Hohenzollern Castle

europe, Germany, History, Travel

The first castle I ever visited was not one I ever expected to see. It was never on a list, but it was a pure treasure!

Circa 2010 when my trip was interrupted by a volcano, I found myself with an extra week in Germany.

My amazing host friends, military based near Stuttgart, decided it was a great time to help me explore more of Germany.

The first choice was to get me into a castle and southern Germany has some of the best examples of castle architecture in the world! The magnificent Hohenzollern is no exception. While many people head to Neuschwanstein Castle near Munich, few recognize the choices and variety of castles that exist in and outside of Bavaria.

Hohenzollern is just south of Stuttgart in Bisingen, and it’s a fabulous example of what Prussian architecture created. Parts of the castle date back to 1267 with some structures in place as far back as 1061. Often referred to as the  “Crown of all Castles in Swabia” all was lost in 1454. While other owners built up the fortress at times, the castle was never fully restored and was practically abandoned by the 19th century.

It was then that Crown Prince Frederick William of Prussia decided to rebuild the castle. Started in 1850 the castle was built to reflect the heritage and culture of the region and the Prussian monarch. For reference, Neuschwanstein Castle was built around the same time by the Bavarian monarchy.

Hohenzollern shocked me on numerous levels, the first was the way it reflected the fantastical ideals we encompass about castles in Europe. Hohenzollern has majestic spires, endless walls, and magical paintings and frescoes.

The vast and rich green forests that also surround the area are amazing. As the landscape moves into being the dark forest you see where imagination could run wild. It was these forests and these castles and beautiful buildings that so deeply rooted Germans and Victorians and Americans to a love of fairytales and medieval revival. These forests birthed Grimm’s fairytales and much more to a Euro-American psyche.

If you are looking for an escape from the tourist trail, stunning views, and some prime architecture of the medieval reimagining of the 19th century, this place is for you!

VISITOR DETAILS:

HOURS: Monday to Sunday: 10:00am to 5:30 pm (4:30pm November to March) (closed most holidays)

WEBSITE: https://www.burg-hohenzollern.com

ADMISSION: $10-15 USD

ENGLISH TOURS:

 16 March – 31 October  Saturday* + Sunday*   11:30 + 14:00 + 16:30 
 16 March – 31 October  Monday* – Friday*  14:00 
 01 November -15 March    Saturday* + Sunday*  11:30 + 14:00

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Five Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Caribbean, colorado, History, mexico, musings, Travel

Five Ways to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo – without being disrespectful

It’s Cinco de Mayo today, and no it’s not just a holiday about drinking tequila and listening to a mariachi band. While those can be fun aspects to the day, the entirety of the day is not Cinco de Drinko or Drinko de Mayo.

In fact, the holiday has very specific and cultural roots that are often forgotten on the day and the surrounding celebrations. It’s important to remember these nuances should one decide to celebrate, for the sake of a better historical understanding of our neighbors and the cultures that influence our one.

Here are the ways I am personally celebrating Cinco de Mayo and how I would encourage others to as well:

  1. Learn The Story Of Cinco de Mayo
    • Commonly misunderstood as Mexico’s independence day, Cinco de Mayo often gets labeled as “Mexican 4th of July”. News Flash: Mexico’s independence day is September 16 and harkens back to 1810.
    • The fifth of May is from the Anniversary of the Battle of Puebla. This marks the date that Napoleon III’s army (French) in 1862 was defeated by a militia of Zapotec and mestizo peoples. It became a symbol and story of resistance during a time when foreign bodies were trying to establish power over Mexico.
    • As these things go, people in the state of Puebla celebrated the victory, but much of Mexico did not. As celebrations and events evolve, it became a celebration of Mexican culture and identity, especially with Mexican-American families in the United States.
    • The broader United States’ love of Cinco de Maya came with alcoholic drink promotors marketing alcohol sales and parties on the holiday.
    • If you want to learn more, try these books:
  2. Appreciate Mexican-American Influence On Your Community
    • With so much hate in our current landscape it’s even more important to bridge gaps and be friends to all people.
    • In my community in Colorado we have a large Latinx and Mexican-American population, and they make some of the best food and have some of the best parties you could ever imagine! When I travel to countries without much Mexican food, I long for these treats of homemade corn tortillas, roasted tomatillos, fresh guacamole and smooth tequila. If you have these gems in your community, seek them out, and make friends. I know everyone I have met is warm and loving and wants to make you feel like you’re at home.
    • Celebrate local Mexican-American artists, designers, architects, philanthropists, community organizers, and overall great people. Read about your community history and see just how many amazing and diverse people made your world better.
    • Be grateful for the food, music, groceries, and festivals that Mexican-Americans help put on. Whether it’s for Cinco de Mayo or any other time through the year, their influence and work is a treasure!
  3. Celebrate with Kindness and Consideration
    • If you are one that likes a good party, and wants to celebrate Cinco de Mayo (because yes, it’s a GREAT time) then do so with consideration. Go to an authentic restaurant (it will be way better than Chipotle or Qdoba, I promise) and have some drinks and food with people that poor their heart and soul into their food.
    • Don’t wear crappy costumes or reinforce negative stereotypes. Please for the love of god leave the mustaches and serapes at home.
  4. Care About People – Every. Single. Day.
    • It’s easy to have a party and feel closer to Mexican culture and Mexican-American peoples then go home the next day and leave it in the past. The better part is to connect with people in your community and learn their stories, learn how to support each other, and care about our global needs.
    • Donate to organizations that are aiding people with settlement in the United States. Donate you time and supplies to groups working for immigrant rights. Read up on the reasons why people are fleeing north (of course there are many places they come from, including Mexico).
    • If you love traveling to Mexico, consider doing things that help people in the community you are visiting, such as donating school supplies or sewing sanitary products for distribution.
  5. Celebrate With Those You Love
    • I am very blessed to have a mother-in-law that is part Mexican and that has a giant, wonderful, and warm family that always opens their arms to anyone. Many years they have their own Cinco de Mayo party where everyone eats food, enjoys margaritas and has a lovely time. There is an unbelievable amount of love and consideration with these people and every family get together is filled with that warmth. While the food is always amazing, and the margaritas are stellar (thank you grandpa Hank) the best part is the connection and care in the room at any event. That is my favorite part of Mexican culture, is that no matter who you are, what you look like, what you believe, someone will always give you love, a hug, a plate of food, and a giant smile. All of which is the culture I want to celebrate and integrate every single day.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

More on Mexico:

Day Trips – to go or not to go?

Caribbean, Cruising, europe, France, Ireland, italy, mexico, Scotland, Throwback Thursday, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

There are times in life where preconceived notions have to be put to the test and nothing has challenged me more than the subject of day trips (in regards to travel anyway). Well before I started venturing into the world on my own I had in my head that the best way to travel was to travel with no rules, no script, and no one telling you where and when to do things. I thought of all the school trips and family vacations I had been dragged around on and knew that there was no way I wanted to travel in a massive bus with less than knowledgeable guides trying to sell people on things. No, I wanted to explore on my own and find the best things without rules. I wanted to wander and forge my own path and take the path less taken and be amazing! All without any knowledge or experience!

In 2010 I obsessively made my own plans and scheduled in times to pee and blow my nose and shove an apple in my mouth. Read more here. Which in reality all went to shit within one week, because of nature, thank you Icelandic Volcano. The truth was that I had no idea how to plan or manage two months, let alone a week, or a day traveling because I didn’t have a clue. My trip went okay, I saw plenty of things, but I also learned where to worry and what to forget, and how to get help when I needed it.

Fast forward to 2013 and a study abroad trip opened my eyes to the value of guides in foreign countries, especially when you don’t speak the language. What I realized is that no matter how many signs or guide books or snippets I read, I was missing valuable information whenever I looked around at the world, the castle, the street, the odd carving in a wall. I missed the stories, myths, and legends that made different corners of the world remarkable. It was then that I realized that, in fact, guides are invaluable and important people when visiting a city for the first time.

Even in a day of endless information and content, guides offer insight, and an intimacy that no amount of paper and signs can ever give to an experience. Having a guide walk you around Florence will allow you to truly experience the details of the experience, versus aimlessly wandering trying to make sense of everything that is around you. Having a guide takes you to the best gelato, or the tastiest lunch in a town, and it lets you better understand the people that are hosting you in their home. Since 2013 I make sure every trip has at least one tour, but I am very selective on how and where I take these tours. Here are some of my fast tips on selecting the best tour for you and your travel companions!

  1. Start with researching and finding as many tour providers as you can that will cover what you need. This includes group and private tours, and companies like Viator, or independent companies that you find.
  2. Review all of the itineraries and inclusions, then figure out what seems like a reasonable price for the tour either for a large, small, or private tour and then decide what is friendliest for your budget.
    1. For private tours you will likely need to email guides, and explain what you want. However, they will be able to fully customize your adventure from the locations seen, the time spent in each place, and the routing taken. This is definitely worth paying extra for, if you can afford it.
  3. Read up on the vehicles being offered. This seems silly, but sometimes something will be listed that won’t actually work with your family of six, and two car seats. Read up, email with questions, and call if you have any concerns.
    1. My husband can attest to the discomfort of small Mexican vans for 5 hours of driving to Chichen Itza, I majorly failed on researching that one. My short self is now much more mindful that 6’4” doesn’t fit in cars as well as 5’2”.
  4. Read as many reviews as you can, either through TripAdvisor, Facebook, viator, etc. this will give you a better idea of what to expect and what to watch out for. Remember, most people will complain before they complement, but it’s important to check all the resources for consistency and safety.
  5. Ask your travel companions about their preferences. Sometimes they won’t care, but brain storming may mean they think of unforeseen issues, or other ideas to make the trip better.
  6. Ask an expert for advice! This is especially important if you are working with a travel agent for your trip. They will likely have direct connections to some of the best guides and experts in an area, and if they don’t they will know who to ask for help.However, experts can be other people like friends that know the region, a hotel concierge, or your credit card concierge and travel departments!
  7. Make a choice – yes you have to pick. It’s far better to pick SOMETHING and not have the best tour, but get to SEE something versus never going at all. I say this because so many people hesitate to take a tour and then they don’t ever get the experience they should have tried for. It’s scary to put trust in another company or guide, but I promise that it’s worthwhile more than staying behind.

Natural Born Control Freak

musings, Travel

I am a natural born stubborn control freak. STUBBORN. CONTROL. FREAK.

I am so stubborn that when I was a toddler I would get angry that I wouldn’t get my way and I would hold my breath until I passed out. My mom would ignore me, my grandma thought I was dying and would fuss over me. I gave up the stunt after I realized it wouldn’t get me very far.

I am so stubborn that I will be mid discussion with my husband and be looking up articles that validate my opinion and information I am sharing. This “discussion” has been known to go on for days…I can blame him, but it’s really my doing.

When I planned my first trip to Europe in 2010 I literally planned everything down to the hour and half hour. This included each museum, how to walk, where to eat, how long it took on the train/public transportation. It was planned to the wire. Then an Icelandic Volcano blew up and ruined the plan and I had to adjust everything.

Going into college I had a straight and narrow plan on getting my BA, getting my MA and getting the dream job. I would work my ass off and ta-da I would have it and in no time I could be at Conde Nast or the Times and one day I would move abroad and work for the Guardian.

 I thought a lot of things.

Life likes to shit on these thoughts and dreams.

It’s not that the universe, or life, or God, or Goddess, or Cat (whatever you’re into man) wants you to suffer, it’s that the universe is chaotic and nothing is promised. You can do everything the way you think you should, and it will all go to hell regardless. It’s just our existence on this blue marble.

I like to think I am a recovering control freak, but I think I am still more control freak than recovering. I will probably never be someone that can just show up on a rip with no plan or preconceived notions. Instead, I will show up with a folder of details, receipts, and schedules that I will refer to all week. I will have a mind full of facts and ideas and images and expectations as to what I should be experiencing on said trip. I will be well informed on food choices and activity prices, shoe and age requirements, cultural norms and common sayings. In many respects I am over prepared, in other respects I have spent a disgusting amount of time preparing myself for things that won’t go any set way.

I dislike chaos and disorganization, I dislike not being able to find things and things that go missing. I dislike the natural chaos of existence and I have done little things to try and shelter myself. I have a hard time committing to anything in a solid way, jobs, friendships, clubs, romances, etc. I WANT to, but I also fear if I come up with something more important to do, or a need, that if I can’t be there I am letting people down, and more importantly myself. This is not to say I don’t take risks, traveling is inherent risk, going to college is risk, my job is constant risk. I risk a lot, but it all is comfortable risk, risk that builds into something better. Emotional risk is something else.

Emotional risk, and inevitable failure, is heartbreak and tears and pain. It is not getting the job(s) you apply for, all 200 of them, and settling for a different field entirely. It is facing that marriage and long partnerships are not all wine and roses but something better, though scarier. It is learning to grow where you are planted, not demanding the perfect climate at the start. It is being vulnerable and real and going with chaos. It is the ultimate lemonade with lemons, no matter how sour they are, and no matter the sugar that is poured in the pitcher. It is daily getting up and trying to be better than the day before.

I am still learning in my recovery, I think each day my walls crumble a little more.

Travel Gear – Jackets

colorado, musings, outdoors, Photography, Travel

 When packing for trips around the world, it’s easy to lose sight of what will make a trip comfortable versus fashionable, and practical versus pretty. As women there is endless expectations places on us to look a certain way, especially as we move through fashionable cities and regions of the world. Yet that is not to mention an expectation of conservatism in regards to dress for religious sites, and conservative areas. This makes packing for a trip a tedious balancing game of what to take, what to leave, and what is going to work best.

This new blog series will discuss the best clothes to pack for traveling abroad and what to do to plan ahead, shop around, and how to get great deals on important products!

JACKETS

Wandering Relatives

colorado, europe, France, History, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

Sometimes it feels like a cliché to say such and such thing or personality or idea is in “one’s blood”. At times this attitude has been used for a variety of horrific crimes on humanity. It’s been justified to cause pain and harm, promote superiority, or enhance nationalistic nonsense.

I’m cautious to say anything is “in my blood” when in fact one could consider DNA and relatives as a major contributor to disease, intelligence, talent and skills, preferred foods, and probably more than we even know. Yet it is far from an only determining factor. One’s nurture is probably as much, if not more important than nature. Yet there is no undeniable connection that a part of our existence is determined by genetic factors.

With all of this in mind, and with hesitation, I acknowledge that some part of me loves the sensation of exploration and adventure, and that part is inherited. Inherited from grandparents, and a grandfather that has never set down roots even as he ticks towards 80. Inherited from parents that chose to pack horse ride from Washington state to Colorado for their honeymoon (they had to give up in Oregon because my mom was having morning sickness…thanks to me). My dad’s parents traveled on road trips every chance they got, original weekend warriors before it was cool, between state lines to national parks and camping adventures. These grandparents also camped in the Maroon Bells on their honeymoon, after one night at the Brown Palace in Denver.

My family home was full of National Geographic magazines and picture books from other distance places. Some of them were okay to be books, moments frozen on paper in ink. Some of them my family actively spoke of visiting. For my family, it was escapism in tough times, in poor times, or portals to relive past adventures.

Other aunts and uncles were prolific travelers, other cousins have lived overseas for most of their adult lives in England and Germany and Haiti and Rwanda and Japan. Travel a branch of the tree and someone’s kid was living abroad. Many of them I have never met or spent real time with, some of them are only known from Facebook profiles and stories. Our family tree branches far and wide, beyond oceans, and continents, and to wild places many would dare not visit. Their wonder and excitement was no doubt fuel for my own desire to go beyond and explore.

If I go back further in my family myths and legends, there are great great aunts that took a cruise around the world. There are 400-year-old relatives in the roots that left everything in the Netherlands and England to come to the “New World” to establish Puritan rule. There are Ulster Scots that left British overreach to fight them in the American Revolution. There are poverty stricken Scottish peasants that left to try something better in a new home. All of them have a story on uprooting, all of them faced immeasurable challenges and stories on the way, all of them are connected to me, whether by culture, or something deeper.

I don’t always know how to explain my love of exploration; I just know it has always been a part of me. There are flashes of memories of me reading National Geographic. There are pieces of playing pirates on the backyard picnic table. There are snips of me digging in the dirt for rocks and semi-precious stones. If I remember anything from growing up in the woods, it was that I was always looking for something to do and always seeking out something interesting. This trend has been a true part of my adulthood and I doubt I will ever leave it behind.

A Love Letter to Notre Dame

europe, France, History, musings

I haven’t been to Paris in nine years. When I was 19, I went to Paris for the first time, and like most 19 years olds, it felt like I was seeing the whole world in one city. Like most 19 year olds, Paris was the epitome of culture, art, and food. We saw what we could, we basked in its glory, we imagined the past. I loved Paris before I arrived there, full of ideals from Madeline to Moulin Rouge, I left Paris forever changed.

The glitz of the tourist trail was stunning. Tears were shed at the Mona Lisa in the Louvre. I “wowed” my way through Versailles, and I acted like a giddy child at the Musee de Cluny. Yet with all the power of other places the Cathedral de Notre Dame had a power that no other place I’ve been to does.

5FF0EE9D-1D25-4C4C-B0D9-E36BE973EA70

North Country

musings, Travel, United States, wyoming

The drive to my parents’ home is far from a thrilling one. Three and a half hours one sits in one direction. About 230 miles. Northward we go. The car sits in cruise control at 80 mph and we listen to audio books or favorite road trip songs and we go. We travel along swaths of interstate where you can see no one for miles. We pass ancient stone features and the occasional exits that resemble towns. It’s desolate.

Compared to Colorado it’s vast nothingness. It’s open rolling hills dotted by specks if cows, sometimes domesticated American Bison, sometimes horses. This time of year it’s all the color of straw. Last years’ grass turning into remnants before bursting with new life. It’s not much.

Take Time to Enjoy Travel

adventure of the week, europe, France, italy, Scotland, Travel, United Kingdom, United States

I see this same scenarios time after time in my job:

My client wants to travel overseas and check off some places on their bucket list. They have one week, three kids, and they want to cram as much culture in their little brains as they possibly can. They want to see ALL of Italy in a week.

My client is taking his dad to Europe, his dad is 80 years old, they want to see ALL of Europe in three weeks.

I research their top places and assemble a schedule that I think is ideal. I find options that match their budget, and activities that all extra time if someone needs a break or a coffee or if a train is late. The savvy travelers agree to my suggestions. The wild ones try to break records, or so it seems, on how many countries they can visit in no time.

While a week, or three weeks seems like a long time, the truth is there will never be seeing ALL of anything in a week, or a month, or a lifetime. It is literally impossible to see everything Rick Steves tells you to, or eat at every Michelin restaurant. It’s just not something that can be done. Besides, the best travel experiences are the unexpected, the moments when nothing was planned, and the stars seem to align. It’s when you actually take time to ENJOY traveling that good things come together.

My favorite meals, or my most loved memories don’t come from the days I planned out hour-by-hour they are finding randomness on this planet we call home. Sometimes it has been a funeral procession or a wedding. Other times it has been making friends with a child or getting lost on a side street. Sometimes it was simply sitting in a train station and people watching while I ate a sandwich. I saw the Queen of England when I just wanted to enjoy being in London in a park. I made friends while hanging out at pubs and hostels. I have always fallen in love with cities I never expected to, or never planned to originally visit.

When one takes time to slow down and breath in their time in a new location, then one REALLY understands the heart and soul of why people travel. It’s a cafe in Paris, or a bakery in Dublin, and taking the time to eat a pastry or drink a cup of coffee. It is a club in Edinburgh or a pub in London that opens up conversation and connection. It’s never when you have museum after museum planned. It’s never when you follow a massive group from sea of people to sea of people. It is always the in between.

As I have seen more and more of the world over ten years I have moved from racing to one place and another, and instead I have craved more of the in between. When I mentally picture a trip back to Paris, I see a mosey instead of a rush. When I mentally picture a visit to China, it’s sitting on the Great Wall and listening to others speak in awe. I imagine crying at finally seeing the Pyramids of Giza and sitting in the sand as I feel the centuries of life in front of and around me. I want the cups of teas and messy foods as much too. I want making friends and photographs of new connections too.

So, dear reader, slow down your plans. See two cities instead of five. See one less museum, and add in a park. Walk everywhere you can so that you can absorb the essence of what is around you. Speak to everyone you can so that you know the people better. Try new foods that would otherwise freak you out. Most importantly, live it all, as much as you can.

Happy Travels!

Don’t Act Your Age

colorado, Colorado Events, outdoors, Travel

It’s easy to fall into the expectations of a culture. It’s easy to yield to social, familial, and religious pressure. It’s easy to “be” for others, but is harder to put your foot down and be yourself.

Out culture has a lot of unwritten rules. By 18 you graduate high school. By 22 it’s college. By 25 maybe a post-graduate program. Depending on your track, there are more hoops and expectations. Somewhere in there, before 30, you might find a spouse, buy a house, and resemble something like an adult.

These age brackets adjust slightly, depending on the culture and the time. Babies often come by 40 instead of 30 now. Career success is somewhere around 40 maybe 50, depending. Marriage is okay by 30, best by 40. It’s all constructed on norms and expectations, built around the cultural ecosystem we live in. Yet all of it is just expectation, not a reality based on what one NEEDS to accomplish. Some of us have more responsibility younger. Some of us never were truly kids. Some of us will never fully grow up. It just is.

With all of these expectations being fabricated, then I think it’s damn time that people do what makes sense for them. If my generation has positively accomplished anything, it’s that we are breaking the norm. (Whether out of necessity or choice is another question all together). We have abandoned the suburbs for lofts, and lifelong mortgages for vacations. Some of it is having a lack of money to participate in the US of A economy like our ancestors did, some of us just don’t want the shackles that uprooted so many in the recession.

While I advocate for education and knowledge, I also know that college is not the only way to be educated. I am married to one of the smartest people I know who could never get comfortable in a college setting, even though they tried. He doesn’t flout his skills and knowledge, he just exists, happy to work and make improvements, happy to have a family to come home to. It’s not ideal, but his earnings with a few community college classes almost matches that of someone with a M.A. The degree has never made me superior, it only lit the path to my own growth.

No doubt, the system has failed this generation, and my dear Gen-X friends that also feel swallowed in debt and poor paying jobs. I feel if the system has failed us, why should be jump deeply into the system? Why be the pinnacle of 30 with a house and 2.5 kids and car payments and so much debt there is hardly money for groceries? Where is the joy in that?

No doubt, I want the “good life” like everyone waved in front of my face. I want a house, I want a dog, and a yard, and to take a family vacation every year. Yet, we run into the wall of we don’t earn enough for a house where we live. We don’t earn enough to live fully here, as a “30-something” should. Yet we do earn enough to pay our bills and have some fun once in a while. We earn enough to enjoy trips abroad every few years, and take road trips in between. We earn enough to get by and laugh a little. We earn enough that I only grind my teeth a couple of night between pay days, instead of them all.

So while I “WANT” this and that, I refuse to be a part of “keeping up with the Jones’s” or buying into familial expectation of what my house and life is supposed to be. I think everyone should examine this too. If something in our culture serves you and your dreams, go for it.

I went for college and a mountain of debt, but my growth was much needed and treasured, I would not change that. If buying a home brings you comfort and joy that’s great! But make sure that the value you have placed in it comes before other desires. If having children is something that you long for, then have children when it makes sense. If having children is not that important, then REALLY evaluate if that’s a road you should go down.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put in Eat, Pray, Love “Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it’s what you want before you commit.” I value most things on similar terms, “is this REALLY what I want?” “Should I REALLY commit to this”. I also leave if something is not serving me or my longer-term goals. Some days it is hard, it’s definitely scary, but it’s important that you only act the age you are in your heart.

Happy Travels!