappointment, the protagonists wholeheartedly embrace their new life adventure and their charming host, played by gorgeous Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire).
While exploring their new hood, the protagonists learn lots of valuable lessons about themselves and life – and there might even be a sizzling love story or two on the cards! The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a real feel-good movie that celebrates India´s warmth, soulfulness, and colorfulness, as well as joyously affirms that a brand new promising start is always possible with the right attitude.
Under the Tuscan Sun – Italy
What can a girl do after a draining divorce? As we have already learned from Liz in” Eat, Pray, Love” , the answer is (or can be): The girl can leave town and embark on a travel adventure to the country of Beauty incarnated, Bella Italia! Or in this case, she can even start a whole new lifein the homeland of exquisite food, awe-inspiring architecture, and dreamy landscapes.
The memoir adaptation movie stars Diane Lane as Frances Mayes, who starts her love-affair with Italy via a tour of Tuscany. Enchanted by the sight of an old, run-down house, Frances takes the spur-of-the-moment decision to buy it and make a new life in the Tuscan countryside, where she encounters fascinating people and becomes a major fixer-upper-boss-lady.
Lost in Translation – Japan
Which countries and cultures are on the top of your dream places to explore? In my case, Japan is a culture that I find incredibly intriguing. From its rich and multi-layered culture and wisdom traditions, to its incredibly futuristic seeming big cities or its mouthwatering food – Japan is certainly a location that must expand one´s horizons by leaps and bounds. Or so I was told by Bob Harris. Bob who, you might ask? Bob Harris, who happens to be the protagonist of the iconic movie “Lost in Translation”!
Harris, played in a charmingly disgruntled way by Bill Murray, is an older American film actor who visits Tokyo to star in some commercials. There, he encounters Charlotte (Scarlett Johannson), the young spouse of a visiting photographer. Both feel kinda stuck in their current life situations, and share some meaningful and culture-shock-informed experiences in the Japanese metropolis. And they might even get too pretty darn close to each other…or don´t they? You better watch the movie to find out 🙂
Back to you dear reader: Which are ways in which you love to travel while our usual ways of traveling are restricted? And which are some of your favorite ways to relax, to dream yourself away from everything for a little while? As always, I would love to hear from you:)
Do youneed some assistance in order to learn to relax more in these intense times? I am currently creating a relaxation-and-wellbeing-package, based on my 20 years experience studying relaxation methods and Healing Arts. My qualifications include a 270hrs – Yoga-teacher-training, a 200 hours plus Wellness-and-Health-coach training, as well as in-depth studies in further areas such as Qi Gong and Astrology with teachers and healers from around the globe. You can register your interest in this offering here.
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The year is 2020. It´s the year of our reality seemingly morphing into one giant, and may I say, extra-long and at times kinda apocalyptic science-fiction movie. Or a thriller. Or a drama. Anyways, what could be more appropriate than balancing out one movie, especially one as intense and adrenaline-inducing as the one we have been witnessing over the last months, with another? A lighter, more joyous and life-affirming one, of course!:)
Which inner movie is playing on your mind?
Let me backtrack a bit, before continuing along the afore-mentioned train of thought. The mind is a terrible master, but a wonderful servant, as leadership expert and writer Robin S. Sharma says – a statement that never seemed to ring more true than now. Rarely are things as bad as the unmitigated mind wants us to believe, rarely is the reality of the world as one-sided as it is being portrayed by the mass media.
The fact cannot be denied that suffering is part of life, of course, but a mind left to its own devices usually adds insult to injury with its negative shenanigans.
So questioning our beliefs and thoughts on a regular or daily basis might just be what the inner doctor ordered, to arrive at the calm which lies at the center of every collective and individual storm. This has validity in general in my perception but is especially important in times of such imbalance within the collective consciousness as has been manifesting over the last months.
To assist you in accessing your inner place of calm, I am currently working on creating a fabulous online relax package consisting of an e-book, a guided meditation, a Yoga-and-movement-video, and… a secret surprise bonus!
I am a trained Yoga teacher with 20 years of my own Yoga practice and many further Healing Arts studies under my belt, and I am more than happy to share some of my best-kept secrets with you, if this resonates with you, dear reader. If you do feel called to do so, please register your interest here.
Put a smile on your dial: Keep exploring life´s beauty
Fortunately, life is not all inner and outer work, though, and travel has always been an amazing way to just have some good ol fun, expand one´s horizons and broaden one´s perspectives. Travel can happen outwardly, but fortunately for us, it can happen inwardly as well. Inward ways of exploring which you might love or grow to love can include listening to world music, reading inspiring books about foreign cultures, cooking yummy recipes from other cultures, or watching fantastic travel movies!
Do you love movies as much as I do? I must admit that I am an absolute movie-buff who even studied cinema at university as part of my Masters in Cultural Studies and communication. So, without further ado, let me introduce you to my top 10 travel movie choices. Find the first three recommendations in this post, accompanied by some pictures of my previous travels/ stays at the respective movie location- countries or cities.
Eat, Pray, Love – Italy, India, Indonesia/ Bali
You might have heard of this one before, lol. This 2010 movie based on Elizabeth Gilbert´s adventurous experiences while traveling around the world to find herself after a tricky divorce was a massive box-office-hit. It entices its viewers with an easily digestible storyline, gorgeous cinematography which captures images from Rome/ Italy, Liz/ Elizabeth´s first station, India, as well as Bali and brings them straight to your armchair/ sofa/bed/ or wherever else you love to hang out these days. It has it all: Hunky and talented actors and beautiful and equally gifted actresses (I mean, Julia Roberts!! James Franco!! Javier Bardem!! Enough said), a focus on delicious food, as well as adventure, romance, and a dash of humor.
It might not be a movie a la Citizen Kane, but it surely offers a marvelous respite and a way to travel to awe-inspiring locations around the world from the comfort and safety (a much-beloved word nowadays) of your home. I leave you with some photos of my own one-month-stay in Italy/Rome from 2007. To travel a bit deeper and read about my own experiences while living in Bali, just embark here. Italy and Bali are up to this day two of my favorite ever travel destinations which we hopefully will be able to enjoy again very soon. Until then, let’s make the most of our virtual travel time together!
The hundred-foot-journey – France
Welcome to la Belle France… enchanting, freedom-loving (usually anyways) country of exquisite cuisine, of free-spirited thinkers and artists, and superb scenery as well as alluring cities and quaint little country towns. There are countless beautiful movies set in this spectacular country, but one of my all-time- favorites must be “The Hundred-Foot-Journey”-
It tells the tale of a lovable Indian family that moves to a sweet yet conservative country-town in France and sets up a restaurant opposite a well-established French haute cuisine establishment. Et alors, and then? Ah bon, there is lots of fire happening! Metaphorically, and literally speaking- the fires of rivalry, of passionate love, and exquisite culinary creations create an elaborate dance of joy and entertainment, brought to life by marvelous actors including goddess Dame Helen Mirren and directed by Lasse Hallström. Mon dieu, c´est magnifique!
Soul kitchen – Germany
Ah, Soul kitchen. I mean, what a title! It points to the key ingredients of this irresistibly fun and kinda unconventional, very non-mainstream movie by iconic German-Turkish director Fatih Akin. The plot centers around lively protagonist Zinos, a German of Greek descent who owns Soul Kitchen, a shabby, run-down restaurant providing working-class food in the Hamburg area.
Zinos is out of money due to, among other things, a punk-rock-band that occasionally uses the restaurant as practice space, but never remembers to pay rent, and old sailor Sokrates, who kinda lives on his boat at the warehouse-space owned by Zinos for free. Everything changes, though, when Zinos decides to follow the girl he loves to Shanghai and leaves his beloved diner to his criminally inclined brother Ilias (famous German actor Moritz Bleibtreu) …
As a Hamburg Native, I must admit I absolutely love this gem of a movie. It showcases many neighborhoods and locations that I know “wie aus meiner Westentasche“/ like the back of my hand, plus it simply bursts with creativity, fun, and cool music. Viel Spass beim Anschauen, Leute – Have fun watching it, peeps! Also: You can listen to the movie´s soundtrack here.
Back to you, dear reader:What is your favorite ever travel-movie? And where would you travel now, if a fairy godmother suddenly landed on your windowsill and granted you a hassle-free trip somewhere in this beautiful world?As always, I would love to hear from you!
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Hola amigos, amigas, friends, freaking-out ones, calm ones, and storm-weatherers!
Wanted to post a little something while I am working on my next longer post- some beautiful photos and cultural input from Spain to showcase its beauty, zest for life, and abundance. I had my birthday here in Southern Spain, where I am currently based, some days ago and wanted to create some positive vibes and images centered around one of my two countries of origin… counterbalancing the mass-media´s approach to everything and the current mainstream- mind-focus, on a teeny tiny scale.
I have been a bit more absent from blogging than usual due to these weird occurrences that we all have been witnessing, but am stoked about everyone who continues to share positive stories, travel posts, haikous, poems, Street-Art… refreshing and much needed!! Basically, speaking for me personally, I am currently attracted to reading and interacting with anything that doesn´t mention the C-word (haha, you know which word I mean!!), or expand on private issues (because we all are going through something at the moment, and vibes are contagious…), but that focuses on creating restoring, healing, positive, and uplifting vibes. Maybe you can feel me on that one? 🙂
Without further ado, some good vibes from gorgeous Spain!
Dear reader, hope you enjoyed this little post! Are there any positive news or insights you wish to share? Maybe a beautiful image, song, or interesting fact about your country? As always, would love to hear from you! Let´s keep this a place of inspiration, upliftment, and joy, and give ourselves a break. Media CAN heal! 🙂 Much love.
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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.