The Black Forest is probably the second German region behind Bavaria that most of us have heard about from overseas. We know it’s, well, a forest and that it has something to do with fairytales. The Brothers Grimm, perhaps?
I’m of course talking about the fairytales in their original version––not the cutesy, sanitized versions that found their way to Disney. The German versions wouldn’t give two Scheiße about our modern conceptions of protecting children from violence and gore. The violence and gore were front and center in these stories. And many of these stories were inspired by the region of southwestern Germany we know today as the Black Forest.
Disclosure:I traveled in part as a guest of Weimar Tourism. As always, all opinions are my own.
I’ve wanted to visit Weimar for about as long as I’ve known about Weimar––namely its role in early 20th century German history. The long and short of it is, Weimar was the heart of Germany’s post-war (that’s the Great War) democratization efforts. But, we all know what happened to the short-lived Weimar Republic.
“This might be the most beautiful place I’ve been in Germany,” I told Melanie.
It was just our second day in Saxony Switzerland National Park in southeast Germany on the Czech border (not Switzerland, to most everyone’s surprise). The country had just started to open up again and it felt safe to wear our masks for a two-and-a-half-hour train ride to Bad Schandau on the Elbe River for a short getaway after hunkering down in Berlin for what was starting to feel like a lifetime.
I traveled to Fürstenberg for this story as a guest of Brandenburg Tourism. As always, all opinions are my own.
This is like Suchitoto, I thought to myself in my first stroll around Fürstenberg. The lake town in northern El Salvador is dressed in cobblestones lined with stocky, colorful homes––just like Fürstenberg. There was even a smoky aroma in the air that I’ve come to associate with small town Central American life.
But I was not in Central America. I was a short train ride north of Berlin on the Havel River surrounded by the lakes of the Uckermärkische Nature Park. By boat, as most would’ve traveled until relatively recent history, it’s a two-day journey. I learned this upon my arrival to the Culture Gasthof Alte Reederei where I was staying.
Like a bird on the wire. Like a drunk in a midnight choir. I have tried in my way to be free.
Leonard Cohen wrote the words to the opening verse of “Bird on the Wire” from his Hydra hideout in the early 1960s. The story goes that a 25-year-old Cohen retreated to Hydra to finish his first novel. He had been in London on a Canadian Arts Council Grant, uninspired by the cold and rain outside his Hampstead lodgings.
There’s something inherently special about eating in Athens that I can’t quite put my finger on or find the words to describe. But I think of tucking into a piping hot bite of moussaka in a clay pot with the Acropolis lit up like a movie star ahead of me. This scene, this blend of ancient human history with classic Greek cuisine is objectively extraordinary.
I’ve long been intrigued by Athens, even more so since moving to Germany nearly four years ago. I imagined it would be like any other European capital with exquisite architecture, walkable boulevards and plazas, and omnipresent relics of its history.
Some of that is true but it doesn’t make up for how wrong I was.
I’ve been on the record as saying that what I’d miss most about living in Düsseldorf is access to the Rhineland. Düsseldorf is as flat as Berlin, but you can get some scenic elevation in Siebengebirge and the trails along the Rhine, Mosel, and Ahr rivers.
Not so much with Berlin and surrounding Brandenburg. There are cartoon characters underneath ACME anvils with more topography than Brandenburg. So my expectations for finding a good hike around here were about on par with getting a burrito dripping with Cholula in Minsk. Fortunately, as with most things in life, I was quickly proven wrong.
You go to France for the food and wine, you go to Norway for the hiking. Thems just the facts.
But approaching the topic of hiking in Norway can be an intimidating endeavor. It’s both a small (population-wise) and large (territory and terrain-wise) country at the same time. There’s the temptation to try and do it all at once, somehow simultaneously without taking into account the limits of the human body.
You imagine all the views from the top without seriously considering the transportation to the trailhead or the hours of trodding alongside hills and mountains to get those vistas––and what that does to your body. Besides making you tired, it makes you hungry, and Norway is without exaggeration one of the most expensive countries in the world for purchasing food.
That’s why it’s best to go into Norway with the right attitude, and the attitude is beautifully Norwegian in nature. I’m talking about “Takk for turen.”