Germany’s Romantic Road

rothenburgThe Romantic Road (in German, Romantische Strasse) is a route that leads through several small medieval towns and villages of Bavaria, in Southern Germany. It’s a region known for its castles, vineyards and colorful half-timbered houses (typically German). The full road is 350 km long and goes from Würzburg to Füssen (where the Neuschwanstein Castle is).romantischestrassekarte

Which towns to visit

This theme route was created by tourism agents in the 1950’s as a marketing strategy to encourage tourists to visit those small villages. In fact, nowadays there is also a Romantic Road in the South of Brazil.
But the main destinations to visit on the Romantic Road in Germany are:

  • Würzburg
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    Würzburg shares many similarities with Prague, such as a bridge with statues (which resembles the Charles Bridge) and a fortress on the mountain top on the other side of the river (Festung Marienberg), giving the city a fairy-tale look.
  • Rothenburg ob der Tauberrothenburg2Rothenburg is the most famous town in the Romantic Road and perhaps the most charming one in Germany. Walking along its streets makes one feel like in a Disney World park (that is, it’s lovely).
  • Dinkelsbühl
    dinkelsbuehl dinkelsbuehl2
    Dinkelsbühl is a small historic and preserved town that still has walls and towers from the Medieval times. And (many) colorful houses.
  • Nördlingen
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    Like Dinkelsbühl, Nördlingen is also surrounded by old medieval city walls. Seen from above, the city is shaped like a circle and displays 5 equidistant towers in the perimeter (perfect for those who love symmetry, like me). Fun fact: Nördlingen is shown in the original version of the movie Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.
  • Neuschwanstein CastleneuschwansteinThe Neuschwanstein Castle in Füssen needs no introduction. It’s one of the most popular attractions in Germany. The best view spot to admire it is from the Marienbrücke bridge. The Hohenschwangau Castle can also be seen nearby.

How to get there and to go around

The best way to go along the route is by car. There are also bus tour companies, and some people even make the journey on bicycles! However, if you don’t have much time to spend and would like more freedom to choose where to go, taking a car would be ideal. Inside each town it’s perfectly possible to walk around – they are all very small.
The road is in general well signposted, with road signs indicating the Romantische Strasse. Before going, we thought the Romantic Road itself would be a longer, slower path going through all villages, parallel to the fast lane (Autobahn). But actually, most times the Romantic Road was being indicated on the Autobahn itself. So this route is not just a road per se, it is the whole region.
Coming from a different country, the closest airports to the Romantic Road are Frankfurt (north of the route) and Munich (south of the route). And, of course, you can make the journey in any of the directions (north-south or south-north).

How much time to spend

That depends a lot on how many towns you want to visit. The complete road comprises 27 small towns and villages. To visit the main destinations on the circuit presented here, you’ll need at least 3 days. I’d recommend: 1 day in  Würzburg; 1 day in Rothenburg + Dinkelsbühl + Nördlingen; and 1 day in Füssen. As the route is very customizable, more days could be added to also visit Munich, for example, or other villages along the road.

romantischestrasse2The Romantic Road is a great choice for those who want to visit medieval, picturesque and typically German towns of Bavaria (Bayern, in German).

To see more pictures, click here.

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What it is like to live in Berlin

berlin
Photo by Mari Cerdeira

Berlin is a big, cosmopolitan, young, alternative, lively, laid-back, cool city.

It has people from all tribes. On the subway you will see a blue-haired girl sitting next to a white blond child, next to a rastafari guy, next to a Turkish family, next to Spanish tourists. Berlin is diversity!

Berlin has even been elected the most fun city in the world.

Living in Berlin means always having something to do. Every weekend you can find out a new nice place that you didn’t know before.

It means living in an inexpensive city! – With a law that limits rent prices.

Germany is an affordable country, by Western European standards. And, within Germany, the cost of living in Berlin is way lower than those of other cities, such as Munich or Hamburg, for example.

“Berlin is not Germany.”

Berlin is very different from Southern Germany. It is not conservative, and not as flawless. And not as wealthy either.

It’s a city that is booming and transforming itself at this very moment. It’s very different from what it used to be 20 years ago, and will be very different 20 years from now.

It has a very strong urban and artistic culture. And restaurants from all countries. And very well-known nightclubs – especially famous for their electronic music.

It’s living in a multifaceted city. Some neighborhoods are very residencial, others very touristic, others very hipster, others super fancy. Berlin is the result of an amazing mixture of several elements.

“Berlin is the New York of Europe.”

It’s a city with a very efficient public transportation system that covers all places. And that has no turnstiles for control.

Living in Berlin is being able to go back home from the bar or club by subway. That’s because public transportation runs 24 hours the whole weekend. (!!!!) And on week days? The subway closes at around 1 am, but there are still buses running all night long. You don’t really need to take taxis.

It’s a flat city, great to move around on a bike too.

In general it’s very safe but, being a big city, it DOES have pickpockets, and one should keep an eye on their belongings.

It’s a very green city, with many parks and lakes (40% of the total city area!).

The outskirts of Berlin, not too far, already feel like a different world. One can live very close to the excitement of the city and still have a house with a backyard like in the movies.

It’s a city that exhales history.

Many people speak English here, but not everyone.

It’s a city where temperatures range from -7 to 37 degrees Celsius.

A city with many train stations, a gigantic central station, and 2 airports (because the airport that is going to replace the 2 existing ones is taking forever to open).

It’s living in a city that changes when spring and summer arrive. The sunshine and heat modify the city’s vibe completely. Everyone goes outside, the sun sets a lot later, there are festivals and open-air events everywhere…


Is it too obvious that I like living in Berlin? =)

7 thoughts to help dealing with homesickness

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“So you love to live there and you’re already quite used to your life abroad, but… Don’t you feel really homesick?”

This is one of the most frequently asked questions to people who live abroad. And with me it’s not different.

The answer I always give is: of course I miss my family, my friends, the weather, the food, and my home country itself. Some days the feeling is stronger than the others. But in general it is a bearable homesickness, and not an undermining one.

With time, one ends up developing “techniques” to deal with homesickness. And I’m going to tell you mine. These are points which I try to remind myself of when homesickness tries to strike.

  1. Life if full of choices

“Either this, or that”, as Brazilian writer Cecília Meireles would say. “It’s a pity we can’t be in two places at the same time”.

One of the things that activates homesickness the most is to keep thinking about all the enjoyable things that you are “missing” in your hometown. Indeed, there are many nice things happening there in your absence, but it’s a trade-off: you are not living several things there in order to live several others here. It’s important to focus on all the things you are profiting from being where you are, instead of the things you are missing in your home country. Be happy in the here and now.

“It is shocking and liberating – nobody needs you to keep living their lives”
(quote from the blog Antônia no Divã)

  1. My life abroad pleases me

In order for method #1 to work, it’s crucial that you are happy with your new home. Sure, no place is perfect, and everybody has their problems, but it’s important to clearly know your goals and reasons for living where you live. For those who live in a foreign country out of obligation and not personal choice, or hate their job, or left a partner back home, homesickness tends to feel a thousand times stronger. It’s essential to enjoy (if possible, love) living in your new city and to build a life (including housing, work, friends, social life and hobbies) that gives you pleasure.

  1. Leaving the comfort zone is part of the experience

As said in point #1, thinking about all the things that are better back home causes homesickness. The same way, thinking about everything that is worse in your new home place also leads to comparisons and, consequently, homesickness.

They say you need to have an ‘open mind’ to live in a foreign country, and boy that is true! Is winter in Europe freezing cold? OH YES. Do I hate cold? Very much! But I’m willing to try to put up with it, for some months a year. Are some Germans rude? Sure. But this actually makes me develop ways of communicating with different types of people, as I was previously used to dealing only with smiley folks. Everything depends on the point of view.

Some people don’t like changes and simply do not want to change. And that’s OK! Each person has their personality. But whoever wants to be happy while living abroad must be willing to live differently. Do I really suffer for not eating typical food from my country every day? Not really.

  1. Gotta love the Internet!

In this wonderful age of technology and globalization, it gets very easy and practical to keep in touch across countries. I always try to stay updated about my friends’ lives, even from afar. I try to catch up on how they are, what they have been up to and what their future plans are. And every time I see something that reminds me of someone back home, or when I have something to tell them, I immediately send them an audio message, a link, or a photo.

“Yeah, but it’s not the same when you talk to a friend over Skype, Whatsapp or Facebook…
In person is a lot better.”

FOR SURE in person is way better, and there is no social media that can replace a hug, or your presence in the flesh at your cousin’s wedding, or at father’s day lunch. That is unquestionable. But… it’s already a BIG help. I talk to my parents on Skype at least some 3 times a week. My mom in fact says that I talk to her more when I’m abroad than when I’m in Brazil visiting, when I have to share the attention amongst so many relatives and friends (lol). Which brings me to the fifth point…

  1. Soon it’s time to visit home

And what a happy time that is!!!

I try to go to my home country at least once a year. And, having many friends and relatives and only a few weeks to visit, I try to optimize my time there. I schedule each hour of each day to visit someone and/or some place and/or to eat some typical food. If possible, all these options together.

I also prefer to go for Christmas and New Year’s because it’s precisely during this time that most people get together for the season’s celebrations. This way it gets a lot easier to meet with different groups of friends and catch up with many of your loved ones at the same time. Making the most of each visit is essential (and sufficient) to be able to reset homesickness back to zero – at least for a while.

  1. It’s not just because I live far away that I don’t see all my friends all the time

When I’m in Brazil catching up with a group of friends, it’s very common for me to hear:

“You know, we meet only once a year, but when I think about it… I see these other friends here maybe twice, 3 times a year tops. And they actually live in the same city as I do.”

This is a fact which, although pitiful, comforts me. I try to remember this when I think that back home everybody gets together all the time and I’m the only one far away, excluded. Truth is everyone has their life, their work, their everyday obligations, and can’t always see friends, even those who live close by (which is a shame). And when I’m in Brazil visiting, my friends make an extra effort to be with me, because they know I’m not there all the time. Such a privilege!

Besides, my friends from Brazil very often communicate with each other through… that’s right, Whatsapp and Facebook! The same way I do with them.

This is my “in case it makes you feel better” reminder.

  1. What is true, remains

We all change with time – whether you live abroad or in your hometown. People change, circumstances change, but friendships not necessarily. Every time I go to Brazil, I’m able to look up close and feel lucky to see that my relationship with friends and dear relatives hasn’t changed. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed: when I am with them, it feels like I had been there all along.

And then I think: PHEW! =)

“True friendship is not about being inseparable,
it’s being separated and nothing changing”

And that certainty is greater than any homesickness.