Featured Photograph: Farm Ladder

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Taken in a rural farming neighborhood in remote Taeon, South Korea.

(Heads up: if you’re interested, you can also buy prints of this photograph, without the watermark.)

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Photoessay: Lübeck, Germany

A couple years ago, my mom introduced me our neighbor’s new German au pair. His name was Aljoscha (eye-yo-sha). I invited him to my impromptu, three person birthday party at the bar, introduced him to Pabst Blue Ribbon and we’ve been friends ever since. So when I planned my trip to Germany, I knew that seeing Aljoscha was a no-brainer.

We spent the first day walking around the big city of Hamburg, which has plenty of beautiful sights but requires a lot of leg work to see them all. The next day, he took me to his home city: Lübeck. The city of Lübeck is smaller than Hamburg, but definitely packs a punch in terms of gorgeousness per square foot. It feels a little more cozy and friendly, and didn’t give my feet too much of a reason to complain. Aljoscha and I wandered, sat by the water and went searching for tiny alleyways to duck into. The photographs will do this gorgeous little city considerably more justice than my rambling words, though, so let’s begin!

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The unknown is scary, until you realize that your entire life has been unknown.

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Not Falling in Love with Munich

When I mentioned to friends that I’d be going to Germany for vacation, there was an overwhelming cry of “Go to Munich! Go see Southern Germany!” I’d technically already been to Munich twice when I was 17. One trip was spent entirely in my bed, sick with a throat infection that would eventually land me in the hospital for 5 days. The second trip was with my Austrian Gymnasium (high school). I don’t remember much about Munich from that second trip, not because I was black out drunk the entire time, but because my teenage self was simply fixated on my friends and the available alcohol for consumption. So this time around, I vowed to do Munich right.

First things first, I Facebook messaged an old, old friend who lives nearby and asked if she would be free to meet up. I also decided on one of the free walking tours with Sandman’s New Europe, since I’d only be in Munich for a short time, less than two days. Before I knew it, it was July and I was on a train headed for Munich, excited. I found my hostel without issue, checked in and then headed out to meet Jess.

I got off the street car about 5 minutes away from our meeting place and enjoyed a slow meander through a wooded sidewalk. To my left, through the trees, I could see the Isar River and plenty of Germans enjoying the cold water on an otherwise hot day. It was a classic German scene; people from an otherwise busy city finding a quiet place to go swimming and relax outside. To my right zipped cycler after cycler on the bike path, another typically German thing to see. Germans love their bicycles.

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Jess and I found each other, exclaimed how crazy it was to see one another again after more than five years, and started out with a beer while we waited for her boyfriend to meet us. We talked over her life since moving to Germany, my life

since moving to South Korea, work, family and all of the in betweens. It was really wonderful to catch up with yet another old friend and I had a great time. Her boyfriend arrived, we had some lively conversation and enjoyed the weather outside. I tried a typical summer drink that’s called the Hugo, which according to the Internet actually stems from Italy.

We went for dinner in a traditional Bavarian restaurant, a beer garden. Sitting outside, awash with the laughter of Munich residents and the clinking of their glasses was beautiful. The walls covered in ivy, the ground paved with stone, we were in a tiny oasis of nature in the middle of a big, bustling city. And I was eating one of the most delicious Sauerbraten I’ve ever eaten with my favorite drink, a wheat beer. I was in heaven.

Afterwards, we took a stroll and grabbed a beer to go, so we could relax in one of the central parks in Munich. It was beyond crowded: groups of friends took up nearly every available inch of grass in the small, round park and their laughter filled the air. I was inside of Munich, I was in the heartbeat of young Germans and taking part in their outdoor, evening drinking with friends. Exactly how I seek to see every city I visit.

The next day, I began by seeking out the traditional white sausage and a pretzel breakfast.

Yes, I ate this in the morning and enjoyed it.
Yes, I ate this in the morning and enjoyed it.

Later I enjoyed a morning stroll along a different, more historic part of the Isar River and took pictures of towering buildings the the statues keeping them company. For lunch, I bought some fruit from one of the market stalls in one of the busy city market areas and sat myself down with a big beer in a public beer garden. I ended up having a fun conversation with some country Bavarians in town for a work trip. I didn’t have nearly as difficult a time understanding their accent as I’d anticipated; it must be my Austrian upbringing. They even used one of my favorite Austrian dialect words: Mädls.

The walking tour began with breathtaking buildings in Marienplatz. The New City Hall, an old cannonball left in a church wall, a short history lesson and the most expensive shopping street in Munich were on the list. The Hofbräuhaus and its history and a great tour guide named Severin who wasn’t afraid to get a little crazy. I learned a lot, I saw a lot. I took a lot of photographs.

Our tour guide, Severin, getting a little weird. He was awesome.
Our tour guide, Severin, getting a little weird. He was awesome.

But when I boarded my train later in the day to meet Claudia in Berlin, I wasn’t sad. For some reason, despite doing only amazing things, seeing so much beauty and life and drinking my favorite beer multiple times, I wasn’t upset leaving Munich behind. Maybe it was the general unfriendliness of Munich city people, but I’d met very friendly country Bavarians and spent time with friends while I was there. Maybe it was my wallet crying every time I bought something for twice the price in the rest of Germany, but I’d hardly been a big spender while I was there, buying market fruit for lunch and taking a free walking tour. Maybe Munich is just one of those cities that has to grow on you, maybe two days was too short, maybe you can’t fall in love with Munich, but slowly learn to love it. I don’t know the answers. I only know that I did everything that should have made me love Munich, had nothing but fun and good experiences, and yet I still didn’t feel like I needed to come back. Maybe Munich just isn’t my place.

Unless, of course, I think about eating Sauerbraten again. For Sauerbraten, I would cross oceans and hike mountains and steal candy from children. For Sauerbraten, I could learn to love Munich someday.

I will never, ever not want to eat this. Source.
I will never, ever not want to eat this. Source.

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What To Do in Korea: Sally’s List

I recently met up with two bloggers on a world trip who’d just arrived in Korea and hadn’t jumped into seeing everything yet. I was bubbling with suggestions of things to do. I then saw another Internet friend tweet that she wanted suggestions for her Korea bucket list. That’s when I decided this had to be a post. Then I sat down and made the list and it turned out to be 50% food suggestions. That’s when I decided this had to be two posts. Here’s the second list: What to Eat in Korea.

Keep in mind two things. First, I live in the countryside and don’t know Seoul as well as some. There are probably some other cool attractions in Seoul that I’m missing, so forgive me and comment with your own suggestions. Secondly, I don’t know much about clubbing or nightlife, so this list doesn’t include any specifics in that area. Once again, if you are an expert, then comment please!

Suggestions are in groups of five, the top groups more essential than the bottom groups. However, there is nothing in this list that I wouldn’t recommend doing. If my family would ever visit me (hurry up, Mom!), I would drag them on every single one of these endeavors, provided I had the time.

Without further ado, here is my list! Enjoy South Korea!

  • Go see one of the “great gates” of ancient Korea
  • Overnight at a temple (temple stay), preferably outside of Seoul
  • Overnight in a jjimjilbang (찜질방), or Korean spa
  • Go to a Noraebang (노래방), or karaoke  room
  • Climb to the top of Namsan Tower
Temple stays give you the chance to relax and learn about Korean Buddhist culture.
Temple stays give you the chance to relax and learn about Korean Buddhist culture.
  • Walk through one of the large outdoor markets, like Namdaemun or Dongdaemun
  • Visit one of the old, royal Seoul palaces located inside the city
  • See Hongdae at night or go out in Hongdae
  • Take the subway across the river (and don’t forget to look out the window!)
  • Visit a dog or cat cafe
Dogs and coffee can happen at the same time in Seoul.
Dogs and coffee can happen at the same time in Seoul.
  • Visit the Korean countryside
  • Visit a city outside of Seoul (Gyeongju, Daejeon, Daegu, Busan, etc.)
  • Walk through a Shinsegae department store
  • Visit Insadong
  • Attend any festival going on in Seoul at the time
You won't find this is Seoul
You won’t find this is Seoul
  • Go shopping for socks or smart phone cases
  • Walk through Gangnam (while listening to PSY)
  • If you have the guts, go to a service in one of Seoul’s megachurches
  • Climb Mt. Ansan for a killer view of Seoul
  • See Cheonan’s Independence Hall of Korea
This museum is both beautiful and educational.
This museum is both beautiful and educational.
  • Do the Samcheok Ocean Railbike on the Eastern coast
  • Drive down the 30 minute stretch of road between 고래불해변 and 축산리, staying close to the shoreline to see seafood hanging out to dry for long stretches (summer only)
  • Visit the Mr. Toilet Museum
  • Walk into a traditional Hanbok shop
  • Have coffee in a themed cafe in Seoul

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Pyeongtaek Meandering

wandering in Pyeongtaek, I had a few hours to kill. I stumbled upon a small temple area in the city with just a few buildings and this monument. it was quite peaceful and when walked out of the area, I found a gorgeous neighborhood with narrow streets and historic architecture. it felt more European than Asian and lasted a few blocks before, suddenly, I found myself back in the hustle and bustle of Pyeongtaek. ugly signs and misspelled English words… the typical Korean city scene.

kind of like stepping out of the closet into a boring bedroom and leaving Narnia behind. except I could have turned around and gone right back, so maybe it’s nothing like that… oh well. a beautiful change of pace.

write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 3)

this is the 3rd and final part of a series about my recent day-trip to the DMZ. if you need to catch up: my photo highlights, part 1 & part 2.

stop #4: Dora Observatory

Dora Observatory is an outpost next to the DMZ which sits on higher ground, lending the location a nice view of the DMZ itself and also a little bit of North Korea. it’s also across from one of the few villages near the border, as well as a South Korean factory. a few years ago, there were numerous South Korean factories in North Korea because of the cheap labor… but once again, change of government means a change in policy. the factory near the Dora Observatory is the last one that is currently still allowed to run. Continue reading write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 3)

write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 1)

a picture is worth a thousand words… sometimes. in the case of my visit to the DMZ, my photo highlights just don’t cut it. a write-up is definitely in order. because there is so much to talk about, I’ll be splitting it up into a few different posts. so, here we go!

I signed up with a tour group through Adventure Korea along with three of my friends. they do a bunch of trips and tours for generally just English-speaking foreigners. the meeting point was Seoul… we all piled onto two of those big tour buses and off we went! a gang of foreigners: life as usual. Continue reading write up: a trip to the DMZ (part 1)