You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2010.

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Written yesterday.

When we last spoke, Eric had just arrived and you were not invited to the welcome party.¬† ūüôā¬† We have since had four and a half lovely days in Germany, and I‚Äôm writing to you from the Hamburg airport where we are waiting for our two-part journey to Ireland.¬† Tonight we fly to the London Luton Airport and stay overnight, and then tomorrow morning very early we hop over to Dublin.¬† Finally!¬† But first, our time in Germany.

Friday was spent in Frankfurt, Eric’s old stomping ground from four tours with the English Theater there.  He got to show me his Frankfurt, which was fun for both of us.  Of course we ate dinner American-style (why not?) complete with BBQ ribs and French fries!  Thanks to the generosity of old friends, we spent the evening watching a riveting production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the English Theater Рso fantastic that Eric even stayed awake despite 48 hours without sleep.  Afterward we hung out with some of the theater staff and had a great time.  Then we went back to our very nice hostel (don’t let its surroundings in the heart of the Red Light District scare you!) and Eric passed out for the better part of 12 hours.  Day One of jetlag: done!

By the way, this was Eric‚Äôs first stay in a hostel, and he was impressed.¬† I‚Äôve been staying in them since I was 17, and it was fun to show him that a cheap bed doesn‚Äôt have to be a dirty or dangerous bed (unless you want it to be).¬† The Five Elements Hostel gave us a lovely room to ourselves on the 8th floor of the building, sharing bathrooms and a kitchen with four other private rooms on that floor.¬† In the lobby the staff served espresso and beer, provided tourist information, held events in the evening (we missed out on trivia night in favor of the play) and served a fine breakfast in the morning for ‚ā¨4 ($5.50) per person.¬† Cereal and yogurt, meat and cheese, rolls, juice and coffee filled us up for another nice walk around Frankfurt, including a stroll along the Main River, before we packed up and headed to the airport for Hamburg.

There we were greeted by Sonja and her family, who warmly welcomed us into their home.  We apparently are bringing rain wherever we go, and it was drizzly in Hamburg the entire time we were there.  But no matter!  As soon as our luggage was inside we all went for a walk to the Elbe river, where we shared drinks and ice cream at the famous Strand Perle riverside cafe, watching dogs play in the high tide and the shipping docks at rest.  Then it was back to the house where Sonni and Dirk made us a fantastic dinner and Eric promptly passed out, this time for 13 hours.  Day Two of jetlag: accomplished!  (This one set him aright.)

Sunday was a leisurely day and after a lovely late breakfast where we discussed international politics for a couple of hours, the kids stayed behind while the adults went out for a tour of Hamburg city in the rain.¬† Hamburg is an understated city, beautiful and lively but not in a flashy, touristy way.¬† This city is for its residents – I found that to be pretty refreshing. That night they took us to dinner at one of their favorite restaurants, Engel, which sits on a pontoon boat in the harbor. ¬†We enjoyed wonderful company, and food that was simply divine: pumpkin and mushroom soup, scallops on beet puree, veal steak (fish for me) with risotto, and finally “Chocolate Disaster” with ice cream, truffles, and nougat squares. ¬†Lordy!

Early Monday morning Eric and I headed out by bus for a daytrip to Berlin, with our friend and guide, Ralf.  What a beautiful city!  And of course, what a heart-wrenching history.  It was interesting to walk around and see how the two halves of the city have, and continue to, weave back together as a whole.  We visited the requisite sights Рthe Brandenburg Gate (where we, yes we did, took a picture with a Storm Trooper, why we cannot say), Reichstag, Checkpoint Charlie and the East Side Gallery (a 1.3km portion of the Berlin Wall which still stands, painted in a series of murals by artists from around the world).  Checkpoint Charlie was particularly interesting, as it is now a hub of capitalistic marketing of a deeply tragic history.  We took part in it, each buying a souvenir, but not without awareness and some discomfort at the irony.

The Holocaust Memorial is a haunting city block full of blank rectangular monoliths gridded like a hedge maze. ¬†Walking through it is incredibly powerful and, as Ralf and I discussed, a poignant experience of wading into something that seems manageable until you’re in the overwhelming thick of it, and suddenly the way out (or even how you got in) is difficult to see.

We also visited the new media hub, the Sony Center and the Walk of Fame celebrating Hollywood Boulevard-style the greats of German cinema such as Marlene Dietrich, Wim Wenders and Billy Wilder.

In eight and a half hours we saw quite a bit, but of course it was only the tip of the iceberg of what Berlin has to offer.  One could easily spend a week there and not run out of things to do and see.  The bus ride back to Hamburg was a bit long so late at night, but what a wonderful day.

Tuesday was an easy day, sleeping late, doing some leisurely breakfast-and-shopping, packing up, spending a bit of time with Sonni’s youngest, and then before we knew it we were off to the airport. ¬†Goodbye, Germany! ¬†With Ireland ahead of me I can hardly take the time to feel into the great many gifts this country has given me in the last two months. ¬†But it has been an unforgettable time in a land, culture and people of great beauty. ¬†I hope to come back someday soon!

Next post: YOU KNOW WHERE!!!!

It doesn’t look like a lot of stuff, does it?

This week I’ve been giddily, and then more giddily, preparing to leave my work assignment. ¬†Tomorrow morning I put the final pieces in place to ensure a smooth transition for my replacement, and then I lug my stuff onto a train for Frankfurt so I can attend a final outbrief. ¬†By the time I turn in the last of my papers, Eric will be over Omaha and on his way to European Central Time!

But tonight I am just looking at my stuff – I’m fascinated by it. ¬†Every once in a while I envision all my belongings suddenly gone, and in my fantasy it is a great, liberating relief. ¬†(I have witnessed a friend go through this and in reality, there is much more grief and loss involved. ¬†But it is a fantasy, and you have to just let those live out their lives.) ¬†So as I get ready to carry all my STUFF through (over the next 17 days) at least three train stations, a friend’s house, four airports and nine hotels…I am seriously reconsidering my packing list and wondering how I can make do with less STUFF, not only for my next trip (yes, I am going to Korea!) but also for life in general. ¬†It brings me back to the 100 Things Project that I blogged about several weeks ago, and my longtime interest in living lighter, “having without possessing” as my friend Pixie recently quipped. ¬†And yet, I also look back at this post and I still do think it’s a good list of must-brings for next time. ¬†What’s the answer? ¬†Maybe there is no answer. ¬†Maybe it is a constant shifting, readjusting, finding one’s own balance not for a lifetime but for this one moment right here, may the next need and find its own equilibrium.

For now, I thank Snail for its beautiful medicine as once again I lift my home on my back and voyage forth, grateful for all that has clothed and cleaned and comforted me during the last – woweeeee – 59 days.

Onward!  Frankfurt!  Hamburg!  Berlin!  Dublin!  Ardara!  Leenane!  Inis Mór!  Galway!  Doolin!  HOME!!!

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Friends! ¬†I now present to you: Oktoberfest. ¬†Opening day. ¬†All day. ¬†Donning my dirndl, I took a bus to and from my hotel which was awesome – no traffic or parking worries. ¬†We left the hotel at 8am, got to Oktoberfest at 10am, left the party at 11:15pm and got back home at 1:45am. ¬†I had no idea what to expect, especially since I get a bit anxious in big crowds and can’t drink beer, and I was also a little nervous about not being able to control when I could leave. ¬†But I dove in and had an amazing time. ¬†I was saying to some friends on the phone tonight that the only thing that could have made Oktoberfest better, would have been sharing it with others. ¬†Hence, I took a lot of video in lieu of the “Wow! ¬†Did you see that?? ¬†Awesome!!!” that I didn’t get to say to anyone I knew during the actual event.

The festival takes place right in the center of Munich, surrounded by other sights of the city, so it is a very picturesque setting. ¬†First of all, I have to say that I love the happy accident that I got to attend the 200th year of Oktoberfest! ¬†How cool is that? ¬†And opening day, no less. ¬†The first Oktoberfest was a horse race held in celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. ¬†So while known for its beer, it’s actually a festival to celebrate love. ¬†And beer.

There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance that opens the 16-18 day festival. ¬†First: the procession of the landlords of the fest. ¬†This is just a snippet:

Can you see the mad crowds? ¬†Tens of thousands of people. ¬†Yet most everyone was in a joyous, raucous mood all day. ¬†In the late afternoon and evening the dark side of the fest did start showing up – garbage piled waist high around seriously undersized garbage cans in what is normally an incredibly clean city; tented gurneys started transporting the Bierleichen (German for “beer corpses”) in a hurried fashion; I’m told that the tents fit over the gurneys so oxygen can be pumped in for the poor unfortunate who will soon nurse the hangover of his life. ¬†Some fights broke out too, and I did see a bit of blood, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised at the good nature of the people there.

As soon as I got onto the grounds I started exploring the beer tents. ¬†Each brewery has its own, decorated to the hilt and already – even at 10am – full of people drinking the beer, which cost a flat ‚ā¨8.80 (about $12) per liter. ¬†I soon realized that I was really hungry as I hadn’t eaten breakfast, so I went outside to look for food. ¬†Candied almonds did the trick – hot and sticky, straight from the copper pot! ¬†From the almond stand I found a spot and watched the parade of landlords, then found my way into the Hofbr√§u tent for the tapping of the first keg, which in itself was an absolutely fevered event. ¬†I don’t even think it was the actual first keg of the Oktoberfest – just the first for that tent! ¬†Still, it was madness:

“O’zapft is!” (“It is opened!”) is the traditional phrase yelled by the keg-tapper, at which point everyone breaks into that song that they are singing, with great gusto. ¬†I heard that song about every 15 minutes, all day long. ¬†And every single time, every single person within earshot was singing at the top of their lungs. ¬†It filled me with a giddy joy to see the music carrying so much importance and community.

After the keg-tapping, I left the tent and would not be able to gain access again, to any of the dozen or so tents, until about 9pm.  But no worries!  There was plenty to see, especially the carnival which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It turned into a little photography artist date, and I also rode a few rides.  Girlish screaming fun!  I also visited the Raumeshalle (Hall of Fame) on the side of the hill, presided over by the absolutely enormous Bavaria statue.  Both the hill and the ferris wheel gave me great overviews of the festival grounds.

In the late afternoon I was ready for lunch, and the Wildstuben had caught my attention early on so after waiting 45 minutes in line I sat with two Germans, two Italians, a Brazilian and a Colombian at a large table in the corner. ¬†The place was no different than any other beer hall, singing the theme song every 15 minutes and dancing in the aisles between tables – sometimes even on tables – while I sipped only about three sips from my $10 glass of wine (there’s a reason Oktoberfest isn’t known for its wine, I guess) and ate fleischpflanzerl (meatballs) made from wild meats – I’m guessing venison and/or wild boar, since those were also on the menu.

Since I wasn’t drinking (except the regrettable few sips of wine), I went a bit overboard on the sugar front: candied almonds, Turkish nougat, hot chocolate, chocolate-dipped dates, and candied walnuts to finish up the night. ¬†Don’t judge. ¬†It was Oktoberfest! ¬†And it was delicious. ¬†My nose is super stuffy today and my gut isn’t totally happy with me, but at this point I figure, what the hell?

It had been a chilly day, but at around 6pm it started to get just plain cold and I started to wonder how I was going to make it for another 5 hours if I couldn’t get in a beer tent. ¬†Happily, the Teufelsrad saved me. ¬†This is the Teufelsrad:

So simple. ¬†A turntable in the middle of the tent, padded around the edges. ¬†People pile on the turntable and do silly things while it turns. ¬†Like the crowd above, all older than 40, who tried to stay on. ¬†Or couples of lederhosen-clad men boxing with a dirndl-clad woman refereeing – while the turntable spins. ¬†Or girls hula-hooping. ¬†It was crazy and silly and fun, and amazingly I spent over two hours in there, standing and watching the insanity. ¬†(No, I didn’t try it because I would have had to lay my purse and bag down, and didn’t have anyone there to hold them for me – otherwise I would have been all over that!) ¬†The Teufelsrad has been in operation at the fest since 1908, and a sign said something like “My grandfather did it, my father too, and today it is my turn.”

Around 9pm I finally tore myself away from that madness, and did a little more wandering before making my way into the tents. ¬†The first tent greeted me with 6,000 people standing on tables and singing “YMCA” – the second was rocking and rolling to “We Are the Champions”. ¬†Here’s my favorite story from Oktoberfest: as I walked through one of the tents, a very…um, happy young man grabbed me and danced for a bit while his friends cheered him on. ¬†Then he kissed me on both cheeks before going in for the “deep kiss” if you know what I’m saying. ¬†I kept my mouth shut tight, but the poor guy was too wasted to notice so he made out with my chin for a minute before I could wrestle myself out of his arms, curtsy with a “Danke sch√∂n!” and run for it. ¬†I have to say, though, I actually felt kind of initiated!

By the time the bus pulled out for home at just past 11pm, I was ready to go, but thoroughly thrilled with my day. ¬†Oktoberfest is on my list of top ten experiences – it really is a must-do. ¬†I can see why people go every single year – it’s pure joy and celebration, rooted in meaningful tradition which I appreciated tremendously.

Friday I spent the evening in Regensburg with a work colleague and was reminded of how much I love that city.  Just, just love it.

Today I woke up a bit sleep-deprived but not too badly considering the late night. ¬†Mid-morning I decided I wanted to go to Rothenburg and see the famous medieval walled city, but traffic would not have it and after being stuck at a snail’s pace on the Autobahn for 45 minutes, I turned back and opted for knitting and relaxation instead. ¬†On the way home I took some back roads, and was reminded of how much I have grown to love the Bavarian countryside. ¬†And Bavaria in general, for that matter! ¬†I love the culture and the traditions and the lovely cities, towns, villages and farms that make up the rolling hills here. ¬†Next weekend I’ll get to visit the north of Germany for a few days and I’ll be interested to see what’s different, or not. ¬†But Bavaria has a big place in my heart and I hope I get to come back someday.

Ah, Bavaria!

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Friends! ¬†I now present to you: Oktoberfest. ¬†Opening day. ¬†All day. ¬†Donning my dirndl, I took a bus to and from my hotel which was awesome – no traffic or parking worries. ¬†We left the hotel at 8am, got to Oktoberfest at 10am, left the party at 11:15pm and got back home at 1:45am. ¬†I had no idea what to expect, especially since I get a bit anxious in big crowds and can’t drink beer, and I was also a little nervous about not being able to control when I could leave. ¬†But I dove in and had an amazing time. ¬†I was saying to some friends on the phone tonight that the only thing that could have made Oktoberfest better, would have been sharing it with others. ¬†Hence, I took a lot of video in lieu of the “Wow! ¬†Did you see that?? ¬†Awesome!!!” that I didn’t get to say to anyone I knew during the actual event.

The festival takes place right in the center of Munich, surrounded by other sights of the city, so it is a very picturesque setting. ¬†First of all, I have to say that I love the happy accident that I got to attend the 200th year of Oktoberfest! ¬†How cool is that? ¬†And opening day, no less. ¬†The first Oktoberfest was a horse race held in celebration of the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig I and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. ¬†So while known for its beer, it’s actually a festival to celebrate love. ¬†And beer.

There’s a lot of pomp and circumstance that opens the 16-18 day festival. ¬†First: the procession of the landlords of the fest. ¬†This is just a snippet:

Can you see the mad crowds? ¬†Tens of thousands of people. ¬†Yet most everyone was in a joyous, raucous mood all day. ¬†In the late afternoon and evening the dark side of the fest did start showing up – garbage piled waist high around seriously undersized garbage cans in what is normally an incredibly clean city; tented gurneys started transporting the Bierleichen (German for “beer corpses”) in a hurried fashion; I’m told that the tents fit over the gurneys so oxygen can be pumped in for the poor unfortunate who will soon nurse the hangover of his life. ¬†Some fights broke out too, and I did see a bit of blood, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised at the good nature of the people there.

As soon as I got onto the grounds I started exploring the beer tents. ¬†Each brewery has its own, decorated to the hilt and already – even at 10am – full of people drinking the beer, which cost a flat ‚ā¨8.80 (about $12) per liter. ¬†I soon realized that I was really hungry as I hadn’t eaten breakfast, so I went outside to look for food. ¬†Candied almonds did the trick – hot and sticky, straight from the copper pot! ¬†From the almond stand I found a spot and watched the parade of landlords, then found my way into the Hofbr√§u tent for the tapping of the first keg, which in itself was an absolutely fevered event. ¬†I don’t even think it was the actual first keg of the Oktoberfest – just the first for that tent! ¬†Still, it was madness:

“O’zapft is!” (“It is opened!”) is the traditional phrase yelled by the keg-tapper, at which point everyone breaks into that song that they are singing, with great gusto. ¬†I heard that song about every 15 minutes, all day long. ¬†And every single time, every single person within earshot was singing at the top of their lungs. ¬†It filled me with a giddy joy to see the music carrying so much importance and community.

After the keg-tapping, I left the tent and would not be able to gain access again, to any of the dozen or so tents, until about 9pm.  But no worries!  There was plenty to see, especially the carnival which I thoroughly enjoyed.  It turned into a little photography artist date, and I also rode a few rides.  Girlish screaming fun!  I also visited the Raumeshalle (Hall of Fame) on the side of the hill, presided over by the absolutely enormous Bavaria statue.  Both the hill and the ferris wheel gave me great overviews of the festival grounds.

In the late afternoon I was ready for lunch, and the Wildstuben had caught my attention early on so after waiting 45 minutes in line I sat with two Germans, two Italians, a Brazilian and a Colombian at a large table in the corner. ¬†The place was no different than any other beer hall, singing the theme song every 15 minutes and dancing in the aisles between tables – sometimes even on tables – while I sipped only about three sips from my $10 glass of wine (there’s a reason Oktoberfest isn’t known for its wine, I guess) and ate fleischpflanzerl (meatballs) made from wild meats – I’m guessing venison and/or wild boar, since those were also on the menu.

Since I wasn’t drinking (except the regrettable few sips of wine), I went a bit overboard on the sugar front: candied almonds, Turkish nougat, hot chocolate, chocolate-dipped dates, and candied walnuts to finish up the night. ¬†Don’t judge. ¬†It was Oktoberfest! ¬†And it was delicious. ¬†My nose is super stuffy today and my gut isn’t totally happy with me, but at this point I figure, what the hell?

It had been a chilly day, but at around 6pm it started to get just plain cold and I started to wonder how I was going to make it for another 5 hours if I couldn’t get in a beer tent. ¬†Happily, the Teufelsrad saved me. ¬†This is the Teufelsrad:

So simple. ¬†A turntable in the middle of the tent, padded around the edges. ¬†People pile on the turntable and do silly things while it turns. ¬†Like the crowd above, all older than 40, who tried to stay on. ¬†Or couples of lederhosen-clad men boxing with a dirndl-clad woman refereeing – while the turntable spins. ¬†Or girls hula-hooping. ¬†It was crazy and silly and fun, and amazingly I spent over two hours in there, standing and watching the insanity. ¬†(No, I didn’t try it because I would have had to lay my purse and bag down, and didn’t have anyone there to hold them for me – otherwise I would have been all over that!) ¬†The Teufelsrad has been in operation at the fest since 1908, and a sign said something like “My grandfather did it, my father too, and today it is my turn.”

Around 9pm I finally tore myself away from that madness, and did a little more wandering before making my way into the tents. ¬†The first tent greeted me with 6,000 people standing on tables and singing “YMCA” – the second was rocking and rolling to “We Are the Champions”. ¬†Here’s my favorite story from Oktoberfest: as I walked through one of the tents, a very…um, happy young man grabbed me and danced for a bit while his friends cheered him on. ¬†Then he kissed me on both cheeks before going in for the “deep kiss” if you know what I’m saying. ¬†I kept my mouth shut tight, but the poor guy was too wasted to notice so he made out with my chin for a minute before I could wrestle myself out of his arms, curtsy with a “Danke sch√∂n!” and run for it. ¬†I have to say, though, I actually felt kind of initiated!

By the time the bus pulled out for home at just past 11pm, I was ready to go, but thoroughly thrilled with my day. ¬†Oktoberfest is on my list of top ten experiences – it really is a must-do. ¬†I can see why people go every single year – it’s pure joy and celebration, rooted in meaningful tradition which I appreciated tremendously.

Friday I spent the evening in Regensburg with a work colleague and was reminded of how much I love that city.  Just, just love it.

Today I woke up a bit sleep-deprived but not too badly considering the late night. ¬†Mid-morning I decided I wanted to go to Rothenburg and see the famous medieval walled city, but traffic would not have it and after being stuck at a snail’s pace on the Autobahn for 45 minutes, I turned back and opted for knitting and relaxation instead. ¬†On the way home I took some back roads, and was reminded of how much I have grown to love the Bavarian countryside. ¬†And Bavaria in general, for that matter! ¬†I love the culture and the traditions and the lovely cities, towns, villages and farms that make up the rolling hills here. ¬†Next weekend I’ll get to visit the north of Germany for a few days and I’ll be interested to see what’s different, or not. ¬†But Bavaria has a big place in my heart and I hope I get to come back someday.

Ah, Bavaria!

It’s been a bit scary lately, to let you in on some of my vulnerabilities and mood swings, since I have been self-taught from a very young age to appear “all-together” no matter what is going on inside. ¬†I’ve realized in recent months, though, how it creates a veil between myself and the people in my life, and though that veil was probably useful to me at some point, it is no longer necessary. ¬†I say this in no way to pass off responsibility for my feelings; I realize that I may not always like the response I get when I show myself less than perfectly together. ¬†But I always appreciate it. ¬†I’m learning to know my fear and not try to spirit it away, not try to shut it out of my peripheral vision, or even to let it scare me. ¬†But to let it inform me. ¬†Show me where I am at my leading edge, where I am pushing my own envelope. ¬†And help me find the compassion and strength within myself to take one step further.

Tonight I went for a walk in the chilly almost-autumn evening, plugged into my iPhone and listening to the audiobook of¬†Walking In This World: The Practical Art of Creativity by Julia Cameron, one of my longtime creative spirit guides. ¬†So far it is full of gentle and not-so-gentle reminders about the “just do it” of creative life, and I am grateful to say that more and more I am able to nod in agreement from experience. ¬†Do you know how it feels when you trudge and hike up a mountain, and all the while you have only noticed one patch of earth after another under your feet until suddenly – you look over your shoulder and register the mountain that you have scaled? ¬†That is how I feel as I look back over the last several years of heartbreaking creative block that I was trapped under. ¬†Only now do I realize the grip of fear and paralysis I created for myself, simply by building up a reservoir of false beliefs and allowing my Not Good Enough monster to roar and cackle unchecked. ¬†Now that I am back to creating, I am tuning in almost moment by moment to make sure I’m giving life to the impulses and not the fears, showing up with fierce loyalty to the voice coming through me. ¬†It is my life’s purpose to create. ¬†I will not back down.

So as beloved Autumn approaches, I will take more walks in the crisp blue air and revel in the wisdom of blazing trees who never hang on to anything for too long. ¬†I will envision all of my fears and false beliefs about my creativity as leaves on that tree over there, no longer needed…thinning their stems…being blown away by the cleansing winds…leaving me bare and naked and glistening in pure possibility.

California Poppies, Mendocino, July 2010.

When I got on the bus home from Prague, it didn’t take long for my head to start lolling like a sprung jack-in-the-box, my body registering the exhaustion of another fast-paced weekend. ¬†I have had such an amazing time! ¬†But boy howdy, working abroad and traveling for vacation are two totally different things. ¬†My tired body seems to have let in a bug, and I have been completely dogged for the last two days while I do my best to peacefully restore health and energy, and give all I can in my last full week of work (my replacement arrives next Wednesday morning). ¬†The tiredness has also let in a fair bit of homesickness, missing so many people back home and feeling the long-term effects of being out of people’s lives, and the community in general, for much of the last year.

So it’s an interesting time for me to consider the next work assignment that has been offered to me: 60 days in South Korea, mid-January through mid-March. ¬†I have until tomorrow morning to accept or decline the assignment, and if I had to base my decision solely on how I’m feeling right at this moment, I would have to turn it down, which makes many people’s eyes bug out of their heads: how could I turn down this amazing opportunity?? ¬†I know, it really, really is! ¬†For a lot of reasons. ¬†Amidst the homesickness, exhaustion, and bit-chomping for some creative projects at home, though, it’s hard to envision packing up again and going off to the other other side of the world for a couple of months. ¬†Yet I also realize that the job is a tremendously unique work and personal opportunity, it’s the promise of a good chunk of money, and of course it is a full four months out, which gives me ample time to rest and rejuvenate, connect with family and friends and loved ones, participate freely in whatever creative projects excite me between October and December, and hopefully get further clarity on the best way to embark on the new creative work path revealing itself to me. ¬†So Eric and I are discussing the job and all it entails for both of us. ¬†I’m also making time to meditate, and with the help of this awesome iPhone app I am making regular practice of checking in with my body and heart, coming down out of the spinning mind with all its “knowledge”, into the deeper wisdom found when I stay below the shoulders.

In the meantime, I’m on the sleep train for this week! ¬†Good food, good self-care, and lots of sleep so I can get back on top of things. ¬†This upcoming weekend will be awesome and quite a bit more low-key: a Saturday daytrip to opening day of the 177th annual Oktoberfest! ¬†I’m excited to experience this enigmatic taste of Bavaria, even though I can’t even drink beer anymore – and thankfully the $35 round-trip bus from my front door to Munich and back has been very kind to my budget (thanks, work!). ¬†I’m glad that it’s a daytrip, too, and that I don’t have to pack anything more than my purse for the excursion. ¬†Sunday I might go and see Rothenberg, or I might stay in bed all day!

Question: When you have to make big decisions, how do you get to that quiet place inside that already has the answer?

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Okay, fair enough, I only spent days 48 & 49 in Prague. ¬†The rest of last week was spent catching y’all up on Salzburg, and truly there was nothing to report from the week itself. BUT!! ¬†Then there was Prague. ¬†Ah, Prague. ¬†I can’t come up with enough superlatives. ¬†What a beautiful, splendiferous city. ¬†So vibrant, so got-it-goin’-on. ¬†I was constantly amazed by it, and couldn’t get enough. ¬†Being in Prague is kind of like being best friends with a supermodel.

Okay, I guess I’m gushing a bit. ¬†The trip was a rush of new traveling emotions – for the first time in I don’t know how long, I was truly in a foreign culture. ¬†I don’t know a lick of Czech, didn’t know anything about the country’s history, didn’t read up on the city in advance, and I had no idea what to expect. ¬†I barely remembered to write down walking directions to my hostel from the train station! ¬†So it was a great go-with-the-flow trip for me. ¬†I feel like I really earned my Solo Female Traveler wings on this one, trusting my instincts in a slightly more misogynistic culture (I got ogled and hit on quite a bit more here than in Germany or Austria) and safely making the most of my time there. ¬†The hostel was a great homebase for exploring and getting resources to help me find my way around, and despite the terrible night’s sleep I got there due to quite a lot of partying amongst the guests (did you know that Prague is also the new Amsterdam? ¬†Apparently so…) I really couldn’t beat the accommodations, especially for $23.

The city was abuzz all weekend long, with street musicians everywhere and artists selling beautiful art along the Charles Bridge, souvenir shops every 50 feet, even the Prague Grand Prix (5k and 10k races) crowded the Old Town Square on Saturday evening!  If I had wanted to, I could have partied hard and long, either on my own or with the Prague Pub Crawl which apparently goes until 4am.

One of the things I love about Prague is its ease with having one foot in the old and one foot in the new. ¬†It seems that there have been two significant periods of flourishing for this city. ¬†One, in medieval times, created the Royal Route including Prague Castle, St. Vitus’ Cathedral, the Old Royal Palace, and the Golden Lane. ¬†All absolute models of the architecture and culture of that time period. ¬†Prague was the center of Bohemia from the 9th till the 20th centuries, with its greatest period of prosperity in the 14th century under the reign of King Charles IV of Bohemia (who was also the Holy Roman Emperor). ¬†Much of the city reflects the opulence and heraldry of that time period.

The Bohemians were fierce, y’all. ¬†I would not have wanted to squabble with them. ¬†The Theresian Wing of Prague Castle boasts huge stone busts of knights atop every wall, each flanked with six huge spiked flags. ¬†The front gate itself is watched over by two enormous naked warriors, one preparing to plunge his dagger into a terrified foe, the other ready to take his club to the head of an equally freaked opponent. ¬†My advice to you: don’t rassle with a Bohemian.

Fast forward: That fierce nationalism helped create the independent country of Czechoslovakia at the end of World War I, and thence came the second flourish, this time in the gorgeous curves and soft grandeur of the Art Nouveau movement, proudly led by nationalist Alphonse Mucha, who returned from the parlors of Paris and New York to his homeland, where he lent himself in every possible way to the establishment of the new country, even down to designing its first currency.

I learned all this at the Mucha Museum, hands down the highlight of my trip.  Mucha has long been a favorite artist of mine, and not only was his art as inspiring as ever, but so, I learned, was his story.  He is one of the few artists I have ever heard of, who had a crystal clear vision and purpose as an artist, and was given or earned all the resources necessary to give him an obstacle-free path to complete fulfillment of his vision during his lifetime.  If you are ever in Prague, do not skip the Mucha.  (The Municipal House is also stunning, a perfect study in Art Nouveau architecture.)

The city has a totally fascinating history and I can’t effectively write about it all here, but if you’d like to read more click here and enjoy. ¬†One aspect that I didn’t have time to explore is its Communist history, which lasted from World War II until the 1990’s. ¬†There’s a Museum of Communism that will be on my to-do list next time I’m there.

I would also like, next time, to learn more about the amazing Astronomical Clock in Old Town Square.  It is really complicated, and seriously cool.

Oh, I have to tell you about one more great surprise: Carol. ¬†Last night I decided I wanted to eat dinner in the Old Town Square, and just soak up the atmosphere. ¬†I happened to sit down next to another solo female traveler, from San Francisco no less! ¬†Carol and I hit it off immediately, and ended up enjoying the Square and the food together for about three hours. ¬†She’s gonna friend me on Facebook. ¬†I predict we’ll be besties.

Ah, Prague! ¬†I left you too soon. ¬†27 hours did not do you justice, but you can bet I will be back. ¬†I will be back….

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Do I sound a little tired by now? ¬†Yeah, I hear it too. ¬†Salzburg was yet another lesson in balance and conscious, non-judgmental awareness of my physical and emotional states. ¬†Do I sense a theme developing on this trip? ¬†It wasn’t until halfway through Day 3 that I realized how exhausted I was – walking zombie-like through the Altstadt yet again, looking for something to do so that my trip would be absolutely full, so that I wouldn’t have wasted a minute. ¬†Knees stiff from walking everywhere, including many trips up and down the five flights of stairs to my hotel room each day. ¬†Still, gotta do more…gotta do more… ¬†Stop. ¬†Breathe. ¬†Listen within. ¬†Gotta do more…ah, that old chestnut! ¬†The sickening seesaw ride of too much/not enough, knee-jerk protection against the voices that say “You can be tired when you’re dead!” or “Geez, stop complaining already.” ¬†Do you know those voices? ¬†I know them well by now. ¬†The voices in my head of judgment, of pushing through, of gotta-prove-you-are-worthy. ¬†So exhausting, those voices. ¬†Enough already! ¬†(It took me until about 2pm to wake up and say that.)

Still, I have to report that much seeing of sights did get done in those hours before I woke up and as gingerly as possible put the screaming voices of too much/not enough to bed for the day.

First stop: the Festung Hohensalzburg.  The big white fortress atop the hill, remember?  I hiked my weary body up that steep hill (it did feel good, despite the pain inside the screaming thighs) and caught my first beautiful vista of the day.

Trivia: the first settlements in Salzburg belonged to the Celts in pre-Christian times, but the city of Salzburg itself was started in the early 700’s by an archbishop who wanted his own bishopric on the river. ¬†The fortress’s construction began in 1077 and was built on for centuries thereafter, which is why it has its distinctively disjointed architecture. ¬†(I have a personal interest in learning how the Celts moved across Europe from the Caucasus to Ireland, so knowing that I am so near early Celtic settlements is kind of exciting to me.)

Some of my favorite pictures from the fortress are of the life currently there – the beautiful tree in front of the chapel, the billowing geraniums hanging out of ancient windows, the moss still climbing the craggy walls. ¬†I also got a kick out of some of the interesting artifacts, like the tavern sign that showed, even long ago, how important beer and pork were to the Germanic peoples; and the iron witch that hung over a window in the old kitchen. ¬†(I love that witch! ¬†It reminds me that my favorite time of year, Autumn/Samhain/Halloween, is swiftly on its way.) ¬†Please notice also the awesomely beautiful sundial painted on the side of the chapel. ¬†Inside the fortress was a large exhibition about the military history of the fortress. ¬†For some reason it surprised me, although of course the fortress was always all about defense and warriorship. ¬†Still my favorite piece in the exhibition was a guitar carved with the names of many men – perhaps the owner’s regiment? ¬†I don’t know, I couldn’t read the sign. ¬†But I loved the guitar itself.

Coming down off the mountain, I wandered the Sunday morning streets of the Altstadt for a while, visiting a colorful yarn shop, a farmer’s market in the Gr√ľn Markt (how perfect), and what might be my favorite advertisement ever for a spiritual book. ¬†(It’s in the slideshow.) ¬†Peeking into my new favorite chocolate shop, I spied the chocolate-dripped bust of Mozart which made me giggle. ¬†Along the way I came across this lovely quartet playing Italian music in the Residenzplatz:

Then there was the stop for Salzburger Nockerl…see three posts back for that deliciosity.

And…then began the wandering. ¬†I was done with the city, but somehow worked myself up into an expectation that I must do more, see more, so I could report more. ¬†Of course there is so much to do in the city that I could have done a hundred things, but I finally realized that I didn’t want to do any of it; I felt done, really, and wanted to head out. ¬†So I finally noticed the urge and followed it, with one not-so-quick stop on my way out of town: I just had to scale the Untersberg.

The Untersberg isn’t a terribly high mountain (1800m) but it is a landmark of Salzburg, and the mountain on which Julie Andrews twirled in her novitiate’s dress to the rising strings before breaking out into the famous refrain, “The hills are alive…” ¬†I wasn’t burning to go there, but I wanted to see it and it was well worth it. ¬†It was nice to walk in the silence, in the fresh-scrubbed mountain air, among the high-flying black crows and diminutive alpine blooms and mountain-breaking-turning-to-rock pathways. ¬†I stayed up there for an hour, came down and had a surprisingly good plate of the usual (you know by now, right?), then headed home to my now-familiar hotel room in the rolling hills of Middle Bavaria.

Salzburg is definitely a highlight of any trip to Europe; beautiful, chock-full of history and culture, and very welcoming to the approximately 6 million visitors it receives each year! ¬†I’m so glad I went, and would go back in a heartbeat.

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Day 2 started with a quick walk through the Mirabell Palace Garden, the beautiful garden where most of “Do Re Mi” was filmed in The Sound of Music – do you recognize the fountain? ¬†The matched lunging statues? ¬†The ivy-covered walkway? ¬†Yep. ¬†Pretty, pretty place. ¬†Why didn’t they use the sweet little theatre tucked away behind the boxwood? ¬†A perfect setting for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

At 10am I joined another bus trip…well, more of a van trip this time.¬† This was an 8-hour excursion into the lakes region with stops in Hallstatt, Gonau and Mondsee, plus a boat trip on the Wolfgangsee (‚Äúsee‚ÄĚ is pronounced ‚Äúzay‚ÄĚ and means ‚Äúlake‚ÄĚ) between St. Wolfgang and St. Gilgen, the birthplace of Mozart‚Äôs mother.¬† It is a lovely, dramatic landscape and I enjoyed the scenery, although I didn‚Äôt spend enough time in any of the towns to really get the flavor of the town.¬† What I saw was mostly¬†a lot of souvenir shops, all of them carrying similar postcards and the same Austria t-shirts and salt from the nearby salt mines, a lot of caf√©s and conditoreis (sort of a bakery specializing in cakes) and a fair number of vistas ripe for photo-taking.¬† I really enjoyed the day, but in hindsight the rather touristy and homogenous towns did leave me a little flat.

One unexpected highlight of the trip came on the ride home, right after we had left Mondsee where I got to visit St. Michael‚Äôs cathedral for the second time.¬† St. Michael‚Äôs, you‚Äôll remember, was where the wedding scene from The Sound of Music was filmed.¬† Although I have seen enough ancient churches by now to last me the rest of my life, I still enjoyed seeing the church – I always like trying out my Hipstamatic on the statues inside.¬† One statue in particular, depicting the crucifixion of Christ, was so heartbreakingly rendered that it brought a tear to my eye. ¬†Now, I don’t consider myself a Christian although I am spiritual, but still the wood carving opened my heart¬†with such empathy for the man who endured that unimaginable torture…as we piled in the van a few minutes later and drove out of town, I looked up to see a beautiful set of angel‚Äôs wings in the sky. ¬†I attach no meaning to it, but it left my heart full.

The van pulled in across from the Mirabellplatz just before 6pm.¬† I went back into the Altstadt in search of dinner, then remembered a recommendation to visit the Augustiner Br√§u, a strange mix of cafeteria and beer hall that is absolutely enormous – between its beer garden and five beer halls, it can serve over 5,000 people at a time – yowie! ¬†I finally gave in to curiosity and ate a quick plate of leberk√§se (literally translated as ‚Äúliver loaf‚ÄĚ although I was told that it is actually made from brains – honestly it just tasted like bologna) with the perfunctory sauerkraut and potato salad, and drank a ginger ale type drink called Almdudler.¬† It was fine, but not stellar or anything.¬† (I had already started dreaming of my Salzburger Nockerl by then…)

After dinner I walked my weary body home and got an early night’s sleep РI think I was in bed by 8:30pm!  I was strangely exhausted and wanted to feel refreshed for Day 3: the totally unplanned day.

The Author

This is a site about saying yes to life - written by a multi-passionate rock star who loves to take life between her fists and kiss it full on the mouth.

"Make my boy realize that, at the end of the everlasting why, there is a yes. And a yes and a yes!"
- Mr. Emerson,
A Room With A View