Tag Archives: Exploration

For the Love of Annecy

Welcome to Annecy, a village as tranquil as its name. 

With an abundance of natural beauty paired with an overwhelming share of local history, Annecy stands as the perfect embodiment of French serenity. 

The leaves whisper age-old secrets under the shade of the Chapeau de Napoleon mountain as a collection of boats draw arrows across the everchanging hues of Lac d’Annecy. The sun, rising before seven in the morning and setting after eight at night, warms my skin and protects my limbs from the chill of lake-side wind. 

Perfect, this push and pull of light and air across my reclined body. 

Life in France is easy, though the language can be hard. In one way, it is easier for me than German, as I understand most of what is said to me. But as such, I feel compelled to speak only in French rather than simply ask for English. Thus, I am restricted to the present tense and short-jolted sentences. Mais, c’est la vie. 

Even with my restrictions, the language flows easier every day. Annecy is the perfect place for practice, and I am grateful for the opportunity. 

I am staying with family friends who have been more than welcoming (the stereotype of french bitterness is certainly false in this case), and it is incredible to get to know the quaint village in the hands of a family that has lived here for over a century. 

Words

The words, les mots

balance delicate between my molars.

Sentences running through my head

& dissolving in the drums of my ears.

Yes-ja-oui. je comprend,

mais je ne parle pas bien.

C’est difficile yet enbodied,

like a past-life memory 

begging to erupt. 

You asked me to speak to you.

These same words falling from my lips

& into yours.

Sultry, you said, the way I say

le pomme. The apple.

The sin that started it all. 

Were you the sin that started all of this?

Or was I?

Each day I repent. 

Washing and willing my body back

through time. Back, 

to when my French was not perfect

but fresh 

& you were nothing but a someday fantasy. 

Back to where I can forget 

& remember all over again.

Where I can seize the important letters 

& keep them. 

Where I can realize our last embrace

& leave it. 

Where I can teach myself the value of each moment.

Knowing these foreign affairs 

have foreign ends, 

& in their triumph find us

different as fire and powder.

A kiss we cannot consume,

my body strewn out 

& beaten by its hold on sanity.

Head swirling with words 

& memories I no longer own.

I know now, no matter what you tell me,

no infinity lasts. 

So I’ve taught my mind to collect them,

touching their bumps like braille,

for I can no longer see you.

& in this mourning, I learn

how to curve my lips into a smile for another

& to curl my tongue around what I used to know.

The city is delicate, with ancient stone lining roads built eons before their pavement was first graced by motors. With my gracious hosts, I am led through the small passages of the old village center.

We walk slowly, and this time it feels natural. I don’t mind the pace when the alps surround me, when there is so much new air to breathe, and history to be told. 

10 heure, the agreed-upon time to mount the mountain and view the lake from a new angle. 

Not too early or too late, the morning sun hung behind sparse clouds, breaking through with biblical rays and gracing us at the precipice of our ascent. 

It was only after twenty minutes that I began to sweat, and as they say, when it rains- it pours. Soon my breathing turned to panting and excitement turned to concentration on the rocks and roots forming a natural staircase ahead. 

Thankfully, another twenty minutes of this uphill battle brought us to the summit. The grand reprieve of open air and picturesque landscape. A panoramic view of Annecy and its surrounding villages that encircle the magnificent lake of the same name.

Incredible. 

The clearing where we found our rest used to be home to a great hotel and restaurant. Patrons would take a boat from the Annecy city center across the lake, where they would mount a cable car to complete the journey to the mountain’s peak. 

The building imposed upon the edge of the cliff, boat-like terrace facing the water while windows inside allowed guests to look in every direction. 

Unfortunately, 2001 brought about the destruction of this impressive structure. Now the flat-topped peak is home to three benches and a sign signaling the past existence of the hotel. Concrete posts erupt from the earth shallowly, like an echo of what once was. 

There, I sat. Closing my eyes and breathing in the fresh, thin air exhaled from the forest around me. I thought about all of the people who must have sat just here, centuries past, looking at the same view. 

Peak

How many legs and fingers

have crawled up and over this edge?

This green-faced mountain with

tumbling chin veering over its own body.

Beard long, clustered, and wooden,

Swinging and singing with the breeze.

And when it grows too long, the crest

purges its lungs with fire,

Charred ash floating like clouds.

This air is not for you or me,

this thick smoke means go,

But we never listen. We stay,

slicing through skin and bone with serrated edge.

Taking the silent severance of limbs as a sign of progress.

Building and breaking over stony back,

climbing again, where we are doomed to fall.

Austrian First Impressions

The new apartment has a bath. This detail initially shrugged off, has become a luxury. And I am grateful for the simple pleasure of a steaming tub.

Perched in the attic of a red-toned apartment building, my white windows stick their noses to the street. The sill- wide enough to hold my body- does, as my eyes roam the modest skyline.

Orange talons, filed by my idle hands, pull my shoulders up and out the slanted window and over the street.

Lion-headed guards flank the building to my left, their jaws clenched tight around marble rings. Behind their carved heads, the building’s stone is veiled in an Olympic sea color, softly fading with weather’s attention. To the right, the clouds consume the horizon’s view.

After the breeze had adequately nibbled my shoulders, the bath was ready: steam wafting from soapy waters, illusioned fingers curling to circle my rain-chilled figure.

Here I am recounting my activities inside an AirBnB while free to roam a foreign city. But listen, the days here are slow. Breaks don’t break your schedule; you drift through quiet corners and cobblestone corridors unbothered and unfazed.

I am fast.

I make the most of each pound on the pavement, marching through an urgent mission toward whatever color in my vision can slow my gaze. The local lull doesn’t slow me down; they linger along the side of the street in quiet clusters, shoes pressed in a deliberately ambling procession.

Even so, sometimes, one catches my eye.

Girl Crossing the Street Vienna, Austria. 08/21/22.

Pink is her favorite color,

So she wears it in a flash below darkness. 

A quick zip up the other side of her sole,

Pointing teeth up to scarlet head.

I wonder if her step walks along Wien or Vienna.

Tongue purring along different letters for the same sound,

Curling around their last letter. 

Distinction stamped and pressed 

In the darting color 

across her shoe.

I feel like I am on 2x speed as even the river seems content to spin lazily towards its spill. I sound bitter, but I promise I appreciate the change of pace. With ease, I can wind through the thin crowds and find my way to my next objective in a snap.

Contrasting their leisurely steps, mine gift me more time for my own kind of leisure. Hence, my bath.

As I soak, I think about the constant veil of rain, how it peppers the river in its rush, drops joining the current as it drips along the graffiti-colored channel.

Green. No, more aqua and turquoise in color. Unlike the crystal waters of Munich, Vienna’s add to the city’s color palette. Salmon pink, grey stone, touch-of-blue sky, and gold, darkened by the turn of time.

Squinting your eyes and tilting your head, turns back the clock. The gold is bright and polished, the apartment buildings freshly painted and carved. These bones are still there.

Venders are now burrowed in the lower levels of each building, window-display eyes opening ancient brick. Construction does cluster around street corners, but with the object of maintaining, not reimagining. Restaurants take an opening and spill out onto the street, littering the ground with tables and chairs and spritzers under light rain.

At these restaurants, you are brought water without asking—a miraculous gift for my dry American tongue.

I have grown accustomed to Germany’s (as the rest of Europe’s) gatekeep of water. The simple drink is guarded by prices higher than beer. Perhaps the Austrian glass is enough to compensate for Vienna’s lack of Summer sun.

When I arrived at the Munich train station to make my departure, I realized I had assumed it would take me much longer to trek my two suitcases and hefty backpack from apartment to train and now had an extra half hour to burn at the central station.

A make-shift chair formed by an overturned suitcase separated me from the grisly ground, and I began people-watching to pass the time.

Cigarette Vending Machine

Chubby fingers stick to the plastic pressed buttons
Toddler eyes wide, hands spread in plump starfish- reaching
Her father turns his attention to his burning cigarette
Tiny legs dance in pools of day-old rain
Anger comes with discarded drops but
At the center, he loves her
The curled-haired nymph
as pink and pouting as all innocence
But golden chains hang his ego like soft silk
Legs dangling over their own reflection
Empty cigarette boxes litter this floor
Cardboard universes for all
She inhales tobacco breath as she looks inside
Stars shine through worn corners
Thick is the smell, the smoke, the ghost
Burned out and discarded, he can’t find her
His hard hands can’t hold on to both
Pocketing his cigarette box
He only finds it empty when pressed flat
A wet galaxy, crumpled with grief

Leaving Munich was not without difficulty. Not only did I imagine myself indifferent to having an actual seat on the train, but the railed road was taking me away from new friends and now-familiar street corners.

A backrest bolstered my departure as we pulled away from the second stop. I had found a backbone in the cascading steps at the crossroads of the train car’s exit doors. Resting back on backpack, my eyes were graced by a few fifteen-minute almost-naps before the final stop.

Emerging from the stationed train, my feet touched Viennese soil. Now the German language doesn’t mean German lips, but I am finding my rest tucked in the rainy streets of Wien.

Breaking In Berlin

Clubbing in Berlin, a notorious night out. 

Black is Berlin’s heaviest color, draping over the scraped sky and open on bright thighs. This contrast the color code for an open door. 

Police of fashion, attitude, and attraction guard the thumping black behind them. A quick blink and you’ve been checked out, faster than gum at the grocery store. 

This is the scene I agreed to at 8:01 am when I rolled over in bed to read the incoming Whatsapp message:

“Got the rental car, we will leave around 12/1 to get you”

At 8:03 am, I replied, “Amazing!!” and promptly dozed through the next two hours of the morning. 

By 10, I had peeled lazily from the bed, opened an avocado, and toasted a slice of bread. Salt, pepper, and chili dusted into the mix as I crushed and spread.

While I enjoyed my autopilot breakfast, my mind stuck to the nature of our Berlin trip. 

Would it be a quick sight-seeing jaunt? A night-club night out? A brief meet-up with a traveling friend? I hoped for a night out, leaving the logistics for later. I was up for anything. 

Crocheting through the rest of the morning, I waited for the “one hour” text to ding before getting ready. 

I showered my sleep-tussled hair with the shampoo and conditioner set I earned with 20 minutes and google translate at the grocery store. After smoothing the soft shampoo into my scalp and working the conditioner into the tangles behind my neck, it was time to shave. 

Bristled legs met a razor head and chopstick combination, my creative solution to leaving the real handle sitting idly in my parent’s shower. 

Nevertheless, I emerged refreshed and rose, embracing the chill that severs the cling of steam on the other side of the shower. 

Dressed in pink straps and short denim, I slid my “may the force be with you” socks under white sneakers. I paired my signature face sunscreen with the noir of pink bottled mascara for the special occasion. As I shimmied the last layer over my lashes, I was interrupted by the call of “CAROLINE!” through the open window. I lined my lips with a smile.

“Berlin! Berlin!” they chanted into the kitchen five minutes later, and I caught on quickly that this was going to be a night out. 

I was excited, though woefully unprepared with my lightly packed side bag of basics. Grabbing my backpack, I shoved a change of clothes, face wipes, and overnight necessities into its depths.

I snatched a green-patterned dress for the clubs, with no excuse for this colored faux pas. I had just finished a book about girls in Berlin; the chapters full of repeated rejections and an insistence on black everything. 

My colorful mind brushed past this, shrugging that it was Wednesday and I look good in green. 

With hastily-packed bag in tow, we pulled out of the cobble-stone streets of Munich and took to the uninhibited sway of the autobahn. Redirecting my hair from waterfall to wavy, I tried my best to execute car makeup as we made our way from city to city.

We swore we would break the six-hour sentence issued by google maps authority, and we did, despite a 45-minute backtrack.

Half an hour after one stop to relieve ourselves on the side of the road, we realized we were missing a phone. Tracing our steps back to the quiet field, we scoured the earth and inspected the car’s nooks and crannies, turning up nothing. 

In observance of the fallen, we changed the music from Fergalicious Fergie to ASAP and his F*ckin Problems. 

Soon enough, our wheels rolled into the city. Graffiti and concrete greeted us through car windows, and I felt my heart swell. It was a wink of Chicago, just a twinkle of home, and I wondered into the reason. 

It was a symptom of WWII, the bombing of Berlin. This is Germany, after all. After decades of repentant strife, these modern materials rise from the rubble of elder stone, replacing the ancient Germanic buildings that once stood as tall as their rivals.

This tragedy eclipsed the loss of a gadget and released a bit of our mood as we found auto rest in the parking garage of the Bikini Berlin

A last-minute friends and family reservation gifted us a home base, and we gladly traced the blue-lit halls to the comfort of four stationary walls.  

We dropped our bodies and bags on the bed, only breaking the seal of sleepy eyes with complimentary mini fridge beverages and the discovery of a hotel-provided speaker. 

I drew orange over closed lids and sleeked my body into tight green skin. Reaching down, I married the sharp teeth of my white platform docs in two quick zips. 

Another hour found us looking out at the night-lit city from the hotel’s balcony. Aptly named Monkey Bar, the roof-top terrace kept Bikini Berlin’s tropical theme.

Our smiles sipped espresso martinis, sub tequila, as we commenced our search for prospective clubs. Thankfully, Wednesdays mark the start of the clubbing weekend, and it is never hard to find a good time in Berlin. 

We settled first on a club called Matrix. A venue with good reviews and a shared wall with a 24-hour Doner place. I convinced my companions to join me in taking down some fries. 

The starch of the potatoes was sweetened by the joint-condiment heart drawn by my pommes frites dealer.

The warm air brushed my bare legs as the line shortened and we joined the influx of front-line hopefuls. We watched as the bouncer took his pick of the crowd.

A man in sandals was denied, but his girlfriend was able to argue their way in. My shoulders relaxed with this new faculty of persuasion. 

The same bouncer let us in after staging fake scrutiny of our IDs. Taking to the bar, we sandwiched shots of tequila with salt and lime, the €7 total price offsetting the €10 entrance fee. The salty burn turned sour with lime and brought us to the dance floor.  

After fifteen minutes of bouncing between cigarette boys to a sub-par beat, we decided we could do better, leaving the dark club for a river-side walk to our next destination. 

With a recommendation from a friend and a brief google-search we chose Tresor

As we inched closer to our next intention, we brisked by another thunderous black door. Deciding to try our luck, we stepped into the short line of KitKat Club

We watched the group in front of us knock twice on the door, just to be denied despite their all-black and bare skin. 

“Nein” was the quick answer from the emotionless bouncer.

We resisted, but his negotiation was “lose the dress, take the pants off,” and our prudish American blood accepted defeat. We later realized that KitKat is a sex club and that this Wednesday was their “no pants” night, hence our hasty rejection.

No sweat, as we were still outside, so covered and colorful, we resumed our route to Tresor. 

The gray concrete stood tall against the 2 am stars. The line snaked around metal gates and met us at the street. There we stood, the cool air hovering just above our tequila-warmed skin. 

It wasn’t long before we approached the front of the line; or maybe it was, but I didn’t notice. 

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the bouncer was a woman and immediately followed my exhale with the realization that my womanly guiles would be rendered useless. 

Her stern eyes accepted a group of Aussie boys, all black and sunglasses. Then denied the man in front of us, his yellow shirt deemed unworthy of the techno graces that lie behind the doors.

We struck our pose, my green-vined torso flanked by my black-clad posse, arms crossed and eyes burning through dark lenses. We looked confident, self-possessed, and answered her scrutiny with conviction. 

“Have you been here before?”

“No.”

“If anyone is bothering you, find one of us. Enjoy.”

That was easy. 

Our admittance-high led us to the club’s first dance room, a concrete hall bursting with beats and bodies. Weaving our way through the crowd, we found the DJ. 

A middle-aged man with plastic-red lips, only outdone by his high-hung balloon breasts. As the beat dropped, he lifted his lips to take a shot with his own.

We let loose. Letting our limbs levitate and knees bend with the bass. 

But we were thirsty for drinks and further adventure. So with linked arms, we followed glowing signs to the basement. A round of Vodka Red Bull’s gave us the energy to rejoin the dance floor.

This set was darker. Foggy air clouded the DJ’s stage, rendering them a swirl of smoke behind the beat. The only colors breaking the darkness blinking lasers, and me- it was perfect. 

I lost myself in the music, in the swarm of humanity, all pounding with the same rhythm of the night. The flashing lights took me away as I dissipated with the whirling smoke of the fog machine. 

I closed my eyes, and let the euphoria of the moment vibrate its way through my body, grounded only by the brush of friendly arms on either side. 

An infinity I will never forget, though the details I’ll hardly remember. What is burned in my brain is this feeling, the pulsing lights and foggy exhale doing my seeing and breathing for me.

The remixed music felt familiar and foreign, a medley of pop culture and German techno, all mastered by the bad-ass blonde we glimpsed through breaks in smoke. Her fingers twirled over dark disks, and we let her lead the way. 

We drank the electro-pulses that kept time, felt the build she pushed with metallic sliders, and drowned ourselves in the beat’s fever break.

Sweating and stomping on Aussie toes, our boots and bodies found respite in a dimly-lit corner bar. 

Dismal and dark, it had everything we needed. Wooden slab bench and two round tables, black paint holding impending splinters at bay. Across from our noir nook was a lightly populated bar, the bartender winked at me from his liquor-lined stage, and I used the cheat code. 

Ordering a bottle of sparkling water and three Jameson Gingers, I layed the groundwork. Between long looks, I asked him when the club closed, “noon” was his answer. I expressed my sympathy and slinked back to my friends in the corner. 

Voices labored, and backs pressed hard against the concrete wall, we caught up with our breath and eachother. 

The bartender wasted no time joining us, bringing a flight of tequila and a smile. We cheers’d and made second-language small talk before ditching him for the top floor. 

Climbing up the heavy stairs two flights, we walked into a wide room. Music played for a relaxed crowd, spaced out, partnered up, and slow at this hour. 

My eyes traced the scene to the left and found an open alcove of spring bed benches and metal medley curbs. At the center was the square outline of a bar, quiet and minimal. The three bartenders worked in near silence amid the swell of low voices.

We stalked the perimeter and joined the sway to sound. My hands found the purchase of another’s and I let him twirl me in time to a coupled tempo. My view over his shoulder filled with the faces of my friends. I gave them a quick thumbs up before they faded away. 

Leaving him to the leading, I felt nothing but the music build and break against my skin.

It could have been five minutes or five hours, but eventually, I broke the spell, asking for the time. 7:30, he told me, and turning, my gaze met that of my friends. We nodded.

I sent him on his way, blown kiss to the darkness, and linked arms with my trio as we made our way to the main floor.

Gifting our goodbyes to the temporary friends re-encountered on our exit from the club, 8:30 faced us with its bright eyes and the joint ringing of birds and bass in our ears. The sky hit us with the vibrance of a matinee movie, thankful for the sunglasses’ utility. 

Arms tied and tired, we stepped our way back to the Bikini Berlin, joining the bustle of well-rested commuters as we walked over the still-beating hearts of dark clubs just below. 

€1 Sundays pt. 2: Alte Pinakothek 

Trading modern for masters, I left the Pinakothek der Moderne for the Alte Pinakothek. 

Paneled windows and tan stone replaced the overwhelming white of my first destination. The renaissance revival architecture a clear indication of the museum’s contrast collection. 

Founded in 1836 by Ludwig I of Bavaria, the Alte Pinakothek houses one of the oldest art collections in the world. 

Over 700 paintings populate its walls, art by Europe’s old masters spanning from the 14th to 18th century. The wonder of their world immortalized before me.

Trailing my eyes over the ancient flicks of oiled color, my mind dissolved into the stories bursting through each stroke. 

The Fairer Sex

Fine Lady,

your flesh is too white for truth,

white enough to suffocate your pores,

a different kind of corset in powdered lead,

you bargin a slow death for idle perfection. 

Finest silk,

Poised & Polished

Languid & Limited 

No sharp edges to your tongue,

no harsh threads bristling his hand on the small of your back,

all lines soft to the touch. 

Delicate, your defense. 

Lazy, your lie. 

Guarded and ignorant to manly matters,

you pull loose strings and unfurl hidden triggers,

you touch ivory notes with feeble fingers, 

you seduce glances with supple skin. 

You find power in your soft,

buried in the droop of your eyes,

in their lust for your body, 

in the limbs you are allowed, and

twirling your virtue signed over with deeds and discretion. 

Judgment

Severance & Reunions. 

Love & blood & the wandering bodies of naked men

nursed to health by Homer’s womanly words. 

Caressed and cut by mythic fates- disturbed by discontented Gods, 

their jealous egos staining creation. 

Reaching with flawless fingers for golden validation,

for the authority of their particular beauty,

in last judgment, they laugh.

Too plump with pride to see the cliff and what crux lies below. 

These petty Gods drowned out by a more covetous God,

He takes all divisions and divinity. 

Smiling the devil’s teeth

in the face of flesh. 

Damning the forked tongue he sliced,

ugly is the enemy. He calls

erase your ego. 

For your God holds all pride 

for Himself. A divine blanket

to cover His manly insecurities, 

to ease the threat of self-love,

condemned by this free love’s snaking eclipse of devotion. 

Sacrifice your severed sons, 

and still, it is not enough. 

There are no complex corridors in the pure mind. 

To question is to condemn.

Close your eyes. 

Stay silent as we trade one fantasy for another.

Drown beneath your own blood and thank Him. 

Watch within as your iron paints over clouded Olympus with His gated heaven. 

The Question of Virtue

How many versions of my falsehood have been painted by the faithful? 

Never have I laid with a man. Only angels,

So my story goes. 

My pure iris watches these men believe the right woman,

bolstered by her husband’s immaculate conviction. 

His denial deemed faith enough to cover my unfaithful.

This power of innocence & ignorance. 

My greatest indiscretion,

the proof in my child’s karmic arc. 

His fateful cross mine to bear for justice. 

Penence for the blade I drew through his father,

a vengeful passion left over from his draw through me. 

The consequence of the stains on my soul

tracked in the blood I painted red on the floor. 

A tragedy of trauma,

an act of an expanding universe. 

I must believe the strings are pulled by God,

hold his son’s head in my hands and hear the voice of heaven. 

In my dreams and delusions, He seduces me. 

Him, the taste on my tongue and the name I spit 

to believe my womanly deception. 

Pre & Post Impressionist

Embraced by the 1800s common ground,

these lines dart & dash in visions

clouded & close they come together 

as you depart. 

Van Gogh’s insanely sanctified in sunflowers,

Manet’s layered in a vision of Monet,

Monet in his aqua white flurish. 

Brushstrokes touched with the sameness 

of afternoon cigarettes ashed on cobblestone

blown to dust by shared conversation. 

Cradled in the 2000s they still converse. 

Across galleries their eyes meet,

their scenes moving in wooden frames,

touching still-their impression 

burned behind their beholder’s eyes. 

Side by side in arts infamous severance,

neighbors kept in canvased immortality.

Garmisch’s Fest!

Oktoberfest! Germany’s international trademark and treasure. 

Let me stop you before you remind me it’s only August. Something as small as the month doesn’t stop the Germans.

 As the Summer circles into Autumn, each Bavarian town hosts its own fest. The tradition a traveling prelude to Oktober’s main event in Munich and Germany’s larger cities. On the second to last day of Garmish’s week-long festival, I found myself among the merriest townsfolk in my pink and green dirndl.

Participating in Oktoberfest is something I touched at eighteen while working an imitative arrangement of the celebration at the local Swim and Racquet Club. Passing out steins and pretzels to parents I’d known since childhood, I dreamed of attending the celebration in earnest. On German soil. 

Just a dream. Proven all the more elusive by the 20th of August expiration date stamped firmly in my mind by the hard-nosed and thin-lipped officer at the border, taking a breath in his interrogation to solidify my last day in the country. Before October, I was doomed to depart. 

Now my dream was real, however cheated by the Summer air. 

As I took to my two-hour-long train journey from Munich to Garmisch, my hands sought pencil and paper. I drew the fields we passed and traced the outline of the log cabin houses just beyond.

My mind wandered, and I wrote. 

Deutsche Bahn

The red shade I cast upon the page 

reveals more than simple rouge.

Like a shallow river these

curves mark my progress with 

yesterday’s sketch

pressed too hard against the bleached page. 

These twisted indents lingering 

under crimson tip

I plow. Harder over its edges,

staining the next page with overcorrection.

With this cycle,

too harsh to sever from its

ebs & flows

from its lines

arching & layered. 

The tragedy of life,

the way we trace each former version 

of our bodies,

illustrating corpses across a fresh page. 

Soon enough, my rambling was interrupted by the announcement of our arrival. I walked my corseted layers across town until I reached the calling festival entrance. 

It’s banner declared 2022’s, “Garmisch-Partenkirchen Festival!” I dipped inside. 

The Bavarian band stood tall on their wooden stage, blowing tunes through brass and beating drums in time with their string companions. Auburn liters of beer in glass Maß and the swirling layered skirts of Bavarian dirndls weaving amid a sea of embordered lederhosen delighted my eyes. 

The Oktober sentiment was as thick in the air as the smell of bratwurst and Lowenbrau wafting through the great tented hall.

With German exchanges filling my ears and the traditionally-dressed patrons crowding my vision, it proved difficult to remind myself I was in the 21st century. A black and white filter would convince me this was a different time, the only clues in lifted smartphones gripped by convincing hands. 

Sweat-soaked and sun-burned, I split fries, pretzels, and a plate of cheese with friends as we listened intently to the clashing thunder signaled by the yellow strikes of lightning just outside the tent.

That August 5th showcased traditional Bavarian dancing, the dirndl dressed and lederhosen-clad swarming the wooden set. As the waltzing congregation weaved their limbs around the floor and each other, I was transfixed. 

Struck by the way their hems dipped and the soft leather embraced embroidered flowers and vines over their shoulders. Their steps winded in circles, their loose formation cradled by the prop house behind them.

Children’s dirndls and lederhosen hung from a thin clothing line on the set’s balcony, an intimate touch. Bursting from the ambiance, the band struck their instruments in a Germanic crescendo, keeping time among the chaos of beer and conversation. 

I sipped my Helles beer, lining my lips with its foam. The taste chilled my tongue and warmed my stomach. Joining the time-capsule crowd.

Escape to Eibsee

In that sweet space, those first inches warmed by the sun’s stare, I float. 

Back flat against the cooler depths and the fish that dart below. Head amid my own flourish of sunlight, I close my eyes and listen.

Much like my afternoon at Starnberger See, my ears cling to the flutter of birds and their leaves, catching the music. Much like that afternoon, I feel at peace in the nature that overwhelms industrial growth. 

Yet, in contrast to the serene solitude of Starberger, Eibsee is populated by a metropolis of visitors. The young and the old stretch their arms in large arcs propelling their paddle boards, cycle their legs in the dual seats of paddle boats, or simply rest their sun-soaked bodies on the rocks. 

In my own drifting rest, I am joined by a duck. Traveling alone like me, she makes no sound as she splits waves with her soft and straight brown feathers. 

Her orange-ringed beak smiles at me, an exchange likely a symptom of my solo travel. All the same, I witness a sense of peace between the lake’s dwellers and its inhabitants. A passing recognition of life and a contentment in this coexistence. 

Climbing the white-spotted sky is the Zugspitze, claiming the title of the tallest mountain in Germany. At its top, you can see Austria’s alps sitting opposite the Eibsee. 

My mind cues Roger Moore, The Spy Who Loved Me, carrying Bond’s ski poles in wild crescents and planting them unconvincingly in the sharp and snowy decline. His Hollywood-blown hair cut with faint blue in front of the Apls’ chilled white. 

The real scene was filmed in the Swiss Alps, mere miles from Zugspitze’s peak. 

Even in the Summer, Zugspitze is sparkled in snow for those who take the cable-car ride to its top. Below the dusted snow, the rest of us bathe in Eibsee’s warmed waters. Rocks make up the shore that lines Eibsee’s crystal refreshment, the worthy payout for its long journey. 

In Munich, I rose at a respectable 8:15, meeting my friends in the kitchen for a coffee before we departed. Five people in a small station wagon took to the autobahn, dropping a few at their stops along the way. 

I passed the time in the fields we swept through. On either side, sprawling meadows were sprinkled with clusters of black forest trees, guarded by the Alps’ shifting shade. 

An hour took us to Garmisch, the town that greets Eibsee and the mountains that surround its valley. Its streets are home to quaint Bavarian living interrupted by two American military bases. 

Hosting diplomats and foreign ambassadors, Garmisch’s charm comes in its traditional architecture and friendly culture. It is clear the small town offers some of the best of the Bavarian countryside. 

As we reached the entrance to Eibsee, an over-crowded parking lot turned the remaining 15 minutes of our drive into a 50-minute hike. I relished the opportunity to take off into the solitude offered by the tree-lined path through the forest. 

The grass green and tickling my shins gave way to lincoln-log houses and widely enclosed pasture spaces for cattle. This seemingly endless view met my feet aside the trickling river that runs through the forest’s clusters of trees. 

The abundance captivated my eyes but could not absorb the sweat crawling down the back of my neck. The untamed magnificence powerless to take the slight incline’s burning from my thighs or stop the sun from burning its blushing presence upon my shoulders. 

I blessed the trees who gifted me slivers of shade with their narrow stocks. 

Swatting bugs from my calves and grazing my forearm across my brow, the just over two-mile hike passed. The forest’s trees opened their congregation to the face of Zugspitze and a wink of the Eibsee. I made it. 

I could not wait any longer; taking the straight path, my legs did the thinking. 

Declining the final steps between my humid body and the much-deserved dive into the coolness promised by the glittering blue. Cascading pebbles followed me down the steep ledge as I used roots and rocks to make my way down the fifteen-foot drop to the shore. 

My striped and soaked shirt soon found rest next to my denim shorts tossed on the edge of a larger stone as my body embraced the long-awaited depths. 

Hungry and tired, I took my body out of the water to lay my towel across the smoothest patch of rocks I could find. My legs collapsed as I silently reached for yesterday’s schnitzel and kasespatzle, and I quieted my aching stomach. 

Despite their desired flatness, the sharp curves beneath me made their own peaked mountain range. This lake-side rest lacking the same softness as that of its water, Eibsee beckoned. 

Here I find myself. Hovering in the brief space that collects the sun. Blissful among the rest of nature.

The Cycle of Your Water

The crisp kiss of that familiar.

That crystal sameness,

embracing your limbs as you fall,

collecting the current of your hair as you curl.

This lapping at your feet is only the hearth of home

when you are consumed,

when drowned in its depths, your

eyes closed and trusting the surface’s clarity extends

through its dark waters.

But you have to blink,

to check,

to open your swollen eyes. 

This infinite moment proves momentary, 

severed from your skin

as you drip the way 

it lingers. 

Left shivering and cold,

you look back.

Glance the mixed truth in its waves,

glare at your rippling reflection.

Only the perfect temperature

when surrounded, its

playful splashes touch you,

making falling moments cling to flesh.

You want to give in.

To jump.

To crawl back into that weightless place.

That hope.

But as you drip dry,

goosebumps replace its droplets

take their own slow moments to

disappear into your skin as

your toes curl

gripping the earth,

letting its harsh edges take you

to a new shore. 

Iced Coffee Escapades pt. 1

Einen Icekaffee bitte? *insert a poorly mimed pouring motion*

Eight times out of ten, this question is met with a sharp “nein” and a sympathetically confused smile. As for the other two, the answer is, “ja! Ice cappuccino?” 

As a barista (in America at least), ordering an iced cappuccino proves you know nothing about coffee. Yet, in Munich, it means you are ordering the only iced drink on the menu. Thus I am actively trying to fight the instinct to roll my eyes and instead appreciate the fact that I am getting ice in my drink. A small sacrifice for the sake of staying cool.

Perhaps it is the American in me or simply my infantile refusal to burn my tongue on a piping hot cup. Either way, the outcome is the same: an essential hunt for caffeine over ice! It must be done. 

Before my arrival in Europe, I knew I was kissing my beloved 32ounce Dunkin iced coffee goodbye; and that ice in anything other than a cocktail would be hard to find. 

I digress. I have done the work (very hard work I know), and below is my first guide to discovering the best places for iced coffee in steamed espresso-loving Munich. 

Kaffee Espresso Kolonial

With an eclectic spread of vintage furniture and decorations, the Kolonial serves ambiance with a side of high-quality espresso. Much to my excitement, their menu includes an excellent iced cappuccino and a small selection of pastry items.

If you forgot to bring your own entertainment- that is no problem here as there are more than enough vintage posters, intriguing fixtures, and engaging signs populating the walls. The most common type of posters displayed in the Kolonial are the old cigarette advertisements that hail from different countries and regions of Germany.

Though I loved looking at all of the colorful decorations inside of the cafe, my favorite part of this cafe exists outside. In the shape of a cigarette-smoking bird with a bouncing hat and beer in hand, the best of Kolonial greets you from the window adjacent to the very front door.

Sallis: Kaffeerosterei & Espressobar

A few blocks away from Kaffee Espresso Kolonial is Sallis, a charming spot for locally roasted espresso and light fare. If their selection of morning sweets weren’t enough to win me over, the chalkboard menus finished the job.

Locking eyes with the menu, I saw not only one choice of iced drinks but many. Cold brews, iced lattes, iced cappuccinos, and iced chai lattes are only the headliners. 

Sallis is truly a cafe after my heart. 

Even sweeter was the beautiful barista who made my iced latte and offered me a selection of apricot, raspberry, and vanilla-filled butter croissants. Opting for the raspberry croissant, I was not disappointed. 

The flakey pastry paired with raspberry jam and perfectly roasted espresso quickly jumped to the top of my list of best ways to start the day. 

Unrestrained from the “cafe” box of other coffee shops in the area, Sallis offers a wide selection of espresso beans and related products. For the coffee connoisseur who desires local espresso brewed at their own hands, Sallis has everything you need in one utterly charming shop. 

Rischart Cafe

 Situated just outside the Rotkreuzplatz train station, this cafe is ideal for grabbing a quick coffee to go before boarding your train. That being said, Rischart also provides a lovely outdoor pavilion nestled under a vibrant awning of green, making the cafe a seemless extension of Munich’s tranquil blend of nature and community. 

Inside, Rischart offers a wide selection of freshly-baked pastries, traditional sandwiches, and of course, iced coffee. After pursuing the spread, I decided on the Bavarian sandwich and asked for an iced coffee.

The barista immediately said yes, and poured my drink out of a pitcher of cooled coffee. Real iced coffee at last! I nearly jumped for joy. No mix of steamed milk that falls lukewarm over a sparing cluster of ice, Rischart keeps it simple. Just how I like it.

As I sat outside to enjoy the views of local farm stands, the soft flow of bike traffic, and the pavilion’s centerpiece fountain statue, I had no choice but to appreciate the quaint moment of urban serenity Rischart fosters. Taking a bite of my sandwich, I fell in love with this Bavarian staple. 

Serving ham, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and mustard on a perfectly sized triangle of sesame seed bread, this classic sandwich exists across many bakeries and cafes in the city. Yet I’d wager that Rischart knows best. I could (and will) order this sandwich ten times over, and still, it will satisfy. 

Cafe-Konditorei

On the quiet street of Blutenburgstraße, Cafe-Konditorei occupies a soft space for pastries, juices, wines, and coffee. Looking in, you are met with a vibrant window display of orange and yellow flowers and wooden butterflies dressed in violet. 

Advertising its Geeister Latte Macchiato from outside, I was drawn in after translating the word Geeister into iced. An instant favorite, this drink is as rich as it is sweet, without being deeply bitter or sickeningly sugary. 

If you, unlike me, want something other than coffee to drink, Konditorei still has you covered with a variety of juices and iced teas. Taking your beverage of choice to the tables out front, you are surrounded by modest apartment buildings and small local shops. 

Konditorei stands as one of the only AM eateries in its immediate area; yet remains calm as locals, young and old, come and go. Watch bikers make their way down the cobblestone pavement aside young families pushing strollers and holding hands with their little ones, and you will become a part of the peaceful atmosphere this cafe promotes. 

As my journey through Europe continues, there will surely be many additions to this series. 

For now, I will leave you as I always do, with a poem.

Espresso Trist

swirls of milky white

meet eager browns.

as the penetrating aroma teases.

and it is all too easy

for me to fall in love.

again, with something

so constant it should capture no interest. 

but still, 

my breath is stolen from me

as i blush and stumble 

through our first conversation.

my hands grasp 

chilled plastic

and we sweetly graze

lips in our first

kiss.

the pounding- buzzing- overwhelming 

chatter of the world

is silenced.

in quiet observation 

of our love affair.

but our touch vanishes. 

every drop pulled 

through loving lips drains you.

my sweet distraction

torn from my clear-cupped soul.

yet

there it is again. 

the deep aroma

tugging me in a familiar direction. 

The Beginnings of a Munich Love-Affair

If Berlin is New York City, then Munich is Chicago. 

Straddling the heavy traffic of tourism, business, and university youth with abundant nature, authentic culture, and neighborly warmth, Munich is truly the beating heart of German Bavaria. 

As an American girl with German heritage, fitting in is easy… as long as I don’t open my mouth. Yet sadly, a smile only lasts so long before it is my turn to speak, and “Hallo, Danke” falls short of ordering me Rosé. Once this happens, the mirage is shattered, and I must reluctantly accept the “English menu” from the lovely waiter who just spent five minutes conversing with my blank-grin face. 

At one such place, Pizzazza, my inevitable glass of Rose was so good I agreed to go on a date with the bartender. Walking down Nymphenburger Straße with someone who has lived here for over ten years, you can’t help but feel the comforting presence of community that undeniably envelopes the city. Smiles meet smiles as you cross paths with pedestrians, and once you break the ice, they are eager to hear where you are from, what you are doing, and what you think about their captivating city. 

Aside from the countless family-run businesses contributing to Munich’s neighborly atmosphere, another amiable presence lies in the lush and strikingly green parks that mark every few blocks of the metropolis. 

Grunwald Park is a great place to start, offering a bite-sized preview of what Munich’s larger parks supply. In grassy clearings, the young sunbathe and play football across from play structures populated by their even younger counterparts. As you walk along the park’s bench-lined path, you will find people sitting with their partners, friends, and dogs, enjoying the sweet sounds of nature that ring through the trees.

Crossing Grunwald, you meet one end of the Schloßgartenkanal river that feeds into the Badenburger See lake resting behind Munich’s Nymphenburg Palace. For fans of expansive manors, carefully manicured gardens, gushing fountains, gaudy gold embellishments, and statues that hover between artistically impressive and uniquely disturbing, the Versaille-inspired Nymphenburg Palace and Park will captivate you. 

Perched perfectly across the street from the palace’s entrance, Metzgerwirt restaurant provided the refreshing Dunkle beer and delicious potato soup I needed after charting just a percentage of Nymphenburg Park’s 490 acres. 

Despite the humidity of Munich’s July, it remains the most walkable city I have visited. Level ground and the shade the frequent forests afford make each journey as interesting, beautiful, and exciting as the destination. 

On my journey home from Nymphenburg Palace, I couldn’t help but take a moment on a riverside park bench to greet its unphased ducks and write.

Warm & New & Known

Soft sun glazes over eyes

owned by ancestors-

My iris blueprinted by bavarian veins 

before braving the word America.

Where we stay crisp & starched,

bleaching over heritage with pop culture,

tumbling our DNA through the melting pot

of oil and water who refuse to see 

likeness in each other’s liquid humanity. 

From short lens I scream:

See through this cycling,

and go home. Find your old,

find something new where it all began-

add, elaborate, stop bleaching.

Hear the harsh letters fall,

schön from honey blonde lips,

the same sweet you have & harvest.

New veins pump blood as ancient as the Bavarian spruce,

whose roots network under my planted feet.

Pulsing, absorbing, rediscovering its own soil.

Pushing honey into new leaves, just

to taste them again with the next season. 

Circling, cycling, a ringed infinity

showing me how 

my drops of honeyed blood bleed home;

telling me this is only where we start.