Real Life Fairy Land

europe, Germany, History, Travel

Think FAIRYTALE and most people immediately think of Disney. Disney capitalized on the tales of fairies with their movies and theme parks, television shows and other media connections. Their stories have all the pixie dust and wands and touch of spirit that make children dream and adults long for something better.

Yet, what sometimes gets forgotten is the REAL reasons, stories, and places that brought breath into what we know as fairytales. Some of the legends date back millenia in some form or another, while others are were brewed by our 19th centuries great-great grandparents. Regardless, the roots of out legends come not from the animated world, but from deeper folk legends that were published and share decades before Snow White was even a sketch in Disney studios.

Many people know the Brothers Grimm and that they had the darker, scarier versions of our beloved tales like Cinderella and Hansel and Gretel. Which is true, but the layers to their creations are much more than coming up with ideas. These stories came from folk legends that were originally compiled, and were deeply inspired by the areas that the Grimm Brothers lived. It is much of the methodology that was used by others like George Washington Irving in an early United States and countless others in Europe and further afield.

No doubt in travels and in reading and listening to tales that little towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber (Red Fortress above the Tauber River) were inspiration for that epoch of literature and the centuries of stories after.

Rothenburg was founded in the 13th century and to this day the foundations and much of that original medieval town stand today. Walk around the city and you will see a wide variety of placards that mark the dates of buildings that were constructed. Somehow a vast majority survived centuries of wear and tear and a world war that almost leveled them.

Rebirthed after WWII the city transformed from a nazi village to one that is a beautiful stop on the Romantic Road. The city is transformed seasonally with garlands, and full of old world charm that is unmatched in most the world.

Good or bad, the history and stories in Rothenburg are quintessentially German. The architecture is timbered and warm, the clocks and stories are quaint. Each corner reflects the past and a preservation for the future. The best part is seeing the diverse population that now walk the streets. Turkish immigrants next to Japanese tourists, and everyone in between.

Those that are looking for treats need not travel far, baked goods are sold on every corner and carts selling hot apple cider fill the main square. Stop into a cafe for some gluhwein (warmed spiced wine), something potatoes, and schnitzel for you carnivores. You won’t be disappointed.

Small shops ad to the charm, a toy store sells German-made stuffed toys, while the Christmas shop is sure to make the biggest scrooge smile. Other novelties and artisan goods exist in jewelers, grocers, and other small family businesses.

For those seeking education the town is not sparse on church or museum. For families, the Christmas museum (along with the shop) are safe bets. For those interested in the darker corners of history, like myself, the Torture Museum is a great choice.

While the torture museum seems macabre, it does have more than metal death probes. Perhaps most interesting is some of the pages from a 15th century song book, or the large collection of royal seals. Medieval history was not all iron maidens and spiked chairs, mind you*.

All around I can’t suggest a stop in Rothenburg enough for you history, photography, and travel geeks. It’s unlike anywhere I have ever been before or since, and it’s worth every moment to explore some cobbled alleys and eat delicious regional dishes. Go in the off season, and early in the day to avoid crowds. Make it a pit stop as you explore southern Germany, and most importantly, Happy Travels!

*Iron Maidens have been pretty much discredited as a hoax from the 18th century, from people wanting to pass them off as historical, when they were really a novelty item meant to perpetuate how awful the middle ages were. Because plague wasn’t bad enough?

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:

A Stack of Magazines

musings, Travel

It’s easy to say “I read” as a kid. It’s much more interesting to explain exactly what that looked like.

My family are readers, through and through, every room, including the bathrooms, had books or magazines in them. Often she leaves were two or three deep, the coffee table housed endless picture books. I read before bed. My mom read to us before bed. I read on the bus. My grandma shared art books with us. I powered through reading challenges. I took home stacks of books from each library visit.

My mom was an assistant library for our community school/public library (small town Cripple Creek) which meant the book love train was never ending.

Some of the coffee table books that littered the living room were elaborate photo essays of places all over the world. The art ones showed off masterpieces and where to find them. The DaVinci anatomy book connected past and present to our understanding of the body.

But the cream of the crop was the, what’s seemed to my child mind, mountains of National Geographic magazines in our basement. Vividly I remember pouring through stack after stack searching for images and stories that inspired my exploring. Ships bobbed on azure waves, tribally adorned men dove for pearls, houses were made raw and blended seamlessly into the landscape. I saw that much more was happening outside of the mountains of Colorado.

As I grew older I would read some of the articles and learn about poverty, war, crime, danger, and the perseverance of peoples. Combined with all my reading, and the nightly news my grandfather consumed I began traveling in my mind. I was compelled to seek these other lands, these people, the animals, the food, the azure waves (I didn’t see the ocean until I was 17).

I knew then, as I do now, that the stacks of magazines were so much more than “a stack of magazines” they were portals into all that the world was and could be. They were windows into the soul and spirits of endless stories and endless lives. They were pure magic.

At some point the magazines were donated to the local school, where they were cut into collages and posters, an upcycling rebirth. And as an adult I collect new stacks and new stories and new portals to new worlds I dream of exploring.

I was always an emotional child. Meaning the simplest things could put me in tears. A dead rabbit on the side of the road. Getting in trouble at school. Getting in trouble at home. Having someone raise their voice at me. Having someone tell me saying something wasn’t appropriate.

I was also anxious and always nervous about doing things wrong. Even as an adult if I get a less than above satisfactory grade or feedback I dwell on it for days if not weeks.

THIS is not a healthy way to deal with the bumps and miscomings of life. Even though I hold myself to an insane standard, that doesn’t mean that I should or that it’s right or even logical.

It’s really unhealthy.

Like screws up your body and makes you exhausted and miserable half the time.

You live in dread and fear and it’s hard to feel like you can be yourself without being criticized, shot down or unloveable.

Granted I also have Post Traumatic Stress from a few childhood incidents, which doesn’t help anything. However, I know my anxious tendencies are not uncommon for my generation and my colleagues.

The problem lies so much in how our culture influences our understanding of how the world works and our place in it. I remember always hearing the narrative that if I worked hard and got good grades and looked perfect and determined, along with praying to god for help, that everything would be okay. My parents raised me in various protestant churches in Teller County Colorado and finally settled at the Methodist Church in Woodland Park when I was in high school. However, with this doctrine of do good and you’ll get your wishes granted. Pray hard enough and it will work out. I found myself feeling like this praying to something wasn’t working for me. Not to belittle anyone’s beliefs, but my self found it hard to want to pray to something I didn’t know if it existed or not and then have it grant my wishes. I didn’t find the comfort there that others did. I did my research on other religions and also found it hard to believe. So I bought into the cult of hard work= great successes.

We’re really in love with this story in the United States. So many of our books and movies and cultural followings surround this idea. So I also bought into it. It has also been called the American Dream, and it’s so far entrenched in our culture that it’s hard to escape the narrative that we’re given our whole lives.

In High School I was informed time and time again that a college degree was a ticket to wealth and well-being. It was a ticket to getting what I wanted. For me that was getting out of loving below the poverty line and into the middle or even upper class (if I worked hard enough) . It meant being able to buy a home, and a car, and pay for my kids to go to summer camp. It meant having a few luxuries, such as trips to Europe and Asia. It meant getting to live a full life. One that I always dreamed of.

I did have one teacher that flat out asked us how much we really thought the American Dream made sense for all of us or for everyone. We all agreed it seemed far-fetched. But we all silently believed we would have our slice of the pie.

Fast forward 8-years and here we are. I’m 25, I have a BA in both Journalism and History. I have my MA in International Journalism and I’m only making a little more than my mother did 10 years ago cleaning hotel rooms or working as an assistant librarian (my mom only has a high school education, which was earned through home-schooling).

I bought into the cult of hard work=success. It also came with almost six-digits in debt that I have to figure out. All of this while the cost of living in the town I’m in has almost doubled in the last 10 years. While the wage I made in high school at an Ihop is not that much less than my current earnings. I work three jobs to get by. I have my own company as one, and do communications for a local teahouse and non-profit. I love the work I do. It’s all in the field I studied in (communications/Journalism) yet it’s not the way I was brought up to believe it would be.

I believed with my MA I could get that dream journalism job of 40k+ a year, not a massive sum, but combined with my Fiance’s income, we would be alright. We could manage.

The money quantifies the struggle, but the emotional reality is what is hardest. To 15 year old me, I’m failing. Even though it’s systemic as much as it is me. When you apply to 150 jobs and only get 3 interviews, it’s pretty crushing. I have done good work, but somehow I am not breaking through to the journalism field, so I’m nestling in PR and Communications. For good organizations this is rewarding. For the future and potential other customers, it brings up ethical concerns.

Perhaps my point is that I wish someone had told me, and all the other people feeling crushed and beat up: “Nothing is promised.” Literally nothing. You might be the smartest person in your school, or city, but unless you sort of luck out, or have support behind you that makes the right connections, it’s very hard to break free into the life you want.

I’m not giving up hope, I’m just reality checking myself in that this existence is very inconsistent and scattered. Sometimes life will lift you up and up and sometimes life will knock your knees out from under you. Adulting is hard, and none of us survive this thing called life.

So, my recommendation is: make good art, create good work, DO work hard on what brings you joy and knowledge. But enjoy all the little magical things that are around you. My family, Fiance and his daughter, along with my cat, are my bread and butter for my soul. Even with my education and all the things I vigilantly try and learn, that stupid fuzzy creature, the love of my life, and his silly, beautiful daughter are the best things about this existence.

And don’t forget, it’s okay to cry, it’s okay to be angry, and it’s okay to take risks to try and find your bliss.

There will be tears

musings, Uncategorized

I wish, I wish

musings

If only it was as easy as blowing out candles and getting a unicorn.

We all have wishes. Or rather hopes and dreams for our future. We wish for more money, better hair, another child, to travel the world etc.

These dreams give us goals to strive for something better than what we have. Which can be a good thing. The bad thing is when we don’t act on making them a reality. No doubt obstacles come up but fighting for what you want is where real success happens.

Growing up with minimal resources I wished to see the world, instead of waiting for a fairy to come and give me round trip tickets somewhere, I got a job, lived with my parents an extra year, and didn’t own a car so that I could do my first trip to Europe. Since then I have been two more times and have no doubt been able to do this because of others helping me, supporting my dreams and making sacrifices. My student loans can tell you that story, but I believe it was worth every penny of debt. Because it taught me more about myself and my abilities than any classroom could, or therapy session.

Some people get $100,000 in credit card debt, or buy a $50,000 sports car. Which is fine, but I spent my money on my dreams and something that benefited me for my future and it’s not just the travel. My education with that oh so shocking price tag was a chance for me to explore my mind and make something of it. No I may never be a millionaire but I know more and more about the world than I could from any other thing. I know about how to read stories, write stories, share information accurately and how my work can change minds and influence others. For thy pen is mightier than the sword.

Anyway, wishing is great, I wish all the time, for a better job, for more travel opportunities, for more money, to be out of debt, to have a nice wedding. I wish for all of these things, but the reality is unless I work towards them, then I will not get there. No, it’s not as easy as get degree-get job- have wonderful life. Because I bought into that idea for the last 10 years and it’s not reality. Yet, it’s just trying to find ways to thrive in any manner possible. It’s not always glamorous, it’s not always perfect, but I’m learning and working towards the wish(es) and that is all that matters.

So for you, even if you just do one thing today, do something for your future. Buy a book on learning Spanish, download Duolingo and take a few FREE lessons, pin some ideas on a Pinterest board. All around, just do it for you.

Lately I took some steps on reducing debt, cutting back on expenses and contacting others for help on establishing something of value- my own business. It may be ugly for a while, and I might want to stay in a hole, and I might lose hope at times. Yet, at the end of the day I am working on a wish and that is all that matters.

 

Best,

Rebecca Lee Robinson