for the ones of us living in the Northern Hemisphere,´tis the time of year to snuggle up with a warm cozy blanket on the couch, your favorite steaming hot tea in a cup and a good read. Or…
…a good story being narrated from me to you, over oceans and deserts, mountains and forests, and through time and space! Sometimes it´s nice to rest our eyes and just listen for a while…
That´s why I´ve come up with some podcasts/ audiostories for you. For now, they will basically be audio-versions of my posts, so please find the links to the last two Baden-Baden-post-podcasts below.
There is also a podcast on “A monkey kind of day in Gibraltar” , an adventurous day spent between canons and free-ranging naughty monkeys on a giant rock. I will publish new podcasts on a weekly basis from now on, and continue to publish new travel-posts bimonthly.
Also, for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere/ any countries where it´s warm now: Please substitute blanket, couch and tea with bathers, grass-or sandpatch and watermelon-juice, and feel free to listen to the podcasts while jogging at the beach, Baywatch-style. Or while enjoying a leisurely picnic. Or while chilling out in a cafe.
No matter where you are, though – I wish you a fabulous, cozy and relaxing weekend with many positive impressions! Another exciting travel story will be out in the following week:) Thanks for your readership and loyalty, I really appreciate every single one of you and your time very much!
Back to you, dear reader and hopefully-soon-listener: Do you enjoy listening to audio books or podcasts? Do you have any favorite ones to recommend or share with us? Do you have any suggestions or input for my future podcasts?As always, I´d love to hear from you!
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Hi dear ones, today the extraordinary Lonely Author himself gifted me with this incredible mention on his beautiful web-place of love, poetry, and support for the feminine. I feel really humbled and thought I´d try my first reblog to share this with you beautiful souls. Please check out the Lonely Author´s amazing online abode, it´s truly a place and refuge of love and kindness on the web:) Have a gorgeous day everyone, and stay tuned, as I have a little surprise up my travel sleeve for you coming soon!
“There’s more to life than being a passenger.” – Amelia Earhart, aviation pioneer, author, visiting faculty member at Perdue University, the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean.
Prior to starting my Inspiring Women of WordPress series, I mentioned my dear friend Maria Elena of A Gypsy At Heart. Since today is my travel day, I wanted to introduce her once again. What can I say about a woman who has a gypsy heart and the soul of an angel? She inspires me with her beautiful journeys to far off lands. All the while, she enchants you with her sincerity and warmth. She may take you to the far corners of the Earth, but I assure you, you will never be far from her heart. Please get inspired by the brilliance of A Gypsy at Heart.
Aaaah….the warm, gentle waters caress your skin and embrace you in their all-accepting ways. You basically feel like a quietly content yet massive baby in a heated cozy blanket. You step in further, and with the healing thermal waters enveloping your body almost completely now, you notice all your relentless thoughts and questions slowly melting away. You are fully immersing yourself in this roman bath experience, and you are pretty thankful indeed that you opted for the Caracalla spa instead of the Friedrichsbad spa after all. You are just not ready for full frontal nudity from all those other spa-guests, for f* sake! And you might never be! You probably won´t.
Sanus per Aquam: The healing power of pretty darn hot thermal waters
Romans are rather awesome, though, you think to yourself. Not entirely awesome, obviously, because Gladiator-fights and stuff. And killing animals for spectator-fun – not cool! But good on the old Romans for remembering the old adage “Sanus per Aquam“, healthy through water, when they stumbled upon the curative Baden-Baden thermal waters 2000 years ago and continued to build the first thermal baths in town.
Daily, more than a whopping 800.000 liters of these waters at up to 68 degree celcius heat (154 degrees Fahrenheit) bubble upwards from twelve springs at a depth of about 2000 meters under the earth. On its adventurous journey to the earth´s surface, the water gets keen on making some housemates and so takes in minerals such as natrium, chloride, fluoride, lithium, and others. This is were the outstanding healing powers of the thermal waters originate.
Feeling dizzy? Looking rather pale? Achy joints at times? Off into the waters you go. The ones in the spa, not the 68 degree ones, that is. Otherwise, the ultimate relax factor might evaporate rather quickly…
The Caracalla Therme, a spa with a beautifully modern yet sophisticated feel, offers visitors a vast arrange of liquid-pleasure-pools, including but not limited to a rock grotto with hot and cold water, a sensual aromatic steam bath, and a salt water inhalation room. But what am I telling you, you know exactly what I´m talking about, seeing that you are the narrator of this story! Let´s get back to your experience.
Swimming through a small exit in the outer wall of the indoor spa area, a 38 degree heated marble outdoor pool is awaiting you. It boasts a magnificent whirlpool at its center, in which a few people are leisurely enjoying their bathing experience. Getting a bit coy, you take a deep breath, dive under, and are suddenly submerged in calming quit and comforting stillness. The rejuvenating power of the tranquility under the surface never ceases to amaze you somehow.
Seeing that you can´t hold your breath much longer, you reluctantly emerge from your Zen-like state only to realize that rain has begun to fall. Cooling raindrops are quickly moistening your skin, building a sensual contrast with the heated waters enveloping your body. You spot a peaceful corner of the pool underneath some lush plants and trees, swim over, and just let yourself float for a while. What a perfect moment to reminisce about your extraordinary day in Baden Baden, really!
Baden-Baden´s Black Forest: A vibrant fairytale in the making
The morning seems pretty far away now, but yeah, of course you remember, how couldn´t you: that morning excursion to the mighty Black Forest was like something straight out of a fairytale!
There were splendid waterfalls to be marveled at, forbidden paths to be explored, soft moss to be felt, and, of course, thousands upon thousands of the mightiest trees you ever laid your eyes upon to be admired.
And that air! What could you even begin to say about it…Every breath you had taken before in less-than-pristine-environments had made you long for these silkiest of all breaths with every part of your being… for these innocent, pure, invigorating inhalations. Sweet nectar of the Gods, soothing balm for your lungs, the trees´ humble gift of vitality and life-force lifting you up and filling you with a new-found zest and passion for life!
In ancient times, people knew how to honor the power of the Black Forest: they worshiped the Celtic goddess Abnoba there, and named the Black Forest after her – Abnoba mons.
One of the most vibrantly alive places you could have imagined, the Black Forest was truly brimming with life: Cheeky birds merrily chirping away; the sounds of melodiously burbling streams; the wind gently rustling through the leaves of majestic Scots pines, silver firs, and English oaks.
The Schwarzwald (Black Forest in German), with its myriad of dark colored pine trees that give it its name, is undoubtedly one of Germany´s premier oases of peace and life-affirming magic. By the way, have you ever read the brother Grimm´s fairytales when you were little? Well, according to legend, it´s indeed Germany´s largest national park, the grand forested mountain range in the state of Baden-Würtemberg, our beloved Black Forest, that inspired these writers when they wrote Hansel and Gretel, Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty and the likes.
Black-Forest-style Culture and Food: Of Spätzle and Lederhosen
On the way back to town – you remember as as you lie in the pool and observe that the rain has stopped and a cool yet pleasant breeze is slowly picking up – you passed some picture-perfect farmhouses with their sweeping half-hipped roofs. Looking at those houses somehow made you think of Black Forest Cake, and your grumbling stomach concurred that it was time to take a break and taste some of those local delicacies you had heard so much about. Luckily, you found just the right and rustic place for it!
Shortly after entering the traditional and exquisitely designed restaurant, you were greeted by a middle-aged, friendly looking waiter, dressed in the customary Lederhosen of the region. “Could you recommend something, please?” you asked him rather shyly in your best shot at hochdeutsch (the “proper” type of German that´s taught in schools).
The slightly chubby waiter gave you his biggest smile and commenced to shout some recommendations in a pretty weird accent with rather melodious sounding bits of German at you. You didn´t understand a word this man was telling you! It had to be your secret fascination with his “typical German look”, the one you otherwise just got to see at the Oktoberfests of the world, that had kept all your attention focused. You did like the look of what ended up on your plate, though, after the waiter returned to your table bringing foodie-gifts…
After religiously savoring every bite of your culture-on-the-plate, you did feel tempted to try some delicious Apfelstrudel for desert. The waiter in his Lederhosen, formerly used as traditional attire of the working peasant-community, could probably have sold you anything with his enthusiastic demeanor, combined with your definite lack of understanding. But, you weighed up, you also did promise yourself a walk through Baden-Baden´s famous rosegardens, and time was merrily ticking away. Looking at the cuckoo-clock, another typical Swabian invention, you had a change of heart- the spa visit it was!
“Good choice, good choice”, you mumble to yourself, while slowly swimming to the nearest ladder and climbing out of the pool. “Baden Baden, you are a treasure chest of fantastic things to experience. Danke, Baden-Baden, wir sehen uns wieder (thanks, Baden-Baden, we´ll meet again)” Not Friedrichsbad, though. That will never happen.
Back to you, dear reader:What was the most impressive/ beautiful/ majestic forest you have visited so far? What did you love most about it? And did you ever try any German food? Hopefully you were lucky, and didn´t taste Labskaus! Will explain in a later post 😉 Thanks for reading, and as always, would love to hear from you 🙂
Grateful shout out: Thanks to David for his lovely comment on my former post on Baden Baden that inspired the title for this post. Check out his truly wonderful mindfulness blog smilecalm for increased peace of mind and vibes of loving-kindness.
Was that Queen Victoria of England just having a casual giggle while meandering along the gently flowing Oos-river? That can´t be right…or can it? You rub your eyes incredulously. Maybe that coffee wasn´t such a good idea after all if it makes one of the most influential women in history suddenly appear out of thin air. What´s more: If you peer really hard into the distance, you can spot Dostoyewsky´s silhouette just at the end of the street, heading into the majestic Casino. What the hell? You try to shake it off – what are these shenanigans, you ask yourself quietly and slightly nerve-wracked, just to turn to your left and find Tolstoy writing away on a napkin, right at the round elegant table next to yours. The great Tolstoy! Maybe you could quickly ask him a thing or two about War and Peace, or Anna Karenina? There´s gotta be some secrets to his magic writing sauce! How else could he come up with such meaningful phrases like
“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.” ― Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
“Entschuldigen Sie bitte?” (Excuse me please?) You slowly register a gentle voice with a quietly determined undertone. “Mmh?” you reply, only gradually coming back to yourself. You must have dozed off, that must be it, you tell yourself decidedly while glancing wide-eyed at the elegantly dressed waitress. “Entschuldigen Sie, aber wir schließen jetzt!” (Excuse me, but we are closing now!) , she explains slightly apologetic. “Ok, ok, kein Problem” (No problem) is all you can muster to say, while picking up your coat and purse and leaving a few coins Trinkgeld, tipps, on the black-and-white patterned table. “Bye Tolstoy”, you whisper ever so quietly and step out onto the imposing alleys of everyone´s favorite 19th-century German spa town. Well, maybe not everyone´s, but sophisticated Baden-Baden had its fair share of admirers among the rich and famous of the nineteenth century.
A spa-town like no other: Healing baths, cultural haven
Having been settled by the Romans, Baden-Baden had to brave a lot of obstacles throughout its history- yeah, the school of hard knocks named life, you know what I mean. People go through it, cities go through it, countries go through it. And animals. Maybe even ants? Anyway, there´s a time for everything, so at the end of the 18th century, it was finally Baden-Baden´s time to shine, and what a shine it was, ladies and gentlemen! Baden Baden was truly the stuff stories were made of back then. Elegant, rejuvenating, luxurious stories, that is!
The spa-town in south-western Germany, located only 10 kilometers from the border with la belle France, was and still is famed for its mild climate, its pristine air, and its high acclaimed thermal springs. Baden Baden, a name which translates to bathing bathing (no surprises there) takes great pride in its illustrious list of visitors. Want some gossip? Good old out-of-this-world novelist, essayist, journalist and philosopher Dostoyewsky wrote his masterpiece The Gambler here…while gambling his money away at the town´s notorious casino. Maybe he was just doing some research? A writer/journalist gotta know what he´s writing about, after all! Other famous visitors who chose to vacation in bathing bathing include German composer Johannes Brahms or French composer Hector Berlioz.
Inspired by Napoleon III and Queen Victoria: Strolling around spa-town
You can almost sense their silhouettes gliding majestically over the pavement and through the spacious alleys of Baden Baden, passing by the many imposing mansions and villas as well as the serene and lush park-landscapes. Napoleon the III must surely have had a drink or two of pure spring water from the Friedrichsquelle at the Trinkhalle (pump house) Kurhaus spa complex in his days. His ghost might be surprised to find a tourist office in the commanding building nowadays. Queen Victoria and her entourage most certainly loved paying some visits to the world-class- rose gardens dotted around town – Baden Baden is dubbed the Rose capital of Germany, after all!
Following in Royalty´s footsteps, it won´t take you long to realize that this place really has a certain “je-ne-sais-quoi“, as the French say: a very particular something. It might be due to the laid-back pace of life, or it might be thanks to the superb quality of air that thousands of lime-trees, oaks, tulip trees, and chestnut-trees gift their visitors with. (Trees rock!) Or it might just be the mix of the alluring regal architecture, the luxurious and extra-spacious alleys, and the exquisite cuisine, that makes foodie´s mouths water…Spätzle, anyone? It´s probably all of the above and then some. And no matter whether you prefer to spend your time admiring cutting-edge contemporary art at the museum Frieder Burda or strolling along the peaceful Oos-river, there are some highlights that no visitor should miss!
And next time…
It would be my absolute pleasure to let you in on some more delights of the cultural and spa capital Baden Baden in my next post, where I´ll take you along on a visit to Friedrichsbad with its warm, bubbly, healing waters. Oh, and on a little getaway to the fairytale-like Black forest. Oh, and we might be indulging in the scents of hundreds of roses together. And, of course, tasting some fantastic, tastebud-infatuating regional cuisine. Are you up for that? I know I am!
Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever heard of Baden-Baden before? Or have you maybe been to a spa-town or some hot springs which you particularly enjoyed? As always, I would love to hear from you! Enjoy your week, wherever you may be, and thanks for reading:)
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Have you ever watched the movie “Anna and the King” with Jodie Foster? Bangkok takes center stage in this charming film based on a true story, which tells the glorious tale of a very brave English woman in the 19th hundreds, Anna Leonowen, who takes the role of English teacher to Thai king Mongkut´s kids. In many aspects based on a true story, the movie is lovely, entertaining, and exotic – and you´ll get an idea of the real location´s magnetism when heading to Bangkok´s imposing and unbelievably majestic neighborhood Ko Ratanakosin, the former royal quarter. Some of Thailand´s oldest and holiest sights can be found here.
My first stop is the Bangkok National Museum (Th Na Phra That), truly a cultural heavyweight, and one of South East Asia´s biggest museums to date. In-between colorful masks, royal thrones and other alluring artefacts, I am getting a pretty good insight into the former Siamese kingdom´s history and culture, including intriguing insights into the history of the ancient royal cities of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya. When you think Bangkok National Museum, think glitz and glamour with a side dish of chaos, or at least that´s how it felt to me when I had the privilege to visit.
Stepping out of this culturally inspiring place, I am embraced by Bangkok´s hot, humid air and its usual soundscape consisting of a melange of persistent honking sounds and other unidentifiable noises. I gather my strength, greatly helped by a quick and delicious Pad Thai, a stir-fried rice noodle delight and a staple-dish of the world-famous Thai street food, and onward to the mighty Grand Palace I go!
I´ve barely got time to cover my shoulders and check that I´m wearing appropriate, respectful attire, aka long trousers/ a long skirt, when I hear the familiar sound of Spanish in its quickest pace and with its characteristic Andalusian accent. A warm, homely feeling floods my being- this is, after all, an accent I have come to know and love since I was a little kid eating delicious gambas, prawns, while sitting on my grandma´s lap! I locate the source of the roaring laughter that follows the Andalusian chatter, and decide to approach the group of kind-looking guys who are standing close by. The next hours are spent exploring the dazzling Grand palace with my new amigos. The palace is a spectacular sight to behold indeed and served as the home of the Thai king, the Royal court and the administrative seat of government for 150 years. It´s still considered the spiritual heart of the kingdom of Thailand!
The next day, it´s Wat Phra Kaew calling me. Also known as the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and officially named Wat Phra Si Rattana Satsadaram, it´s regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand. Bangkok´s old regal splendor is truly transporting me to a different world, a world in which peaceful vibes, equanimity and benevolent smiles from golden Buddha-statue-faces reign and in which a deep silence seems to unveil itself behind Bangkok´s unceasing noise background. An other-worldy seeming place in which the eternal stillness beyond the thoughts seems to call out to busy temple-visitors, ever so gently reminding them to come home to themselves, to go beyond the visible and to the invisible place of existence, to inner peace, acceptance and yes-to-all-that-is. Was I maybe a Thai monk in a past life? Maybe. I definitely love being in their presence and feel very much at home in their temples.
Be it as it may, monks dressed in orange-colored robes are definitely a big part of Bangkok´s and Thailand´s ethereal charm – monks that I am careful not to get too close too when travelling on the same ferry on the overflooding Chao Phraya river! Why? Well, my friend, the reason is that women are not allowed to touch a monk, not even by accident on an over-crowded water taxi! If you so much as brush against a monk, the Buddhist doctrine dictates that the monks return to the temple and perform rituals to cleanse themselves of your touch. Hello, people, women are truly not that bad! Maybe it´s time to revise a few of those old patriarchal mindsets? But I am getting off-topic.
Back to Thailand, its approximately 460.000 monks, and its fantastic temples! While carefully monitoring my distance to the monks on the ferry, I take a look at my phone and realize that it´s almost too late to pay a visit to Wat Po, Bangkok´s oldest temple! What can a culturally interested woman with a thirst for peaceful vibes do? She can certainly hurry up and go for a nice, sweaty run! My determination is rewarded – I manage to snap some quick pictures in front of the 44 meters (!!) long, reclining golden Buddha. Cheese and cheers to Thai selfies! I know, selfies are not cool anymore. But it was a 44 meters (!!) long reclining buddha! What can I say…
Inspired by the statue´s utterly relaxed demeanour, I decide to take it easy and hop onto a colourful Tuk-Tuk, whose driver convinces me to pay a visit to glittery Chinatown and its phenomenal eateries. Boy, that driver surely missed his true calling as a daredevil-race-car driver! I can barely hold on to my seat while I try to answer his slightly irritated question as to why I am out on town on my own. At long last we manage to arrive in mostly one piece, and I almost get a little dizzy while taking it all in: Chinatown´s neon-coloured-explosion of lights, its unceasing hustle and bustle, myriad food stalls and inviting restaurants…
Surrounded by crowds of Thais and tourists, I stroll through the busy streets and stop by a humble stall to taste a delicious, freshly pressed pomegranate-juice on the side of the road. No trip to South-Eastern-Asia is complete without at least a string of street-food-experiences, my friend! The taste of the sweet pomegranate-drink is so good that I zone out and almost get hit by a car. Lesson learned: You better remain alert when out and about in Bangkok town! I sooth myself from this shock by joining some locals at one of the much-sought after tables lining, well, basically the middle of the road, and indulging in some more typically Thai culinary delights. Laa kawn Bangkok – I´ll be back!
What about you, dear reader, have you ever been to a Buddhist temple? What were your impressions?
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Wild. Young. Inspiring. Pulsating. Passionately alive. Pure adrenaline. That´s Bangkok.
Incredibly loud. Pretty freaking dirty. Full of smog. Grey. Cruel. Slaying. That´s Bangkok. Which type of Bangkok do you choose?
I was unsure which one was gonna be my personal pick when I first arrived in Thailand´s capital a while back. Just starting out on my Asian adventure had its challenges – I had barely time to marvel at Bangkok´s huge Suvarnabhumi airport with its impressive colorful statues, when a rather harsh realization hit me: The famous Thai kindness does not necessarily extend to some slick taxi drivers! If a driver refuses to use a meter, as it was the case in my experience, just hop out and into a cab with a driver willing to use the meter! Anything else is not gonna help you keep those pennies, ahem excuse me, Bahts, together for a stunning Thai meal, or a donation to beings in need, or a crazy Muay Thay– event-attendance.
Once you have avoided the pitfalls of unruly Taxi drivers, the seductive Thai juggernaut is finally awaiting you: a buzzing place of countless shopping malls and of intoxicatingly beautiful temples. A place where a myriad of new trends in fashion and music are being birthed and tradition and modern times melt into a tantalizing, sense-overwhelming pot of inspiration. Sawadee Bangkok, hello Bangkok, here we come!
If you are on the lookout for an affordable accommodation, look no further than Soi Kasern San 1 in the famous area “Siam Square”. You´ll find Wendy´s guest house here – a clean, comfy yet humble place smack in the middle of the city, where the staff charms visitors with their very warm and lovely demeanour. They definitely made me feel like family when I stayed over!
Thai tales, take one: Of Wai-greetings and wild dragonfruit
The Wendy guesthouse staff let me in on the traditional Thai “Wai”- greeting, where both hands are held in a prayer posture in front of one´s face and a slight bow with the upper body is made to demonstrate appreciation. For my fellow Yogi-lovers out there, you might feel reminded of the Indian Namaste – this is no weird coincidence at all, as both go back to the Indian Anjali Mudra! The Wai-greeting is usually accompanied by a, at least by European standards, very high pitched “Sawadee” greeting (meaning “How are you”, or “hello”) or, alternatively, a “Kop-Khun Ka” enunciation (meaning “Thank you”).
Once you turn the corner from Wendy House you are right on the main street, where countless mobile food stalls offer delicious tropical fruit such as stunningly pink dragonfruit or deliciously wobbly lychee-fruit. Buyer beware: Dragonfruit is absolutely fingerlicking good and addictive! While being bombarded by the notorious honking of the never-ending stream of cars and Tuk-Tuks and the sellers praising their produce, you are also likely to spot some bright orange- green signs advertising the 7-Eleven convenience stores. Here, you can purchase snacks, drinks and other lifesaving small essentials 24/7.
Thai tales, take two: Of fabulous lady boys and racing tuk-tuks
I remember feeling peckish and getting myself a lovingly prepared dragonfruit (of course), as well as a sandwich at 7/11, kindly warmed up for me by a beautiful lady with a very deep voice. Wandering on through Bangkoks bustling streets, it soon became clear to me that this wouldn´t be the only lady boy I would get to see in Thailands 8,2 million metropolis. One of the exciting facets that Bangkok has to offer is its vibrant Transgender, Gay and Lesbian community.
The huge amount of lady boys, meaning of women who, biologically speaking, used to be, or still are, men, are simply an integral and oh-so-delightfully-lively part of Bangkok´s city scape! They belong as much to the city as the oodles and oodles of cars and tuk-tuks that envelop the city every afternoon in a cloud of dense, slightly smelly smog. Or the elevated rapid transit train, also known as Skytrain. Or the overpowering grey of thousands upon thousands of buildings and skyscapers. Or the many petite and fashion-conscious Thai women. The ladies and the lady boys add dashes of gorgeous color to a partly pretty grey Bangkok and just make it into what it is and what it´s loved for: a cosmopolitan, mind-blowingly exciting and aspiring mega city.
Thai tales, take three: Sniffing up some inspiration at BACC
After my stop at 7 Eleven , it was time to head to the thought-provoking BACC, the Bangkok Art+Culture Centre (corner of Th Phaya Thai and TH Phra Ram1), a contemporary arts hub located just around the corner from my guesthouse. I was greeted by two around four meter-tall men in uniforms: two giant puppets, dressed in sort of diving wet suits, displaying the numbers “1914” and “1939”, respectively, on their chests. This kinda modern memorial to WWI and WWII was just one of many outstanding features that caught my attention – even the facade of the arts center itself was quite a treat, an architectonic feast for the eyes reminiscent of the Guggenheim-museum in New York.
The inside of the building makes art lovers´metaphorical tail wag with the finest in modern Thai art. Alongside extravagant pieces created by aspiring new artists, there are also creative cafes and an arts library to be visited, artistically decorated craft shops to be inspected, and even a pantomime school to be marveled at. The icing on the cake? When I left the building, I just happened to come across a giant Thai rock-concert!
I decided to mingle for a while with the many relaxed and stylishly dressed Thai youngsters that had gathered in front of the stage and I enjoyed getting carried away by the unusual and melodious Thai language and musical sounds. In general, the Thai music-industry ventures far out of the mainstream, especially Indie-bands are setting the trends in Thai music-land. Keen on a taste of that yourself? Head to Brick bar (265 Khao San Road, downstairs at rear of Buddy Lodge complex), where fun house bands take to the stage every night, playing a lively mix of ska, bouncy pop covers and Thai-indie!
That´s all for today, my friends! Stay tuned for the next posts, in which we will discover why a visit to the fishmarket at 6 AM is the best way to end an incredible night out in Hamburg, and how it feels to hang out with a giant reclining Buddha that´s a humble 46 metres long in Bangkok!
Back to you, dear readers: Have you ever been to Bangkok, or Thailand for that matter? What surprised you most about its culture?
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How did you enjoy the taste of my entree a la Hamburg? Did it melt on your tongue, tasting of delicious seawater and tantalizing sweetness? I hope it left you wanting for more, because the secret recipe for today´s main meal is ready to be revealed! And I promise you, you are free to spit it out if it leaves you wanting… and you might wanna get a Fischbrötchen, a breadroll with fish, or a Rote Grütze, a typical Hamburg berry-compot with vanilla sauce, instead 😉
What´s on today´s menu, anyways? Let me, your designated waitress, chef and guide for this journey, have a quick look: As a main, inspiring discoveries in the world´s largest warehouse district await you. That´s cool, you say cheekily – while I can hear a quiet belly rumble from your side of the table – but what about the dessert? Ah, Geduld mein Freund, patience my friend, we´ll save the best or at least the naughtiest for last!
Main course: Meandering through the Speicherstadt
Whether you have a soft spot for nostalgic backdrops, a secret craving for architectural marvels or a longing for salty sea air, the Speicherstadt, the world´s largest warehouse-district, has got you covered. Meander along charming bridges, admire the one-of-a-kind red brick facades of houses built on a foundation of oak posts, or pause for a while and let your gaze wonder over the so-called Fleete (canals) of the district.
You might even try and whisper the canal´s names in your companion´s ear – the names are quite lovely, really, with one canal named Kehrwiederfleet, meaning come-back-canal in German. You might even be ready to add a “Ich liebe Hamburg” – I love Hamburg , who knows!
Be sure to check out some of the Speicherstadt´s highlights and cool photo-stops such as the Canal Castle on the Holländischbrookfleet Canal, or the Harbor Police Station No. 2, which can be found at the end of Kehrwiederfleet Canal.
Exotic scents and scary explorations in Hamburg´s world heritage site
But it´s not just the stunning architectural features and the romantic flair that the district exudes, there are also quite quirky attractions to be discovered when out and about in this Unesco World Heritage site! Follow your nose and it might lead you right away to… well, maybe a fish restaurant, but if not that then definitelySpicy´s Gewürzmuseum! This cute little find offers visitors a chance to smell and touch around 900 herbs and spices from all over the world, so get your hands dirty, ahem scented and enjoy sniffing around for a while. Maybe don´t bring your dog, though, he/she might get pretty confused…
If something slighty more action-packed is more down your alley, there´s nothing better than the Hamburg Dungeon, a place where actors lead you through the dark chapters of Hamburg´s rich and multilayered history in an interactive and pretty memorable experience! I visited the Dungeon myself ages ago, and what can I say…it´s not for the faint of heart! But I personally can´t even watch Game of Thrones, so don´t be too deterred by that statement. Visiting the dungeon is, well, in this case, absolutely fun, exciting and informative, there´s no doubt about that.
Out and about in the Hafencity: From museums for ocean lovers to concert halls for architecture aficionados
Another, more traditional cultural choice within the Hafencity- area is the International Maritime Museum with its impressive collection of model ships, art, and photographs. Located in Hamburg’s oldest preserved warehouse, this museum is a testament to Hamburg´s identity as Europe´s third-busiest port and the so-called “Gateway to the World”, as the “Hamburgers” call their port proudly. Check out the giant ship´s propeller at the museum´s entry – it weighs a whopping 15, 6 tons!
Other highlights that might tickle your fancy include the truly mind-blowing Miniatur Wunderland, a place that theoretically should only wow 5-year-olds, but in reality can blow the socks off of any too-damn-serious adult! Let your inner child out of its cage and explore an intricate and really very tiny world when visiting this extraordinarily popular exhibition.
Also, Hamburg´s newest landmark, the slightly pompous Elbphilharmonie concert-hall is well worth a visit – or even a look from the outside, as its postmodern architecture is a sight to behold. The hall is one of the largest and acoustically most advanced concert halls in the world, says Wikipedia, and Wikipedia knows best.
Wow friends, this main course has been quite filling, don´t you reckon? Let´s take a little time to digest this – the next post, the last one about Hamburg for now, will be entirely dedicated to the yummy desert-options a la Hamburg-style! Now my questions to you – what´s your favorite attraction or place to visit in your hometown? And why is it special to you? Thanks for sharing, write you soon!
Handy information part:
How do I get there? By public transport – take the U3 train to Baumwall station, the U1 to Meßberg station, or the U4 to Überseequartier station.
Tell me more about the museums? Aber sicher, sure: You can find Spicy´s Gewürzmuseum at Am Sandtorkai 34, 20457 Hamburg. It´s open daily from 10 AM to PM.
Hamburg Dungeon can be found at Kehrwieder 2, 20457 Hamburg. It´s open daily from 10 AM to 5 PM. Miniatur Wunderland is located at Kehrwieder 2-4/Block D, 20457 Hamburg, and has great opening times: Monday to Saturday 7 AM to 12 AM, Sunday 8 AM to 11 PM.
And if I wanna know more? Head to architecturally stunning Chilehaus, which hosts a World Heritage Info Point. It´s open daily from 10AM to 5PM.
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Oh Hamburg meine Perle – Oh Hamburg my pearl Du wunderschöne Stadt – you utterly beautiful city Du bist mein zu Haus – you are my home Du bist mein Leben – you are my life Bist die Stadt auf die ich kann – you are the city that gets me Auf die ich kann – that gets me
Oh yes, Hamburg, you are loved by many. Despite your often grumpy skies, your famously reserved way of being and your sometimes impossible attitude (housing market, I am looking at you!) you are a power to be reckoned with, a glorious, wild yet sophisticated city that deserves to be seen, celebrated and cherished.
German singer Lotto King Karl, born and bread in Hamburg, is just one of your many admirers, as can be witnessed above by taking in the chorus of his iconic anthem to the Northern port-city with the telling name “Hamburg meine Perle – Hamburg my pearl”.
Germany´s second-biggest city is a place of countless canals, of willows along waterways and of oftentimes chilly, yet cosmopolitan people, a city with an intriguing and long history full of deep dramas and untold tales of bravery, and a city that draws visitors with its abundance of beautiful lush parks, world-class museums, spectacular musicals and, of course, its exorbitant, wild and raunchy nightlife.
Hamburg also happens to be the city I was born in on an early spring morning sometime in the decade of questionable fashion choices, and the city I´ve lived in the longest from the seven cities I´ve lived in up till now. All in all, it´s definitely a place I can quietly whisper a lot of stories into your ear about: funny ones, sad ones, exciting ones, and forbidden ones. But hey, we gotta start somewhere, right? So let me tell you about my favorite places to meander in, dream about and have deep belly-laughs with when in Hamburg-town!
First, I´ll treat you to an entree of delightful things to experience while visiting the so-called “Tor zur Welt” (door to the world) today – and to a fabulous main course and mouthwatering desert in a few weeks. Sounds good? Then “los gehts” (let´s do this)!
The entree – die Vorspeise: Watery relaxation à laHamburg
Hamburg´s essence is deeply connected with its two rivers: the Elbe river, the main waterway that connects the city to the North sea, and the Alster lakes, central spots for Hamburg beings to walk around, bike around or sail, row and paddle on.
What better way then to start dipping your toes into Hamburg´s true watery essence than to explore everything that these two mischivious water ladies have to offer? Let´s focus on the mighty Elbe river for now.
Shenenigans on and around the Elbe river
Without further ado, let me introduce you to a piece of the Elbe lady´s story – because what else defines a powerful woman like her better than her equally as powerful story! Put simply, it´s thanks to the Elbe´s mighty ways that Hamburg is the economic powerhouse it is today.
Located at about 100 km from the North Sea, the Elbe has been Hamburg´s gateway to the world since the days of the Hanseatic League, a clever commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and market towns in Northwestern and Central Europe formed in the late 1100´s (yep, that´s how old hunky Hamburg is!) So yeah, Hamburg decided early on that it wanted to be a multicultural and worldly hub, back when that was not even a thing for most places. As would be expected, such a trendsetter has a lot of cool things to offer – such as
Cruising the Elbe river for next-to-nothing
Take an HVV- ferry from the Landungsbrücken Piers at the harbor and you´ll get to mingle with locals on this regular public transport mode of transportation. For the price of peanuts, HVV- ferries take visitors to the industrial port as well as the picturesque Elbe river beaches and the famous musical theatres on the south bank – keen on the Lion King musical, anyone?
Mingle with locals at urban beach hangouts
Pack a picnic, get off at Elbe beach if the weather allows and make a leisurely day of it. While you´re at it, make sure to check out the trendy urban beach club “Strandperle” close to the Övelgönne ferry stop! When living in Hamburg. I used to absolutely love hanging out at the other beach clubs close to the port, such as Hamburg City Beach Club, fancy Lago Bay, Hamburg del Mar, and the more laid-back StrandPauli. Have a “Rhabarberschorle” (rhubarb lemonade) or an “Astra” (Hamburg beer) while you are there and indulge in some good old people-and river-watching.
Venture underground at the Old Elbe Tunnel
If you are a fan of out-of-the-ordinary experiences, you´ll love exploring the old Elbe tunnel. Constructed in 1911, it prides itself in being the first river tunnel on the whole European continent and a true standout of civil engineering. Hop underground for a quick and cool photo session or explore the tunnel on foot or by bicycle.
Head there on weekends, when the tunnel is closed to traffic, and do consider exploring up-and-coming neighborhood Wilhelmsburg on the other side of the tunnel.
View trendy Wilhelmsburg from a former bunker
In Wilhelmsburg, you´ll be able to enjoy a young, urban vibe, picturesque river nature and cozy pubs and restaurants. Hop on bus line 13, which bears the intriguing name “Wilde 13“(the wild 13) and allows you to check out all the major sights of Hamburg´s largest hood. For a little something different, visit the “Energiebunker“, a former WWII bunker that now serves as a power plant, dispatching renewable enery en masse. Here, you can enjoy the stunning view over Wilhelmsburg that the bunker´s cafe, located at 30 metres height, has to offer.
Hamburg being the cosmopolitan home to over 1.8 million people it is has so much to offer that it would probably take me hundreds of articles to cover them…but I hope this serves you as a delicious little entree to the endless meal-options that the port-city has to offer! Now it´s your turn: Have you ever been to Hamburg, or to other places in Germany? What did you like best about it, and what surprised you most?
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Saint-Remy- de-Provence… some words need to be savored, softly spoken out loud and pronounced gently to explore their special brand of magic. Let the syllables tenderly roll from your tongue, and you might start to get a feel for the allures of this vibrant little town that has been enticing artists, world-citizens, and bon-vivants for centuries.
Saint-Remy: A Provencale town like no other
Located at the foot of the Alpilles National Park mountain range, Saint Remy offers the kind of soul-healing glory that only 300 days of sunshine per year can convey. It seduces its visitors’ palates with dozens of restaurants offering exquisite cuisine based on local products, and surprises them with quirky art offerings and quaint art galleries located throughout the narrow streets of the historic center. St Remy is truly the poster child for that unfathomable, typical Provencal je-ne-sais-quoi country town-charm.
Throughout the centuries, famous faces have been drawn to St. Remy like sexy bees to live-giving honey, and notable stars like Nobel prize winner Albert Schweitzer, who was interned here in 1918, have graced the French country town par excellence with their presence. Marie Gasquet, Provencale novelist and queen of the Felibrige, a literary and cultural association created to defend and promote the Provencal/ Occitane language and literature, was born here. Also, ethereal princess Caroline de Monaco chose St. Remy as a refuge for herself and her children after the tragic passing of her second husband Stefano Casiraghi.
The charms of the Provencal countryside even managed to entrap some talented musicians lately – pretty hardcore fellows if you ask me, who would almost certainly never cross your mind when thinking of this laid-back location. Any guesses? Alright, alright, I´ll spill the beans: Only this year, world-renowned Heavy-Metal-Band Rammstein picked St. Remy as their studio-location to record their latest album here. They might be cuddlier than their tough exterior leads on, after all!
A treat for art-lovers: Follow in Van-Goghs´footsteps
St. Remy´s magnetism does not only work its magic on expressive heavy-metal-men, though. Simply make up your own mind while strolling along the picturesque boulevards under the shade of the ancient plane trees, feeling the mistral-wind blowing against the side of your face and the warmth of the sun on your skin. By the way (pun intended), have you spotted any Van-Gogh-route-stops yet?
These stops are hard to miss, really! At several places in and around town, the signposts make reference to places that super-famous ear-cutter and inspired artist Vincent Van Gogh frequented while in town. The Dutch expressionist spent a year at the psychiatric hospital of St.Paul-de-Mausole in 1889. He created many of his most acclaimed works there, and he also found inspiration among the town´s beautiful olive gardens and cypresses, in the rugged Alpilles mountains and smack in the middle of the village.
A treat for lovers of the otherwordly: Pass by Nostradamus´birthhouse
Another hot spot, in this case for history lovers and astrology-aficionados, has to be Nostradamus´(Dec 14th, 1503- July 2nd, 1566) birthplace. I have to confess: I got really, really excited about this one! The house really doesn´t look like much, but knowing that those walls housed legendary seer, doctor and astrologer Michel de Nostredame was enough for me to feel kinda awe-struck. While the walls didn´t give away too many secrets, my imagination wandered off to construe how the life of this extraordinary being must have looked and felt like.
Like many doctors in medieval times, Nostradamus was a trained astrologer who incorporated astrology into the healing arts in order to aid in diagnosis, prognosis and even treatment. He worked mostly with the plague-stricken and published yearly almanacs – our friend Wikipedia clarifies that this is an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information such as astronomical data and tide tables.
The latter propelled his rise to fame during his lifetime, and his much-referred to prophecies only furthered his popularity. He managed to become a household-name for more than 450 years! Michel definitely outdid his 17 (!!!) siblings there! Curious abut what the big deal regarding his supposed psychic powers is? Take a peek here and be prepared to be dazzled.
A treat for everyone: French restaurants to revere
If you feel peckish after that much history, you´ll be spoilt for choice when in Saint-Remy-de-Provence! For a delicious French meal-experience, head to “Toute Epoque”, a typical French restaurant which offers fixed menus in the evenings. Alternatively, enjoy yummy buckwheat or dessert crepes and refreshing house cider at the charming little restaurant “La Celtie”. Or just let yourself be drawn into one of the many other lovely eateries in this quintessential French town.
What about you, dear reader? Have you ever been to Southern France? And if not, do you feel drawn to visit a particular place, town or area there? As always, I would love to hear from you!
Handy information part:
Where is this town? Saint Remy de Provence is located about 20 km south of Avignon and just north of the gorgeous Alpilles mountain range. It´s easily accessible by the TGV (France´s high-speed-train), with the train station 20 km away from town. The closest airports are situated in papal-palace-place Avignon, noisy yet noble Nimes and messy, marvelous Marseille.
To find the Van-Gogh-route stops, simply stroll along town or go prepared by checking out the according website here.
Nostradamous birthplace is located on Rue Hoche 6, Saint Remy de Provence, Saint-Remy-de-Provence, France. As far as I know, you can´t head inside – still fun to marvel at the famous seer´s provenance!
For mouthwatering French cuisine, try the Toute Epoque restaurant, located on 21 Place de la Republique, 13210 Saint-Remy-de-Provence, or cozy La Celtie at 9 rue du 8 Mai 1945, 13210 Saint-Remy-de-Provence.
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Have you ever dreamed of having a little dance inside a mountain? Truth be told, I hadn´t – but then I also didn´t know that that was a possibility at all!
Hidden away in the Provencal countryside, in the midst of swoon-worthy mountain landscape Les Alpilles, there´s a place where nature and art meet and melt together in a most surprising, inspiring and uplifting way: Welcome to the fascinating Carrieres de Lumieres, mes amis!
The secrets of the Carrieres de Lumieres
Literally meaning stone-pits of light, the location in itself is a converted quarry dating back to the 19th century. It was then when the so-called “stone of the south“, the limestone that constitutes the building blocks of the quarry, was in high demand. It remained much sought-after up to 1935, when its fancier cousins steel and metal stole its thunder as premier building materials. The limestone itself, onto which stunning artistic images are projected during the much-acclaimed audiovisual shows, formed a staggering 20 million years ago, by the way!
Since 1977, the Carrieres de Lumieres have often served as cultural go-to-location during which spectacular multimedia-shows are projected onto ALL the surfaces of the massive rock-walls that surround you. Yes, even the ground is covered in images, how cool is that? You are basically getting a full body, mind and soul immersion into exquisite art, nature and music when choosing to visit this art-center near dreamy village Les-Baux-de-Provence.
As luck or coincidence had it, famous Spanish painters took center stage at my time of visit, followed by an awesome time-travel back to the Seventies flower-power-hippie days with their life-affirming musical tunes.
What a differently flavored experience that was! I tried to soak up as much of the stunning art pieces detailing the life, love and work of genius Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and the likes as possible and let myself fall into the sounds, pictures and sensations of spaciousness all around me.
The magic of letting yourself go
There´s a certain magic that blossoms when you manage to leave yourself behind and become one with the art that´s diligently knocking on the doorstep of your soul, begging you to leave the mundane, the ever-repeating and at times numbing rituals and routines of daily life behind, inviting you to step into its glimmering promise of enchantment, rejuvenation and wonder instead.
I let myself dance to the rhythms of the all-embracing multimedia-art and left the Carrieres des Lumieres on an absolute high, feeling excited and just thrilled to be alive and to be able to witness all that beauty! If you feel inspired to do the same, here is some helpful information for you:
Handy information part:
Location: Carrières de Lumières, Route de Maillane 13520 Les Baux de Provence.
Rates: 13 Euros for adults, free for children under age 7, disabled visitors and journalists.
Opening times: Open every day. January, March, November, December: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. April, May, June, September, October: 9.30 a.m.-7 p.m. July and August: 9.30 a.m.-7.30 p.m.
Also: Make sure to pack a jumper/ jacket/ woolen scarf/ your favorite blankie because it´s kinda chilly in the quarry.
Current exhibition: Van Gogh/ Starry Night as well as Dreamed Japan are taking over the show until January 5, 2020.
The remaining exciting things to experience when in Provence that I hinted at in my last post will be covered in the following one, don´t you worry! Provence truly is a treasure-chest of once-in-a-lifetime-experiences.
Have you ever been to an art-show that inspired you to your core? Would love to hear from you! Feel free to share below – Vive l´art!
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Traveler, Writer, Journalist, Translator, 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.