The Perfect Home Base – Bad Windsheim, Germany

The type of houses that can be found in Bad Windsheim

When we were looking at visiting this part of Germany, we originally thought of staying in Rothenburg because it was the inspiration for coming out here in the first place. The last time we stayed there twelve years ago, the prices were reasonable, and we expected them to be the same this time around, but Christmas happens to be the big time of the year for Rothenburg and the prices jumped up quite considerably. So we started to look for other towns in the area that would be more affordable and came across the sleepy little town of Bad Windsheim. It is on the rail line, and only a forty minute train ride to Rothenburg, and an hour train ride to Nuremberg, so as long as the place was comfortable, it seemed like the perfect place to stay.

An impressive statue outside of a church on the main street through town

What we found was a hidden gem that many people outside of Germany do not know about. It has the same quaint houses that Rothenburg has, and the same cobblestone streets. It even has a Christmas market, just not as big as the other places, but they still sell mulled wine, and have people come to sing and play songs for the people who attend. It even has its own sites with some pretty impressive statues, fountains, and a living museum.

A depiction of the Rapunzel story

They even have a sense of humor that goes along with the traditions and heritage that comes from this part of the world. There were many references to Grimm’s Fairy Tales popping up all over the place, but my favorite had to be the Rapunzel hanging out the window of one of the stores on the main street. They even used Christmas lights to make her hair be seen for miles around at night.

The tree lines walking paths through the park on the northern end of town

On the northern part of town there was a huge walking park with a beautiful green landscape. It was the perfect place to take a walk with huge old trees that were kind of sad to look at in the winter, but I could imagine that it would be a spectacular display of color during the fall. It was even close to some natural baths that were encased in dome, but I never made it all the way over to that place.

A random statue made of wood found in one of the parks in the older part of town

There were a lot of hidden corners in this idyllic small town, and even though it did not boast a medieval well like Rothenburg or the huge Christmas market that Numerberg has, it was still a pleasant place to stay with enough to see to keep us entertained during our time there. Because it was a sleepy little town, most of the sights are restaurants had closed down on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but I think that would be found no matter where you went in Europe on these days. The place we stayed had a nice small kitchen, so were still able to have a nice Christmas dinner even though we were still on the road.

I found it to be the perfect home base for this area. It was close to everything that I wanted to see, and it was not overrun with tourists. Granted, I was there in the winter which was probably a downtime for them, and they could easily see more people during the summer months. Still, it was great for the holiday season, and I am glad that we landed here at the start of our bigger vacation through this part of the world.

Top Posts from 2019

Well, it is the end of another year, and this one has seen some really exciting changes in my life. I moved from South Korea to Thailand. I took two voyages back to the United States, one in the beginning of the year, and one during the summer break to get everything in order for the move. I got to visit Japan during the Sakura festivals and see what the hype was all about, and I got to fulfill a long dream of mine of spending Christmas in Germany. It has been an exciting year full of highs and lows, and I want to thank all of you for being along for the ride. I thought I would take the time to go through the posts that you enjoyed the most this year and list them in order according to their popularity.

#10 – Cherry Blossoms in Our Winter

This is the first poem to make this list, and it is actually one of my favorite poems that I have written. It really captured the moment that I witnessed during my trip to Tokyo, and I think showed why the Sakura Festival is so important to all of the people who live there,

https://johncollings.com/2019/04/21/cherry-blossoms-in-our-winter/

#9 – Being Indiana Jones – Hua Hin, Thailand

Even though this experience was more of a day trip from Hau Hin, it was still close enough to the place where I set up my base to include it in this area of Thailand. I had a lot of fun on this first trip out of Bangkok, getting to explore the country a little more, and it just showed me what little treasures I could find as long as I took the time to find it.

https://johncollings.com/2019/10/13/being-indiana-jones-hua-hin-thailand/

#8 – The Journey to Ring in the New Year – The Holidays Day 13

This was actually the first post I had during the 2019 year, and it told of the story of the struggle I had making it to my brother’s house for the New Year’s Eve celebration. Snow can be a beautiful thing, but not if you have to travel through it dumping down out of the sky on a holiday night known for people drinking too much and taking unnecessary risks.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/01/the-journey-to-ring-in-the-new-year-the-holidays-day-13/

#7 – How is This Not a Thing – Itaewon Day 2

I had many unique experiences during my time living in South Korea, but one of the most unique experiences was being sat down in an enclosure with a bunch of meerkats in a cafe in the middle of downtown Seoul. The Meerkat Friends has been in operation for over a decade and it is easy to see why so many people enjoyed a post about cuddling with a bunch of the furry creature.

https://johncollings.com/2019/02/03/how-is-this-not-a-thing-itaewon-day-2/

#6 – Massive Explosions – The Move Day 15

Only one thing can beat cute, furry creatures, and that is blowing things up. It is kind of a tradition in the United States anymore, and it is always a fun to be able to spend it with my family. I was especially impressed with the creativity that went behind some of the fireworks, and I am also impressed with how big, and loud they have gotten over the years.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/05/massive-explosions-the-move-day-15/

#5 – Ice Cream Asian Style – Back to Japan Day 1

Who knew a pair of chopsticks and a small cup of Hagen Das would have been so intriguing? It was another one of my posts inspired by my trip to Japan and this was even before we were able to experience the sakura. Funny thing about this post was we found a small little spoon in our bag from the store after we finished eating our ice cream.

https://johncollings.com/2019/03/23/ice-cream-asian-style-back-to-japan-day-1/

#4 – You Can’t Go Back to the Green – The Holidays Day 20

I am always surprised by what posts connect with people and which ones do not. This post was supposed to be a throw away about a day at I had to spend on campus of my old college getting some paperwork taken care of, but for some reason, people kept coming back to it over the year. I guess they feel the same way about that lyric to that Billy Joel song that I do.

https://johncollings.com/2019/01/09/you-cant-go-back-to-the-green-the-holidays-day-20/

#3 – The Legacy – The Move Day 1

This was my final farewell to a country that I had lived in for four years. It was a bittersweet departure. During my years at the school, there was a lot of talk about “Leaving a Legacy” behind, and this was my response to that idea while saying goodbye to all of the people that I had met and grew with during my time there.

https://johncollings.com/2019/06/20/the-legacy-the-move-day-1/

#2 Downtown Bangkok

Making the move to Bangkok has given me an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world, and the city of Bangkok has so much to offer that it might take a couple of years to get to it all. This was my first attempt at making a dent into seeing what this city is all about, and I am sure there will be many more to follow.

https://johncollings.com/2019/08/12/downtown-bangkok/

#1 – The Arrival- The Move Final Day

There is nothing like moving into a new place. It is full of excitement and potential, but the only way I could share this moment with my family and friends was to write this post about it. The amount of people checking into it was almost like having a house warming party except I had not quite unpacked yet. It was still fun to show everybody the interesting artwork that was found in my bathroom. He has got a name now too, Smoke.

https://johncollings.com/2019/07/30/the-arrival-the-move-final-day/

Honorable Mention – Bend Sucks! Move Somewhere Else – Around the World Day 39

When I published my first book, I was told that you would never know what would take off, and what would die in obscurity. This post has found a life of its own. There is hardly a week that goes by when I do not have a person look at this post about a funny bumper sticker I saw while in Bend, Oregon a couple of years ago. It has turned into the most widely read piece I have ever written, and I am interested to see if it continues to make a presence in the coming year.

https://johncollings.com/2018/07/25/bend-sucks-move-somewhere-else-around-the-world-day-39/

Thank you for visiting me site this past year, and I look forward to seeing more of you next year.

 

One More Christmas Market – Nuremberg, Germany

As the holiday approaches, the markets in Germany get more packed as people go out to get that cheer that can only be found with mulled wine and sausage sandwiches. The sellers try to make their last sales, and the bigger acts are brought out to entertain the crowds. Last night was the last night for Germany’s biggest Christmas market, and I saved this one for last because all others would look tiny in comparison.

The city of Nuremberg seems to be designed to this specific event. Right across the street from the train station is a long walking mall that leads directly to the heart of the city, their city square. It is here where the city sets up rows of booths during the month of December, and sellers come from all over to sell ornaments, food, and of course, the biggest seller, mulled wine.

It is hard not to be distracted by all of the stalls and the wonderful smells that are coming from them, but looking beyond that, there is some of the best architecture ever collected in a European city. The cathedrals are sometimes overshadowed by the art nouveau facades that overlook the modern shops and restaurants. The place would be great if Christmas had not exploded all over the place.

Nuremberg also wants to hold on to the feeling of the original markets by making sure that the stuff that is offered is of traditional design. This includes the food and decorations even though I did see a couple of incense burners that were heavy metal in design. This only applies to the stalls that are in the main square too. There is a smaller part of the market that has stalls from all over the world that sells their favorite foods along with the traditional mulled wine, but they make sure to regulate this to another side of the cathedrals. My favorite was the stall from Atlanta that sold the traditional Christmas Pop Tarts. There were other stalls that lined the walking mall to the market, and they were not part of the same regulations and could sell whatever they wished. Either that or gimbap, the traditional Korean snack, has always been a part of the German holiday season.

It has been fun to put all of the regular tourist stuff behind to enjoy the sights, smells and feeling of the holiday season in Germany, and the Christmas markets have been a great part of this. The Nuremberg one was probably my favorite because it was the best organized and had some of the best food offered at any of them. And this was followed by the one in Rothenberg because of the feeling of the medieval city, but I am sure that there is no way for me to know what all of the markets in this country would be like. It seems like every city, and small little town puts on their own market, and it would take a month to be able to understand and judged them all, and I don’t know if I could drink that much mulled wine.

It has been a fun way to build up to the final big day on Thursday, and I am glad that I have been able to experience Christmas in this way. I wish all of you the same type of joy that I have been able to experience during your holidays, and that it holds surprises and new experience just as mine has.

Happy Holidays!

Inspiration – Rothenburg, Germany

Way back in 2007, a very broke couple decided to take a fifty backpacking trip throughout Europe. They went to eleven different countries, had many strange and eventful adventures, and saw many amazing sights along the way. At every stop they would ask themselves if they could live in each of the spots they stopped at. It became the seed that eventually led to them seeking jobs as teachers overseas, and transplanting in Asia. But there was one town that they came to that captured their hearts. It was a medieval city preserved over the ages, and ever since the couple of nights that they has spent there, they always want to go back.

Why would anybody who saw this place, not want to come back? The people were cheerful, the food was amazing, and the atmosphere transported them back into time. There was a wall surrounding the city that overlooked a moat that was originally used to keep invaders out. Though people still lived in these walls, they had retained the original buildings and the markets still had that medieval feel of large tables and fireplaces to keep them warm.

There was one store that really captured the heart of this city though. It was so popular that it had three different locations within the small confines of the wall, Kathe Wohlfahrt. It specialized in Christmas. It sold ornaments, cuckoo clocks, and various forms of decorations. Even though it was the middle of summer, the couple could feel the warmth of the holiday season just by being in this store, and they knew that one day they would have to return to this place when the weather was cold and snowy so they could experience it as it was meant to be, a holiday wonderland.

This was the seed that was planted in my mind twelve years ago, and ever since then I always wanted to return to Germany for Christmas. When we got the jobs in Thailand, it seemed like the perfect place to go to get away from the heat and really get to feel what it should feel like to experience Christmas. More specifically, I wanted to return back to this specific medieval town, Rothenburg, and see how they celebrated this holiday. I knew that they held one of the more popular of the Christmas markets, but I had no idea what that meant. This town packs to bursting with the people coming here to drink mulled wine, eat German sausage and spaetzle.

I was not disappointed either. It was exactly the way I envisioned it. Children were running all over the place as there parents gathered around tables to talk about the events of the season as they sipped their hot spicy drinks. The only thing that was missing was the snow. I found out later that this was not really a part of how the market has ever worked. This part of Germany is more inclined to have misty rain this time of the year rather than snow. It does come from time to time, but those moments are very rare.

It did not stop me from coming out and to enjoy this little corner of the world. The place was even more magical than it was when we were out here twelve years ago. The smells of roasted nuts, and fresh chocolate just added to the excitement of the day. I do have to say that a lot of the Christmas items were way overpriced, but that is due to the fact that it is only a couple of days until Christmas, and people travel from all over the world to spend there money here. But as long as you resist the temptation to buy any of these trinkets, the food and the drink is reasonably priced, and it just adds to the flavor of the day.

And when the lights came on, it made the picture complete. I was transported to those small little ceramic towns that people put up during this time of the year, and Rothenburg had to be the inspiration behind them.

I am glad that I have been able to come back here during this time of the year after that trip so long ago. It should be the goal of every Christmas enthusiast out there because they will get to experience Christmas the way they see it as they decorate their house. And if you are one of those enthusiasts, I hope that this post has inspired you to one day try to make it out here one cold wintery day in the future.

Waking Up to Christmas – Frankfurt, Germany

I am sure everybody has a person who is a teacher on their friend list on whatever social media site they follow, and it probably angers them a lot when they start getting those posts of those teacher friends showing pictures of the start of their vacation. If you are getting those, you at least see all of the memes they put up about how tired they are, and pictures of teachers running for the parking lots and bars as soon as that final bell rings. It is part of the reason that some people think that teachers don’t really work, but trust me when I say that the exhaustion level of teachers right before winter break is high, and it takes a good couple of days before they can even come to realize that they don’t need to sleep for twelve hours a night just to catch up on the sleep they have lost during the last month.

This is how I felt on Friday. The first semester at my new school in Thailand was fun, but I was also ready for a break. I needed time away from essays, and lesson plans. I also needed time away from the constant hot weather that I find in Bangkok. I longed for a cold, chilly Christmas environment, so I boarded a red-eye flight and went to the most Christmasy place that I could think of Germany.

First off, to demonstrate how tired I was, I actually fell asleep on the plane. I am one of those people that have a hard time sleeping on a flight because I have to squeeze into the seat first of all, and then it is always just a little too cool, and the jiggling that happens from the other passengers, flight attendants, and the plane itself keeps waking me up. But I was so exhausted that I slept most of the twelve hours that I was on that flight, and woke up early in the morning the plane gently touching down in Frankfurt, Germany.

It was not my final destination for the day, but I wasn’t able to check into that place until the afternoon, and it was too early in the morning to sit around and do nothing. So I did what any other traveler would do, I found a locker to ditch my bags, got really caffeinated, and went out to see what the town had to offer. And considering that it was Christmas time, I wasn’t going to go look for statues, cathedrals, and museums that most people look for while in Europe. I was going to look for the markets that I knew were out there, and I knew that Frankfurt has one.

I’ll be honest. I did not know what to expect with these markets; I just knew that they were a big draw around this time of year. What I found was even greater than I thought possible. Basically, there are these small mobile stall that they install on the sides of their walking sections of town. They are all decked out in Christmas lights, and they sell various Christmas paraphernalia. There are simple rides like merry-go-rounds, and if you ever get hungry, there are numerous stalls that sell German cuisine. The smells are just as good. If the simmering meats don’t bring you to the stalls, the smell of mulled wine will get your stomach growling. It is everything, I had seen on those cartoons as a kid as to what Christmas was supposed to be about. It had that warm feeling that kept out the cool, brisk air of Germany, and it was a one-hundred and eighty degree turn from where I was twelve hours earlier.

I loved the way that the Thai people built up their enthusiasm for Christmas, but it never felt quite right. It is hard to get into the season spirit when it is tropical weather outside, and you have to wear shorts just to feel comfortable. It doesn’t help when I have to dig through a stack of final essays before I can relax either because it does not give me enough time to unwind around a Christmas tree or prepare for the holiday. It was nice to put all of that behind and fly across the world to get that feeling once again. It makes me excited for December 24th for the first time in a long time. I guess it all comes down to going back to the source of Christmas to find that anticipation once again.

I hope that all of you can capture that feeling as well and I hope that you can find the time to unwind during this holiday season. Merry Christmas for Germany!

The Holidays in Thailand

Thailand is definitely a Buddhist country. Yes, there are hints of other religions represented in this country, but most of the citizens give their faith over to the man under the bodhi tree. The image of Buddha is everywhere and might even be more prevalent than images of Christianity in America. I like to point this out because it has come to me as quite the surprise when the Christmas season came around and I saw all of the decorations that were being brought out to prepare the people of Bangkok for this great holiday.

It is weird to see how much the people in Bangkok really get into Christmas. They obviously do not celebrate it for the same reason that many Christians supposedly celebrate the holiday, but they like the idea of giving each other presents and getting together at the end of the day to have a meal with their family. It does not matter what religion it comes from, it just matters that it gives them another reason to celebrate.

Of course, the Thai people put their own little spin on it. I still have run across the usual snowflakes, and pictures of Santa Claus. They have even brought out the big fake plastic pine trees to decorate them with lights and little baubles, but they have also added a menagerie of animals all painted in pastel colors that I do not usually associate with Christmas, but it does not really matter because it is still festive in its own special way.

I am not really sure I know why it happens out in Thailand. It could be that the companies like to promote the holiday to pack people into the malls so they can make a little extra money, or maybe it is there to respect the cultures of other countries around the world. It could be a combination of both of these things, but I think the real reason is that they just want to celebrate, and this gives them a reason to do so. It is a lesson that the rest of the world could learn from. Does it really matter why we celebrate Christmas anymore, or is it more important that we do celebrate? Should we discourage other cultures because they do not celebrate the same holiday that we do, or should we join them in their celebration? It might mean that we might get fatigued by celebrating too often, but in the long run is anybody ever really sad when they celebrate these holidays? We might be a happier world because of it.

I know it is the beginning of the holiday season, and no matter holiday you celebrate, I hope you have a happy one, but please take the time wish everybody else the same thing. Share in that kind of joy.