I feel compelled to write about motivations for travel and “obligatory sightseeing” after coming across several scathing TripAdvisor reviews of the statue of Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid) in Copenhagen. The majority of reviews expressed disappointment, and some even anger, at their expectations not being met by such a “famous” sight.
The quaint medieval German town of Hamelin (Hameln in German) is perhaps best known for the legendary folk tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin (Der Rattenfänger von Hameln). The first account of this terrible event was recorded 100 years afterwards in the town’s records, and it is unknown whether there is much truth in it or whether it is merely an entertaining myth.
I arrived in Germany a year ago, in the middle of winter. Having come from summer in South Africa, I was wholly unprepared for the mind numbing freezing-ness of January. As the plane descended, I caught a glimpse of an expansive white and brown landscape – beautiful, and utterly foreign. I got off the plane and literally gasped at the sheer impact of the cold as I walked briskly to the transit bus. My boyfriend (now husband!) was waiting for me at arrivals, and we shared an excited embrace after being apart for almost 4 months. Our trying long distance relationship was almost instantly a distant memory as I went outside to see snow up close for the very first time.
Sitting here in snowy Germany, in the dark at 4:30 pm, it’s hard to believe that we had three weeks of sunny summer bliss at the beginning of December! Marco and I flew home to Cape Town for a holiday and my best friend’s wedding, and the weeks simply flew by, leaving us breathless. We had a fantastic (albeit chaotic) time – here are a few of my favourite places and some of the highlights of our stay:
This year, for my birthday, Marco took me to the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) in Germany for a long weekend. We rented a little Fiat 500 with a sunroof, and set off on Friday the 3rd October for our forest escape. We were incredibly lucky to have good weather (crisp, cool, clear, and sunny) the whole weekend, which allowed us lots of outdoor exploring opportunities. Unfortunately I’d hurt my back a few days beforehand, so I was unable to do any strenuous hiking, but we did lots of walking, and saw plenty of things for one weekend! I’d go back in a heartbeat.
I fell swiftly and deeply in love with the Schwarzwald region, with its kilometres of thick pine and spruce forest, winding and sometimes terrifying mountain passes, small towns nestled in the hills, squat and imposing farm houses, lazy mountain cows, and rich folklore. I had read a few Brother’s Grimm tales before leaving, and I was secretly delighted by the traditional wooden homes on the edge of the forest – I imagined Hansel and Gretel huddled before a wood-burner in autumn, fearful of the dangers in the woods that loomed behind their small house.
Two weeks ago, I got my second tattoo. It reads, “Fernweh”, which is a German word that translates literally as “far-sickness”. It’s hard to explain in English, but it’s similar to wanderlust – an intense longing and an ache for far-off places, and the feeling of belonging to a place you’ve never been. It’s also very similar to the Swedish resfeber – the irritability and longing that one feels when life feels stagnant without travel and fresh, novel experiences.
It’s kind of somewhere between the enjoyment of wanderlust and the pain of withdrawal from travel – a drive and NEED to wander and see new things.
One of my absolute favourite things about Germany is the abundance of allotment gardens, even in the middle of huge cities. Allotment gardens are small pieces of carefully divided open land used for the sole purpose of gardening, and they often have a small wooden shed at one end, lush flower beds, fruit trees, and garden decorations on display.
I’ve been quite homesick lately, so I thought I’d make a list of 25 things that I love and miss about my hometown, Cape Town, South Africa. It’s 59 days until I’m back for a visit, so these bittersweet memories will have to keep me going until then!
If you happen to be in Frankfurt on a Saturday, be sure to check out the Kleinmarkthalle and the Erzeugermarkt Konstablerwache (Farmer’s Market), which are both near Hauptwache in the city centre. These food markets are a delight to the senses, and well worth a visit. Kleinmarkthalle is an indoor market full of “delikatessen” and “feinkost” (luxury cooking ingredients and food), with many vendors and a stunning arrangement of meats, cheeses, spices, world cuisine (Indian, Chinese, Turkish, Italian, etc), flowers, fruit, and vegetables.
One of the best ways to become acquainted with the city of Frankfurt is by taking a sightseeing boat trip up and down the Main river. This way, you can see the famous Frankfurt skyline with its modern glass-clad skyscrapers and old churches as you learn about historic and important parts of the city from the tour commentary.