“aller anfang ist schwer” – all beginnings are hard.
i first started writing my next blog about learning to let things go (side note, i am a person that needs resolution. i hate when things are left unresolved or unsaid, this mentality is both a blessing and a curse. i’m kind of like spiderman in that way, minus the ability to climb walls and swing from buildings). it was going to be more of the this is my real life kind of post that everyone seems to be relating to lately – and seriously, thank you to everyone for all the amazing feedback about my last few posts, the only person i can be is myself and it’s really nice to hear my written words have made such an impact on some really important people (and strangers!!!) in my life.
before i switch gears though, let me just say that life is hard. you all know that. it’s about making decisions every single day. sometimes they are super easy ones, like yes, i will have a coke zero and paprika chips for breakfast while watching a liverpool game from my bed, and sometimes they are gut wrenching and seem almost impossible, but in any event, they have to be made. what to do, what to do….do i move on? do i wait it out because i truly believe in something? do i give up because everyone is telling me to? should i give up on love, on my passions and dreams, on what makes me happy because it’s not a typical path someone chooses? here’s the thing though, you’re either someone who walks away when things get tough or you’re not. me, i’m a fighter. i don’t like giving up, especially if it is something that means the world to me.
many times people get bogged down in their own minds, they need time to process and they need to be 100% confident in their decisions. while that is all well and good, sometimes you just have to jump and build your parachute (or paraglider) on your way down. you’ll never know what it feels like to fly if you never jump off that cliff. i carry on because i want to be the one that said guess what, i did that, i’m still here because i didn’t give up. nothing in this world is easy or perfect, you have to pull yourself (and sometimes others) up out of the darkness, away from the fear and the uncertainty into the light because you’re the fighter, and not everyone is meant to be a fighter. if hollywood has taught me anything, it’s that in the last possible moment is when miracles happen, where things that are meant to be, be. so how’s that for deep thoughts?
anyway, following along the lines of what i said above, i had written this really soul searching post about all the sadness, fear and disappointment of letting go of something you love because there is nothing else left to do. you’ve poured your heart and soul into something or someone and it finally starts sinking in that maybe, just maybe, it’s time to let it go. i was 1000% going down the road of the stuff catchy country music songs are made of, but then i thought, screw that, you’re in germany, your favorite country in the world and if anything deserves its own blog post it’s that.
outside of the united states, germany is the country i have spent the most time in. my first trip on an airplane was to germany when i had just turned 15, some of the best people i know are born and raised in germany, and if you like schnitzel, bread and beer then this is the place to be (by the way, don’t even get me started on a german’s love for bread).
i have been everywhere from berlin to bavaria and many places in between since 1996, and all i can tell you is that you will not be disappointed with any place you choose when you come to this amazing country. i would even suggest getting a map of germany and just start throwing darts at it and go wherever they land. since i travel around europe a lot, often times people ask me what my favorite places have been so far and i typically say either georgia or slovenia, not even thinking of mentioning germany because i assume most people have already been there if they have traveled to europe. assumptions are a funny thing though because a lot of people haven’t been yet and it’s a flat out fantastic place to visit, one time or 100 times.
i don’t really know if i can properly explain why i love it so much. it just makes me, a happy person, even happier. i love when an old man walking to the bakery in the morning for his daily bread smiles and says guten morgen to me (recently happened in bergheim) or when the church bells from a structure that outdates my country are chiming away as i sit outside in the sun eating lunch on a park bench below (also recently happened in hamburg). i absolutely love being here over christmas time because it just has a magic feel that dreams are made of. as a beer lover, there are always the endless weeks of beer festivals that happen every fall across the country that should also not be missed. the workhorse of europe has captured my heart and will probably have it forever.
besides my love for the country, there are also the people. at first a little quiet and reserved but sneaky funny and always thinking, they may not express emotions and feelings like i would say an american does (and trust me on this, i do have a lot of recent experience in this department), once you make a friend in a german, they will be a friend for life. an amazing sense of humor, quick to the point, loyal, smart, creative and cute as a button (especially when they speak english quickly and pronounce v’s as w’s, which might be my favorite thing ever), i love all my german friends for all of these reasons and many, many more. sharing stories over countless beers, laughing at my lack of understanding of why there are so many words for bread in their language, talking about politics both past and present, arguing about where the best beer in germany comes from, and just enjoying life’s moments, this is why i keep coming back. i make time for germany because it has given me so very much over the past two decades.
i recently went to a german friend’s wedding that i have known for over 17 years. i spent summers in college at his mom’s house going crazy all over krefeld with him and his friends, so this wedding was like a mini-reunion (no joke, 90% of everyone i know from germany – both old friends and recent ones – are from the krefeld area. i think i have some secret connection to this city and attract all of its former residents. i’m not sure why but cori and krefeld go together like a mouth watering schnitzel and an ice cold kölsch). this was my first ever foreign wedding and i went alone, which was a giant leap outside my comfort zone to say the least. lucky for me though, i am pretty much the best wedding guest ever (and best wedding date ever, if anyone needs a plus one for any upcoming weddings) because i am there to laugh, meet new people, drink, dance and be merry.
i had so much fun meeting new people (from krefeld, of course), spending time with old friends and being apart of the strange german wedding customs that have now become somewhat of an obsession for me. did you know the most senior person at an event like a wedding tells all the men they can take off their suit jackets? they don’t just do it when they want, they wait to be told. it was like this big sigh of relief that comfort was on its way when it happened. i was both confused and intrigued at the same time. also interesting was the amount of creativity and time people put into wedding gifts. they don’t just slap some money inside a card or buy pre-selected gifts from a registry. they make elaborate works of art and either fold up money in different shapes (i saw hearts and fish at this wedding) and patterns or hide it within the handmade gift itself. another thing i saw was a hand painted piggy bank filled with what had to be over €400 in coins. total baller gifts, i mean, wow. so i obviously decided the next wedding i go to the happy couple will be receiving a homemade wedding gift with money hidden in it, so whoever is getting married next, i apologize in advance.
okay okay, so i had to explain some of my love for germany before i launched into travel locations, tips and such because you’ll go off and have your own experiences across germany and i hope you’re as lucky as i have been to meet amazing people and fall in love with the country just as i did. now, you have been patient and so you shall be rewarded.. let’s get to specifics, where are my favorite places and why? you have questions and i have answers.
berlin: i feel like you either love berlin or you are meh about it. for me, i was obsessed the very first time i set foot in the city almost eight years ago. gritty, unpolished and unapologetic, this city has been through a whole hell of a lot yet it keeps on ticking (kinda like me!). clashes of decades are all around you when you walk along the streets, where you’ll find lounge chairs along the river spree to relax in the summertime, shops stocked full of goods and ice cream along unter den linden, street musicians and artists galore, and world war two history mixed with cold war history at every turn. spend your day sipping a local beer and strolling through the city because you can and you damn well should (yay germany for being awesome and allowing you to drink in public).
the last time i was there i was with a friend of mine from boston. it was her first visit to germany’s capital city and we happened to be there during the warmest days of the summer. wanting to enjoy a nice open air dinner, we booked a table at the grand berlin in the mitte district of the city. excited to be there, we had a drink at the bar and encountered a rough around the edges bartender who sat down next to us for a cigarette and a drink while working. because i am curious by nature, i asked him some political questions about russia, ukraine and putin which immediately turned into a lengthy rant in a mix of german and english about how manly a leader putin was, which was the complete opposite of obama, as he later told us. at the end of our conversation we were unceremoniously told we would never be friends because we were americans. so very berlin and a very interesting start to the evening. despite all of that, which i found amazingly funny, you should go there for dinner, it was fantastic, and so was the german wine i had.
other must-dos are trying a currywurst, finding all the old refurbished photobooths across the city and taking pictures in them (seriously, so amazingly funny – we played a game and every one we saw we took pictures in and chugged a beer, one of the highlights of my trip), go for drinks at klunkerkranich for rooftop views of berlin and a super chill spot in the city, walk over to east berlin and see the communist-era apartment blocks, the berlin wall and still on-point graffiti, and you should definitely go visit the glass dome of the reichstag. admission is free, register online and make sure to go around sunset, it’s absolutely stunning.
cologne: i mentioned something briefly at the end of my last post about my 22 year love affair with cologne, and i cannot emphasize this enough, i absolutely LOVE cologne. there are two places i would move to tomorrow in europe and cologne is one of them.
i love the overall vibe of the city. it’s old world, new world and international all wrapped into one. you can share a beer with someone you just met at the bar around the corner and it will feel like you’ve known them forever. friendly, but rough around the edges, this city speaks my language (and fun fact, they also have their own special cologne dialect too). while the locally produced beer, called kölsch, is one reason to visit, the turkish food here is on par with anything i recently had in istanbul. you’ll find people from all over the world sharing their love for one of the greatest cities in all of europe and it’s nothing less than magic.
because a have some really good friends who live here i typically let them plan what we do because they are local, and i’m just a wannabe. some of my favorite things i have done around cologne have been getting lost and wandering around the cobblestone streets from the kölner dom to neustadt süd. you should also take the time to go all the way to the top of the kölner dom for amazing views of the city. it’s definitely worth the hike up. i also went to a kölner haie hockey game at lanxess arena, on a tour of fc köln’s stadium at night, spent many hours at the aptly named kölschbar on lindenstraße, dinners at rosticceria massimo in the south city, along with beer galore at a local hole in the wall bar close by. if you want the best schnitzel in town, go to kölsche art, it is amazingly delicious. craving something sweet, take a trip to the chocolate museum, it might even be more delicious than the schnitzel, and that is saying something.
hamburg: full disclosure, i have only been to hamburg once (as in, i was just there only days ago) but i have a ton of suggestions from people who have been, live there now or have in the past. i had to change my plans at the last minute recently and was invited to stay with my friend who was married in cologne a few days prior. he was working during the days so it gave me the opportunity to explore solo style.
the city itself is really gorgeous. a mix of what i would call quintessential germany but with a scandi vibe. it reminded me a bit of copenhagen, which is never a bad thing. one day i walked around for ten hours, the next for eight and i still didn’t see everything. i took a stroll through the botanical gardens (which were beautiful and free to the public), i stopped by the elphilharmonie where you can soak in the surrounding water views, i wandered around the riverside while stopping for amazing photo opps at every turn, and went to the top of st. nicholas’ church (opened in 1195!!!) for views over the city. a few places i didn’t make it to but were highly recommended were a visit to speicherstadt (the largest warehouse district in the world complete with a miniature wonderland), the blankenese quarter of the city, elbstrand beach, and alster lake.
i did make some time for drinks and stopped by strandpauli and vineyard weinhandel, both are highly recommended. a few restaurants that were recommended to me that i didn’t have time for either were, hummer pedersen, kajüte, leche de tigre, and henssler henssler. i fully intend on many, many more visits to hamburg to start making a dent in the list of things i have yet to do.
munich: an absolute must-see on any trip to germany. yes, yes, there is oktoberfest, which is amazing and you should definitely go (i have been twice and would never refuse a future invitation or excuse to bring my munich bought dirndl out of my closet), but there is so much more here than beer drinking and lederhosen. the city itself is absolutely stunning. jumping from jaw dropping marienplatz, to st. peter’s church, the english garden, asam church, frauenkirche, and to one of the many, many museums located around the city, you’ll be sure to keep your days and nights busy. if you’re feeling the need for something to fill your stomach other than pretzels and bavarian sweets, make sure to try the leberknödelsuppe, potato knödel, weißwurst, and käsespätzle.
while the city sights and the food are definitely worth a visit, no trip to munich and bavaria is complete without taking the 90 minute drive to neuschwanstein castle, one of the most beautiful and well known castles in the world. i have been twice and would continue to go every time i’m in the area given the choice. mountains more your thing (mine too, by the way)? bavaria and austria have many, many options for day, weekend or week long trips for hiking, climbing, skiing and just enjoying the fresh open air.
konstanz: i was only here for a few hours recently but it was such a charming, beautiful city that i absolutely had to include it on this list. someone i know was here with a friend a few months ago and told me how fantastic it was so i made a note of it and was able to stop here on my route to liechtenstein. nestled next to lake constance, it’s the perfect place to stroll around the water, go for a boat ride down the famous rhine river, cycle through the city, and wander around the well preserved medieval district.
a perfect place to relax and take it easy with a few bottles of beer or a delicious ice cream, i’m sure you’ll love this city as much i did. and bonus suggestion, if you have a little extra time, drive over to the 200 year old brewery of one my favorite german beers, rothaus pils, a short 80 minutes away.
heidelberg: this city, along the neckar river boasts a university founded in the 14th century, a castle (which now is in ruins) that dates back to 1214, and an amazing altstadt (old town), shouldn’t be missed on any trip to germany. whereas some of the other cities i listed above are larger cities, i remember being here and thinking how romantic this place was. seeing the old bridge, the aldstadt, and the sweeping views from the castle make the city seem more like a fairytale than a place with almost 160,000 inhabitants. i vowed to come back with a boyfriend in the future, which i still have yet to do (maybe i should get on that?). romance and boyfriends aside, make sure to do the philosopher’s walk, check out all the churches in the city (notably the church of the holy spirit and st. peter’s church), and just get lost for a day or two in this charming part of germany.
dormund: not your typical tourist destination, but worth a trip from cologne if you want to watch a borussia dortmund soccer game (which is played in the largest soccer stadium in europe), or if you want to walk along the lake area to people watch, visit some of the abandoned industrial sites for really cool pictures, stroll through old town, visit the dortmund u-tower to see some contemporary art or drink the locally produced beer. i do have a few friends living there and this city will always hold a special place in my heart for another very important reason. so i say, zip on up for a day trip, check the city out, drink some beers and go see a soccer game (and super fun fact, an instagram friend of mine from tunisia was at the same soccer game as myself back in february. it’s a small world so you never know who you’ll end up meeting in dortmund…..).
krefeld: i only add this because someone once told me they met someone new and they asked where he was from in germany, he said krefeld, and the reply was “oh i’m sorry, that is probably the ugliest city in germany”. that made me laugh. i have so many good memories of krefeld and have met so many awesome people from there so i kinda have to give it a shout out. more of a sleepy town 30km from düsseldorf and 60km from cologne, i’ll admit there isn’t much to see but you’ll definitely meet someone awesome from there, i know i have.
so germany, am i right? the country reminds me that just like me, you’ll never meet anything else like it, so relax, enjoy the moments when you have them because they’ll be something you’ll always remember. and on that note, i hope you enjoyed my first ever post about just one country. i’m not gonna lie, it feels good. maybe spending more time in one country to really get to know it isn’t such a bad thing afterall. #slowtravel for the win.