Canadian Habits in Germany

Canadian Habits in Germany - mounted-police are part of Canadian culture

I’m a big believer of the old saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but there are a few Canadian habits that I just can’t shake in Germany and yes, that includes thinking that red really is the best colour for police uniforms as it is the traditional color of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (R.C.M.P) and yes that also includes spelling “colour” with an “u”, the Canadian way.

Canadian Habit #1:
Saying “no thank you” (but in German of course). Germans typically just say “no”, saying “no thank you” is considered very polite and not necessary, but my mom taught me well and I can’t just say “no.” To my Canadian ears it sounds so rude, even though it is perfectly acceptable in Germany. Besides, it provides comic relief for the Germans as evidenced last night when the cashier at the supermarket asked if I wanted my receipt, I replied “no thank you” and she and the other two people standing in line couldn’t help but giggle. Glad that this Canadian habit gives some Germans a small chuckle, because it’s not one I’m likely to break anytime soon and I guess it’s better to be overly polite than rude.

Canadian Habit #2:
When I see someone, the first thing out of my mouth is usually “Hi, how are you?” Believe it or not this is considered a slightly strange question in Germany. Germans don’t ask how you are, unless they REALLY want to know. They don’t see the point of the North American answer “fine thanks, and you?” If they ask how you are, they really want to know and don’t just want a one word answer. Most of the time, they don’t really want to know, so they don’t ask. This seems simple enough, and I actually like it, since most of the time in Canada when we ask “How are you?” we really don’t want to know about your sick dog or how you ran out of breakfast cereal, or had a fight with your husband…We are only expecting a one word answer. Having said, that, it’s a hard Canadian habit to break. Fortunately J.P. says that Germans understand that this is a U.S./Canadian habit and don’t take offense to it, although it bewilders them of why we would ask a question and only expect a one word answer.

Canadian Habit #3
Saying “nice to meet you” when you first meet someone. This seems harmless enough, but is usually not done in Germany. Ever pragmatic, the German logic goes, “I just met you, how do I know whether it’s nice to meet you or not? I need to get to know you, then decide whether it’s nice to met you or not.” I love this perspective and in North America, when we say this, we don’t really mean it (after all we’ve just met you), it’s just a figure of speech. I actually like that Germans mean the words they say, much more so than we do in North America. I’m getting better at this one, in part because of the awkward silence that follows after saying “nice to meet you” (I swear sometimes I can hear crickets). Instead I try to say it after spending a couple of hours with someone, when I can confirm that it was indeed nice to meet them.

Of course, I have many other Canadian habits that I just can’t seem to shake either, but those are another story…What habits do you have that you can’t break when traveling/living abroad?

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Food and Drink in Germany Vs. Canada

Berlin Wall: Confessions of Why I Was Disappointed At First

Berlin wall germany

I’ve waited almost two years to see the Berlin Wall, one of the most epic sights in all of Germany.

So it was hard to ruffle up any enthusiasm when this was the first glimpse I had of it:

berlin wall
My first disappointing look at the Berlin Wall.

This lack-luster, ordinary wall is what I had eagerly anticipated for almost two years?  This puny wall is what divided a country for 28 years?  I couldn’t hide my initial disappointment from Julian, our well educated docent from Context. He led us on a three hour tour of the wall and took us to the viewing platform at the Berlin Wall Documentary Center.  It was there that it became apparent that there was more to this “puny” wall than meets the eye:

Death strip of the Berlin Wall in Germany
A recreated “death strip” that separated East Berlin from West Berlin.

Getting over the wall was only the first hurdle.  The would-be escapees then had to make it through the “death strip” which was surrounded by guard towers with guards who had orders to shoot. The estimated 5000 would-be escapees had no place to hide.  124 of them didn’t make it:

Would be escapees over the Berlin Wall in Germany
Memorial photos of East Berliners who died trying to escape.

All notions of this “puny” wall were washed away.  But I still couldn’t help noticing the lack of graffiti.  The graffiti that the Berlin Wall is so famous for was missing.  You know the ones that East Berliners created in protest of the wall?

Graffiti on the Berlin Wall in Germany
Graffiti was only found on the west side of the wall.

Graffitti on the Berlin Wall in Germany
Not so fast. Julian explained that graffiti was only found on the west side of the Berlin Wall.  Defacing the wall in East Berlin would have resulted in severe punishment by the communist state.  It made perfect sense once he explained it and debunked yet another myth in my head.

Berlin Wall in Germany
The Open-Air Exhibition is free and worth seeing the wall in its various states.

Slowly, it dawned on me, the Berlin Wall in itself isn’t impressive. Its significance lies in the oppression it represented, until change and growth broke out – 28 years later.

berlin wall_trees

Thank you to Julian from Context for our complimentary tour. As always opinions expressed are my own. Context Travel offers three hour tours of the Berlin Wall. Guides provide an extensive history and you will visit numerous sites relevant to the Berlin Wall.

Also check out expat Adam’s Things to Do in Berlin and Simon’s journey to nearby Potsdam Sanssouci Park:  A Photo Tour.

See more places to visit in Germany.

All Aboard the German Emigration Centre

The German Emigration Centre (Deutsches Auswanderer Haus) in Bremerhaven in northern Germany is one of the most interesting museums I have ever been to anywhere in the world! It simulates the journey taken in the late 1800s through the 1900s by German emigrants seeking a better life in America. All aboard!

Each person is given a German emigrant boarding pass of a real German emigrant who made the 8 day journey to the U.S (which got shorter as time went on). I was given Martha Hüner, a young single woman who had relatives in the U.S. and big dreams of making it rich as a house keeper. Many German emigrants who made the journey were poor, unemployed and were seeking a better life in the U.S.

 

The first stop is the enormous ship, where plasticized figures wait for the large looming boat. Most impressive are the noises. The port was a busy place and standing among all the figures and luggage with the boat in the background and all the noisy seagulls and people chattering that I actually felt like I was the one emigrating. Here I learned that all of Martha’s friends and families came to send her off on her journey.

Next visitors “board” the boat.

Then it’s off to the third class cabin where most emigrants were based. Conditions were tight. Five people to two narrow mattresses, with often 100 people in a small room. If passengers didn’t have a family of five, they slept next to strangers. There were no windows in third class and when conditions were rough, passengers had to stay in their rooms. The stench from the sea sickness is said to have been wrenching and passengers were often forced to stay there for several days at a time in rough seas.

Second class was much nicer with each person getting their own bunk. Unfortunately most German emigrants couldn’t afford second class and the majority of them had to rough it in third class, where they were later joined by Irish immigrants who also normally stayed in third class.

In later years, the journey became shorter and conditions much more comfortable, with only 4 people in a room.

In this room, visitors swipe their German Emigrant boarding pass and learn more about their German emigrant.

After a long journey emigrants waited here at the U.S. Immigration Office where their fate is decided. First they had to see a doctor, and pass a several minute exam ensuring they weren’t carrying infectious diseases.

Upon passing the physical inspection, emigrants faced bullet fired questions from U.S. Immigration Officials. If an emigrant hesitated too long on any question, they would be pulled into a separate room for more intensive questioning. Fortunately, most emigrants passed. In the above photo, visitors test their knowledge of their German emigrant and see if they are allowed entry into the U.S. Fortunately I had paid attention and passed the test and was able to begin a new life in the U.S.

Martha’s father had predicted she would marry an American cowboy, instead she married another German emigrant. They opened a bakery in New Jersey and ran a modest business in a Czechoslovakian neighborhood, but when WWII started the Czechs boycotted their store and they went bankrupt. Soon after, Martha’s husband died. She then found work as a housekeeper for a well-to-do family, a position she held for ~20 years. In her old age she had a stroke and decided she was homesick and came back to Germany to live with her sister. She died in Germany. The letter above is a sign of the times – note the “Russia Zone Germany” address.

The German Emigration Centre does a realistic job of showing visitors what the German emigrants faced and by having my “own” German emigrant, I felt very connected – something that I don’t feel very often in most museums. Along the way, I kept hoping that things would turn out OK for Martha and was silently rooting for her. Americans with German ancestry would find the German Emigration Centre especially interesting. I went with four other Germans and we all found it fascinating. Unfortunately their German emigrants didn’t fare as well as Martha did. Unfortunately the American dream wasn’t to be realized by all emigrants.

You may also be interested in: The World’s Largest Pig Museum

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: One of My Favorite German Christmas Markets

Christmas market in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

Christmas market in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the best-preserved medieval towns I’ve ever been to!  It’s an 800-year-old town on the Romantic Road situated approximately halfway between Munich and Frankfurt.

The main square in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany
The main square
Snow coming down over the church in Rothburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany
Snow coming down over the church

 The defence towers and city wall that encloses much of the city makes it feel like you are stepping back in time.  Rothenburg ob der Tauber is the epitome of medieval romance.

I loved Rothenburg ob der Tauber when I was there in April a couple of years ago.  And was excited to return to visit its famous Christmas market, the Reiterlesmarkt (Rider’s Market).  The Rothenburg ob der Tauber has a long tradition dating back more than 500 years.  Its name comes from a messenger riding a horse.

Christmas Market in Rothburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

In medieval times it was believed that otherworldly messengers would appear and float through the skies carrying with them the souls of the dead.  Not a very Christmasy thought!  Fortunately times have changed and today the mystical messenger is now considered to be a friendly messenger and is welcomed.  The messenger makes his appearance on the first day that the market opens (at the end of November).  I missed this by a week, but locals tell me it’s worth seeing.

Christmas market in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Bavaria, Germany

Also not to be missed is a visit to Käthe Wohlfahrt, which is self-described as “the most exceptional Christmas specialty store in the world.”  It just may be with its 30,000+ assortment of Christmas decorations on offer! I was certainly impressed with all the monkeys on display:

Upon entering I heard one American teenager declare “This is the coolest store I’ve ever been in.”  Even if you’re not there to buy, it’s worth a look with its Christmas village illuminated with over 130,000 LED lights:

Later on,  I overheard an elderly English lady declaring it to be “Christmas heaven”.   It’s definitely enchanting!  There’s also a Christmas museum upstairs, which takes visitors through the history of Christmas.  Käthe Wohlfahrt and the Christmas Museum are both open year round, but really get into full swing come December.

What really makes the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas market alive is its atmosphere.  I feel like I’m slipping back in time a few centuries as I sip my white mulled wine (different from the usual red mulled wine that you find at other Christmas markets) so be sure to try it.

The only difference is that as I head back to Hotel Rappen Just outside the Würzburger Tor (one of the city gates), I fortunately don’t see any criminals left to hang as their punishment for their crimes, as I may have seen in medieval times.

I turn up the heat and crawl under my cozy covers, shivering at the very thought of how cold it would have been back in the middle ages when there was no heating.

Perhaps there is no time to visit Rothenburg ob der Tauber like the present – when I can have the best of both worlds!


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For more information see the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Tourismus or Bavaria Tourismus Marketing.

Castles, Cycling and Climbing in Prien am Chiemsee

prien-am-chiemsee-lake

Prien am Chiemsee, Bavaria, Germany

Prien am Chiemsee is famous for Schloss Herrenchiemsee (Herrenchiemsee Palace).

It’s King Ludwig II’s largest palace and is based on the Palace of Versailles.  In my opinion Neuschwanstein has nothing on Schloss Herrenchiemsee!  It’s  incredibly ornate, and even on its own island – don’t worry, there’s a boat so you don’t have to swim over.  Schloss Herrenchiemsee is one of my favorite castles in Germany and I highly recommend checking it out (more details coming in an upcoming post).

Prien am chiemsee Schloss Herrenchiemsee in Germany

Seeing as how I had previously visited Schloss Herrenchiemsee on several occasions, I was eager to see what else I could do in Prien am Chiemsee.  Electronic-biking (e-biking) seemed like a great option for exploring the country side.  E-bikes still require you to work, but they give you a little extra oomph.  You decide how much help you want by adjusting your settings.  My husband and I rented our bikes from additive bike and had a choice of two different models.

Additive bike at Prien am Chiemsee, Germany

We stored our water in the specially designed  additive bags, which are basically like a backpack for your bike and off we went through the rolling country side around Prien am Chiemsee.

Prien am Chiemsee landscape in Germany

Several hours later we returned famished for our picnic lunch.  It’s been years since I’ve had a picnic but there are so many perfect picnic spots around the lake, like the Prienavera Beach.  We promised ourselves that we will do this more often.

prien-am-chiemsee-picnic

Bellies full, it was off to Kletterwald (Climbing Forest).  I’ve done different versions of this in Italy and in Austria, and LOVED it.  It was J.P.’s first time and he was intrigued.  There are a total of 13 different courses, each course having several challenges.  They vary in difficulty, starting from courses that are low to the ground and aimed for children as young as 4 years old and up.  Watching 10 year olds move through the courses was like watching monkeys – they were fearless and fast moving.

Climbing forest Prien am Chiemsee, Germany

Being just “slightly” older than 10, I moved somewhat slower and less gracefully.  And while I consider myself to be reasonably athletic,  two hours and four courses later, my arms were shaking in exhaustion.  Each of the courses we did was challenging with the Tandem Course (where you have to work with your partner) being one of our favorites.  The Climbing Forest had kicked my but AND I hadn’t even done the two toughest courses – yet I couldn’t help smiling.  It was daunting but exhilarating to look at a challenge and think “I can’t do it” to “I’ll try” to “I’m doing it” to “I did it!”

Now that my arms have stopped shaking, I’m thinking about the two toughest courses that I have yet to conquer….and hiking the Kampenwand, the most picturesque peak around the Chiemsee – without the help of a gondola of course.

Prien am Chiemsee is only 90 km south from Munich, but we felt like we were miles away.  It was the perfect getaway from Munich.

Know Before You Go to Prien am Chiemsee:

  • Prien am Chiemsee is easily reached by train or auto.
  • 6 night packages can be arranged from 127 EU (what a great deal!).  Contact Prien am Chiemsee Tourist Information for more info.
  • Reserve your additive e-bike in advance to ensure availability
  • Prien am Chiemsee is known for its local cuisine, especially fish so you can plan your own picnic using local food
  • Allow at least 2 hours (more is better) for the  Kletterwald (Climbing Forest)
  • Check with the Prien am Chiemsee Tourist Information for more ideas about what to do


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Thank you to the Priem am Chiemsee Tourist Office for hosting me.

See more places to visit in Germany.

Nuremberg Christmas Market: What to Really See and Do

Nuremberg Christmas Market in Bavaria, Germany

Nuremberg Christmas Market in Bavaria, Germany

The Nuremberg Christmas Market is Germany’s most famous and one of it’s most traditional markets.

That also means it’s a popular attraction, drawing in over 2 million visitors from Germany, Europe, and even Japan!

I went to the Nuremberg Christmas Market for the first time last year.  I thought it was nice, but overcrowded (avoid going on a weekend if possible).  I went again this year and really enjoyed it, in large part because I went with locals who showed it to me through their eyes and I really enjoyed it!

Here’s What To Really See and Do at the Nuremberg Christmas Market:

Visit the International Christmas Market

Besides the regular market there’s also an international one with 14 of Nuremberg’s sister cities.  Cities are represented from Nicaragua, Czech Republic, Italy,  and from all over the world.  My favorite was the Cuba stand where we were treated to an impromptu salsa demonstration!  Any guesses which city/country this wooden booth belonged to?…

Booth from Atlanta, Georgia at the International Christmas Market in Nuremberg, Germany

Atlanta, U.S.A!

Meet Christkind

Me hanging out with the Christkind.
Me hanging out with the Christkind.

Christkind was the traditional giver of gifts.  Not surprisingly children love meeting the Christkind.  I had the opportunity to meet her as well and she was lovely.  Maybe we’ll even be BFFs.  Then again, she might be kinda busy at this time of the year.  The Christkind first appeared at the Nuremberg Christmas Market in the 1930s.  She now appears at other  markets throughout Germany as well.  Children can visit her every afternoon at Hans‑Sachs Platz at 2.30 (arriving on the main market square at 3 o’clock).

Meet the Prune People (Zwetschgenmännle)

The famous Prune People, which you can buy in Nuremberg.
The famous Prune People, which you can in Nuremberg.

The Prune People are some of Nuremberg’s most famous residents and can be found going about their daily life.  Locals have a saying “If you want someone in your life who doesn’t cause you any trouble, get a prune person!”  Good advice!  Prune people are for sale at many vendors.

Children’s Christmas Market

Children decorating gingerbread cookies.
Children decorating gingerbread cookies.

This is one of only a few in Germany.  Even as an adult I loved it.  There are rides including an old-fashioned carousel and it’s even interactive!  Children can make candles or decorate Nuremberg’s famous gingerbread cookies!

Eat What is Quite Possibly the World’s Best Gingerbread

Nuremberg has a long-standing history with gingerbread.  You can read about it at A Medieval Treat from Nuremberg.  It’s such an interesting story that I wrote a whole post on it.

Nativity Scene Exhibit

Nativity scene exhibit
Nativity scene exhibit

On the way to the Children’s Christmas Market is a nativity scene exhibit on the left side, hiding behind the wooden stalls.  Many people miss it, but it’s worth a quick look.  I loved this one with all the animal figurines.

Take in a Concert

All the churches have frequent concerts during the Christmas market and there’s a stage set up in front of the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) where school choirs and big bands perform.

Drink from the World’s Largest Feuerzangenbowle

Feuerzangenbowle, according to Wikipedia, is a traditional German alcoholic drink for which a rum-soaked sugarloaf is set on fire and drips into mulled wine.  All I know is that it is some seriously strong stuff!  I’ll stick to my mulled wine!

Tour Nuremberg in a Stage Coach

This was so much fun and surprisingly comfortable!  The stage coat is a 1939 replica that takes guests through Nuremberg’s cobble stone streets.  I felt like I was stepping back in time even without a lady in waiting waiting for me. Tours last about 10 minutes and leave from across from the fountain in the main square.

Learning more about the history of the Nuremberg Christmas Market really brought it to life for me and made it meaningful, much more so than when I walked around clueless last year.  And besides, it’s not everyday that I get to be BFFs with Christkind…even if it is only in my imagination.

Visit the official Christkindlmarkt in Nuremberg for further info.  You may find that visiting just one market is not enough (I’m a bit of a fanatic myself), in that case check out the Rothenburg ob der Tauber Christmas Market and My Favorite Christmas Markets in Munich.

Thank you to Nuremberg tourism for their tour.  As always, all opinions expressed are my

Rothenburg ob der Tauber: One of Germany’s Best Preserved Medieval Towns

Rothenburg photos view of town

Rothenburg photos view of town

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of Germany’s best preserved medieval towns and also one of the key attractions along Germany’s famed Romantic Road.  The Romantic Road follows a medieval trading route leading through medieval towns and villages and rolling hills landscape peppered with fields and forests.  Similar to the medieval towns of Maulbronn and  Schwäbisch Hall, I believe that Rothenburg ob der Tauber is best explored by foot.

Rothenburg photos view
The nicest views from the walls in Rothenburg can be found along the west side of the town.

For me, the allure of exploring a medieval city is experiencing the city itself.  I am quite happy to wander through a town knowing the gist of the town’s history and on most occasions do not feel the need to know every little detail about every single historic building.

rothenburg photos of schneeballen
Towers are found at regular intervals along the wall in Rothenburg ob der Tauber
rothenburg photos of schneeballen
Schneeballen (snow balls) a local speciality.

Perhaps this is why I enjoyed Rothenburg ob der Tauber so much.  It’s a walled town and you can walk the entire circumference of the wall which is interspersed with watch towers at frequent intervals (the Town Hall Watch tower offers the best view in all of Rothenburg ob der Tauber).  We only walked part of the cities walls since I was still on crutches from knee surgery, but it was still easy to entertain ourselves with one of the numerous cafes, gelato shops and restaurants that line the historic cobble stone streets.  Rothenburg ob der Tauber is also famous for Schneeballen – large balls of dough covered in sugar powder.  I like to think of it as the German version of an American donut, but not as tasty and more filling.  I left Rothenburg ob der Tauber very full, but very satisfied.

If Rothenburg ob der Tauber looks familiar to you even though you haven’t been there, it  may be because have seen it in a movie theater.   The village shown in the Walt Disney movie Pinocchio is based on Rothenburg ob der Tauber and parts of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, were filmed here as well.  The city can also be seen in a popular Japanese animated film, just to mention a few of Rothenburg ob der Tauber’s cinematic claims to fame.

rothenburg photos market square
Rothenburg Town Hall and the Market Square

Despite my preference for just experiencing a city, we did sign up for the 90 minute tour in English which is offered at 2:00 everyday starting in the Market Square, and did a good job of bringing the town’s walls to life.  I particularly enjoyed learning that in medieval times the town gate closed each night and if you were on the outside of the gate you were sleeping outside the gate – cold and unprotected.  Unless of course you pleaded your case to the Night Watchman, who then contacted city officials to decide your fate for the night.    There is also a tour with the Night Watchman offered everyday at 8:00.  Both tours run  from April 1st – October 31st.

Rothenburg Medieval Crime Museum
The Medieval Crime Museum was closed when we arrived, but at least we still got a cheesy photo.

After our tour, we stopped by the Medieval Crime Museum (Mittelalteriches Kriminalmuseum), but unfortunately they just closed the doors as we were about to enter.  It turns out the entrance closes 45 minutes before the museum’s closing time.   Our condolence prize was the Christmas Museum (Deutsches Weichactsmuseum)  –  0n Easter Sunday.  The irony was not lost on me and perhaps that’s why we were the only ones in the Christmas Museum, although the Christmas store located in the same building was surprisingly quite busy.  I  quite enjoyed the Christmas Museum, much more than the Easter Egg Museum we had visited last week, although  J.P. (my German fiance) thought it was “kitschy.”  I found it was informative and the exhibits well presented as they explained the history of Christmas traditions (in both German and English signs).

rothenburg photos tower

We visited Rothenburg ob der Tauber on Easter Sunday and it was packed.  Surprisingly a lot of the shops were open as well, which even surprised J.P. since normally everything would be closed, tourists or not.  Despite it being touristy, I still really enjoyed it and Rothenburg ob der Tauber is popular for a reason – it is the best preserved medieval city in all of Germany.  The city is not really close to anything so unless you happen to be traveling the Romantic Road, you have to make a bit of an effort to get there, which I personally like. Rothenburg ob der Tauber is 150km northeast of Stuttgart, or 240km northwest of Munich.  The nearest city is Nuremberg, just over 100km east of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

rothenburg photos st jacobs church
St. Jacobs Church, a popular landmark in Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber has other museums and St. Jacobs Church is a must stop for many tourists.  Besides being a massive church dating back to 1311, it is also famous for the Holy Blood Altar (Heilig Blut Altar)  named after a relic, a drop of Christ’s blood, which turned the town into a pilgrimage in medieval times.  As interesting as this is, for me the real highlight of Rothenburg ob der Tauber was the walled town itself and well worth a 150km drive from Stuttgart.

For more information see:  Rothenburg ob der Tauber Tourist Information.

See more places to visit in Germany.

Tollwood: My Favorite Festival in Munich

Tollwood Winter Festival Munich

Tollwood Winter Festival Munich

Tollwood Winter Festival is my favorite festival in Munich.

It is held twice a year and in winter held in the Theresienwiese, the same field as Oktoberfest, but I find it much more interesting than Oktoberfest.  Tollwood is an eclectic combination of  a Christmas market/exhibition of cultural, political and scientific events and a hip hangout with live music and entertainment – all with an environmental focus.  I’ve already been to Tollwood four  times and have plans to return at least twice more.  It’s huge and to experience everything you need to go more than once.

Art at the Tollwood Winter Festival
I love the artistic displays found at Tollwood like this one.

The “Weltsalon Tent” (World Salon Tent) is host to a variety of scientific, political and cultural events.  I attended a “Abenteuer Ozean” (Adventure Ocean) report from the talented photographer and videographer David Hettich which I thoroughly enjoyed. I returned a few days later for a viewing of the “Unsere Ozeane” (Our Ocean) film, which was also good. I returned the following  next week to see a film on Jane Goodall (famous primatologist who studies chimpanzees).  I was also  the  successful bidder of a rather large chimpanzee photo by Frans Lanting. I love it.  It’s now hanging in my staircase.

There’s also a Theaterzelt (Theatre Tent) where a variety of productions are held including four Nouveau Cirque performances which are described as “young, modern, different”.  These words perfectly captured Jean-Baptiste André’s “intérieur nuit_” (from France) performance which I recently saw in 2011.  It was one of the most unique performances I have ever seen!  It blended dance, digital image technologies and electronic music.  It featured two walls and André’s attempts to escape over the walls, while the camera was tipped over making the floor become the wall.  Although it wasn’t my favorite style of performance,  I appreciated the artistic endeavour and originality.  The performances change every year.  Tickets can be purchased directly from the Tollwood website.

Tief im Wald Tent
Tief im Wald at Tollwood is the coolest bar I’ve ever been to and has live free music everyday.

I’m also a big fan of  the Tief im Wald Bar (Deep in Forest Bar), the coolest bar I’ve ever been to!  It comes complete with a forest atmosphere and live free music with different musicians each night.  It’s a great hip alternative on a chilly night to standing around drinking Glühwein outside, although that is also possible at Tollwood.

Tollwood Christmas market
Tollwood also features a Christmas market with unique items from around the globe.

The Christmas market at Tollwood is huge and is held in two large tents, a nice alternative to other Christmas markets in Munich that are held outside.  I’ve seen more unique items at Tollwood than I have at other Christmas markets.  I recently purchased a one of a kind  handcrafted coffee table from a farmhouse dating back to 1807. I did reluctantly pass on the didgeridoo from Australia though.  Tollwood is a great place to find unique Christmas gifts as well.

Be sure to check out my Munich City Guide for how to make the most of your precious travel time.

For more info visit the Tollwood Winter Festival website.

See more places to visit in Germany

Cafe Katzentempel in Munich: My At Home Getaway

Cat at Cafe Katzentempel in Munich, Germany

Despite having two cuddly cats of my own, Cafe Katzentempel (Cat Temple) remains one of my favorite places in Munich. I always leave in a better mood than when I entered. It’s my place to go to get away from it all.

Cat at Cafe Katzentempel in Munich, Germany
Ayla one of the resident cats who was especially cuddly on my recent visit.

I’ve been a little stressed lately, too many things to do all at the same time. But that’s not a bad thing when you’re an entrepreneur.  In fact it’s actually quite a good thing, definitely preferable to the alternative. But still, sometimes I need to take a break – even if it’s just for an hour or two. That’s what Cafe Katzentempel (a place where you hang out with the resident cats, while sipping your coffee or munching on your veggie burger) is for me, an at home  getaway. You can read all about the Cafe Katzentempel here.

And isn’t that a large part of why many of us travel, to get away from it all?

Ayala, one of the resident cats at Germany's first Cat Cafe in Munich.

I know it certainly is for me.  It’s not the only reason of course.  I also love immersing myself in new cultures,  seeing new places, trying new activities and cuisines as well, but a large part of traveling for me is to unwind, to slow down, to stop thinking, to immerse myself in a really cheesy book with a no-think plot.

But even despite being a travel blogger, I can’t always be traveling, and nor do I want to be.  I like being at home.  I LOVE what I do for a living. I want to spend time with my husband and friends….while still getting away from it all.

I think the key, for me at least, is to find ways of replicating the getting away from it all  feeling you have while on vacation, even if you’re not.

I met a friend at Cafe Katzentempel recently and it was her first visit.  I loved seeing the surprise on her eyes as she noted This is a cafe….with cats everywhere.  Yep, that about sums it up I thought  as I shooed Ayala, a bundle of fur away from my cappuccino.

I entered stressed, but left blissed out between our uplifting conversation and from interacting with the cats. I’ve found my at home getaway!  Where’s yours?

I found out recently that I was lactose-intolerant.  Fortunately Cafe Katzentempel offers soya milk.  You may also want to check out this post about other cafes in Munich with lactose-free and soya milk options.

Be sure to check out my Munich City Guide for how to make the most of your precious travel time.

See more places to visit in Germany.

Oktoberfest by the Numbers

Munich Germany Oktoberfest facts

Oktoberfest by the Numbers

If you’re heading to Oktoberfest, be sure to check Everything You Need to Know about Oktoberfest and Practical Stuff You Need to Know About Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany. If you’re a woman, you’ll want to know these 5 Oktoberfest Tips for Women.

You can also skip the line, get a guaranteed seat in the fun Löwenbrau Tent, a walking tour of the Oktoberfest grounds and 2.5 litres of beer with this tour.

Here’s how to make your visit to Oktoberfest happen

  • Avoid standing in lines with this Oktoberfest tour. Get the details here.
  • Or extend your Oktoberfest time with this four-day tour. It includes camping where the party continues.
  • Don’t see what you’re looking for? You’ll find more Oktoberfest tours HERE.

Remember there’s more to Munich than Oktoberfest. Check out our Munich Travel Guide here.