While I did enjoy many parts of Osaka, by comparison, Kyoto blew my mind! It is one of the most darling, quaint, beautifully stunning and enjoyable places I’ve been. The energy there was fabulous. Quiet, very zen-like with one beautiful place after another. I spent about a week there walking miles upon miles everyday through its majestic beauty.
Kyoto was the place I first noticed the raccoon dog statues, and made it my mission to find one for myself as a souvenir. While many people I asked said I would have to travel to a different city to find one, I was relentless in my pursuit and was ultimately successful in finding a raccoon dog about 2 inches tall. Perfect for travel! He currently resides in my home in NOLA:)
Raccoon Dog Guide
View of the City
One of my favorite memories of Kyoto was seeing a man tending to the landscape with tweezers! I was in awe watching him go about the business of keeping the grounds in spectacular shape with only a pair of tweezers. Absolutely incredible! And it speaks to the dedication of their craft.
From what I recall, Kyoto had about 10 zen gardens that were scattered throughout the city. While each place offered unique sights and feels, along with mind-boggling displays of perfectly crafted landscapes, probably my favorite was the kare-sansui zen garden at Ryoan-ji. Its simplicity was breathtaking. I found myself just staring at the various parts of the garden, for what seemed like an eternity, allowing my mind to wander into a quiet space.
Another favorite part of the city for me was the Geisha neighborhood. The homes were lovely, the streets quiet, and if one was lucky enough, they might get a glimpse of a young, beautiful Geisha walking about with her, shall I call her her Madame(?) sheltering her from the sun with an umbrella. I was fortunate enough to see one Geisha walking about, but respected the posted signs to not take pictures. I was also fortunate enough to sit next to one on a train. Again, while other tourists asked to take pictures of her, I refrained out of respect. While the Madame did allow others to take pictures with her, I felt it was better to simply keep those memories in my mind.
Geisha Street Sign
Those are my most fond memories of Kyoto. I certainly could have spent so much more time there exploring even more portions of the city that I hadn’t gotten to, but alas, I always try to leave something to go back to every place I go:) Needless to say, I would highly recommend anyone to visit majestic Kyoto.
Munich is absolutely lovely!!! I was very shocked on how green the city is!! Seriously they have so many parks in the heart of the city!! I figured it would be much like every other city: drowning in nothing but buildings with a token park here and there. But not so with Munich! It is individual, full of history, character and very friendly and welcoming people! There’s the synopsis, now here are the details;)
Before going to Munich, on a whim and on a promise, I shot off an email to Nikki whom I met and traveled with through the San Blas Islands in Panama. In fact, she was the clever woman who coined “modern day pirates” to describe our sailboat crew:)
I say on a whim because though we had exchanged a few emails, we really hadn’t kept in touch a whole lot (I don’t Facebook) and since it had been so long since I’d emailed her, I wasn’t sure first whether she even had the same email, and second whether she would respond. I had made her a promise long ago when we parted in Colombia however that if I ever made it to Munich, I would look her up! So, about a week or so before going to Munich I wrote her an email to let her know I would be in town for the day.
I was humbled to hear back from her and even more tickled that she too had the day off and was able to meet me!! The good in people never ceases to amaze me and it’s a blessing to know people who, even after years of no contact, extend a hand of friendship!!
I made it to Munich early in the morning and after calling Nikki agreed to meet her at a coffee shop near the Odeonsplatz underground station. As I made my way out from the underground I could hear the joyous music of Oktoberfest celebrations and once out on the street was greeted by a lovely parade!! I made my way along the road trying to get somewhere to take some pictures when a very nice group of people offered me a stool to stand on so I could get above the crowd:) Thankfully one of them spoke a little broken English and I asked where the coffee shop was (all I could see was Starbucks and we weren’t meeting there!!). Once directed and all the pictures were taken, I headed to meet Nikki.
Oktoberfest Parade on Odeonsplatz
Oktoberfest Parade on Odeonsplatz_2
Oktoberfest Parade on Odeonsplatz_3
Oktoberfest Parade on Odeonsplatz_4
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Oktoberfest Parade on Odeonsplatz_6
Oktoberfest Parade on Odeonsplatz_7
Seriously it was as if no time at all had ever passed between us! She looked just the same as she did before: fabulous! And we had a great time catching up in each other’s lives and reminiscing on the good times we had during the San Blas trip:) We hung out for a little catching up, then she proceeded to give me the VIP walking tour of Munich!!
First stop was just nearby, a place called Feldherrnhalle, which is where Hitler began the plotting of his Nazi regime before setting up in Berlin. What is amazing is that as he began to take on more popularity and power, it was mandatory that people walking in front of this building had to salute to the soldiers standing in front to show that they were with Hitler. If you walked in front without saluting you would get in serious trouble!! So, for those who opposed Hitler, they would bypass walking in front of the Feldherrnhalle by walking down the street just behind called Viscardigasse. Down this street today you will find a golden path laid out in bronze bricks symbolizing the path of freedom. This path was walked by all who opposed Hitler. It was their way of rebelling Hitler and what he stood for.
Bronze Freedom Path
Across from this building is the Residence of Munich (Residenz Munchen) where the Royal Family lives and the lions statues guarding the entrance are rubbed by passersby for good luck!
Good Luck Rub
Inside the Residence
Exterior of Residence
The Residence of Munich leads onto the Hofgarten where there is a lovely little building topped off with a little monument. Here they have many musicians who come to practice their skills and even monthly they put on a formal waltz dance event!!
From there we headed past the Art Museum and headed to probably the most interesting or at least shocking part of Munich… Surfers!!! Yes, I typed correctly: surfers! Apparently some very clever surfers wanted a way to continue to practice their skills and keep in shape year round without “chasing the waves” so they made their own!! In the Eisbach river, just at the start of it where it flows under a bridge, several stones were dropped to the river bottom and eventually enough were planted in to create a wave!! And due to the natural fast current through the river, the wave is large enough to basically simulate an ocean wave! So darn clever!!!
Surfing in Munich!!!!
Surfing in Munich!!!!_2
Surfing in Munich!!!!_3
This little surf spot is in a way the beginning of the English Garden (Englischen Garten). The English Garden is the largest garden in Munich and it is even LARGER than Central Park in New York City!!
We made our way past the Japanese Teahouse (Japanisches Teehaus Kanshoan)
Japanisches Teehaus Kanshoan
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Japanisches Teehaus Kanshoan_3
to an area where if you choose you could sit out nude
finally to the Monopteros. This monument was once overrun by drug addicts but thanks to an increased presence of cops wandering the streets, the momument was abandoned by the addicts and spruced up for locals and tourists to enjoy:)
Monopteros in the English Garden
Center of Monopteros
Ceiling of Monopteros
Munich Skyline from Monopteros
Quick pose in Munich
From the Monopteros it was on to the Chinese Temple (Chinesischer Turm) where a little beer garden was conveniently located, so of course we had to stop for a BEER!!!!! It was here during a bit of a passing thunderstorm where I learned the history of beer gardens… Long ago when there weren’t any refrigerators, companies cleverly decided to put kegs of produced beer under trees that provided lots of shade (hence natural refrigeration). So much beer was being made that companies would invite people out to these “gardens “with kegs of beer under each tree to drink the beer while it was fresh and cold! All they asked was people paid for the beer, but otherwise you could bring your own food, etc. So these beer gardens began to gain popularity as almost a social or fun day in the park so to speak with cheap, delicious beer, your own picnic and tons of other people to socialize with:)
After a few pints we walked our way to the Siegestor, a triumphal arch that has a statue of Bavaria on top leading 4 lions! It was originally dedicated to the glory of the Bavarian army but today it is a monument and reminder for peace. Absolutely love it!!
On we went past the University to perhaps my favorite building of all I had seen that day: St. Peter’s Church (Peterskirche)!! Just absolutely stunning in my opinion and so playful!! Notice the dragon climbing up the church and the timekeeper…
Timekeeper on Church
In the Church Square
Dragon Climbing Church
I could have spent hours looking at the church just discovering new things about it but alas we were getting a bit hungry, so we headed to a great restaurant, had some delicious local food then headed to Nikki’s where she graciously allowed me to crash for the night:) However, NOT before helping her to fix her anklet!! We had both purchased one in the San Blas Islands from the Kuna Indigenous tribe but sadly hers had fallen off. She kept the beads and the strand however so I helped to affix it back on:) Good times!!!
While there are lots of place to wander around and sight see in Glasgow (Buchanan Street for shopping, the Royal Exchange Square where the statue of the Duke of Wellington somehow always has a street traffic cone on his head, George Square which is the principal civic square and is named after King George III, the Clydesdale Amateur Rowing Club where we met Anna’s friends then went for drinks at West nearby, and the People’s Palace and Winter Garden which boasts the World’s largest terra-cotta fountain out back!) perhaps my favorite was the Necropolis…
I’ve always enjoyed a good cemetery, and this one was not disappointing! It literally went on forever!! One could seriously spend the entire day trying to see all the tombs and plots!! I’m just kicking myself for not having brought my camera though!! While not every tombstone was hugely impressive, there was one of a person who was obviously involved in theater that still sticks in my mind… His tombstone was so well decorated and huge!! It literally looked like you were in the audience of a theater ready to watch a show! The curtains were drawn, you could see the side balcony areas where the seats for the wealthy were located. There were the classic faces of comedy and tragedy adorning the top, and a lovely and lively poem written across the curtain… Like I said, it was really impressive because even though I didn’t have my camera, I still remember those details today!
I was joined at the Necropolis by two of Anna’s friends, Davie and Markie. Anna had to work that day so she gave me her phone and I ended up making plans with Markie to meet in town and go to the Necropolis. Davie just happened to be joining, but it was just as well because though he has lived in Glasgow for a long while (he may actually have been born there) and he had been to the very lovely church nearby the Necropolis, he had never actually been to the Necropolis!! Funny how we never take advantage of our surroundings where we live… It’s the same with me too though, I’m not any better for when I was living in Costa Rica, even though I was literally across the street from the beach, I actually went to the beach maybe a dozen times a month!! Terrible, I know! But you all know what I’m talking about!!
Anyway, the rest of that particular day was spent wandering around Glasgow on foot. We ended up walking past Davie’s house so he was dropped off there and Markie and I continued our tour. We came across a little park where there was an older gentlemen and three blue heelers (aka Australian cattle dogs). It was obviously a training session and it was by far one of the coolest things I’ve seen!! You could tell immediately which of the three dogs was the most experienced and which was the least… They were all in a large field, the older man standing on one end, the three dogs laying side by side down a way from the old man. Suddenly the man would shout out a command and a name and one of the dogs would shoot up on all fours, race around in a large circle, then come to a resting crouch in front of the man. The same command was called with another of the dog’s name and off he/she went! Finally the last would be called (the least experienced) and often times during his/her turn the command would have to be called several times or she would have to do it again, lol!! It was just so amazing!! With no leashes, lines, treats, gimmicks, etc, these three dogs were at absolute attention and focus! It was obvious they enjoyed their tasks and I believe that the more experienced dogs were really the ones helping to train the less experienced dog! It was just such a treat for me to watch these dogs in action! I was in complete awe!!! Needless to say those dogs and their training session were gaining quite the audience from people walking by!!