Christmas around the World

Instead of posting People of the World this week, we decided to post about how people celebrate Christmas around the globe. Hope you enjoy! Happy holidays from the Danckie sisters!

Author: SDanck

Last Christmas, I gave you my heart, this year to save me from tears, I’m giving you a blog post about Christmas traditions.

That’s how the song goes, right? No? There’s a dance that goes along with this song but it mostly consists of me drinking coffee and telling KDanks I’ll finish the blog post in time. TBH, I guess you can say the choreography is very similar to the one in Mean Girls.

Except in sweatpants.

And a Ponytail.

And by dancing, I mean I’m sitting on the couch with wine.  Whatever, my dance is so fetch.

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Ah, Christmas.  The time of year that Mariah Carey sings until your ears bleed and Michael Buble crawls out of his cave to spread Christmas cheer.

The time of year where it’s perfectly normal to see Santa hitting on Rudolph on the local ball crawl.

The time of year where your ugly sweaters are appropriate again. The time of year where we’re all fine with the idea of a red clad stranger breaking into our houses, eating our food and leaving random shit for us.

Ah, Christmas in the USA; a beautiful time of year.  

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Christmas traditions can be really beautiful but also really weird. I love traveling to learn about other cultures and traditions and what better traditions to learn about than the ones surrounding Christmas?  

USA

So I have already described some of the very well known Christmas traditions, but can we address the whole Santa and his little elf helpers? It’s weird af to think there’s an old man at the North Pole watching us 24/7 to see if we’re naughty or nice.  Do I love the idea of some random person leaving me gifts? Hell yes.  Do I love the idea of being judged for all of my bad life decisions? No, because hungover me judges me enough.

At holiday parties, be prepared to hear that one cynical person who thinks they’re oh so clever announce  that Coca-Cola came up with our modern image of Santa Claus for an advertising campaign.  

Partially True. Saint Nick has been portrayed in red almost exclusively since the 19th century and the cartoonist, Thomas Nast, started to portray Saint Nick as round and jolly in the 1870s. In 1931, the artist, Haddon Sundblum, perfected the image of Saint Nick for Coca-Cola advertising purposes.

So, yes, Janice. You are kinda right. But mostly wrong. Go be get a glass of punch and be quiet.

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Austria

Some people like to spread Christmas cheer, while the Austrians like to scare the shit out of  get their children to behave. Krampus, the Christmas devil, goes around beating naughty children with branches. If you thought getting coal was extreme, imagine getting taken to the Underworld. He shows up on Krampusnacht (December 6th), which also happens to the the day St. Nicolas comes.

And Krampus doesn’t just visit Austrian homes. He’s also a German nightmare, where he has been roaming around for centuries.

Thanks, Austria & Germany, but I can live without this nightmare.

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Germany

I know everyone is obsessed with the Pickle tradition that apparently comes from Germany, but honestly my family has never and will never hang a pickle on our tree.  A green pickle does not match the silver bulbs that my meticulous mother has hung.  And Wikipedia, the most valid source of information, says basically no one in Germany has heard of this tradition.
The tradition that we do follow happens before Christmas day.  On December 5th, children place leave their shoes out for St. Nikolaus. St Nikolaus fills the shoes of good girls and boys with sweets and little toys.  If you’re naughty, you get a stick so your parents can beat you later. And in case that doesn’t horrify you enough…in some traditions, St Nikolaus travels around with Krampus or another figure who is his opposite.  Just a very casual reminder, that fear and horror lie behind everything nice.

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Italy

Instead of in St Nick or Santa Claus, the Italians believe that Befana, a friendly witch, brings children sweets and toys on January 5th. If it’s secretly Minerva McGonagall spreading Christmas cheer, I am definitely more on board for that instead of Mr Claus. #sorrynotsorry

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Norway

Norway has a different view of witches around the holidays. For some reason, these witches and evil spirits can’t use their legs to get around so Norwegians hide their brooms to make sure the evil spirits are stuck.

While the Norwegians are busy hiding their brooms, they also make sure to leave porridge out for Nisse, a mischievous barn gnome. He would assist farmers with their livestock and expect respect and porridge in return.  If the farmers failed to keep him happy, he would wreak havoc. So be nice or he’ll be your worst nightmare.  

For the longest time, I thought Kesha was my spirit animal but Nisse is sounding like another good candidate. Just add more glitter.  

Australia

So this only counts as a weird tradition because I am used to celebrating Christmas with a side of hot chocolate and the occasional frostbite.  If you’re spending Christmas in Australia, it’s summertime so you may see a Santa hat on a guy surfing.  While I will be munching on a nice ham roast, the Australian Christmas spread tends to have more seafood and barbecue.  When I’m saying the Australians have weird Christmas traditions, I’m saying I’m jealous. I was outside for five minutes walking to my office and am 99% sure that I have minor frostbite from the walk.  You guys have a pretty solid Christmas strategy, so I’m just here looking for an invite.   

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I could go on, but I think the summary of this article is that people are weird af and that weirdness tends to translate into some pretty ridiculous traditions.  What you probably think is a normal tradition is definitely not, but hey, it’s a great ice breaker and keeps shit interesting. Brightside, you’re tradition probably has nothing to do with the number two unless your from Catalonia.  

Catalans have a poop log and like to add a defectating figure to the Nativity scene. I’m sorry, Catalonia, but that tradition is too weird for me to get behind or write about. I’ll take Krampus any day over a poop log, thanks.

This was fun. I think I need to go have a bottle glass of wine to forget some of these.  Have any other Christmas traditions that you and your fam celebrate? Comment below so we can all judge appreciate each other’s weird af special traditions.

Beating Fear: Reasons to Live Abroad

Author: KDanck

I now sat alone

Alone. In a city where I didn’t know anyone.

In a room without an ethernet cable to connect myself to my friends and family that I had left behind. I had left my friends, family, and a potential relationship to come here. To Heidelberg. For a year.

A year seemed like an incredibly long time, as I looked out my window.

My window overlooked the city. There was no air conditioning and the sun felt like an iron as it pressed against my white skin. However, the view was beautiful. Red cliffs beckoned me in the the distance as I leaned against my desk in the room of a building that would soon be torn down. This had been my dream, but why was I now afraid? Was anyone else afraid?

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I decided to force myself to meet up with fellow students from my university, despite the crawling butterflies in my stomach. Since I had spoken German since birth, I had not met them at my home university. I would not be in their classes in the coming weeks either, but I hoped that being with other Americans would make me feel better.

The butterflies would disappear as I waited at the train station.

Smiles and introductory hugs.

Shared fear about a new country and a new place.

What I realized is that my fears are not unique to me. They were also wondering the same things… Would I make friends? Would I fit in? Was leaving home a mistake?

Over the coming weeks, I would stretch my comfort zone. Meeting people from all over the world. Planning a solo flight to Ireland. Arranging my own budget without having the ability to ask for help from my parents. Learning how to kind of cook 😉

By the end of the year, I would look out of that same window and cry at the empty room when leaving. I had made some great friends and seeing each other again at the same place would be unlikely. The year had been the best of my life and facing my fears had been the best decision I had ever made.

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View from the balcony in my apartment building.

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The red cliffs which I came to love seeing so much.

Here is a list of some of the lessons I learned from going abroad and why I think you should include it as part of your college experience:

 

Will my friends forget me?

The most painful lesson I learned from going abroad was who my real friends were and who weren’t. When trying to schedule Skype sessions, some friends couldn’t find the time, although we had been so close on campus.

However, some friendships were made even stronger through my study abroad experience. Getting packages from my friends, skype, and mail help keep us in touch. I would get mittens and scarves to keep me warm. I would send postcards to update them on my whereabouts and I’d skype with them for hours on Sundays.

As we all transitioned from college to work life, these friendships have remained strong. No matter how busy life has become, we always make time for each other. Those kind of friendships are worth their weight in gold and study abroad helped me discover them.

 

What about the boy I’m leaving behind?

I met him at a free concert sophomore year before I left. I didn’t know much about him, other than I really liked him. His smile was goofy. His eyes were brown. The problem was he was already interested in someone else. A month went by and he invited me to a dance. He was single and I thought I had my chance. We kept dating, but after Christmas, he had some bad news… My going away to Germany for the year was a deal breaker and he had already found himself a girlfriend.

He said, we wouldn’t last anyway.

Crushed, I wondered if I was making the right decision.

I was.

If a relationship can’t survive some time apart, it was not meant to survive. Long distance is hard, but manageable, as I would later discover.

But I also discovered he had been right…. He and I wouldn’t have lasted. Relationships require commitment and effort from both sides or they fall apart.

I went on to have an incredible year with no regrets of leaving.

 

Am I the only one who is scared?

You’re not the only one who is afraid of not making friends.

Introduce yourself.

But what if they judge me?

For what? Saying hello? If they do, there are plenty of other people in the city you will be studying in.

Okay. I did that. But why am I not being invited out?

Make plans first and invite people to them. You may not find your “tribe” when you first arrive, but you will eventually form really meaningful friendships if you continue to put yourself out there.

 

 

Will it be hard? Yes.

Will some people hurt your feelings? Maybe.

Will it be worth it? Definitely.

The friendships I made abroad and the experiences with them are still some of the most treasured aspects of my life. Being a little uncomfortable to find them was worth it.

 

But you don’t get it, I’m really scared.

The idea of meeting my friend in Ireland sounded horrifying to me. What if I didn’t make the bus? What if I messed up the gate to my flight? What if we didn’t find each other and I got lost? As someone who struggled with social anxiety in high school, this seemed like a bad plan all around.

But I booked my ticket and got on a plane.

Upon arriving, I did find her and got to explore Dublin. The best part: I got to reconnect with a friend I hadn’t seen in years. The trip would lead to further travels throughout the year.

Remember, you’re abroad to stretch your comfort zone. Do what scares you. See a little of the world.

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And drink some margartias (or whatever that tub was)

You’ll take this with you wherever you go.

Pushing yourself to go after your dreams is really what it’s about anyway. ❤

People of the World: I really lost my heart in Heidelberg

People of the World is a chance for you to share your stories of traveling, the people you meet and the lessons you learn. It is published every Wednesday. To submit your story, email: dancktravel@gmail.com. 

Author: Catrina, USA

I moved to Heidelberg in 2013 with a college boyfriend, and at the time I knew enough German to sing the famous refrain “Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren” (I lost my heart in Heidelberg) and not a whole lot more. Still, galvanized by a few German courses I’d taken in college, upon my arrival at the Frankfurt airport I approached an employee with characteristic American overconfidence and a bold, “Entschuldigung? (pardon?)” He responded, to my horror, in a completely undecipherable language I could only assume was German. Deeply humiliated, I was forced to respond with what was actually a sudden realization: “Sorry, I uh, don’t actually speak German.”

No matter, things would improve. Minor setback. Always dramatic at heart, I’d made a solid break from the United States and my hometown of San Diego, perhaps never to return – I’d already been kicked out of my house, a child hurtling headfirst down the wrong path, told by my parents not to ask them for a dime unless it was for a plane ticket home. I was determined to escape my past, to “become German” like my boyfriend, who had already been in the country for some time, and seemed to know the ins and outs of the local scene like a native. But cold, cold Germany, I would soon discover, was not as willing to welcome me.

But I had arrived! Heidelberg, schöne Stadt (beautiful city), everything they said about you was true. Quaint cobblestone streets, smoldering sunsets over the Neckar – and it was easy to avoid the pesky hoards of tourists, to which of course I did not belong. But the beauty of this city could not mask that something that, even before my arrival, was deeply wrong. How had I not seen it before? Why was I here?

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After only a few weeks in our Altstadt (old town) apartment, he sat back in an armchair and, while smoking a cigarette in an absurdly affected manner, told me with a long, empty stare that it was over. My excitement about being in a new country quickly liquefied to confusion and denial. The quaint German Heimat (home) of my fantasies was gone, and in its place was a dizzying, psychotic, and impossibly dark work of Weimar Expressionism. Rejection and paranoia set in, and I wandered the absurdly looping medieval streets with glazed over, shining eyes, trying to put together the pieces of my shattered plan. The beautiful surfaces around me were just that: superficial.

Friendless and nearly penniless, I considered the unthinkable: calling my parents for help, as I had many times in the past – then, maybe I still had a chance at forgetting this impulsive decision I made, to pick up and leave everything for a guy who didn’t love me. But I couldn’t. Maybe something had snapped inside me as I watched him smoke that cigarette and forget me with a caustic smirk. Heartbroken, I wanted nothing more than to be taken seriously, to start anew, to overcome my humiliation… to earn respect. Desperate to turn my fortune around, I spent the last of my savings on German classes at the Volkshochschule and got a job as an English tutor at a language school, which I used as a basis for my visa application. I wanted Heidelberg to be part of my story.

After spending a year in that dream of a city, I moved on to teach a high school class for another year in Madrid, and later, spent a summer polishing up my Spanish in Buenos Aires. Over two years exploring the world and 26 countries later, I could not forget that it all started in Germany with Heidelberg: I am now a PhD student in Harvard’s German department. I really did lose my heart in Heidelberg, but I discovered something better, something that I had not yet learned to rely on – my brain.

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Nuremberg Christmas Market

Author: KDanck

The lights hanging on the houses, lighting up the longer nights. Snowflakes on the windowsills. Scarves around our faces and hot cocoa in hand. Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and presents filling up the room.

These are the images that I associate with my New England Christmas experience. As I’ve written about before, my family is also German and we also celebrate German traditions. In 2012, when I lived in Heidelberg, I got to partake in one of these very special Christmas traditions: The Christkindlmarkt (also known as the Christchild market)!

The Chriskindlmarkt is a Christmas market with various shops, wine, and sometimes even ice skating. One of Germany’s oldest (dating back to the 16th century) and famous ones is in Nuremberg.

And here are some reasons for you to make it part of your Christmas To-Do List

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It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

An old city

You should just visit Nuremberg anyway, outside of the fact that the Christmas market takes place there. The old city is completely surrounded by walls. The houses are old. There’s a castle and the famous artist, Albrecht Duerer, used to live here (so definitely visit his house). Step into Nuremburg and you are stepping into a fairy tale. It’s that simple.

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My friend, Kat, and I in Albrecht’s house. The doorways are so small (for reference I’m 5’4”)

Gluehwein

Delicious spices and sugar will fill your nostrils and it’s likely the Gluehwein. On a cold evening, there is nothing better than the hot mulled wine which has become a trademark of the Christmas market. Or if you’re feeling adventurous, try Feuerzangenbowle. This is also hot wine, but they light a cone of sugar on fire and let it drip into your drink.

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Look at that cute mug! And all that wineeeee ❤

Bonus points:  you get to drink it out of an actual mug! Each town with a Christmas market has its own mug, which you can return to receive your 2 Euros back or keep as a souvenir. The city is often depicted in a Christmas setting.

 

Visit the Christchild

In German culture, the Christchild brings the gifts on Christmas Eve. At my house, the Christchild was Jesus. In Bavaria, the Christchild is a blond girl with curly hair. The children have to wait upstairs for a bell to ring before coming downstairs (which is really brilliant strategy on the parents’ part to get adult time).

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Ready for some Christmas time!

A girl is chosen every year in Nuremberg to portray the Christchild. She visits the market Tuesday-Friday at 3pm.

 

Christmas Shopping

One of the biggest draws of the Christmas markets is the extensive shopping you can do. Wooden booths line the market space. You can buy ornaments, cookies, and homemade items, which is perfect for getting your Christmas shopping done.

Pro Tip: Watch out for the prune men. These are a unique gift, made out of old prunes and wire. Legend has it that these were created in the 18th century by a man trying to get gifts for his children (with very little supplies)

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Prune men!

Market of the Sister Cities

Right next to the Christmas market, Nuremberg features gifts you can purchase from its sister cities around the world. These include:

(Turkey), Atlanta (USA), Kharkiv (Ukraine), Gera (Thuringia), Glasgow (Scotland), Kavala (Greece), Krakow (Poland), Nice (France), Prague (Czech Republic), San Carlos (Nicaragua), Shenzhen (China), Skopje (Macedonia) and the French region of Limousin as well as the partner communities Bar (Montenegro), Brasov/Kronstadt (Romania), Kalkudah (Sri Lanka), Klausen+Montan (Italy) und Verona (Italy)

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This is also very German

Gingerbread and Lebkuchen

To be honest, I’m not a huge gingerbread fan. But some of the most famous gingerbread is made in this region. Try Lebkuchen (special gingerbread cookies) along with your Gluehwein.

 

Nuremberg Bratwurst

If you are familiar with Germany, you are probably familiar with the concept that Germany and sausage go hand in hand. And if you are familiar with the blog, you may know that I am a vegetarian. But as a German (and a former meat eater), I recommend you try these.

 

Not longer than your finger, the Nuremberg Bratwurst has become world famous with numerous legends. Some rumors say that they were made so small so innkeepers could continue to sell them through keyholes during off hours. Another rumor says that these were snuck through holes of the wall in prisons. Historians say that it more likely had to do with price, but why else would the German jail here be named Lochgefaengnis (translation: prison with a hole)?

 

When to visit:

Opening day (December 1):

10.00 am – 9.00 pm

 

Last Market day (December 24):

10.00 am – 2.00 pm

 

What’s your favorite Christmas market? Anything we missed? Leave it in the comments below

People of the World: Seeing your home with new eyes, or why I love it when friends visit

People of the World is a new section for you to share your stories of traveling, the people you meet and the lessons you learn. It is published every Wednesday. To submit your story, email: dancktravel@gmail.com. 

Author: Laura, USA

Laura is a Boston native and graduate of Notre Dame. Her interests include reading. writing, and exploring the world with family and friends. 

A few years ago, my friend and I left during the middle of our prep class to grab a drink at the bar of the Omni Parker House.  We enjoyed our impromptu class cutting surrounded by the wooden walls and moody lighting.  While washing our hands in the bathroom, we remarked on the sensation of being watched and the distinct American Horror Story vibe of the hotel in general.

Then we returned to class and I mentally marked the building as a place near the Boston Common with an easily accessible and free bathroom. 

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Later that summer, I found myself on a haunted tour of Boston with visiting friends from college.  The last time I had gone on any kind of tour of the city and the surrounding area had been nearly a decade before.  As a lifelong resident of the state of Massachusetts, I often forget that our state is a center of history.  People travel here (on purpose!) to explore the streets that I walk without second thought every day.

We met in the Commons after a daylong jaunt through the North End and Faneuil Hall.  The latter of the two rests high on my list of generally avoided areas due to the congestion.  However, walking over the cobblestones with my friends, I felt a glimmer of my earlier times in Faneuil—running through with my high school friends in our puffy winter jackets, the way we genuinely laughed at the insulting hats at Dick’s Last Resort, the glitter rolling off the outside carts.

The tour began and the guide walked us through the intersecting pathways of the Commons.  I can’t count the amount of times that I have gone running there without every stopping to read the statues or to consider that the Commons had existed long before me.  I listened with fascination as the guide regaled us with tales of buried soldiers and the hanging elm that held the swaying bodies of accused witches like Goody Glover.

As the tour neared its close, the Omni Parker came into view.

My skin prickled.  The guide confirmed my suspicions.  Grabbing my friend’s arm, I exclaimed, “I knew it!  Oh my god!  Of course, it’s haunted!”

And, just like that, a place I had deemed “hotel with somewhat unsettling bathroom” transformed into something more special—a building with rogue elevators and ghostly figures.

The beauty of friends visiting stems from the fact that you are allowed to explore your city with the eyes’ of a stranger.  The North End transforms from “oh yeah, my aunt lives there and often brings us cannolis” to the city’s oldest residential community—brimming with landmarks and mouth watering cuisine.

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Oftentimes, I feel like a zombie shocked back to life when I travel through familiar places with my eyes wide open.  The city blooms with colors, history, and pulses with excitement.  Everything feels fresh and new because there is the opportunity to stop and actually absorb your surroundings without the drudgery of everyday life narrowing your vision.

Such a discovery isn’t novel or groundbreaking but my unknowing frequenting of a haunted bathroom is a memory that I bring to the forefront of my mind whenever I look up from my phone, blink that foggy feeling from my eyes, and realize that I have no idea what passed me by on the way to my destination.

Even the city you live in has a magic that you haven’t seen or traveled yet.  You just need to adjust your lenses.

People of the World: Finding Empowerment Through Traveling Alone

People of the World is a new section for you to share your stories of traveling, the people you meet and the lessons you learn. It is published every Wednesday. To submit your story, email: dancktravel@gmail.com. 

Author: Deanne, USA

When people ask who I travelled abroad with, they’re often shocked when I answer that I went alone. They say that they could never do that; they say that I was brave.

If there’s anything I learned during my time as an exchange student and later solo traveler, it’s how to be independent. When I first arrived in Heidelberg, Germany, in the fall of 2011, I knew no one in the city and barely spoke German; I had to make my own friends and learn how to navigate a new culture with German that made the natives shake their heads.

It was scary. It was frustrating. But most of all, it was exhilarating.

There was the rush of excitement when I finally figured out how to handle public transportation, asking for a receipt at the supermarket, knowing how to tip appropriately at the bar. How to flirt, how to joke.  Through all this, I realized that it was up to me to make this time abroad a success, and I threw myself into learning German and understanding the culture. When I returned to the States eleven months later, I came back with near-fluent German and an enormous boost of self-confidence.

I did all this. I can do anything.

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That mentality came with me as I entered the working world, when I realized that my friends had different priorities and budgets when it came to travelling. I wanted to go to Portugal, but there was no one to go with. Who would sample port wine with me as we walked through the Bairro Alto? Who would finish off the grilled octopus served in a local market if I didn’t like it? How would I toast Salud without anyone there, offering up their glass?

You know what, I thought. Fuck it. I’ll make friends there. It means pushing myself to be outgoing, to chat with strangers at the hostel where I stayed. It meant being comfortable with being uncomfortable. If there’s anything that my time in Germany taught me, it’s the value of being independent and pushing myself to new experiences that might make me uncomfortable at first, but ultimately mean a huge push in personal growth. Those experiences can be just about anything: navigating a city where I don’t speak the language, figuring out how to pay for something at a restaurant, even approaching someone at a hostel and striking up a (sober) conversation.

And you know what?

Portugal was amazing.

Plymouth and Thanksgiving Fun Facts: Gobbling til We’re Wobbling

Author: SDanck

You know what would make a great horror flick?

Sitting around a table with people you only see once a year and being asked a thousand times what you’re doing with your life.  

  • Why aren’t you married?
  • Where’s your Doctorate?
  • Why don’t you have a house yet?

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Oh wait. This isn’t a horror movie or a bad reality show.

This is what real life will be on Thursday just with a side of turkey and gravy. 
Sit down and relax! If it helps, we’re all suffering through enjoying Thanksgiving as much as you are!

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So to celebrate this fine holiday, where we essentially black out because of potatoes and turkey, we have decided to dedicate this next blog post to Thanksgiving and the start of it all. Since amidst all the weird relative questions and eighthsecond slice of pumpkin pie, I’m sure you’re wondering….How and where did this weird holiday start?

Not too far from where KDanks and I grew up! Plymouth, Massachusetts!

Get ready for some fun facts you can use to distract your family from your horrible life decisions show off your intellectual side or use when you visit Plymouth.

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Turkey Fact #1

The first Thanksgiving was held in the Fall of 1621 in Plymouth, Massachusetts and lasted three days which is roughly how long I need to recover after eating 3 times my weight in food.  The festival celebrated the harvest and had approximately 50 colonists and 90 Wampanoag Native Americans in attendance. Visit Plimouth Plantation (that’s not a typo. I’m not an amateur) to experience early colonial life.  

Actors are paid to pretend that they are indeed pilgrims (so they make look confused when you try to take a photo of them with your iPhone). And it will remind you about all the things to be grateful for and let me tell you, I am extremely thankful for indoor plumbing and central air after visiting Plimouth Plantation. #thankful #blessed

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Turkey Fact #2

The Mayflower landed on November 11,1620 at the tip of Cape Cod (near Provincetown) and did not make it up to Plimouth until a few weeks later.  The ship’s original destination was Virginia but due to storms, the ship went slightly off course.

Of course, if they had asked for directions from me or KDanks, they probably would have wound up in Asia. So props to them for still landing on the continent they were aiming at.

You can visit Plymouth Rock to see where the Pilgrims landed.  Once you’re done starting at a rock, you can wander over the Mayflower to see where the Pilgrims spent the winter of 1620 (Please note this is not the real Mayflower. It’s just a replica, so don’t get too excited).

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*Reminder this is the second post in a row, where I am telling you to go look at a rock. At least last time, the rocks I suggested were part of the Roman forum and had audio guides narrating their long and culturally important history.

This time, it is literally just a rock with 1620 carved on the surface. Yup. Super interesting. You’re welcome.

But we’ll move on to a speed round of some facts you can spew out while 3 glasses of wine deep.

Turkey Fact #3

Each year, the President of the USA pardons a turkey.  There are so many sources arguing whether or not Lincoln or Truman started this tradition, but either way it’s weird. I have no idea why we still do this. I researched in an attempts to find an answer, but was unsuccesful (though if you’re curious, you can check out the research Obama’s white house did here). 

As an FYI, this pardon only works on turkeys. You can’t dress a person up like a turkey and pardon them.  So no, this won’t get your cousin, Kenny, out of jail. Sorry, Susan.

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Turkey Fact #4

Only male turkeys can gobble, female ones are unable to.

I never said these facts would be useful.  I will admit, this fact is about as dry as the turkey your Aunt Bertha made that you have to eat to be polite, but there’s gravy for a reason.

Turkey Fact #5

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest drinking night of the year. Finally! A fact we can all get on board with; Drinksgiving!  Everyone is home for the holiday and looking to make bad decisions meet up with old friends and reminisce.  This night is like a high school reunion except you’re way drunker than you intended to be and didn’t lose 10 pounds or have anything to brag about.

Get home safe from Drinksgiving! As you still have to tell your Great Aunt Margaret at Thanksgiving dinner, that no you’re still not engaged and still living in a shitty apartment with no prospects of owning a house. Can’t miss out on that fun!

Be safe and enjoy your Thanksgiving!  I’d say keep it classy, but I have no intention on doing that.

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Bonus: Other Things in Plymouth

Luckily Plymouth has much more to offer along with Plimouth Plantation, the Mayflower and Plymouth Rock.  Check out the downtown area for shops and restaurants! You’re also a quick drive away from Cape Cod and only a ferry away from Nantucket or Martha’s Vineyard. And if you are so inclined, you can even spend Thanksgiving down at the plantation

People of the World: Hard Lessons and Moving Abroad Alone

People of the World is a new section for you to share your stories of traveling, the people you meet and the lessons you learn. It is published every Wednesday. To submit your story, email dancktravel@gmail.com. 

Author: Katarina, Biology Student in Switzerland (originally from US)

Growing up it had always been my dream to study in Germany for a year. My first year living aboard was honestly fun and easy- I met students from all over the world, learned German, and connected with my German family history. I was hooked and decided that I wanted to stay and complete my biology bachelor’s in Germany. I took the German language exam, applied, and was accepted.

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That second year was the worst of my life. It turned out I was in way over my head and I failed almost every class I took. My dream was unraveling and I was at risk of losing my residence permit. On top of that my dad was diagnosed with a brain tumor, I had a stalker, I was constantly sick from the stress, I hadn’t put in the time to create a supportive network of friends in Germany, and I dated guy after guy who didn’t understand me at all. I was stressed, lonely as hell, and to top the year off, I got myself kicked out of the house over Christmas. I started to resent my situation, Germans, and Germany instead of looking at the choices I was making.

Eventually I realized that I was the only person who could turn around my life and what I was feeling. I decided that I wanted to stay in Germany, to become a biologist, to be healthy, to fix my relationships with my parents and friends, and to stop the train of boyfriends (that last one took a bit longer). That vision of the life I wanted is what pulled me through that awful time and it has pulled me through tough times again and again after that year. I started waking up every morning and running, organizing up my schedule so I could work on one university task at a time, putting effort into my relationships, and learned to embrace my new German home.

My life is so much better because of that horrible year alone and stressed out in a foreign country. Moving aboard and learning to face challenges will make you who are. Today I am so certain about what I want and I trust myself completely to find a way to flow past any obstacle I will face in my future. I have so much more compassion for others who are struggling and I’m on way to having great relationships, great health, and a challenging and exciting career path. Go and find out who you are and what kind of person you want to become. Never stop learning.

With love from Switzerland,

Katarina

Bernini: A Tour of Rome, Attempted Murder, and Papal Favorites

Author: KDanck

But first who was Bernini?

 

Bernini, the artist, was declared by the pope to be the next Michelangelo after seeing him sketch at the age of 8. He arrived in Rome in 1605 (around the same time Caravaggio was filling Rome with his best works).

Bernini’s legacy can be seen throughout the streets of Rome and the Vatican. This did not prevent him from following in the footsteps of fellow Italian artists (like Caravaggio) in breaking the law. Luckily for Bernini, he and Pope Urban VIII were close friends. He was a good looking, charismatic man who disregarded the rules. In his eyes, he was too talented for the rules to apply to him.

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Trouble would really begin when in the 1630s, Bernini began an affair with Constanza, one of his assistant’s wives. He even sculpted her face (which now resides in Florence) in a highly sexualized manner (which was a first for a bust of this kind). Constanza had a taste of Bernini and craved more.

Their passionate love affair would take a bitter turn as rumors began to circulate that she was satisfying her cravings by also sleeping with his younger brother.

Bernini found out and had to ask himself…. what is a sane, rational person to do?

He found the answer quickly. He would set a trap for the younger brother to find out if the rumors were true.

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Bernini told his lover that he was out of town and watched from the bushes as his younger brother headed to Constanza’s house. His fears were confirmed as his younger brother embraced Constanza. He then chased his brother down the streets, trying to murder him, but ended up only breaking his two ribs. That evening Bernini sent a servant to Constanza’s home to destroy her face, so no man would desire her again.

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Portrait of Constanza. Bernini’s wife made him get rid of it.

 

So Bernini was locked up for life; his art career ruined.

Kidding! These events did not end Bernini’s career as an artist or lover. His art career would take a turn at a later point in his life but not until much later (see the sites below).

Bernini was fined, but never had to pay it since he was friends with the Pope. Instead, he was sentenced marry to the most beautiful girl in Rome (tough, I know). Constanza was sent to jail while Bernini’s younger brother was banished.

Bernini would die on 28 November 1680. He remained active in his old age, until he suffered a stroke.

Bernini not only led an interesting personal life, but created interesting and revolutionary art work as well. His art is a staple of the Italian city can be seen at every turn in Rome. He would play an instrumental role in Baroque sculpture and would be one of the leading artists of his time.

Here are the top 5 Sites you need to check out:

David

No, not Michelangelo’s David. Baroque art stepped away from the perfection of the Renaissance and reintroduced a sense of liveliness. The sculpture interacts with the space around it and is not a stand alone piece. (for those fellow art nerds… this had not been seen since the Hellenistic era.) David was created between 1623-1624 and was created for Cardinal Scipione Borghese’s villa.

What it depicts

In the Bible, David beats the giant Goliath when the Israelites were at war with the Philistines. Definitely impressive.

Where: Galleria Borghese

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St. Peter’s Baldachin

This is the large sculpted bronze canopy in St. Peter’s Basilica. It marks where St. Peter’s tomb us and was commissioned by his best friend, Urban VII. Rumor has it that these columns were brought by Emperor Constantine from Solomon’s (first King of the Israelites) Temple in Jerusalem.

Fun Fact

Borrominii actually drew the plans for this, but Bernini received the commission since he and Pope Urban were best friends. Bernini wasn’t as good an architect convinced Borromini to design it for the good of the church. Borromini received no credit for his work, which did not leave him very happy.

Borromini would have the last laugh and had his revenge once the bell tower designed by Bernini  cracked. The cracked bell tower would lead to a decline in commissioned art work for Bernini, who would became sick and depressed after the public failure.

Where: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (see this the same day at St. Peter’s Square below. They are right next to each other)

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The Fountain of the Rivers

The fountain sits in the Piazza Navona. It is decorated with 4 allegorical sculptures which represent major rivers from the 4 known regions of the world:

  • Danube (for Europe)
  • the Nile (for Africa)
  • the Ganges (for Asia)
  • Rio de la Plata (for the Americas)

Fun Fact

I already mentioned that Bernini and Borromini hated each other. Next to the Fountain of Rovers stood St. Agnes Church. Although another architect is credited with this church, Borromini directed the construction of this church between 1652- 1657 before ultimately quitting the project. Bernini could not resist an opportunity to mock his rival and his allegorical figures shield their eyes from the church. The Rio de la Plata is shielding itself in an attempt to protect itself from the building. The Nile hides under a piece of cloth so its eyes do not have to see Borromini’s “ugly” church.

Where: Piazza Navona

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It hurts my eyes!

Ecstasy of St. Teresa

Talk about scandalous.  This piece was commissioned later in Bernini’s life and depicts the saint experiencing religious ecstasy (or orgasm). She is being pierced by a spear from an angel. As she said, “I saw in his hand a long spear of gold, and at the iron’s point there seemed to be a little fire. He appeared to me to be thrusting it at times into my heart, and to pierce my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and to leave me all on fire with a great love of God. The pain was so great, that it made me moan; and yet so surpassing was the sweetness of this excessive pain, that I could not wish to be rid of it. The soul is satisfied now with nothing less than God.”

Pro Tip:

You very often have to pay to see artwork in good lighting. The churches are generally free, but the lights are dim. Wait for another tourist to pay the small fee to light up the monument to save some change. Either that or bring some coins with you.

Where:

Cornaro Chapel, Santa Maria della Vittori, about a 16 minute walk from David

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St. Peter’s Square

Even though Bernini’s bell power was knocked down, his contribution to St. Peter’s Basilica is even more famous. The angels overlooking the square and the arms of the colonnades gather people into the church. This is one of Bernini’s most famous contributions to Rome and a must-see if you are in the City.

Where

St. Peter’s, Vatican City

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SDanck and I chilling in St. Peter’s Square

 

Have any other favorite Italian artists in Rome? Any other pieces by Bernini you think are missing from the Top 5? (There are a lot!) Leave them in the comments below!

 

Also, for more information on the artist (and other artists), check out Simon Schama’s Power of Art.

48 Hours in Rome: What Dreams are Made of

Author: SDanck

Rome is one of those cities you could explore for a week.  Rome is also one of those cities you can do in less than 48 hours if you’re just as aggressive as KDanks and I.  Pack your bags for Rome and prep your heart for too many cappuccinos as we’re about to Rome in 48 hours.

For this guide, we’re going to assume that you have landed in Rome sometime between Tuesday to Saturday.  The Vatican museum is closed on Sundays and a lot of the other main museums have the schedule I want are closed on Mondays.

There are two airports in Rome (Leonardo da Vinci and Ciampino).  Either way, it’s roughly an hour on public transportation to get into the heart of Rome. Take the train to the Roma Termini (Rome’s main train station) and stay in one of the main hostels in the area.  I recommend getting to Rome in the early evening so that you can get lit plenty of rest prior to aggressively sightseeing.

Trevi Fountain

  1. Price: FO’ FREE
  2. Dress code: normal clothes
  3. Hours: all dayyyyy
  4. Gets pretty crowded during the day, but worth it. It’s all gorgeous at night so you can see it on your way to the bar. Preferably before the bar. We all look good in the photos on the way out to the bar, but no one appreciates the girl forcing us all to take sweaty, frizzy selfies at the end of the night (you know who you are). There are gelato shops and other little shops in the area, so there’s plenty to keep you entertained during the day as well. Hit us up if you find Paolo.  I threw a coin in and he did NOT show up to make me famous. #rude

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Spanish Steps

  1. Price: freeeee
  2. Dress code: normal clothes
  3. Hours:  all dayyyyy
  4. Famous square with cafes, shops, etc, great for people watching. Don’t sit and eat your food on the steps. The locals will judge you and you literally could not be more in the way. Move it!

Colosseum

  1. Price: 13+ euros per person (You can order the tickets online).
  2. Dress code: normal clothes
  3. Hours: 8:30 AM to 7 PM
  4. There are several options from audio guides to actual tours so pick whichever tour suits your time frame. I had high expectations for the Colosseum.  I’m not saying I didn’t have the words and dance moves memorized for ;This is What Dreams are Made of,” but if an attractive Italian was looking for a powerful duet partner, I may have been available.  Though if that Italian man tried to make me a mockery, I would have stolen the show. NBD.

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Roman Forum

  1. Price: This is actually covered with your ticket to the Colosseum.
  2. Dress code: normal clothes
  3. Hours: 9 AM to 7 PM
  4. Bring water and snacks as this is a deceiving large area and you will probably have to wait in line for a bit. Get the audio guide as without it, you’re just walking around staring at a few big old piles of rocks.

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*actual footage of you trying to look like an intellectual. #proudofyou

Piazza Navona

  1. Price: freeeee (look at me saving you all sorts of money for booze. You’re welcome)
  2. Dress code: normal clothes
  3. Hours: 24/7
  4. Famous square with cafes, shops, etc, great for people watching (does this count as a sport? I’m an Olympic athlete if it does).

Pantheon

  1. Price: freeeee
  2. Dress code: normal clothes
  3. Hours: 9 AM to 6 PM
  4. We didn’t have a problem getting in and it’s located in Piazza della Rotunda which has a lot of little shops and cafes.  Raphael is buried here (not the Ninja Turtle.  The artist, you uncultured human).

Vatican City – be prepared to leave Italy (technically) for these two sites:

St. Peter’s Basilica

  1. Price: freeeee
  2. Dress code: no shoulders, hats, short skirts, etc. Try to not look like a heathen, as this is an active religious site.
  3. Hours: 7 AM to 7 PM
  4. You can climb to the top of the dome to get a full view of Rome.  Pack some water and snacks in your bag and wear comfy shoes as you will be standing in line to go through security (security is similar to that at the airport).  They will let you through security but stop you from entering the site if you are not dressed appropriately.

Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

  1. Price: 16 euros per person (try to buy these tickets in person otherwise you could be in line to buy the tickets for hours)
  2. Dress code: no shoulders, hats, short skirts. Look nice.
  3. Hours: closed Sundays but M-Sat 9AM to 4PM
  4. This is the last item on the list, as it’s probably the one item that will take the most time for you to see (I’d recommend reserving at least a half day for this place alone). Photos of the Sistine chapel aren’t allowed due to copyright reasons (fascinating story, I promise but is for another time) and try to get an audio tour as guided tours are expensive.

You won’t leave Rome with fond memories of selling out the Colosseum, but you’ll leave a little hung over with very sore feet. But isn’t that what dreams are made of?

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rome map

 

Any other places worth checking out? Leave recommendations in the comments below