Burning Man Photography & Art Tour: Radical Ritual 2017

Every year thousands of people descend upon the all but barren Black Rock Desert to build a community for Burning Man. It’s hard to explain this week-long event to outsiders and sometimes even to burners; as each person has a unique experience that can not be translated. The best I can say is Burning Man was everything I needed at the exact time I needed it, nothing less nothing more. I urge you to attend a Burn yourself, but at the very least this series of magical photographs from Burning Man 2017: Radical Ritual will help you understand why it is such a special place. These photos from the original Burning Man in Nevada, United States, focus on art pieces, art cars and the life of a burner on the Playa. Make sure to click READ MORE image below for an engaging visual experience and high-quality photos.

Burning Man Photography and Art Tour: Radical Ritual 2017

Radical Ritual 2017: Burning Man Photo Tour

Camera and Equipment Used for Burning Man Photos.

I hope you enjoyed my engaging photography tour from the original Burning Man in the United States. I had a blast taking my camera out on the Playa to capture these special moments. To protect my camera I used a freezer bag, cut a hole in the corner and duct taped it around the lens. I brought a cleaning brush and lens wipes and took daily care of it. I was surprised at how well my camera held up. Next time I will hopefully have an element proof camera in tow. All photos were taken either on my Olympus OM-DEM10 or on a Google Pixel. Both were great for the environment we were in and I was happy to come out with some great night and day photos. I do wish I would have brought my tripod, as I got some fantastic shots of The Man Burning, but either the fire or the fireworks were a little too blurry to publish.

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Explore The U.S. Before or After the Burn

If you’re looking to visit the Vegas area before or after the Burn, don’t miss my exclusive local guides to Las Vegas, Nevada

Inspire Others to Pack for Burning Man

Please share this with all your friends or family who want to know more about Burning Man or need some inspiration to put this on their bucket list! Have you been or is this on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments.

Amazing photography from Burning Man. See out-of-this-world art and life on the Playa in Black Rock City, Nevada.

Stunning photography tour from Burning Man. Get inspired to go pack your bags for Burning Man  with these  unique photos from the Playa.

See out-of-this-world photography from Burning Man. Explore art, including The Man, and desert life from Black Rock City, Nevada in the United States

Vibrant photography from the desert at Burning Man in Nevada, United States. Tour art and lifestyle on the Playa through a unique perspective

Why I Make a Terrible Expat, but a Decent Zuwanderer

“Schönes Wochenende!” I said to my friend as we parted ways.

“Huh?” they replied

“Schöoooneeees Woch-en-ende!” I said more slowly.

“What does that mean?”

I tried to hide my puzzled face that was a dead giveaway to my thoughts, how long have you lived in Germany, again? How do you not know this?

“Oh, um… it means have a good weekend, directly translated to “beautiful weekend” in German. It’s a common goodbye phrase to say over the weekend.”

“Right, ok, well have a good weekend,” they said and we parted ways.

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I remember the first time I heard that phrase, my heart was thumping a million miles per hour as the line in the super market got longer and longer behind me. Germans were staring at the back of my head. I could feel their judgment boring through me like drills. I was sure they were all thinking, this silly American was holding up their weekend shopping. I dared not make eye contact. They watched me fumble with my produce, like an animal at the zoo.

Wait, I’m supposed to bag my own groceries, in a bag I don’t have? There is no way I can bag this all myself. I should have got half the food. Why don’t I have a bag?

I cut back behind the line to where the bags for purchase hung then fought my way back. I threw the bag on the belt adding it to my items to purchase. I heard mumbling behind me.

What is the cashier saying to me? Omg she probably thinks I am really dim. Close your mouth, Susanna, and stop just staring at her. Just nod or say no, just DO something. Pretend like you know what you’re doing.

“Nein.”

Shit, wrong answer, they want a signature. I can’t say no to that, stupid. Shit- they want it on the back of the receipt. How the hell would I know that? Fuck, another question?

“Nein”

Yes, right answer! Woo!

I’m pretty sure I was dropping produce all over and still trying to bag my items when I heard “Schönes Wochenende!” on my way out the door. That was the first pleasant sounding phrase anyone said to me since I arrived in Germany. I wondered what it meant. I went home and looked it up. It became ammo in my slow to increasing German phrase book.

After that experience, it would have been easy to bury my head in the sand. Find a group of Americans to whinge about German culture with, to speak English with and to avoid all the hardships of being an “expat” with. I’m not hating on the people that do this. I get it, life in a foreign country is HARD and no matter what, you always need a little bit of home with you, but this concept of burying my head in the sand wasn’t for me. You can only avoid this for so long, so why not immigrate and integrate, became a Zuwanderer.

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Wienerplatz, Munich, Germany. Traditional May Pole.

Zuwanderer directly translates to an immigrant without German parents, living in Germany. Another word that is more common to use is Aüslander. Aüslander can carry a negative connotation for some and while I stood in the Aüslander line when I applied for my visa, I identify with the word Zuwanderer. Perhaps it is because I myself am a bit of a wanderer.

To start: There is a lot of debate back and forth regarding the difference between an expat and a Zuwanderer. Some divide it between money, jobs classification, the length of stay or if they came by choice or not. I, however, generally group those that are defined as expats into two categories, how small minded of me, I know; Those that are here temporarily (6 mo-1 year) to party or act as endless tourists and those that move indefinitely, but never acclimate to the culture and live in an expat bubble. So, for this post, those are the definitions I go by, to define myself as a terrible expat. If you do not fit into my two categories I would consider you as well a zuwanderer.

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Siegestor gate in Munich, Germany

Munich is a notoriously difficult place to integrate. The locals are known to be a bit closed off. If you don’t do it their way, you can take the highway. This has understandably created an expat bubble in both categories. I watched groups of expats I know get together and just party every weekend. They would get drunk, rampage like tourists, disrespecting laws, being loud, and invasive. They would complain about needing German language skills to work, that college wasn’t as free as it seemed, there was lots of red tape, the super market, the banking system, the constant judgment from locals, receiving mail in German, finding a place to live… the list goes on. They get trapped in their comfort zone, refusing to learn simple phrases and embrace the negative along with the positives of living in a foreign country. I’ve seen countless people come, call life in Munich too hard after refusing to put in the effort, and leave.

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Bird’s eye view of the old city in Munich from St. Peters Church.

I would meet expats whom would latch on to me, knowing we weren’t compatible enough to be friends, but they were so terrified to go outside on their own, they needed me. They needed someone. They thought they could bring me into their expat bubble with them and we would cling to each other while the world went on around us. All while I was thinking. We have nothing in common, we would never be friends back home, why should we now? Grade A bitch, I know.

Sure, I gripe about some of the above, I mean really, who needs 15 letters a day from their bank, no one, that’s who. And I’ll be the first to admit the first 3 months were hard, really hard. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it and the worst part was not having a support system in Munich. That alone is enough to push anyone into an expat bubble. Having a sense of community and home is important, but, I moved here for a reason and that reason was to experience a different life. I had always wanted to live in Europe, and I was doing it. I didn’t want to live the same life I lived in the U.S., just in another country. So, I picked myself up and tried.

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Attending the Italian Opera, “Don Giovanni” with German Subtitles the first month I arrived at the Munich Opera House.

Determined to not be “that girl at the supermarket” I enrolled in intensive German classes. Monday through Friday for five hours a day. For three months I went to German. I wanted to pull my hair out. I wanted to scrape the ridges of my brain off, but I did it. I made friends with people from all over the world. I strived to make genuine connections and develop friendships with a variety of people. However, there were still periods where I felt very lonely and isolated.

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Getting involved in local events by supporting the local LBGTQI community of Munich at Pride parade.

I had several people tell me to go to expat meet ups and social events, life would be much easier if I did. My inner introvert shuddered at the thought of going to a place filled with people desperate for friends, desperate enough to put on a mask just to share company with someone who spoke their own language and shared their own culture. This sounded like a terrible group date combining everything I hate about dating and making friends into one awkward sushi burrito. I can find friends with common interests on my own and if I can’t, well then, I am happy doing things on my own!

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Embracing the winter season! Snowboarding at Garmisch in a snow storm.

To this day, I’ve never been to an expat meet up or event. I’m not stating if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but it’s a thing. Maybe I should have gone and pushed myself from my introverted bubble, but I made friends regardless. I do activities regardless. So, I am not sure I missed out on much. And you know what? Maybe the German culture is set up for independent introverts like myself and perhaps I would be pushed into the bubble if I was less confident doing things on my own, but that’s a reflection for a different day.

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Adventuring out on my own and hiking at Tegernsee, Germany.

I still find ways to celebrate my heritage though, as most people do. I don’t deny the importance of this. My partner and I still cook a Thanksgiving dinner with friends and carve pumpkins on Halloween. I celebrate Australia day, with my Australian partner, and we dress up in red, white and blue light up flags on the 4th of July and head down to the river and make a fool of ourselves. When I go out in public I am still the loudest and most colorful person around. I speak English with my English speaking friends, but I also speak German with them. I have friends who don’t speak any English and we struggle through German together. I signed up to volunteer to help traumatized refugees in a program all in German. I watch TV in German and listen to German radio. I go out and explore the culture and surrounding nature on my own. I cut through the red tape with a binder full of official documents and a laugh hidden inside. I think being a Zuwanderer in a foreign country, is about finding that right balance or honoring and preserving your heritage and traditions of home, but getting out of the bubble and embracing your new life to make the best of it.

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Celebrating Australia Day with my Partner in Munich, Germany.

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Overall, I would say I am settling into life in Munich quite well; that I’m a decent Zuwanderer. Slowly over time, my super market trips became easier and while I still get judgmental stares, I can at least hold my own in Munich and most of all I LOVE it here and feel at home, annoying quirks and all.

Day trip from Munich to Zugspitze Germany's tallest mountain

I feel right at home nestled among the German Alps!

I would like to acknowledge that I came here by choice and I am aware I come from a place of privilege to easily make the best of life here. I know Germany, in particular, has had a huge influx of peoples who have not come by as free of choice as I have and I respect them and their determination at integrating into life here in Germany, they are doing wonderfully. This post was intended to shed light on what I consider the toxic expat bubble create by others who also come from a place of privilege and move to Germany on their own accord. This post it not meant to pass judgement on lifestyles that vary from my own, but simply to reflect on my own experiences.

Find out why I make a terrible expat, but decent Zuwanderer in my first reflections on being an expat in Munich, Germany.

Alaska Brown Bear Viewing Ecotour – Chinitna Bay

Growing up in Alaska, I’ve had a lot of interactions with brown bears. I would fall asleep to the sound of them desperately trying to get in our bear proof trash, sometimes I narrowly avoided them hiking in the mountains, often times I saw brown blurs as I drove down the long winding road home, and from time to time I would chase them out of the yard, my trusty cat at my side. They were a part of my everyday life, and I theirs. I rarely had time to pause and marvel at them. It wasn’t until I experienced the thrilling Alaska brown bear viewing eco-tour with Rust’s Flying Service in Chinita Bay, Lake Clark National Park, was I able to develop a deep appreciation for these animals. Away from urban life, and the impact of humans, it was relaxing to observe the bears, as they grazed on salty marsh grass, napped and played. The bear viewing with Rust’s Flying Service in Chinita Bay, Alaska will go down in the books as one of the best eco-tours I have ever done! And it is just an easy day trip from Anchorage.

Not only was it one of the best tour I’ve done, this time I had my new fiancé in tow, and he loved every minute of this trip. His favorite animal is the bear, but hailing from Australia the only bear he has ever encountered is the drop bear, so this was truly a once in a lifetime experience for him and it was the perfect way to celebrate our three years anniversary as a couple.

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Alaska Brown Bear Viewing Eco-tour with Rust’s Flying Service

I want to thank Rust’s Flying Service for extending their media rate to me, but as always, views are my own. As a life long Alaskan and former tour guide, this is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my state and I had to pick my jaw up off the floor time and time again. This is a MUST DO eco-tour when visiting Alaska and worth every penny! Rust’s is a local Alaskan company providing small scale tours in remote parts of Alaska. Supporting local companies like this, as well as visiting bears respectfully in their natural wild habitat, makes this such a great eco-tour.

I was a bit hesitant at first to book a bear viewing tour with Rust’s. As a tour guide, I recommended them time and time again to my guests, but as a lifelong Alaskan, surely there was nothing I hadn’t seen before. I mean, I get bears in my yard all the time, what’s the big deal? However, I could not have been more mistaken. There was something special about seeing them in their home turf on their terms. To add the icing on the cake the 2-hour plane ride in a Cessna single engine was mind blowing! I saw remote parts of Alaska I had never seen before, from a unique bird’s eye perspective. We flew past volcanos and glaciers, small Indigenous villages, glacial plains, forests, lakes and mud flats. It seemed every minute brought something new and exciting. Our pilot was knowledgeable and we enjoyed our banter on the radio back and forth as he brought us safely in for take off and landing. Once we arrived in the park we were handed into the care of Chinitna Bay Bear Mountain Lodge, where our expert guides took us to three different viewing areas for bears and allowed us to observe and photograph them at our own pace, while educating us on the species!

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Bear Viewing At Chinitna Bay, Trip Stats

Tour Option Booked: Chinitna Bay Bear Viewing day trip from Anchorage with Rust’s Flying Service.
Length of Time: 6-7 hours, departures at 7:30 am and 2 pm.

Skill Level Required: 20-50 HP. Great for the active adventurer, couples, and small families. If you have major mobility issues reconsider, but the viewing is all accessed by easy walking trails. If you’re scared of small planes, conquer your fears, it’s worth it and the pilots are amazing!

Cost of Chinitna Bay Bear Viewing: $795 plus a 3% transportation fee per person.

Seasons: June for the Chinitna Bay, as that is when the bears are most active here. However, Rusts’s offers tours to various locations throughout the summer.

Packing List:

  • Small backpack.
  • Water bottle or camelback.
  • Camera.
  • Telephoto lens. It’s very hard to photograph some of the bears without one, as they can be in the distance. We packed our 100mm-400mm and did fine with the closer bears. If you want serious photos of the bears in the distance, bring at least a 500mm or higher. If you don’t have a telephoto lens, the guides did have a scope and can take photos with your smart phone through it for some cool close ups.
  • Tripod, or a monopod needed for telephoto lens.
  • Check the weather and dress appropriately. Alaska is notorious for moody weather. Be prepared for rain, sun and wind, all in one day. I wore long hiking pants, a fleece jacket, a scarf, sunglasses, hat and long shirt, with a rain coat packed in June and I was happy.
  • Hiking boots or solid walking shoes.
  • A small lunch is provided, but if you have dietary needs, pack food (there was no vegetarian option).
  • Binoculars are provided.
  • Bear mace is not needed, safety procautions are handled by the professional trained guides.
  • what to wear on alaska bear viewing tour

    Example of how to dress for this tour.

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    Don’t forget your tripod and telephoto lens!

    Checking in at Rust’s Flying Service and Takeoff

    Arrive at Rust’s 30 minutes early. Rust’s is located at Lake Hood, Anchorage, by our international airport. There is limited parking available and you must leave your keys with the front desk if you drive. If you don’t have a car, don’t worry, Rust’s will pick you up from the airport or your hotel! We arrived early to take photos of the cool planes docked at the seaplane base.

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    Rust’s float planes at Lake Hood, Anchorage

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    Facts From a Local: Lake Hood is the largest and busiest seaplane base in the WORLD, hosting over 200 daily operations! You’ll find plenty of old and quirky planes from single-engine Cessnas to larger Beavers.

    We were weighed at check-in, to ensure the flight would be well balanced. Our pilot called us by name when he was ready to have us load up. You can ask your pilot to sit up front and co-pilot like I did, but it will come down to safety and weight balance, so don’t have your heart set on any one seat. Once everyone was loaded up, we began to taxi. We loved seeing all the planes as we drove by. I was prepared for a bumpy takeoff in this small plane, but I barely felt the lift off and before I knew it Lake Hood was getting smaller and smaller.

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    Flight to Lake Clark National Park

    I love bears, don’t get me wrong, but this was one of the best parts of the trip and at the end of the flight my Ganesh, my fiancé, said, “that alone was worth the money we spent.” He was not wrong. I’ll let some of the photos do the talking, but you really get a taste of how diverse and stunning Alaska is.

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    Facts From a Local: Did you know that Alaska has everything from arctic desert to rainforest?

    The flight started out over large glacial mudflats and marshy tundra to one side and the murky Cook Inlet to the other. Here you could spot little duck huts, that are used for duck hunting in the autumn. Wide braided rivers carved through the glacial flats. Out in the inlet, you could spot some of the oil rigs and operations that happen close to Anchorage. There are also some natural gas plants below. You fly past sleeping lady mountain, pictured as the smaller mountain with no snow on it. Sleeping Lady is named as she looks like a lady sleeping, this mountain is an iconic image of the Anchorage area.

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    Cook Inlet, Alaska

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    Sleeping Lady mountain resting beyond Anchorage and the glacial silt rivers.

    Facts From a Local: These large braided rivers and gray muddy areas are a sign a glacier is near. The rivers bring and deposit glacial silt, which is a fine gray mud. It’s incredibly dangerous to walk on and acts almost like sinking sand, avoid these areas at all costs if you ever visit Alaska.

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    Red Glacier at Mt. Iliamna Volcano in the Aleutian Range

    As we left the vast marshy plains behind, mountains rose before us. This snowy range, called the Aleutian Range, is an extension of the Alaska Range, home to Denali, the largest peak in N. America. You will also spot two, and if you’re lucky three, active volcanoes as you fly. Sprinkled through the mountains glaciers rest, including a red glacier – caused by mineral deposits from the volcano! Alaska is huge, and this reminded me how little I’ve seen of my home state. I felt giddy inside as we flew, I couldn’t stop smiling and saying, “WOW!”. The flight really put into perspective how diverse Alaska is. Our pilot was one of those guys that knew everything about everything. I learned so much just talking to him, and every question I asked from geological to economic, he knew the answer. He’s been a pilot in Alaska for 13 years and before that a commercial pilot in Seattle. Alaska is a great place to be a pilot and he seemed very happy doing his job. Alaska has very few roads, in fact, the small state of Rhode Island has more miles of road than our huge state. We rely on small planes for travel and supplies to remote areas. I wanted to keep flying all day, however, I was excited to see the bears. They are what we came for, after all.

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    Bird’s eye view of beautiful Alaska

    Facts From a Local: The fastest way to tell a local from a tourist is by what they call Denali. Often tourists know it as Mt. Mckinley and locals will refer to it as Denali. Denali is the traditional Athabaskan (interior indigenous peoples) name for this mountain. It wasn’t until a gold miner, campaigning for President Mckinley, saw the mountain and decided to call it after him. On all federal documents it was listed as Mt. McKinley, but all state documents had it listed as Denali. Alaskans have been fighting for a federal name change since the 70s and finally, in 2008 Obama succeeded. #thanksobama Be respectful and use the name, Denali.

    Our pilot turned the corner into Chinitna Bay and I looked around, wondering where we might land. The beach, it was on the freakin’ beach! How cool is that? We landed smoothly, unloaded and were greeted by the wonderful hosts at Bear Mountain Lodge in Chinitna Bay.

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    We landed on a beach in Chinitna Bay!

    It’s Time for Bear Viewing in Lake Clark National Park!

    Rust’s handed us over to the friendly staff of The Bear Mountain Lodge at Chinitna Bay. They welcomed us in with snacks and genuine conversation. We were allowed a quick break before loading up in the 4×4 monster green bus. We took off down the beach to our first stop. We lucked out as there was a beautiful female brown just a couple dozen feet away! She’s the cute one you see in most of the close-up photos. I scanned the area and counted almost 8 bears, including some large solo males, and a few mommas with two or three babies. The babies were about three years old, so they look almost as big, if not bigger than their mom. This would be the last spring with their mother before they set out on their own.

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    4×4 bus we drove along the beach to our three viewing spots

    The bears are so interested in feeding they mind their own business as we mind ours. They’re used to people in the area and it was so relaxing watching them do their thing. We had plenty of time to photograph and observe them feeding and playing while we had a perfect spot for photos! Our guides did carry a weapon in case of emergency, but at no point was there any threat, or did I ever feel scared.

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    Facts from a local: Bears are omnivores and they are in this protected area to eat high protein salty marsh grass. After they wake up from hibernation- the salmon aren’t running yet, so they need the nutrition and protein these grasses provide. Once the salmon start running they’ll move on to feast on the tasty fish. Bears stay with their mothers until they’re three years old.

    As the tide was coming in we needed to load up and head to the second stop. Further down the beach we parked and went down a little trail into the woods. We came out on the bank of a river, still sheltered by the woods. We had a bit of a hard time here, as the bears were quite far away, so photography was difficult. I didn’t mind too much though, as just watching them from a distance was enjoyable.

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    Facts from a local: Female bears and marked by being smaller in stature and lighter in color. Their ears and face tend to be more round and soft. Male bears tend to be a dark brown with a larger build and a boxier face. The average Alaskan male brown bear weighs 900 pounds! Can you spot the male and female bears in my photos?

    The third and final stop was again further down the beach and a small walk through the woods. A lone wolf was in the field with the bears and he ran off just as we emerged from the woods, so we barely got to see him. Wolves are very rare to spot and I’ve only ever seen a few in my life. All the action startled a bear and it began to run through the marshy river bank. It stopped at the other side and gave us a nice show while relieving itself. I guess that answers the question, “do bears poop in the woods?” No one in the group thought my dad joke was funny :(We kept an eye out for the wolf, but he never came back into view. So, we spent our time watching a new set of bears, eat and meander.

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    Facts from a local: Did you know that you can eat the new growth on pine trees? The tender bright green bits. We nibbled on them as we walked through the forest and they go great in salads!

    There was a large family at this stop as well, a momma with three larger cubs. The siblings enjoyed playing together, so we viewed some rough and tumble action and bear boxing!

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    Did you know that grizzly and brown bears are the exact same species? The only difference is the access to salmon and fresh fish. In the landlocked interior of Alaska, salmon options are limited, so the coats of the bears are haggard and rough, making them look grizzly. Bears near water with access to salmon have shinier and healthier looking coats. Just think, if you give you dog fish oil, its coat will shine!

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    I almost filled up my camera by the time it was to pack up and head back to the lodge. In total we saw about 10 bears at each site. It was an incredibly satisfying day. Back at the lodge, our pilot was waiting for us with a snack lunch to bring back on the plane. As we loaded up, I let Ganesh take the co-pilot seat. I realized that the back seat was better for photos, so I happily clicked away as Ganesh asked plenty of Alaskan questions.

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    Small remote villages accessible only by plane are common in Alaska

    We weren’t done seeing wildlife for the day, looking down we saw pods of belugas and lot of seals, getting their fill of fresh salmon. Alaska comes alive with the first salmon runs as everyone fights for their chances to fatten up for the winter. Salmon fuel most of Alaska’s wildlife and economy, but as our pilot said, “sometimes you have to root for the salmon, everyone wants them.”

    Landing Back at Lake Hood in Anchorage

    As we came back in for the landing I observed my little home city from the air. This thrilling Alaska brown bear viewing eco-tour gave me a new appreciation for Alaska and the beautiful animals I share a home with. We could not thank Rust’s Flying Service and Bear Mountain Lodge enough for the truly wild and thrilling excursion into Alaska’s wilderness. This is the type of service I expect when I return home by friendly and welcoming locals. No one on the tour knew I was a member of the media and yet I still received 5-star service from everyone. If you’re visiting Alaska in the summer I highly recommend considering an eco-tour with Rust’s to view bears at one of Alaska’s great National Parks.

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    Have you been on an eco-tour recently or maybe an Alaska brown bear viewing eco-tour is on your bucket list? Tell me about it in the comments, and remember to share this with all your friends and family.

    Experience this thrilling bear viewing wildlife ecotour in Alaska. With a day trip from Anchorage this short scenic flight to Lake Clark National Park is one of the best sustainable eco tours in Alaska! See bears and wildlife in their natural outdoor habitat. Do not miss this post with lots of wildlife photography!

    This Alaskan wildlife bear viewing ecotour is a bucket list must! With a short day trip from Anchorage, take a scenic flight out to Lake Clark National Park. See bears in their natural outdoor habitat. Don't miss the Alaskan wildlife photography!

    Experience this thrilling bear viewing wildlife ecotour in Alaska. With a day trip from Anchorage this short scenic flight to Lake Clark National Park is one of the best sustainable eco tours in Alaska! See bears and wildlife in their natural outdoor habitat. Do not miss this post with lots of wildlife photography!

Hipster and Geek Guide to Chicago

I hadn’t been back to the U.S. since the dreadful election of November 2016. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t really sure I ever wanted to go back home, but when the opportunity to travel to Chicago presented itself, I bit and fell in love. Seriously, I can’t stop raving about this charming city! Chicago now easily ranks in my top four favorite hipster U.S. cities and it restored a little faith I have in my home country. I felt a welcome sense of community as I wandered the streets- full of personality, chatted with the friendly locals and explored the endless amounts of hipster and geeky things to do in Chicago. If I wasn’t stuffing my face with top notch farm to table brunch WHILE ordering top shelf whiskey at 10 am, (yes you can do both of those things are the same time) I was finding nerdy things to do at the planetarium or beating my high score at the local arcade. On your next trip to Chicago, get away from downtown and into the peak hipster neighborhoods of Logan Square and Wicker Park with the best hipster and geeky things to do in Chicago. We’ll find amazing brunch, explore local markets, nerdy hot spots, drink craft cocktails and local beer and then lay our heads to rest and the coolest digs in the city with this hipster and geek guide to Chicago.

The best hipster and geeky things to do in Chicago. Find brunch, local markets, cocktail bars, arcade bars and boutique hotels with this hipster and geek guide to Chicago

**This hipster and geek guide to Chicago supports local businesses and sustainable travel in Chicago. So you can find the best geeky and hipster things to do in Chicago and feel good doing them**

Brunch & Breakfast
Markets & Shops
Geek Out in Chicago
Coffee
Craft Cocktails, Brews and Wine.
Boutique Hotels
Neighborhoods

Hipster, geeky and nerdy things to do in Chicago

Brunch & Breakfast in Chicago


Chicago brunch scene was amazing. Some of the places are only on the weekends so I had to strategize during my visit, but I was able to get my fill of brunch and it left me eager to come back for more.

Longman & Eagle

Best farm to table hipster brunch spot in Chicago at Longman & Eagle.

You’ll quickly learn the name of this place, Longman & Eagle, as they are the Hipster King in Chicago. This quaint farm to table restaurant, bar and hotel are nestled in the coziest part of Logan Square. It’s basically everything I look for, for my hipster guides. I sat down at a rustic wooden bar for breakfast at 10 am, a little hesitant to order a whiskey flight with my omelet- then I looked around. The guy sitting next to me goes all out with a glass of top shelf Four Roses. So, I say, “fuck it,” and order a flight of their best whiskey and order up a delicious vegetarian omelet. A soon as I bit into my fluffy omelet it just melted in my mouth. The bartender and other patrons rounded out this brunch experiences to be one of the best I’ve had in a long time! Their vegetarian options are limited, but just ask your server and they will take care of you.

Mon-Sun 9am-3pm / 5pm-1am
657 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Check Out Their Menu Here!

Dusek’s Board and Beer

Duseks Brunch menu Chicago

Treat yourself to the ultimate foodie brunch by wandering into this historic building that will be your tastebud’s dream come true. Go all out in true Chicago style and order the board and beer, because I mean, beer is for breakfast, right? Their (pictured) Chilaquile also passed by me several times and looked amazing. If you need the vegetarian option, like me, order the vegetarian omelette with seasonal veggies, it was mouth watering. If their amazing food wasn’t reason enough to go, they were recently awarded the 2016 Michelin Star Recipient, so what are you waiting for? Start your Sunday Funday on Saturday morning and stay late into the night for the party!

Mon-Fri 11am-2am Sat- Sun 9am-2am or 3am.
1227 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60608, USA
Photo coutresy of Dusek’s
Dive into your food coma, here!

Lula Cafe

Lula Cafe Brunch in Chicago

Another great farm to table find, Lula Cafe was recommended my local friend over at The MVMT Blog. Quite hungover, we entered, eager for brunch. We were immediately greeted and sat by a mustache equipped gentleman. I ordered up the special vegetarian breakfast sandwich. It was perfectly crispy on the outside, but soft and warm on the inside. It’s probably because this bread was baked and sourced locally from a Chicago bakery, Publican. It tasted like I was back in Europe. You can find the other local companies they source food from on their site. This place is notorious for having a long line, so avoid peak times if you can, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.

Wed-Mon 9am-2am
2537 N Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Check out their local menu, here!

MAD Social

Start your Sunday Funday on Saturday morning for a one of a kind brunch. This ultra classy dark wood and leather hot spot look like it could be Ron Swanson’s personal restaurant. This place has more vegetarian options than the others, so it made the top of my list! You can enjoy some delicious crispy brussel sprouts or go all out with some classic chicken and waffles covered in hot sauce and maple syrup. I mean, why not, right?

Brunch Sat-Sun 10am-11pm or 4pm
1140 W Madison St, Chicago, IL 60607, USA
Drool over your next brunch, here!

Bongo Room

You know that moment when you’re so hungover and in such desperate need of brunch you stumble into the Bongo Room and can’t decide between sweet or savory, so you order both things and demolish them before taking a photo? Yeah, me too. Sorry about the photo. I noticed a pattern here, me hungover in Chicago getting all the brunch and taking terrible photos. Thanks for ruining me, Chicago. The Bongo Room is the chill option for brunch in Chicago, but they take their food seriously. This was the first time I had a breakfast burrito since I moved to Germany, so my opinion might be skewed, but good god, this burrito was amazing, so were their fluffy and delicious pancakes. Just what I needed after a long night out in Chi-Town.

Mon-Fri 8am-2:30pm Sat-Sun 9am-2pm
They have 3 locations, this is near Wicker Park 1470 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Cure your hangover, here!

Native Foods Cafe

This place gets an honorable mention for being a great grab and go vegetarian or vegan cafe. Sometimes for brunch or lunch, you need something healthy to feel good about yourself. They have a great variety of vegan bowls, seasoned veggies and lots of yummy juices! It was a total lifesaver.

Markets, Shops and Art in Chicago

The only souvenirs I buy are traditionally local and handmade, none of those plastic cheap trinkets for me! If you’re the same, you’ll definitely appreciate some of these markets and local shops.

Logan Square Farmers Market

This market was named one of the best in Chicago for 2016. This market has three principles, to build an alternate food source of fresh local goods, to foster entrepreneurship and to build a better community. Those sound like some pretty great goals to me. The market is open year round- moving indoors in winter- and offers produce, flowers, homemade jarred items along with some live music and festivities.

Sun: 10am-3pm
2755 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Find fresh, local produce for your stay in Chicago!

Squasht Boutique

This local, female owned shop in the Ukrainian neighborhood of Chicago is filled with handmade fashionable gems that you can take back home to make all your friends jealous! I’m obsessed with their geometric short shorts! The owner, Lesley Timpe, was voted best clothing designer in 2013 & 2014 and is making a storm in the Chicago and local fashion industry. If her style isn’t your thing, there’s also plenty of variety from other local designers as well.

Tue-Fri 12pm-7pm
Sat-Sun 11am-5pm
2556 W Chicago Ave Chicago, IL 60622
Find your next style, here!

Wolfbait & B-girls

Wolfbait & B-Girls Chicago Hipster guide Wandering Chocobo

I accidentally stumbled into this place on my last day in Chicago. I saw feminist propaganda in the window and had to take a peak and it blew my expectations out of the water. Behind the counter, the co-owner was sewing her signature Bruiser jean jumpers at a workstation. The rest of the store was filled with all handcrafted local jewelry, handbags, hats, cards, candles, and soaps. As I shopped in the store I chatted with the co-owner until another woman walked in. She was signing up to be a new vendor with her line of jewelry. The entire set up was empowering and I was proud to be giving my money to this business. I ended up finding a dress and looked at the tag, “Made in India…” Of course one of the things I wanted to buy was made in India. But wait, no, a local Chicago business partnered with women in India to make fair priced clothing under healthy living conditions. I settled on this piece, a Bruiser jumper and a jewelry set made out of an old tire. This place is a must to pick up your local Chicago gift for that powerful woman in your life!

Mon-Sun 10am-7pm
3131 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Find your unique gift, here.

Vintage Garage Chicago and Flea Market

This is a Chicago hot spot, happening only once a month in the summer months. So, if you’re lucky enough to be in Chicago during one of these Vintage Garage Markets, you’re in luck! You’ll find some real treasures and not just junk like so many garage sales. Every month there is a new theme from vintage clothing to mid-century modern.

Sundays once per month in the summer
5051 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60640, USA
Find their schedule, here!

First Friday in Pilsen

Head down to the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago every first Friday for an art walk that puts art first. About 17 local art, music, and design studios host events from between 6pm-9pm at their location. Hit all of them or whatever tickles your fancy for a night of art and socializing with like minded people.

Check out First Friday!

 

Geeky and Nerdy Things to Do in Chicago

My favorite part of my hipster guides. Take a step back from the cool edgy culture and let your inner geek out. Chicago is a hot spot for geeks and nerds alike with arcades, planetariums, conventions, comic stores and much much more!

Adler Planetarium Chicago

Adler Planetarium Geeky things to do in Chicago

One of the more enjoyable planetariums I’ve been to. The staff are part of what make this so great. They were very fun to chat and interact with. They were all knowledgable and made my solo trip there not feel so lonely. The planetarium is huge! With three floors of exhibits ranging from the Big Bang, to ancient study of the stars to the Moon landing. It really covers just about everything in an interactive and informative way. They have two domed theaters with various shows narrated by a real person and not just a voice over. They even had a real astrophysicist there to answer questions and give a lecture. All these things are just scratching the surface of the things to do here. The price ranges based on what you want to do at the planetarium, so it’s accessible to all budgets. Go nerd out and this awesome planetarium and enjoy the amazing view looking back at the Chicago skyline.

Mon-Sun 9:30am-4pm
1300 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60605, USA
Plan Your Visit Here

Gaming Stores in Chicago

Grab your favorite game and bring it back to the hotel for a night of fun! Or just drop in on a gaming event if you’re traveling and miss your gaming fam back home. Chicago has two great options for gaming stores. Stop by The Gaming Goat for a local Illinois franchise run by passionate gamers, in a family environment. Or swing by the The Dice Dojo to play all your favorite games for free and as long as you want, in store! Founded by two passionate gamers this true Chicago specialty has a variety of events you don’t want to miss!

Hours and address vary based on events and location.

Arcade Bars in Chicago

Logan Square Arcade Geeky things to do in Chicago Wandering Chocobo

There’s nothing quite like an old school arcade to remind me how truly terrible I am at old school games. Three lives, for a risk taker like me? Please. haha. Nonetheless, I love reminiscing with a good old fashion arcade bar and Chicago has several to choose from. I visited the grungy Logan Square Arcade, based on a local’s recommendation where I quickly blew through A LOT of quarters playing Hamburger Time and Ninja Turtles. Make sure to stop by Emporium Arcade, which is slightly more shiny and hipster, but has fewer arcade games and more room for other interactive games, like pool and air hockey.

Hours and location vary

Comic Con and Conventions in Chicago

Chicago is home to a variety of conventions well worth traveling to the windy city for. From Wizard World Comic Con to Chicago’s Comic & Entertainment Expo you’ll be sure to find reason to get into cosplay and join one of these lively events. I’m definitely putting the Expo on my bucket list!

Comic Stores in Chicago

GMart Comics Geeky things to do in Chicago Wandering Chocobo

I always stop by and support my local comic book store right before I fly out of a city to get airplane reading material. I just picked up a copy of Paper Girls from a local store in Chicago. There are tons to choose from, but I stopped by G-Mart Comics in Logan Square, since it was close to where I was staying. It was small, but they have what I was looking for and friendly employees. There’s also First Air Comics, which has amazing reviews and Grahm Cracker comics if you’re staying downtown.

Museum of Science & Industry Chicago

The largest science museum in the western hemisphere, the MSI Chicago hosts revolving interactive visits, so every time you come to Chicago they will have something new to inspire you to create. The focus of the museum is to inspire kids to grow their appreciation of STEM fields, so there are tons of interactive and hands-on opportunities. Don’t worry it is fun and educational even for adults!

Mon-Sun 9:30am-4pm
5700 S Lake Shore Dr, Chicago, IL 60637, USA
Check out their current exhibits, here!

Best Coffee in Chicago

If you’re feeling a bit worn out from exploring all the hipster and geeky things to do in Chicago make sure to stop by one of these cafes for a quick pick me up. Or kick back and relax to get some work done.

New Wave Coffee

New Wave Coffee Hipster Chicago

This spacious and vintage coffee shop is a great place to grab a cup to go, sit and relax with your favorite book or get some work done. The furniture is funky and the tiled floor makes you feel like you’ve been transported back to the vintage days, but this time the coffee is decent!

Mon-Sun 7am-9pm
3103 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647, USA

Cafe Mustache

I’m not even sure if this place needs more of an explanation than the name. This peak hipster place is more than just a mustache, they have good coffee too. One taste of the vanilla fig latte and you won’t need any more convincing to check it out beyond that. If you’re not in the mood for coffee, they also have some local brews and tasty treats. So, swing in to get coffee good enough to grow hair on your face!

Mon-Fri 7am-2am Say-Sun 8am-3am
2313 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA

Reno Coffee

Reno Coffee Hipster Chicago

This place had an amazing staff! I’d been in Europe too long and was using unknown terms to order my coffee, but the staff joked right along with me and ended up making it, just how I wanted it. This relaxed and grungy location is great for morning coffee with great conversation by the staff. It’s right on Logan Square, so you can start your day in the center of the action.

Hours vary
2607 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA

The Wormhole Coffee

Step back into the 80s with decorations, like Ghost Busters and Star Wars Posters, from everyone’s favorite decade. Sip locally roasted coffee from Halfwit Coffee roaster while you enjoy the relaxing and friendly atmosphere.

Mon-Sun 7am-11pm
1462 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Jump into the Wormhole!

Brü Coffee and Co-Working Space

A great place if you’re looking to get any work done while you travel. This co-working space had lot of room, couches and great wifi to power your day. I also enjoyed that they had smoothies and juice, though I did not enjoy the plastic they came in. Ask for a for-here cup, before you made the same mistake I did! They also have free yoga classes if you need to unwind from working too much. The place could have a better ambiance, but it serves its purpose of fueling you with coffee and space to work.

Sun-Thu- 8am-8pm Fri-Sat 8am-9pm
1562 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA

Get your work in, here!

Craft Cocktail and Local Breweries in Chicago

Billy Sunday

Billy Sunday is a classy and intimate bar with dark woods and a red wine floor, located in the heart of Logan Square. Not only do they mix with top notch booze, they have a unique list arsenal of bitters and ingredients they use. Some of my favorites on the list are the fennel pollen, black trumpet mushrooms and angelica root bitters which make for exciting and new flavors you haven’t tried anywhere else. Order up the classic Old Fashion or get weird with Box Lunch containing goat milk and oatmeal.

Usually 5pm-2am, but varies on the weekends
3143 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Find Your Next Drink Here!

Scofflaw

Victory Lap Scofflaw Chicago Daniel Segar

The first place my local friend and fellow booze connoisseur recommended when I asked for the best cocktail bars. This place feels like home, located in a charming Chicago building, the interior is filled with eclectic furniture and design. Their main poison is gin and they use it well. Try the Victory Lap (pictured).

Normally 5pm-2am with varying weekend hours
3201 W Armitage Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Photo courtesy of Daniel Segar for Scofflaw
Be an outlaw, here!

Mezcalarie

Recommended to me by my bartender at Longman & Eagle, this gem specializes in Mezcal and Tequila based drinks. Owned by Kaitlyn, who is seemingly a popular local, this place is down to earth and welcoming. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a huge fan of either Tequila or Mezcal, but the mixing they did here, put a smile on my face. My favorite was the Bridges Not Walls, for the obvious awesome name and great flavors of chili and strawberry.

Most days 5pm-2am, staying open late Friday.
3149 W Logan Blvd, Chicago, IL 60647, USAOne Tequila, Two Tequila…

The Whistler

Cafe racer The Whistler Bar Chicago

A more lively and energetic bar, this is a good waterhole to hit the town and let loose. Along with some great cocktails, you’ll find DJs or live music nightly, with no cover! Woo! I love that they feature all different types of music from my favorite, electronic, to jazz and country. They even feature different artistic endeavors like film screenings and readings. Their cocktail menu changes all the time. Ask your bartender for their seasonal favorite or find their menu, posted daily on social media. I felt like a true Chicago local and enjoyed the welcoming scene at The Whistler!

Mon-Thur: 6pm-2am Fri-Sun: 5pm-2/3am
2421 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Photo courtesy of The Whistler
Let Loose!

Bar Deville

Bar Deville Chicago

This dark and moody bar oozes a gothic chic feel. Nestle into to one of their Victorian age sofas and order one of your favorites. Their core menu focuses on classic drinks like the Side Car and Sazerac, without too much originality, but they execute them well. Their strong classic menu has earned them favoritism in the industry scene and even made Food & Wine Magazine top 100 best bar list.

Mon-Sun: 5pm-2am, staying open late Saturday
701 N Damen Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Photo courtesy of Bar Deville
Order Up the Classics!

Revolution Brewing

Revolution Brewing Chicago

Recommend by another local and beer lover, this place is a friendly and welcoming local brewery. They even had the best vegan burger I’ve had in a while, which was surprising! Anyways, their league of hero beers depicts hops as heroes of the day. If you’re an IPA fan, try the Galaxy Hero, brewed specifically for the Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo! If you’re like me and avoid IPA you’ll love the Bottom Up wheat beer. They have both a brewery and a brewpub to delight all your taste buds.

Locations and hours vary
Beer up!

Forbidden Root

This place is just cool! Chicago’s first botanical brewery it opened last year and is already making waves. They embrace old botanical brewing techniques and combine your favorite flavors with botanicals like dandelion, wildflower, and ginger. Find something different at this truly unique place that prides themselves on community and great taste.

Mon-Sun 11am-12am
1746 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Find Something Different

Boutique Hotels in Chicago

I had the honor to stay at two amazing boutique hotels during my stay in Chicago and would highly recommend both of these based on your needs or budget.

Longman & Eagle

Longman & Eagle Boutique Hotel Logan Square

As soon as I read Longman & Eagle allowed you to bunk in their upstairs I booked it immediately, and it did not disappoint. They only have 6 rooms, but each one has it’s own unique hipster personality and cool amenities. You check in at the bar, so you already know you’re going to have a good time and after partying the night away you can slip upstairs, play your Fischer Price tape player and fall asleep- only to wake up and head back down for one of the best brunches in the city. The staff was welcoming and friendly and the rooms were so quaint. Located in the center of Logan Square on the Blue Line, 10/10 would recommend anyone to stay here, unless of course you like going to bed early, then you might not like the noise.

Hollander

Hollnder Chicago Boutique Hotel

This place is a combination of the grown-up hostel and boutique hotel. Piggybacking on the famous Robey, this is great for all budgets. Share an adult style bunk doom with strangers or book one for your whole group. If you like personal space they have private rooms as well. The lobby is always lively with working and social individuals. The exposed ceilings and metal pipes are a stylish way to enjoy your stay. The staff was super friendly and the rooms had everything you need for a secure and comfortable night sleep. Located in the heart of Wicker Park and right on the Blue Line you it’s a great overall choice.

2022 W North Ave, Chicago, IL 60647, USA
Get Comfy!

Neighborhoods

The best neighborhoods in Chicago are the aforementioned Logan Square and Wicker Park. They’re both located on the Blue Line with direct transit to and from the airport and downtown. No matter what hipster or geeky things in Chicago you’re looking for you’ll find them in these areas. There’s plenty of bars, restaurants, local shops and markets and museums. I stayed in both locations and was able to check out the downtown area and then return to hipsterville for an evening of local fun.

Thank you Chicago for making me feel right at home! Make sure you pin and share this so other can find all the best hipster and geeky things to do in Chicago.

Explore off the beaten path Chicago, U.S.A with this guide inspired by locals. Find the best hipster and geeky things to do in Chicago by exploring markets, brunch spots, cocktail bars, museums, comic stores and boutique hotels in with this hipster and geek guide to Chicago.

Explore off the beaten path Chicago, U.S.A with this guide inspired by locals. Find the best hipster and geeky things to do in Chicago by exploring markets, brunch spots, cocktail bars, museums, comic stores and boutique hotels in with this hipster and geek guide to Chicago.

Ode to My Traveling Mother & Father: Pioneers of the Wilderness

There was always a photo that hung in our house, black, white and grainy. You had to squint to see the details, allowing your eyes to blur the pixels. It was a vintage photo from sometime in the 70s. An old pick up truck was sitting in front of the towering mountains in Alaska. Four young adults, with long hair, big beards and oversized sunglasses, true hippies, were taking a break from exploring the Last Frontier. These four individuals were my parents and two of their best friends, pioneers of travel in Alaska and of the National Parks in United States. I always looked at that photo and admired my mother for going out and exploring the unknown.

Here we are 35 or so years later and I end up on the phone with my mother constantly saying things like, “I’m moving to Germany,” or “I’m going to Brazil, alone.” She remains in awe of my reckless travels as I take off around the world on my own. Little does she know, it was her, those vintage photos of wild North America and the travels we took as a family that inspired me to continue traveling, probably for the rest of my life. Here is the ode to my mom, the woman that inspired me, and made it possible for me to travel.

An ode to my Traveling Mother Wandering Chocobo

Her traveling career is broken up into four categories, child, young married adult, mother of two and mother of two adults.

Family Travel in the 60s

You know how people say my generation spends too much money on travel and not enough money education? Well, it looks like my family has been prioritizing travel since the 60s and 70s, so it’s not just my generation, thank you very much. My Grandpa, (mom’s dad) despite being fairly well off, was bit by the travel bug and when he would start to itch he would march down to the bank and take out a $5,000 home repair loan. Instead of repairing their perfectly livable house he would pack up the family and drive. Now mind you, my family lived in Alaska, so driving meant driving through Canada, down to Arkansas or Texas to visit family. My mom, her brother and their foster sister would sit in the top of the camper as they drove the bumpy Alcan road. I asked her how many times she drove that road and her response was, “too many to count.” When they would reach the lower 48 my mom said she was just constantly awe-struck. Growing up in Alaska, she had never been in a place that was both dark and warm at the same time and she would go out at night and just sit in the dark, listening to the crickets in the warm summer air. (In Alaska if it’s warm, there is 24 hours of daylight) Her love for the open road and family trips became part of who she is and how she raised her family.

Friends vacation in Colorado

Photo of my parents and their friends mobbing in a jeep in Colorado

Meanwhile, my dad was growing up in Saskatchewan Canada (I know this is a mother’s day post, but my dad has some pretty cool stories too and had a big impact on my mom and our family travels.) He had never seen a mountain, been to the United States, eaten a Big Mac, or gone on a vacation. His only “vacation” was driving 100 miles north, as far as the road in Saskatchewan would take him to his cousin’s farm. He and his brothers would spend their vacations, running wild and free and that was as close to a vacation he ever got.

After he moved to Alaska, he met my mom. According to my mom, he got cold feet when their relationship was starting to develop and took off on a wild road trip without even telling her! According to my dad, three of his friends decided to pack up a small car and drive from Alaska to New York. My dad, still had never been to the lower 48 and asked if he could join. I get it dad, I had to get my wild travels out of the way before I could ever settle down. Sometimes you have to let the wind blow in your hair and see the world to really know yourself. So, four dudes crammed in a car and drove from Alaska to NYC in 3 days. In total on that trip they drove 30,000 miles in 6 weeks. I don’t really want to get into the details of what happened in that car in three days, but four guys, taking shifts driving, peeing in cups, you get the idea. It was the ultimate bro-trip. My dad ate his first Big Mac and saw sights he never dreamed of seeing, growing up in Saskatchewan.

My mother at the beach in California.

It’s funny when I ask my dad about this trip, he always focus on the Big Mac and how good it was. Welcome to America, Dad. He grew up pretty poor in Canada and a Big Mac was always just something he heard about, but never thought he would ever eat. He still loves his Big Macs today. They eventually made it back to Alaska and I guess he decided to take the leap and him and mom married and started their journey traveling together, one that still continues to this day.

Young, Married, but still Wild at Heart

On any given weekend, after their marriage, my parents were hiking in Alaska. They were true pioneers of the Alaskan hiking trails, blazing their way through wilderness, hippies at heart. It wasn’t enough though, and two of their best friends decided to hit the road and invited them along. My dad built a camper with his own bare hands and hooked it up to their truck and an epic road between four best friends began.

Yosemite National Park in the 70s Wandering Chocobo

My mom at Yosemite National Park in the 70s

I asked my mom if they quit jobs or school to take this trip. She said she took a leave of absence for a little over two months and school was never on their list of things to do.

“Academics weren’t really a thing in Alaska at that time, going to college was not a particularly important thing in anyone’s life that I knew. There was corruption, protests and they just seemed to be a little messy.”

“Do you regret not going to school?” I ask.

“Sometimes, I think I missed out on a real life experience I should have had by going to college.”

“It’s funny, I went to school and sometimes I think I learn the most about life through traveling and sometimes wonder if school was pointless.”

“Well, I think it’s good to have that balance the smarts and the global experience.”

“You’re smart mom, you don’t need school to tell you that.”

“I suppose…”

During those three months my mom said she was constantly pushed out of her comfort zone. The group always decided to take the road less traveled and the path that wasn’t marked.

Mt. Rushmore in the 70s Wandering Chocobo

My mom kissing G. Washington. A unique View of Mt. Rushmore in the 70s

“A lot of these photos we got in the Parks no one else has, like this photos of me kissing George Washington. We found trails that don’t exist anymore or you’re not allowed to go because of overcrowding. Back in the 70s not very many people went to the parks. We were often alone, exploring. The parks themselves haven’t changed much, except for water levels and animals numbers (and stuff like that) but as someone who has been going to National Parks since I was a young teenage girl with my parents, they definitely are a lot more crowded. That’s maybe the biggest difference I notice. It’s good though, that more people are making the time to see these, but it does take away from that raw nature. I’m glad they’re protected parts from the rest of the U.S. They’re so beautiful.”

“I hope they stay around longer,” I say, “they’re cutting a lot of funding.”

“You know, you’d have to be really stupid to sit by and let these parks disappear. If funding is cut in the next four years, I think it will either come back or we will find a way to fund them. They can’t go away.”

My mother’s optimism is something I need in my life. I worry too much they will soon disappear.

Redwood National Park in the 70s redwood trees Wandeirng Chocobo

My mother among the Redwood trees at Redwood National Park.

She said that her and my dad were just along for the ride, while their two friends mostly decided where to go next and what to do next. Even in my carefree travels I don’t think I have ever traveled with that amount of reckless abandon and I admire their true hippy spirit as they explored North America and the National Parks.

“Did traveling like this at a young age, help your marriage or spark the romance?” I ask my dad.

“Of course it was special for our marriage, but there have been times you mom and I have traveled alone, like the time we drove from Alaska to Washington in 2007 and that was one of the best trips for our marriage. Your mom told me she would join the road trip and sleep in a tent in her old age, if I got up every morning made her coffee, bought her a queen blow up mattress and a tent she could stand up in. So every morning I would leave the tent before she was even awake, and make her a cup of coffee. Those were the things that made our marriage stronger.”

couple travel in Canada Wandering Chocobo

Parents on their camping road trip through Canada.

Grand Canyon in the 70s Wandering Chocobo

My mom standing over the Grand Canyon. The first time my dad saw it and he captured my mom! So cute!

It was on this trip my dad saw the Grand Canyon for the first time. He had trouble finding words to explain the canyon to me, just that it was so amazing to see the earth fall away into breath-taking beauty. My mom was partial to Yosemite, it’s her favorite park. That and the Redwoods. It’s crazy how much she looks like me, sitting there, looking so small under the trees.

Redwood National Park in the 70s Wandering Chocobo

Once again in one of her favorite parks, the Redwoods

“You know I look back at these photos and I see them, but sometimes I don’t remember it. It’s like all this happened in a totally different life. I know I was there, writing in my journal and my journal was so important to me, I know that looking at the photo, but it’s hard actually recall the memory. So much has happened since then.”

Grand Tetons National Park in the 70s

My mom standing in front of the great Teton Mountains for Grand Teton National Park.

Three months on the open road, traveling from Alaska and Denali National park, to California and the Redwoods, to Wyoming and the Tetons, Montana and Glacier National Park they went, before they returned back to Alaska, only to continue their never ending hiking adventures.

Yosemite Waterfall in the 70s Wandering Chocobo

My mother in front of a fall at Yosemite National Park

Traveling Mother of Two

Then my sister and I came along. My mom, thinking of her days where Grandpa would take out a loan and pack up the family, or traveling the open road with my dad, carried that reckless abandon to raising my sister and I. Living in Alaska we got a PFD, or money from the state oil revenue. It’s basically “free money” for living in Alaska. A lot of parents choose to blow that money on a new TV, car or house or maybe even save it for college. My parents however, took that money and we went on an amazing vacation every few years. This money took us to the East coast when I was two, Grand Canyon when I was 6, Hawaii when I was 8, Florida when I was 10, a massive road trip from Alaska to around the U.S. when I was 12 and many, many more.

Horseback riding in Sedona Arizona

Family horseback riding in Sedona, Arizona.

“The thing about traveling as a family, is it takes you out of the normal every day stuff and you’re free to enjoy each other’s company on another level. I felt that way when we traveled, as a family, we connected on a level that we never did at home. It sets you into an experience together. When you experience a lot of things while traveling like I did as a kid and young adult, to be able to share those experiences with your kids, you get to see them through your kid’s eyes all over again and it’s just amazing.”

Hawaii family vacation

Family playing in the water in Hawaii, once again, dad is photographing.

My dad’s favorite vacation we took as a family was to Hawaii. We would boogie board our hearts out. My sister and I also imprinted on a nomadic sand artist. I think that bond we had with Mary, the artist, brought joy to my dad. To be able to see my sister and I bond with a nomadic adult and see her for the beauty in her art and in her smile meant a lot to him, as a father. He loves to tell that story of my best friend, Mary. I would wake up, run to the beach and help her build her sand mermaids.

Family hiking trip

Families that road trip and hike together, stay together.

My mom’s favorite family trip was our massive road trip. Seeing all the National Parks that she saw with her parents, then my dad and then with her kids was really something special to her. However, she always tells the story of the long road back through Canada to Alaska. With two wiggly pre-teens in the back it could have been a nightmare, but she just remembers my sister and I entertaining ourselves with silly jokes, games and laughter.

Mother daughter travel

Mother, sister and I in Rhode Island

We didn’t have a lot growing up, but we had an amazing life though at home and on the road. At home in Alaska, I remember I was free to roam around the woods and the mountains whenever I wanted. I think this was a major contribution to my love of the outdoors. We would go on ski trips and hiking trips as a family. Staycations were something we did almost weekly. On the road, looking back at what my parents sacrificed, so my sister and I could see the nature around North America brings tears to my eyes. I will forever be grateful to the life I had.

“Do you regret us not saving the PFD money for your college?” My mom now asks me.

“Not at all, those memories we shared as a family and the spark it ignited in me to see the world is something that money or education could never buy or take away from me. I cherish that family time with every fiber of my being. Thank you for that, mom and dad.”

Traveling with Adult Children

I grew up and I went to college. I was the first in my family to graduate. My parents worked hard to help support me through school, but I graduated and immediately wanted to travel. Thus began an era of giving my mom heart attacks, traveling alone to Brazil, backpacking Europe and taking off on a whim to Bali. As a natural worrier, I know it stressed her out.

“Mom, when I look at all the wild things you did in the 70s and 80s I am baffled as to how my adventures scare you, you were so brave!”

“I never went anywhere alone, I never left the country. I still have a natural fear of the unknown sometimes and I admire you, Susanna for doing it all on your own.”

I don’t believe her, she’s more brave than she thinks, because recently my mom, sister and I went to Zion National park together and at the age of 60 my mom hiked up Angel’s Landing like a total bad ass. I had never been more proud of mom or my sister during that trip. She still has that young woman, there inside of her fighting to explore and hike.

Mother and Daughter Trip to Zion National Park

Mother and Daughter Trip to Zion National Park

Traveling as an adult with your parents, you really start to learn about how they are as a person and not just as your parents. It seems that stories of their past don’t come out when you’re a child growing up. The focus is always on the child or the here or now. I treasure these adult family trips to learn about my family and bond with them in new ways.

Even after all this travel, my parents had never left the country.

Leaving the Country for the First Time

Remember that quote earlier on? “Hey mom, I’m moving to Germany.”
Well, I moved to Germany. I wasn’t sure if my parents would come visit me or not. Other than Canada my mom had never left the country. Maybe it would be my job to visit them. Them my mom told me she was going to do it. My mother who hated airplanes was going to fly to Europe to see me!

Mom daughter travel Neuschwanstein

Mom and me at Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany.

My dad being the ultimate budget traveler decided to book the cheapest ticket possible. Using airline miles and the craziest layover sequence, he booked a 34 hour flight to Europe, but he only spent like $90. So you know. Worth it? hahah ask my mom, the one who hates flying.

Hiking Cinque Terre, Italy.

Mom hiking in Cinque Terre, Italy.

Finally, they made it. My mom and dad were in Europe and they went from hiking the mountains in Alaska to the mountains in Bavaria and Cinque Terre, Italy. They fell in love with Europe, the ease of travel the new exciting Alps, just getting on a train and going. I wonder if it made them feel like back in the 70s just getting in the car and going. My mom says it was her favorite trip of all time though, because it was here they were able to meet the love of my life and the reason I moved to Germany. It’s funny, I never thought I would have that relationship where I could have it all, travel with my boyfriend and my family. But, you know what? Travel made it all possible, travel made my family what it is today.

Family vacation in Cinque Terre, Italy

Hanging out with my boyfriend and family in Cinque Terre, Italy!

Honorable Mention to My Grandma

She hitch- hiked, alone, from South Dakota to California, in what must have been the 40s, to start nursing school only to give it up to work to put her sister through nursing school. It seems like travel has been in my family for a long time.

Grandma reads book

Grandma reading my sister and me a book about adventure.

So, heres to the brave daring women that traveled above all else. To every mother who put travel into their families lives. And most of all to the pioneers of the wilderness in North America. Heres to my mom, to my grandma and even my sister and my dad. Happy Mothers Day!

Travel back in time through North American National Parks back in the 60s and 70s through the eyes of my traveling parents. This is a Mother's day tribute to my mom, a women who was a pioneer of the wilderness in Alaska, Canada and the United States. Don't miss these vintage photos of the National Parks!


Wandering Chocobo Goes to College of Wizardry LARP: Part 2

Everywhere you look, it seems that nerd culture is on the rise from a source of mockery, to down right cool. It’s a bit strange for those of us who have been geeky since they day we were born. However, in my now confident adult years I’ve decided to embrace this rise in nerd power and rather than be the grumpy old woman who shakes her fist and says, “I was a nerd before it was cool,” I now live the life I should have in my later teen years, openly and proudly. So, here I am at the ripe old age of 29, and I just booked a trip to Poland, to attend the College of Wizardry (CoW) live action role play (LARP). That’s right, I moved into a castle for 4 days and lived the life of a witch named Soelle.

College of Wizardry LARP experience Wandering Chocobo

This is the second post in this series and it covers off-game during the LARP (so me writing as myself, and not my character during Thurs-Sun) ***If you missed the introduction to Wandering Chocobo goes to College of Wizardry (CoW) live action role play (LARP) you’ll want to click here for part one, which covers character selection, the background of the CoW world, what a LARP is, costume design and my nerves and insecurities.

This post may contain some terms unfamiliar to you. However for this post, it’s important to know that within this magical LARP there are 5 houses, Sendivogius (my house), Faust, Molin, Libussa and Durentius. There are different career paths (I’m an Artificer or someone who deals with modern technology) and 3 different school years, Juniors, Sophomores (that’s me!) and Seniors. There is a house cup, which the houses compete for by earning points. CoW is a nordic LARP and can be best envisioned as a live action theater or murder mystery where you interact with others to create dramatic story lines. There are players, like me, and non-playable characters, like ghosts that you can interact with. Basically, I moved into a castle for four days and to live out the life of a “normal witch” attending college. This is set in a castle college in Poland, in a magic world with witches, wizards, vampires and werewolves.

Czocha College of Wizardry Castle Poland Wandering Chocobo

The Trip to Berlin

Feeling more confident than ever, I had a character, I had a suit case full of awesome outfits, and beer (for a club meeting called the basement beer brigade), it was time to head to Berlin! I decided to arrive a few days early, in order to explore the hipster side of Berlin, and also to make it to a pre-LARP meet up. I assumed this would help put my nerves at ease. Unfortunately, for a lot of us, the Berlin airports were shut down for two days, due to strikes. On top of that there was a massive snow storm on the east coast of the U.S. A lot of people, including myself and I only live in Munich, had a very difficult time getting to Berlin. My flight was canceled and I ended up on a 10 hour train journey. Our off-game facebook chat was filled with terror. Would we all make it to Czocha to begin the school year? Thankfully, I gave myself extra time, but some people were flying in from the U.S. the same day as the bus to Czocha departed and were cutting it close, or dealing with jet lag.

Wandering Chocobo in Berlin

For those of us that got to Berlin a few days early, we enjoyed a fantastic meet-up at a brewery in Berlin. I met my off and in-game friends Dennis and both Lauras as well as 25 other new friends. We got along swimmingly, minus some language barriers, but I knew from the start, these were my type of people. I was able to wear a weird outfit to dinner and fit right in. I could talk openly about anything and it was like the ultimate no-judgement zone. I’m sure anyone looking at us from the outside would have though we were a bit odd, but to each other we were beautiful and normal. This feeling would continue and grow through the entire week. Most of us left dinner early to get a good night sleep. We had a bus to Poland to make early in the morning. We were told there was no waiting, for anyone. However, some stayed behind drinking and it showed on the bus the next day. 😛

Bus from Berlin To Czocha Poland

I decided to treat myself to a taxi, since my suitcase was heavier than a griffin. I was traveling from the heart of Berlin to Berlin Tegel Airport. It was here I would be meeting up with the entire group taking the bus. I tried in my broken German to share the story of my upcoming LARP adventure with my cab driver. Slowly, over time the classical music in the taxi got louder and louder in his attempt to drown me out haha. Eventually, we settled on a topic he enjoyed, music. He dropped me off in an area full of busses, unsure of which one might be mine, he got out and went off to talk to the other bus drivers when a beautiful coach pulled up with with a flying witch logo adorning the side. This was my coach to Czocha, I knew it! I excitedly got out and greeted the familiar faces from last night and met some new ones. I chose a seat near the back next to Laura (Professor Ripley) from Completing My Bucket List, Dennis (Ewan), Micha (my prefect Advant), Cathering (Kara) and a few others.

Bus from Berlin College of Wizardry Wandering Chocobo

The bus was filled with excited chatter as we began to roll down the highway. I had not met the group sitting in front of me and we began to talk. They were a group from Sweden and they were all co-workers at a gaming store. They were lovely people and first time LARPers as well. We shared our fears and excitement until we were stopped by a loud “POP!” Suddenly, the end of my bus dropped and we looked behind and saw a tire rolling down the autobahn away from us. Our driver pulled over and got out. I could tell by the look on his face that it wasn’t good. But, he got back in the bus and kept freakin driving… We all began to wonder what was happening. Duh-thunk Duh-thunk… the bus goes. Finally, after several miles, we pull off, “Well that can’t have been good for the wheel,” I say.

College of Wizardry Bus to Berlin  Wandering Chocobo

We joked that this session of CoW, CoW11, was cursed, with airport strikes, bad weather, blown out tires… what else could possibly go wrong? We were told that half of us would go into the second bus and the other half would wait for another bus to come from Berlin, as we were already an hour away at this point. Starting to worry that we might not make the grand opening feast, we all exit the bus and gather round in a circle, like penguins, finding comfort. We decideded to make the best of this and learn some of the Czocha College hymns. Mind you, some of us are in full blown Witch/Wizard LARP gear, I’m talking about hats, wands, the works! We began to learn the main hymn of the college song and our voices rise into the air, just the German Polizei show up. What a sight we must have been, a group of people singing about witchcraft on the side of the road in strange costumes. Nonetheless, they decided to help us and sooner than later we had a spare tire on and we were back on the road to Poland! No extra busses needed!

College of Wizardry Thursday Day 1


Orientation and Rules of the Game

An hour later, our bus finally pulls into the Czocha Castle. It doesn’t look like much from the outside and we’re all tired and worn out. Energy levels are low. We drag our heavy beer laden suitcases down a cobble stone road. The excitement begins to build and as we turn the corner and the magic set in. The emotions running through us as we crossed the bridge into our new home for four days were indescribable. Some of us were crying, some of us were laughing, but we were each having our own special moment with Czocha. This castle in all it’s glory is as close to a picturesque castle as you can get. A beautiful bridge led us to a grand entrance laid with brick work. The castle seemed to fold into layers upon layers, secret bridges connected hidden stone doorways, red tiled roofs grew higher until it peaked as a perfect tower. Getting into character will be much easier with this to call home, I thought!

Czocha College of Wizardry Poland LARP Wandering Chocobo

The feelings of happiness are quickly squashed by that of anxiety and panic. As I am lugging all my bags through the entrance, staff begin herding us like the castle cats. I don’t blame them, we’re more than an hour past schedule and we have a LARP to start. Within a matter or minutes, I have my house tie, red for Sendivogius, and my robe, lined in red for my Sophomore year. I then begin searching for my name tag among a sea of other names. Soelle Baldovini…. Soelle… Soelle… Ah there she is. “Be back down in 5 minutes,” I am told, “No time to get into character, just get downstairs for orientation!” I lug my beer laden suitcase up the stairs, very slowly. I search for a castle goblin I can force to take my bags up, no luck. It takes me the full five minutes. As I do, people are running around like goblins with their heads cut off, it is utter chaos.

College of Wizardry Knights Hall defy Gravity

Knights Hall

When I make it back down, I’m sweating and I am told to go to the entrance hall to meet with the other Artificers, those studying the same subjects in school as me. Only now am I able to catch my breath and orient myself. I look around at my other classmates. I am not the only one sweating and a total hot mess. We exchange words of excitement, stress and eagerness. We begin a rotation of several different orientations. These are to help us understand game mechanics, what we can do, what we can’t do and safety procedures. For game mechanics, we learn how to cast spells. We must be direct in our spell. If I want to make someone fall asleep I would say, “Fallasleepio” and advance toward my opponent. The defender can cast a defensive spell like, “deflectio” while crossing their arms. It is always up to the victim to decide what the spell does. This provides a safety feature in the game, if I don’t want my character to wind up asleep I can have the spell miss or I can deflect.

Another orientation session was about mental and health precautions. We were told that at any point if we were emotionally overwhelmed being another character, or needed someone to talk to, or help with our game we could come to the staff room, where there was chocolate, tea, pillows and someone to talk to. They also gave us the run down on sexual advances and that no means no and maybe even means no. Sometimes in character flirting is hard to decipher and it’s important to remain safe.

We learned about the NPC, or non-playable characters, such as the castle goblins, ghost and forest demons. These are technically staff members that are here to enhance our play. You can ask the goblins for a secret and they may tell you some dirt they heard about a professor, this will open up an entire quest or story line you can follow.

College of Wizardry 11 defy Gravity Fairy NPC

NPC fairy

This was my first opportunity to meet the other Artificers. We got to know each other and had time to build some relationships. I was already known as a bit of a trouble maker and attracted the attention of a Junior, Johnathan, who was looking to get into the Ancient Order of Mischief.

We then re-grouped and divided into houses and were told to find our common room. I knew most of my house from meeting on Google hangouts prior to the LARP, but there were definitely some new faces! One of our poor prefects was suffering from terrible jetlag while we did character introductions and discussed our tactics for winning the house cup. I’m not going to lie, the energy in our house was pretty dead. We were all hungry, tired and most of us were first time LARPers, including myself. Some awkward silences hung around as we tried to motivate ourselves and failed. Nonetheless we stumbled through introductions and survived long enough to make it to dinner! Our prefect, Willow was growing something suspicious in the bathtub. She was incubating exotic mermaid eggs. We were not allowed to ask any questions….

sendivogius Pride College of Wizardry Wandering Chocobo

Sendivogius Pride!

With the orientation out of the way, we were ready to get into character and start the grand opening banquet! We ran to our rooms to change into character and costume, from this moment on I was no longer Susanna, I was Soelle. We gathered as excited students in the main hall to hear the headmistress speak. Curfew was at midnight, off-game sleep starts at 2am and no Juniors allowed in the dark forest! Welcome to Czocha for another year of fun, magic and mystery!

Headmistress Hemolock giving announcements College of Wizardry Defy Gravity

Headmistress Hemlock and other professors, giving announcements.

The Strange Gathering in the Tower

I was a bit overwhelmed, as 100 or so people dispersed to play a game it was utter chaos. It was nearly 9pm and I had an Ancient Order of Mischief meeting scheduled at midnight and until then, I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I figured the best thing to do was to join the Juniors for a castle tour. Even though I was technically a first year, this was my first time at Czocha. That’s part of the role playing, you have to act like you’ve already been here a year if you’re a second year! It was a bit hard to grasp. On our tour, I found tons of secret hiding places, trap doors, spiral staircases, dungeons and much more! But as I was on this tour I realized that events were happening all around me. There was a duel happening between my housemate, Cordelia Duke, a hexist snob, and a homely Junior who was possibly after her betrothed. Everywhere I looked things were happening! Werewolves were appearing, ghosts were floating, duels were happening and secrets were being told. I was a bit hesitant to join in as I wasn’t sure what to join in or how. I just sort of wandered about with some of my house mates, but we quickly realized that you didn’t need an invite to join or to have pre-planned anything you just sort of showed up and interacted like you were supposed to be there!

College of Wizardry student werewolf Defy Gravity

Werewolf student that appeared the first evening.

I remember that I needed to bring to potion to a game of potion roulette and luck was on my side, as my roommate was a potion master. I handed her my two vial and asked her to whip up something good. I named one “dirty little secret” and gave the second to a housemate my good friend Nanna/Payton, she named it “love to your left.” Midnight was drawing near and that meant curfew and that it was almost time to make our way to Museum on one of the lower levels for our Ancient order of mischief. As I was on my way down there with a few Juniors and housemates in tow, we heard a rumor from our President that the meeting would be delayed by 30 minutes. I was unsure of what to do and feeling like the entire group was waiting for me to make a call, when a goblin stumbled down the stone stairs leading up to the tower. It told me, that if I wanted to live I should not go into the tower. Well, if there was anything I had learned at this point it was to follow the little seeds planted by NPCs. So what else would I do, but go into the tower!

Czocha castle in Poland. College of Wizardry 11 Toivo Voll

Stairway up to the Tower

Crooked stairs wound up and around, turning from narrow brick stairs to wide uneven wood stairs and then to a narrow, unsafe looking ladder. I erupted into a darkly lit small tower room. Professor Mackenzie, the Ritual Magic professor, stopped to look at me. I couldn’t help but thinking that I interrupted a secret meeting. I used my trouble making character as a crutch and sat down, loudly.

“Is everyone here, supposed to be here?” the Professor asks, looking at me.
I snicker and nod.
“Does everyone have their paperwork?”
I snicker and nod, while I am thinking, oh no, I don’t have the paperwork. A small nerdy Junior sitting next to me, named Jules, gives me a piece of paper, “don’t worry I have extras,” he whispers.
I would come to rely on this little nerd as the school days progressed. He would always be there, eager to write essays for extra credit or do everyone’s homework.

I see Maddy, the president of the Ancient Order of Mischief, her eyes glittering from across the room, and I realize that this secret meeting was the reason we were delayed. The Professor continues to ramble about a very cryptic research project he is conducting. I sit, wondering if I was supposed to know what he is talking about or if he is just a crackpot. He wanted everyone to conduct magical research and meet him again, tomorrow, after midnight to uncover our findings. My character laughs, extra studious homework? Yeah right. I’ll just get the nerd to do double the experiments for me. Before we leave the professor hands out Hall Passes, for being out after curfew. I treat this like gold. There is no reason listed on the pass so now I can use this on any night for sneaking about.

The Ancient Order of Mischief and Potion Roulette

Maddy and I make our way down to the museum, where our Ancient Order meeting is happening. We arrive to very few people in the room. A little disappointed, we heard that not everyone got wind of the time change and showed up at midnight. A cranky prefect, probably Advant, found everyone and kicked them out. We began to place our potions on the middle table, some were small and glittery, others large and menacing. Our numbers slowly grew, as those who left before began to reattempt to break curfew and sneak down to join us. Pretty soon there were 15 or more potions on the table. I was giddy with excitement as Maddy asked how many Juniors we had. The Juniors were to undergo an initiation into the Ancient Order, and we handed them all names of players in the game. Before the weekend was over they had to perform a prank on said person. They were given prominent professors, prefects and students. Some of the looks on their face were that of joy, some of them had a mischievous grin and others were of pure terror. Oh, the joys of initiation!

Potion Roulette College of Wizardry Wandering Chocobo

Potion Roulette After Curfew

Now, it was time for potion roulette. One by one we choose a bottle or vial. It was up to the drinker to choose the result of the potion, but the names gave us hints. Within no-time we had someone acting as a different zoo animal every minute, someone who was seeing flocks of birds attacking them, people spilling their deepest and darkest secrets, people falling in love or into euphoria and I was on my hands and knees mewing and acting like a kitten. The potion acted as long as we wanted or little as we wanted, but at the end of the game, all spells were reversed. We all tiptoed back through a hauntingly quiet castle. I stumbled into bed around 2am, the last of my room mates to make it back. I was somehow pleased with this, a full and successful day!

College of Wizardry Friday Day 2


College Classes and Losing Points

I woke up, excited to start my first full day of classes. I had my notebook and book bag with my schedule. Most of my classes were arduous and indoors, ah the path of an Artificer. I happily connected with my housemates, and friends over coffee in the morning before heading to my first class, Ritual Magic, with that strange professor from last night in the tower. Oh my god, he just continued to ramble on and on, even thought my character was making every effort to stop him.

Soelle fidgeted and sighed and distracted the other students. Her housemate, Payton, played a long with this as her trouble making sidekick. However, I wanted the teacher to interact with me more, RP and discipline me, or chew me out for being a terrible student. Nothing…. This pattern continued through to Invocation and Conflux Studies. Conflux studies was the equivalent of government and the professor was played by John, someone I got along with well pre-game. However, his character was a right old hag. At the age of 80 she was the grumpiest professor around. I was almost scared to piss her off in class for fear of losing house points. In fact, I was amazed that I hadn’t lost any, yet.

College of Wizardry ritual magic defy gravity

Ritual Magic Class

Mind Magic was after lunch and it was the first time I was really able to feel like I was LARPing with magic. I paired up with another house mate and we were to alter each others emotions and minds. I would cast “Joyexia” and if their mind was “open” they would become joyous, but if my mind wasn’t focused it would have no effect. This took team work RPing as we went back and forth acting and reacting to the different spells. At one point Ewan, an empath, became so overjoyed at the same time I did and we began singing and dancing together around the room in pure joy! The professor, a particularly tough woman, dispelled us and we received a bit of a reprimand for not focusing enough.

College of Wizardry Goblin hex Defy Gravity

Stray hexes falling on goblins.

The next class was Technomancy, where we played with and learned about Mundane technology. The teacher handed out house points like candy and I received a few! My character was particularly good at this subject being an Artificer and she enjoyed the subject. Another fellow Artificer from Libussa, who was a troublemaker as well, was giving me strange gestures after class and before I knew what was happening we were leaving through a secret door! We were outside on a covered bridge and as we followed the bridge we re-entered the castle. We found ourselves in an odd room, one that was filled with bathtubs, toilets and sinks. I had flashbacks to when Harry was in the Prefect’s bathroom. “What was this place?” My cohort and I wondered when we heard voices, the voices of the headmistress and other professors! “RUN” we both screamed and ran back the way we came. We tried the door we came from, it locked from the outside. We had nowhere to go as the headmistress spotted the color of our ties and removed 2 points from Libussa and two points from Sendi. Unfortunately, the professor that caught me was the Mind Magic professor and the head of House Sendi she began to lecture me. Susanna was ashamed that I lost points and got in trouble, while my character was laughing in the professors face. An inner battle began to rage between myself and my character. It was so natural for me to apologize to authority, but my character couldn’t give a fuuuuu. As the professors left, we realized that we were still stuck in the outdoor bridge. We couldn’t get back in and the teachers wouldn’t let us though the teachers lounge. Class was about to start and we were stuck. We looked below into a lower courtyard and saw a fellow student, his head wrapped in a turban.

“You know the professor lounge is that way.”
“yeah, we know, dude. We already lost points, and can’t get out of here.”
“yeah, it’s a trap.”
“Duh, we know that now.”
“Do you need help?” he asks.
“No, can you just leave us up here to single handedly lose all the points for our house?”
“Well, ok then,”
“No, wait! Please help us!”
He came to our rescue and opened the door from inside the castle and we slipped past the professor just as students were coming in for class. We had under 3 minutes to get to our next class. We giggled and parted ways.

I skipped my last class, Arthimancy for Alchemy. I was hoping for actual chemical and a chemistry set up, but I realize that is a liability with a bunch of LARPers, so we LARPed the shit out of food dye, water and beakers. We created a memory serum that upon drinking would recall vivid memories from the past and tell the truth about them. People began to test their potions and truthful memories came spilling out.

College of Wizardry alchemy Defy Gravity

Alchemy Professor West in the Alchemy Lab.

The bad and the Ugly

All in all, I was amazed at our teachers’ abilities to bullshit their way through magical subjects. They were all truly professionals in their field of study and asking them any question would result in a solid answer. It was all SO real. Though, I was a bit bored sitting through classes, most of my classes were lecture style and other than Mind Magic and Alchemy it was like attending a dry university lecture. I wasn’t really feeling my character during the day and I wasn’t sure how to express her in these classes, without actually feeling rude to those playing the professor and other students. I figured that maybe the professors didn’t play along because they wanted to get through their class material, so maybe a rude student wasn’t ideal? I felt a bit lost and was starting to re-think my character.

College of Wizardry house points Defy Gravity

House Point System. Sendi, losing since 92′

A reading of house points revealed that our house, Sendi was in last place. It was no surprise. Our house so far didn’t really have team spirit. All the other houses seemed SO into the LARP, they had their chants, pom poms and seemingly experienced LARPers. Our house couldn’t get a chant right to save our lives and most of us were first time LARPers, CoWers or those struggling to find their character. This did not help my feeling of being lost. I should have gone into the staff room for advice, chocolate and hugs, but instead I sort of wandered, hoping another magical event would open up for play. It didn’t.

The Tavern

College of Wizardry the tavern defy gravity

Bonding with my House Mates at the Tavern.

After dinner, I decided to go to the tavern for a drink. Oh the tavern was just LOVELY. I immediately felt better and this was where myself and my character belonged, in a cozy authentic tavern setting. The bartenders weren’t your normal kind, they were non-playable characters whom had mysterious stories of being enslaved by a mistress to serve us. Just chatting with them, opened up new stories and adventures. I found my housemates and over some drinks, we bonded. We decided that even without any real solid house pride we were all amazing misfits. Faust had the prideful and powerful, Durentius had the boisterous jocks, Libussa had the creatives and we just had lovable misfits who couldn’t get our act together to rack up house points or to save our lives. We bonded through this feeling and soon my spirits were uplifted. Werewolf hunters entered the bar, NPCs as well. They were trying to get information out of us students as to who the werewolves at Czocha were. The talk in the bar was enticing and magical. I bonded with my house mates, Emma, Catherine and Johnan. Johnan was from France and spoke virtually no English. I was impressed he was surviving this LARP and his ability to still have fun with very little understanding of what was happening. I could tell that him and Catherine had a bit of a spark, but since Catherine had already decided to ask a goblin to the Ball, Johnan asked me! I was flattered to have a date for the ball the next night!

Tavern workers College of Wizardry Defy Gravity

Tavern workers who work for their mistress MoA

The Sorting

While I was at the tavern, the Juniors were undergoing a series of questions and tests to see what house they should be sorted in to. This was conducted by the prefects of each house. I had only made a real connection with a few Juniors, the nerd, Jules, the trouble loving Artificer, Jonathan, and the bad ass Guardian, Marcy. When it came time to announce who was in our house, we got all three of them, plus some amazing additions! Our house was feeling even more alive. These Juniors really saved the game for our house. Their excitement for being added into our house was contagious. They fit into our house of misfits just perfectly!

Junior Sorting College of Wizardry defy Gravity

Junior Sorting

We had to initiate our Juniors, so in true Sendi style we rented out the tavern. This might have been because our other house professor Jax, who arrived at the castle a day late was a known alcoholic. He showed up to our event boozed and covered in blood. We wondered why he may have been late. We all got a drink, thanks to the prefects and sat around for our Junior initiation. Spirits were high, as Willow brought out a bowl of mermaid eggs… Each Junior was blindfolded with their new red tie and stuck their hands in the bowl of mermaid eggs. Their faces twisted with disgust. One-by-one the pulled out a vial and they were gifted with a potion to help them in their game, unicorn snot, mermaid tears…and many other magical substances. We cheered as they received their gifts and the merry-making continued into the night. Other houses joined us in the tavern and for once they were a bit jealous of us! I mean, we did have our initiation in the bar! Faust, on the other hand was branding their Juniors with the equivalent of a dark mark.

College of Wizardry junior initiation Defy Gravity

Adding out new Juniors!

Saving Balo’s Soul

The hour of 11 was drawing near. I had a demon to summon with Balo, Ewan and Maddy. I stupidly realized that I hadn’t been to the forest yet. The hour of 11 came and went, while I looked for the forest. Finally, I found it, a door in one of the court yards led to the forest. By the time I arrived the demon had just been summoned. A circle of my friends stood around him. Light shone on his handsome red face and horns. He was a smooth talker, this one. He would get in your face and promise you the world, if only for the price of your tasty soul. It took everything we had to resist his charm. However, he was here to bargain with Balo. He stole her soul weeks ago, when poor Balo thought she was signing a contract to sing soul music. He made her offers and she refused. We bargained and bantered with this charismatic demon for nearly an hour in an intense RP scene. Finally, Balo agreed that in three years she would deliver this demon 3 tasty souls in return for her soul now. Balo was stressed, for the next three years she would bare the burden of choosing three souls to pass off to the demon. My character only hoped it would not be her!

Czocha castle in Poland. College of Wizardry Photo Cred: Toivo Voll

Czocha castle in Poland. College of Wizardry 11.

The Dildo Monster

Upon returning to the castle, I saw the tower light on. The basement beer brigade, I shouted! I hurried up to the castle to get my beer I hauled all the way from freakin Munich, when I ran into Professor Ripley, the Vampire. She wanted to go owl hunting and was asking for students to join her. Hmm… Some of my fellow house mates were with her. I decided to take her up on the offer and miss the beer meeting in the tower. This was when I learned not to have your heart set on any one event, at Czocha there is always so much going on that being flexible is usually what creates your best game play.

College of Wizardry NPC demons

Behind the scenes look at the monsters that come out at night!

Back into the forest we went, past curfew and in the pitch dark. I hoped the demon I summoned was already back in his own dimension. We cautiously stepped into the pitch dark wooded night. We heard grunting from the blackness and no sooner than we left the castle grounds two monsters emerged. One had an ugly red horned face, not like our charming demon we summed. His legs hairy and beastly. The other had a skull for a face, his flesh was ripped and his bulging green chest was menacing. He turned. His bones were exposed and there upon his back were giant spikes. Professor Ripley, to this day swears by her most favorite blood type that they were dildos. This was the dildo monster from hell. My classmates and I quickly began drawing runes and casting spells to ward them off, but they were stronger than any beast we fought during the day. Nothing seemed to hurt them, we only angered them. We tried everything. We decided that now might be a good time to run back to the safety of the castle when Ripley threatened to revoke 10 points EACH if we ran. That sick vampire professor was using us for her own amusement. We tried stronger spells, but nothing worked. Out of nowhere, Professor Jax, the rugged drunk professor, showed up to save the day. My heart beat faster, there was something about his heroic rescue that got my blood pumping! He managed to vanquish the beasts as we ran back to the castle. As we were returning a group of Faustians emerged from the dungeon. We all looked at each other and decided that we were all up to no good out at 1am, so we better not say anything. However we wondered what they were doing down there. Rumor had it they were doing illegal school activities, so our house decided to investigate the next day.

College of Wizardry Saturday Day 3

Changing my Classes

I was told that if at any point I wasn’t enjoying my game, to change it. So, I decided to skip all my lecture classes and find other classes to attend. I decided to attend Professor Ripley’s class. A vampire teacher should be interesting. We started our lesson and soon after a goblin walked in through a secret passage with a WEREWOLF. A full grown transformed wolf in our castle! It was hurt and this began a debate over whether we should kill the creature or help it. With a werewolf student in our class, not many people argued to kill it, but emotions were running high. We had the head healer in our class and he decided to try and heal it. It had been hurt with silver and this was no easy task. Some students had their wands out and tensed every time the wolf stirred or whimpered. With some of the healing working, we cast a levitating spell and decided to lock it in the dungeon until it could transform back into human and we could identify it. We wondered if this wolf was a student, or a friend of a student’s who had been hurt by the hunters in the tavern the night before. Many questions left unanswered until we could talk to the human.

College of Wizardry werewolf healing defy gravity

Healing the Werewolf

Next, I crashed in on a Junior Beastiology class. All my Sendi Juniors were there! We learned about identifying dragons and signed up for barn duty. I picked the most dangerous one, feeding medicine to a cranky blind creature.

College of Wizardry combat Defy Gravity

Magical defense/combat

Since I enjoyed Mind Magic yesterday I went again today. Our professor used a goblin to test mind magic and I was unsure of how I felt about this mistreatment. Today we learned about defending against mind magic. My partner was a new vampire student. Somehow my magic misfired and caused him to go into a ravenous hunger fit, craving blood. I had to stand guard over him, with my wand out ready to stun if he attacked students while we fetched him something to bite into (an orange).

Lunch announcements revealed that we now had a House Goblin to compete with. The Goblins were trying to win house points and the cup. Sendi was barely beating the new house of Goblins. Unfortunately, they were cute and we were not, so they were quickly catching up.

“There’s no way you guys can lose to the goblins!” Mocks from other houses were directed at us. The Sendi’s laughed, we weren’t too sure.

College of Wizardry goblin and cat

Goblin catching a “cat to eat.” How did we lose to them?

My afternoon class was the most fun! I attended a Runic Magic class. We joined with the herbology class for a field trip into the forest. Our professor took all he Sophomore wands, including mine and told us that we would have to find a tree in the forest willing to give us wood to make a temporary wand. The senior Runic Magic class had to defend, with runes only, us as we searched for new wands. Two beasts emerged, a minotaur and werewolf, and they began to draw runes of safety. I searched for a wand. It had to be long, straight and not water logged. Once I found one I had to transfer my magic to it. The Seniors were doing an amazing job warding off the beasts and someone even lured one into a friendly rune and it was now helping us against the werewolf. Finally, with wands in hands the Sophomores were able to cast defensive spells and return the beasts to the forest.

Runic Magic College of Wizardry 11 defy Gravity

Runic Magic in the forest.

Fireball!

All morning my housemate, and captain of the Fireball team, had been begging everyone to join the Fireball team. We don’t play Quidditch in this world, we play Fireball. It’s like a complicated game of dodgeball with fire, and slightly different rules. Being an athletic person in my daily life, I figured I was probably one of the better chances our house had at winning the tournament. My character however, was too cool to play. I left my house hanging and showed up right before our first game, just after lunch, ready to play! I had never played before and totally winged it. Our first game was against Dureuntis, the jock house. At one point during the game we ended up with shirtless players and all sorts of ruckus from their team. The Sendi team was good for having never played together, Jules, the nerd was our Fireball blocker and played very well. We had great chemistry and he saved my life more than once. Mercy, the guardian, Corentin, the captain, Johnan, the Frenchman and Johnathan, the Artificer, made up our team. We lost by two points, by we gave them a run for their money! Sadly our next game was lost by two points as well to Molin. After the game though they said we were one of the toughest games they played. So, we didn’t win a million points for the house cup, but we sure had a blast!

College of Wizardry Fireball Wandering Chocobo

I’m the most amazing Fireball player and Jules is the best Fireball blocker person!

Extra Credit and Our Last Attempt to Not Lose to House Goblin

With the end of the school day, it was free time until the grand ball and the announcement of who won the house cup. The Sendi house decided to make one last effort to win. We were told that we could get points by writing extra essays, so Nerd Jules, wrote us lots of essays on friendship and magic, but we were still losing. We decided that if we all went to our Mind Magic Professor’s extra session she might award us points. We showed up late, she was pissed. House Goblin was now winning. We decided to just lose with epic style and go out with a bang!

The Ball

I was so excited for the ball! I set up a make up and hair station in the hallway outside our room. I also had lots of booze! All the girls came over for glitter, make up and curled hair. I poured them cocktails and we all dolled up! The Goblin, who was Kara’s date arrived just in time with a tinsel scarf and a ballon, instead of traditional flowers. They were just so cute! We all lined up in pairs of two, me with my date, and we walked into the hall for the start of the ball! My French partner made fun of me for not knowing how to dance, good thing my character raised her self and was supposed to be uncivilized!

My house mate, Kara/Catherine and I attending the ball!

At 10pm we learned that we epically lost the house cup. Faust who had been wining the entire game, dropped almost all their points, as they were caught summoning demons on school grounds and they had a student expelled! One of my prefects, Willow, had been turned into a Fey and in order to get her back we sacrificed our house points to the Goblin house, who in turn gave up something to the Fey. I was shocked at all the drama that had been happening at school. For the past two days straight I was so engrossed in my story line that on the last day I heard about everything that happened. Students almost died, our werewolf student was almost arrested, my prefect as a Fey… ! Anyway, we epically lost the house cup and laughed it off as our legacy to remember. The house that lost to the goblins.

The ball music was boring and waltzing is not my thing, so we all bailed and went to the tavern to end with a bang!

College of Wizardry Werewolf Hunter Defy Gravity

The werewolf hunters that hung out at the bar.

College of Wizardry – The End /h3>

At midnight, like Cinderella and her pumpkin carriage, the LARP ended. I had a seriously hard time adjusting to people who had been bullies the entire game that were suddenly complimenting me on my make up. The adjustment of knowing people before game and then meeting their character in game was just as weird as meeting a character in game and then talking to them after the game. It was a total mind fuck, to be honest and I wasn’t really sure what to make of it. I treaded lightly with caution, but soon the party atmosphere took over and everyone was friends again.

College of Wizardry free time Defy Gravity

Goodbye Czoca 🙁

The bar was open until 4am and it wasn’t until 3am I passed out, only to wake up hung over and in a rush to pack. I didn’t get to say goodbye to enough people as I was hurried on to a bus headed back to Berlin. The bus this time was more quiet. Some people sat in their own thoughts, reflecting on the experience. Others were exhausted and slept. There was lots of crying though, as we said goodbye to Czocha, our beloved home and to this experienced that changed our lives!

What was your most memorable experience of CoW 11 or, is this on your bucket list?

A special thanks to Cryssie of Defy Gravity Photography and to Toivo Voll of Shadow Fantasyfor allowing me to share some of their photos from College of Wizardry 11. All photos not credited are owned by Wandering Chocobo.

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Ever wonder what it's like to live in a castle for four days and make believe you're a witch or wizard? Find out in part two of Wandering Chocobo goes to Czocha castle for College of Wizardry LARP.


Wandering Chocobo Goes to College of Wizardry LARP: Part 1 Intro

There’s no doubt there has been a rise in nerd culture, making it rather main stream. Too main stream, some might argue. I sympathize with this notion, since I’m one of those OG nerds. I mean, my only motivation to get up and go to school every morning, was that Pokemon Indigo aired an hour before school; my family’s Tuesday night centered around the next episode of Star Trek TNG or Voyager; the first adult book I remember reading was a custom edition of all four books in the LOTR series with hand painted art work; I still pull out my original Game Boy from time to time and I still choose Charmander; and for Spock’s sake my blog is named after my favorite animal, the Chocobo. So, this rise in nerd culture is a bit surprising, to say the least. Especially since so many of us were bullied or ridiculed at a young age. I was fairly confident in my nerd-tastic nature until I entered high school. In which, after attending a small school where I was welcome as is, I struggled with a bit of a complex and shoved that inner nerd deep down in order to hang with the popular crowd. However, in my now confident adult years I’ve decided to embrace this movement of nerd culture from dorky to main stream. Rather than be the grump old woman who shakes her fist and says, “I was a nerd before it was cool,” I now live the life I should have in my teen and early adult years, openly and proudly. I’ve embraced it so much in fact, that recently, at the ripe old age of 29, I booked a trip to Poland, to attend the College of Wizardry (COW) live action role play (LARP). That’s right, I moved into a castle for 4 days and lived the life of a witch named Soelle.

College of Wizardry LARP Experience

This is the first of many posts about CoW and this will cover part one of my off-game pre-LARP. ??? What do I mean by off-game experience? I will be writing from the perspective of Soelle a bit later on and that will be referred to as my in-game experience. So, anything written by me, Susanna, as Susanna’s experience is off-game and anything written by me, as Soelle’s experience will be in-game. Make sense? Great!

What is a LARP?

First, I’ll answer some questions I have been getting a lot of lately. What is a LARP and what types of LARPs are there? LARP stands for live action role play. You are a person role playing an event or action in the heat of the moment. Think of yourself as the player in your favorite video or board game and you’ll start to get the right idea in your head. If you don’t play video games or board games you’ll probably find this post really weird, but that’s ok, I welcome your judgement.

Witch Wizard LARP Czocha College of Wizardry

Even if you’re not a LARPer, you might already have an idea in your head of what LARP is. Maybe you watched Role Models, where the kids partake in LARP campaigns or you open a new tab right now and type in LARP Lighting Bolt and watch the movie. You know what, I’ll just embed it here, because it’s my favorite god damn LARPing video that exists.

This video is also my boyfriend’s favorite way to show people what his girlfriend ran off to Poland to do. As amazing as these LARP examples are, (though a bit dramatized) truth is they represent one type of LARP, the traditional style. In this type of LARP everything you do matters, every action you take can have a positive or negative effect on yourself, your team and your game. With this type of LARP you have a character you play and that character must compliment the others in the game. For example, you can’t have 5 healers and no close range warriors, otherwise you will only be able heal and you won’t be able to attack and KO your opponent. It’s a very technical game and a bit intense. Maths must be done to calculate HP (hit points) based on armor durability and weapon strength. You make decisions as a team to achieve a certain goal. This type of LARP can be a bit intimidating to get involved with. It’s hard to be a beginner and join a campaign willing to teach you the ropes. It’s not impossible, but I know I was always a bit intimidated by it.

College of Wizardry Nordic LARP

Thankfully, a style of LARP called nordic LARPing came to save us first timers, theatrical drama queens and less technical geeks. College of Wizardry is one such nordic LARP and it is a VERY different type of LARP. Nordic LARPing is best described as an on-going murder mystery game, with less murder, (usually) or multi day interactive improv theater. You character here matters, but not quite as much. Ultimately, we do want to have a mix of good and evil characters; however you’re working together to create story lines, rather than attacking, killing or plundering treasure on a single quest or ongoing campaign. So, if your only friends at CoW are all good healers, it’s ok, you’ll still have a good game. Also, you can go hide in your room for hours at a time and generally it won’t effect anyone else’s game, unless you set a timed event. At CoW you create your character, move in to a castle and just try and live a “normal life,” as a witchard would. If you’re a determined player you can create engaging and intense story lines for yourself and your friends, or you can be more passive and let things happen to or around you, you decide. There is no wrong way to play a nordic LARP, which makes it amazing! My first impression of a nordic LARP was one of pure enjoyment and community.

Intro into the College of Wizardry World

The CoW world is set in a magical word, not too unlike a famous magically set book series, though we want to stay away from that-which-must-not-be-named label. You and your character attend a magical college, that lasts for three years. In this college there are five houses, Sendivogius, Faust, Molin, Durentius and Libussa. These houses all have their own house colors, mascots, personality traits (so you character may end up in a house based on their personality (creatives tend to end up in Libussa.. etc.) and house common rooms. There are prefects and professors, who oversee each house. The professors are played by other players, just like you, and teach a variety of classes from magical defense to Runic Magic. Another important aspect is your career path, there are Guardians, who act like the future police force, Cryptozoologists, who deal with magical creatures, Artificers who handle mundane technology as well as many others. There are three different years your character can be, a Junior or a new student, a Sophomore, or second year student and a Senior, the final class. Typically you interact with you house or those in the same grade or path as you, but everyone lives and plays under one roof.

Czocha Crest College of Wizardry

There is also an entire world outside of CoW, just like there is an entire world outside of the university you attended. There are hexborns, or magic born, and Mundane born, born to a non-magical family, who often fight a racial like battle. Confluxes, which exist like modern day government systems, govern over different groups of witches and wizards. Students come from a variety of backgrounds and a variety of pre-college schools. There are werewolves, vampires and goblins who are the center of a creature rights battle. There are ancient and famous families and you may come across one of their heirs as a student. All these external plots, lend to the internal plot that takes place within the school. Your character’s place or beliefs in this external world can create friendships or arch enemies.

Werewolf College of Wizardry LARP Wandering Chocobo Photo Cred: Defy Gravity[/caption]

There is so much additional lore and storyline outside the four day LARP, a whole 500 page handbook was written by very creative and dedicated staff members. It is called the Czocha Student Handbook. You have access to this before the game online and you even get your very own to take home, in-game.

Czocha College of Wizardry Handbook LARP Wizard LARP

Selecting my Character

I’ll be the first to admit I was a bit nervous after signing up for this LARP. CoW WAS branded as a “Harry Potter” like LARP, even though they’re shying away from that title. So, for someone like me, who saw internet videos saying, “Go be Harry Potter for a weekend,” I thought great, I can do this! Then the complexity of the event came to light and I thought to myself “this is no Harry Potter land.” Looking back, I am glad it wasn’t like HP at all, but taking everything in before the game, the in-game social media, the costumes, the props, the relationship building was all overwhelming. I’m easily mistaken as one of the bravest and most bold extroverts you’ll ever meet. I throw myself into awkward situations around the world, and completely own them. I’m charming when you first meet me and I’ll tell you what I think of you to your face. So, how could the ever daring and brave Sooz be nervous? Well, I’ll let you in on a little secret, I’m a bit of an introvert. I enjoy relying on myself, my own company and my own thoughts. I don’t like relying on other people for my happiness or anything else really. I find small talk or forced non-genuine interaction rather boring and tiresome. I do enjoy genuine interactions with real people, but I am very selective on who I open up with enough to share these connections with. So, putting myself in a place where I had to interact, share a room and new experiences with 100 plus other people was a bit nerving. How on earth am I going to be able to create character relations, acting as a character who isn’t me with people who aren’t themselves? Meta, I know. Also, being a first time LARPer, I was nervous that perhaps this scene would be elitist or harsh to newbies, such as myself. But, with a reputation for being first time friendly and some good pre-game connections I was optimistic that I could do this.

Sendivogius College of Wizardry LARP Wizard

I booked my ticket back in July 2016 and sort of had this on the back burner for several months, until I started getting emails about character identity information. I was to fill out a form and choose my preference of house, year or path. I can not tell you how much I stressed over this. What if I picked a “lame house” or a bad career. I thought that it would matter so much, so I read over a Design Document, (a 50 page doc given to us to learn about game mechanics, the 5 different houses and different career paths for witchards, class schedules and sporting rules) over and over again. I bothered my boyfriend, asking him what he thought the best option was until he went crazy! Finally, I settled on first and second house choices, Libussa and Sendivogius; I thought my character and myself would fit into these houses. They were creative and courageous, but they didn’t seem like asshole houses, that honored power and hexborn status. For my career I wanted to be a Curse Breaker, someone who might spend their time breaking curses in old tombs and such. I was thinking maybe I would be the witch version of Indiana Jones. My second choice was Artificer, someone who played with Mundane technology in order to progress the witchard world. That had a steam punk vibe to it and I liked that, my current wardrobe would work. Lastly, I choose I wanted more than anything to be a Sophomore, or second year. The description of the Junior, or first year, seemed to be that of a desperate and needy character. They would not receive houses from the start and they would spend the game trying to win over the affection of teachers and prefects to get initiation into houses. That sounded like a role of being in the spotlight and clawing your way to get noticed. Not a challenge I was up to, yet. The seniors on the other hand, seemed to have too much responsibility. I also choose to have a character written for me. This seemed like the best choice, having never LARPed before. I submitted all this information after days of stress.

To add to my stress I felt like there was so much information to read before the game. On top of the 50 page design document, we had a 500 page student handbook, Fireball sporting event rules, facebook group chats… I wasn’t sure what I should be focusing on or how much I should prepared. It was very daunting, which is why I will also be publishing a first time survivor guide to COW, stay tuned for that!

College of Wizardry LARP College Ball

A few weeks went by and finally, our character results came in. I was a sophomore, (YAY! no needy begging Junior for me) Artificer and in the house Sendivogius. I got my first choice and two second choices. This wasn’t so bad! I read over my character description, given to me. She was horifically dark and emo; orphaned at birth, she wandered around reading dark poetry and trying to bring everyone down with her. “Hmm…” I thought, maybe I could do this, but as a genuinely happy person I might struggle with this. Not only that, but would anyone else want to be friends with this depressed and dark character? Probably not. With the freedom to change anything we wanted about our characters, except for year, house and path, Soelle slowly morphed into a bit of a bad ass rebel. She was still going to be orphaned, and despite having been born to hexborn parents, she wasn’t raised with any class. So, she was often friends with more questionable folk, werewolves, vampires and mundane born. She chewed with her mouth open and would often skip classes to go to the bar, or go to whatever class she wanted at the time. “Ok,” I start thinking, “I can own this character.” Maybe it was because she was a bit like me? But for my first LARP I thought that might be a good tactic to ease me into things. So, I put her to the test in some pre-game events.

Pre LARP in-game and off-game

I made several pre-game relationships. One was with another blogger and first time LARPer Laura of Completing My Bucketlist. Laura, in her self, made me a bit nervous. We had a social media platform, called Czochabook, which was like facebook, but for our characters. I would login and be Soelle, the witch, interacting with her school mates. Laura’s character seemed so bold and outgoing, if not outlandishly insane. I kept thinking to myself, “wow this girl really knows how to get into character!” I thought, as I struggled with my own character identity. Loe and behold after talking with her, she was a bit of an introvert herself and was quite nervous. This empowered me to really own my character, anything I did as Soelle, didn’t have to be what Susanna would do. In fact, I could even use Soelle to be more talkative than I am naturally, so, I started interacting on Czochabook, as Soelle, and more relationships developed.

College of Wizardry Czochabook
I found myself in real life going to a music event with two Iranian DJs who escaped Iran in order to play techno music. I decided to pretend my character, Soelle was going to an equality rave, during the full moon. All creatures were welcome, mundanes, werewolves (under wolfsbane) vampires, golbins, the works. Soelle posted about the event to her college mates on Czochabook, and three other daring students decided they wanted to go with her. So, this opened up an entire in-game, pre-LARP, adventure for these four misfit characters. Assuming this meant our characters “went” and that was that, was a serious under-estimation on my part. Instead a facebook group chat was created with myself and the three other characters. It was here we discussed the elaborate events that happened that night. Balo, played by Laura B. sold part of her soul to a demon, thinking she was signing a contract to record soul music. Ewan, played by Dennis, made us all magical cocktails and woke up with a magical tattoo of a unicorn chasing a bull around his body. Maddy, played by Julia, made out with a fire performing Fey. My character got us back stage with the artists where, some fun party favors were handed out and she got into trouble with some vampires. This event turned into a month long relationship between our characters and frequent RPing (role playing) text exchanges. All this was opened up by a simple post on Czochabook.

We also had a facebook group for our session, COW11, an off-game facebook group chat and google hangouts. With all this, I began to feel more confident, my character and myself had some pre-game friends and she was starting to develop a personality. Little did I know this would actually create some unease for me later in the game…. but more on that later.

Costume and Packing

Now that I had an idea of who my character was, a trouble making Artificer, it was time to work out her costumes. (I’ll have a packing list available soon, so stay tuned, if you’re headed to COW) I knew I needed a wand, that was essential, and I found the most perfect wand from an Etsy shop called Morayah Paper. I bought a rustic looking brown wand, nothing too fancy, just perfect for Soelle. I also found these amazing steam punk elf and cat ears, from Starlit Skies. With this discovery I decided that my character would have mechanically and magically enhanced ears, she made as an Artificer. These would help keep her out of trouble or perhaps overhear any secrets that might work out in her favor. I also had to order some Sendi house swag from Liselle Made, so I could have house pride. Other than that, the rest of my outfits were mostly put together from things I already owned, a cut up grunge shirt, a pixie skirt, a blazer paired with a leather skirt. You are technically at a school and ideally they want you to look like you’re at a prep school, but you can interpret this as you want. I used prep school as a guideline and added an edgy flare for my costume inspiration. There is a ball at the event and I decided that my character would go from a bit grungy to a Sendi hottie, like a phoenix transformation. So, for this I used a cute red and silver cocktail dress (our house colors) that I already owned. I was told for the ball some people wear ball gowns and some people wear leggings and a cute shirt, so I figured whatever I had would be somewhere in the middle. We would be getting house robes and ties at the event, so I made sure to take this into consideration.

College of Wizardry Harry Potter Wand unboxing from Etsy

Aside from my outfits and ears, I needed some props. With the other characters that attended the pre-game rave, we started what was known as the Ancient Order of Mischief. This was a group that was to meet at midnight the first night of the event and play what was known as potion roulette. I needed some potions. A quick trip to the craft store, some glass paint and some other witchy decorations and I had three fun, corked viles. Since, I was to be flying, I didn’t fill them up yet, water from the castle would work fine, since I wanted them to be non-allergic and edible.

College of Wizardry Accessories

I really stressed about my costume and outfits, as everyone else seemed to be making things months in advance and have all these amazing LARP props. I sunk into a few etsy holes and almost spent hundreds of dollars, but I decided to just work with what I have, get a few fun accessories and own it. After I got there I was quite happy with my outfits. Of course, some people went over the top, but I wasn’t the least dressed up and there was no need to break the bank.

With that, it was time to head to Berlin where I would be catching a bus with other LARPers to Poland, where Czocha castle resides.

Part 2- THE LARP

Don’t miss part two, here! This will be where all the magic happens at the LARP!

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Ever wonder what it's like to live in a castle for four days and make believe you're a with or wizard? Find out in part one of Wandering Chocobo goes to Czocha castle for College of Wizardry LARP.


Photos Inspire Visit Beautiful Bavaria Germany

Every time I post a photo of my home, the beautiful Bavaria in Germany, I am met with reactions of much surprise. “Those gorgeous mountains are near Munich?” Bavaria, which is a state in Germany, is seriously underrated and often overlooked as a popular travel destination. Most visitors only just pass through Munich on their way to another European city, or only think of Bavaria for Oktoberfest. But, Bavaria or Bayern, is so much more than the city of Munich, or a two week merry-making fest; it is a gateway to the pristine German Alps, adorable fairy tale villages with wood timber houses, gorgeous hiking trails, picture perfect castles, vineyards, old churches, monasteries and of course, it is also Oktoberfest. 😉 So, what are you waiting for? Book your next vacation to visit beautiful Bavaria, right now! If you need some motivation, these 34 photos to inspire you to visit Bavaria, (Bayern) should do the trick.

34 Photos to Inspire you to Visit Bavaria, Germany

Breathtaking Nature in Beautiful Bavaria

Zugspitze Germanys tallest peak Wandering Chocovo

View of the Alps from Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest peak. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Plan your trip to Zugspitze, here.

Josefsthaler wasserfälle waterfall brecherspitze hike Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Josefsthaler Waterfall on the Brecherspitze Hike. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Klettersteig near Königssee Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Klettersteig (a form of secure rock climbing) near Königssee, Germany. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Hiking Riederstein autumn Tegernsee Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Hiking Riederstein in autumn near Tegernsee. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Plan your Tegernsee trip here.

Bavarian Cows Wandering Chocobo

Brown Bavarian Alpine cows, meandering the hiking trails. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

German vineyard for German wine Wandering Chocobo

Vineyard of German wine grapes, near Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo


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Isar River Munich Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

The Isar River running through Englischer Garten in Munich. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Hiking in Bavaria Alps Wandering Chocobo

Hiking in the Bavarian Alps between Oberau and Farchant. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Biking Munich Starnbergsee Wandering Chocobo

Crossing wheat fields, biking from Munich to Starnbergersee (Lake Starnberg) Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Plan your trip to Starnbergersee here.

Bavarian Thistles Wandering Chocobo

Bavarian thistles in the Alps. Photo Cred: Cat Kelly, sister of the Wandering Chocobo

Hiking in Tegernsee Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Hiking above Tegernsee in the Autumn. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Zugspitze glacier wandering chocobo

A stunning view of skiers enjoying the Zugspitze glacier. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Hiking Brecherspitze looking at Schliersee Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Hiking Brecherspitze looking at Schliersee. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Charming Towns and City Life in Beautiful Bavaria

Fairy tale town Germany Rothenburg ob der Tauber Bavaria Happy to Wander

The fairy tale town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Photo Cred: Christina of Happy to Wander

Check out more adventures of Happy to Wander here! **

Atlstadt or old city in Munich Bavaria Germany

Bird’s eye view of the old city in Munich. Photo Cred: Wandering Choocobo

Plan your trip to Munich here.

Passau Bavaria Germany Madelines Traveling

The charming cityscape of Passau. Photo Cred: Madeline of Madelines Traveling

See more of Madeline’s Travels here!

Würzburg Vineyards and Church Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Würzburg vineyards with the city as a backdrop. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo


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Miltenberg Skyline travels of a bookpacker

The awe-inspiring Miltenberg cityscape. Photo Cred: Rohan of Travels of a Bookpacker

Explore Germany and the rest of the world with Travels of a Bookpacker, here!

Bavarian timber houses Rothenburg ob der Tauber Wandering Chocobo

Traditional timber houses of Bavaria in Rothenber ob der Tauber. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo


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Oktoberfest and traditional Bavarian Trachten Wise Mommies

Beer kegs decorated for Oktoberfest and the traditional Trachten (clothing) worn in Bavaria. Photo Cred: Beth of Wise Mommies

Follow more of Beth’s family adventures over at Wise Mommies!

Feuerzangenbowle at Munichs Medieval Christmas Market Wandering Chocobo

Feuerzangenbowle (flaming mulled wine) at Munich’s medieval Christmas market. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Miltenberg Bavaria Germany travels of a bookpacker

Miltenberg street parade Photo Cred: Travels of a Bookpacker

Siegestor Gate in Munich Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Siegestor gate in Munich. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Rothenburg ob der Tauber Bavaria Germany Fair tale Village

More charming streets of Rrothenburg ob der tauber. Photo Cred: Happy to Wander


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Marienplatz Munich Christmas Market Wandering Chocobo

Munich Christmas tree at Marienplatz, Munihc. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Plan your trip to see Munich’s Christmas Markets, here!

Munich old Graveyard Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Munich’s old Graveyard (Altstadtfriedhof) in Winter. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Stork nest in Rothenburg ob der Tauber Wandering Chocobo

Stork nest in Rothenburg ob der Tauber. Photo Cred: Myles Kelly, father of the Wandering Chocobo

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Tegernsee town in Autumn

The adorable town of Bad Wiessen. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Picturesque Castles and Churches in Beautiful Bavaria

Schloss Neuschwanstein Castle Disney Bavaria, Germany Wandering Chocobo

Neuschwanstein Castle, the castle that inspired Disney. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Plan your trip to Neuschwanstein, here!

St. Stephens Cathedra Passau Bavaria Germany Madelines Traveling

St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Passau. Photo Cred: Madeline’s Travels

Alpine Church at Wendelstein Peak Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Alpine Church atop Wendelstein Peak in the German Alps. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Andechs Monastery Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Andechs Monastery near Munich. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Plan your trip to Andechs Monastery, here!

Shloss Hohenschwangau castle Bavaria Germany Wandering Chocobo

Hohenschwangau Castle, looked down from Neuschwanstein Castle, nestled in the Alps. Photo Cred: Wandering Chocobo

Feeling inspired, yet? I thought so, I’ll see you in Bavaria!

Freistaat Bayern at Austrian German border Wandering Chocobo

Freistaat Bayern sign at the border of the German and Austrian Alps.

** While both Rothenburg and Würzburg are technically part of Bavaria, it is noted that they often will refer to themselves as being from Franconia or Fränkish. This area was given to Bavaria by Napoleon in the early 1800s.

Book your next trip to Bavaria with these 34 stunning photos to inspire you to visit beautiful Bavaria, Germany. Explore charming German castles, wander fairytale European villages, and lush German landscapes.


Book your next trip to Bavaria with these 34 stunning photos to inspire you to visit beautiful Bavaria, Germany. Explore charming German castles, wander fairytale European villages, and lush German landscapes.


Book your next trip to Bavaria with these 34 stunning photos to inspire you to visit beautiful Bavaria, Germany. Explore charming German castles, wander fairytale European villages, and lush German landscapes.

Day Trip from Munich to Zugspitze – Germany’s Highest Peak

It’s hard not to feel small, standing in the middle of the majestic Alps; mountains surround you in every direction, encasing you in awe and wonderment. A pristine glacier rests in the bowl below. In the winter skiers and snowboarders play in a winter wonderland, while in the summer hikers explore the wild terrain. Zugspitze Mountain, Germany’s highest peak, is an exhilarating day trip from Munich for the adventurous outdoor lover or anyone, looking to experience views unlike anywhere else in the world! Just check out my photos and tell me if that isn’t one of the best views you’ve seen! This is definitely one for the bucket list! This is one of my favorite trips if you’ve explored all that Munich city has to offer.

Day Trip from Munich to Zugspitze highest mountain in Germany

Day Trip From Munich to Zugspitze, Germany’s Highest Peak

This day trip from Munich to Zugspitze is the perfect trip to see the Alps in all their glory, especially if you’re not a big skier or hiker. The day starts in Munich with a train ride to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From there, you hop aboard a classic cogwheel train and climb nearly 3,000 meters to the highest peak in Germany. Spend your day exploring the glacier or just walking around taking photos of the stunning views. Take a break to grab some food at a traditional Bavarian hut and best of all, cross the border between Austria and Germany, as many times as you want!

Day Trip to Zugspitze Stats

Length of Time: 8 hours depending on your activities.
Timetable: 8:32 or 9:32 am train leaves from Munich Hbh, platform 29.
9:54 or 10:54 am train arrives at Garmisch Hbh
11:15 or 12:15 Zugspitzebahn leaves Garmisch Hbh for Zugspitze
12:28 or 1:28 pm Train arrives at Zugspitzplatt
Explore the area around the glacier
Gondolas to the peak leaves every 30 min from Zugspitzplatt
Explore the peak, eat at the cafe, cross the border, etc.
Whenever you’re ready to leave get a fast pass ticket to ride the Eibseebahn down
The train back to Garmisch leaves every hour, with the last train at 5:15, do not miss this train!
Train back to Munich leaves every hour, 5 past the hour, last one at 11 pm.

Skill Level for Zugspitze: 20-50 HP. Great for the active adventurer, family, and most ages; you only hike or walk as much as you’re able and can.

Cost to get to Zugspitze: You can buy a DB train and Zugspitzebahn combo hiking ticket from the Munich Hbh DB ticketing station. This will include your entire transportation for the day and will run about 85 Euros a person. Bring extra cash for food.

Seasons: All. Hiking & sightseeing in the summer. Sledding or sightseeing in the winter.

Packing List:

  • Small backpack.
  • Water bottle or camelback.
  • Camera.
  • Check the weather and dress appropriately. In Summer bring sunscreen or a hat. In winter, a hat, gloves and a warm jacket.
  • Hiking boots or winter boots.
  • Your ticket reservation information.
  • Germany's highest Peak Zugspitze in the Alps Wandering Chocobo

    Looking for a more active day trip from Munich? Check outHiking in Tegernse or take a trip to the iconic Disney Castle, Neuschwanstein Castle

    How Do You Get to Zugspitze from Munich?

    Our adventure begins at the Munich Central Station, get there by any U-bahn or S-bahn lines. Trains to Garmisch leave every hour at half past, I recommend catching the 8:30 or 9:30, or you won’t have much time at your destination. Buy a Zugspitze hiking pass and DB train ticket combo from the DB ticketing booth. Make sure you arrive in plenty of time to purchase your ticket, expecting a line on weekends. The train leaves from platform 29 and takes a little over an hour and a half. Once the train arrives you’ll follow the signs for the Zugsitzebahn, it’s through a tunnel and a short walk. Exchange your DB ticket for a Zugspitzebahn ticket at the ticketing station and wait for the train at the small platform. The train runs through farmland and along the base of the mountains until it comes to rest at its final destination, the second train station. Everyone will be told to exit the train. From here you can take the gondola up, but it’s usually quite busy with skiers and those catching the morning runs, so I suggest switching trains here and riding the cog wheel train to the peak. This train is so much fun and it winds up the mountain with stunning views and eventually through a dark tunnel.

    Zugspitzebahn train to Zugspitze

    Zugspitzebahn train to Zugspitze Germany's tallest peak in the Alps

    Zugspitzebahn to Zugspitze Germany's tallest peak

    After you arrive, make sure to take time to explore the area around the glacier. Germany’s highest church is here, along with an igloo village. If you’ve never seen a glacier before, you’re basically standing on one! Pretty cool, huh? When you’re ready, make your way to the gondola which summits at Germany’s tallest peak, Zugspitze, your final destination.

    Skiing at Zugspitze Germany's tallest mountain in the Alps

    Skiing at Zugspitze glacier Germany's tallest peak in the Alps

    Explore the Peak of Zugspitze

    The gondola to the peak runs every 30 minutes from Zugspitzeplatt, so when you’re done exploring head up even further to Germany’s tallest peak! My favorite part about exploring this area is that you can cross from Germany to Austria as many times as you want! Don’t miss the crystal hut where you can learn all about snowflakes and crystals, but mostly, just enjoy the view. If you’re hungry there is a cafe and Alpine hut, serving up hearty food! Even after growing up in Alaska, among mountains, this has to be one of the best views I have ever seen! Enjoy the photos, but make sure you get out and see this for your self, as they do not do it justice.

    Zugspitze Germanys tallest peak

    Zugspitze Germanys tallest peak

    Zugspitze Germanys tallest peak

    Zugspitze Germany tallest peak

    Zugspitze Germany tallest peak

    Zugspitze Germany tallest peak Tirol Austria

    Ending Your Day at Zugspitze

    After you’ve got your fill of the gorgeous view, grab a fast pass ticket at the Eibsee bahn, unless there’s not a line, and wait for your number to be called. This is one of the world’s highest gondolas, so buckle in for an intense ride! If you’re scared of heights, you can always take the train back down the same way you came, but this ride is a blast! Continue your trek the same way you arrived, getting on the Zugspitzebahn at the Eibseeplatz and heading to the Garmisch Hbh and in no time you’ll be on your way to Munich.

    Zugspitze Cable Car

    I hope you enjoyed checking Zugspitze off your bucket list! This view really has no comparison and no trip to Germany is complete until you’ve experienced this day trip from Munich to Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak!

    Looking for more day trips from Munich? Don’t miss Skiing and Snowboarding in the Alps and Andechs Monastery and Brewery

    Don’t forget to pin to your favorite outdoor or German Pinterest board, so your friend experience this too!

    Plan your excursion to Germany's highest peak in the Alps, Zugspitze, with this day trip from MunichPlan your excursion to Germany's highest peak in the Alps, Zugspitze, with this day trip from Munich


Ski and Snowboard in the Alps – Winter Day Trip From Munich

The mighty Alps are simply my favorite place on the planet. How can you not fall in love with their jugged snow capped presence and pristine beauty? I grew up snowboarding in Alaska, but I always had one eye on the Alps. “One day I will snowboard those gorgeous mountains,” I told myself, as I flipped through ski and snowboard magazines. Little did I know, that I would eventually be living at the foothills of the Alps, with the opportunity for weekly day trips out to snowboard. I can load up my gear, hop on a train or a bus and for under 75 euros, I am shredding the pistes of some of the best terrain in Europe. You can as well, with these easy, well priced day trips from Munich to snowboard or ski in the German or Austrian Alps.

Ski and Snowboard in the Alps Day Trip from Munich

Getting to the Alps from Munich, for a day of riding, is much easier than one might think. This guide will cover three different, all inclusive, options for riding in the Austrian or German Alps. The first is an option called Ski Bus München, which for less than 65 Euros you have bus transit to Austria with a designated host, small breakfast, a beer and lift ticket for the day. The second option is a train/ski pass combo out to Garmisch Classic or Zugspitze to snowboard at the base of Germany’s tallest mountain, for around 45 euros. The third option, is through a program called Winter Party, which gives you the same deal as Ski Bus München, but with added lunch and several hours of Après-skin (after ski) partying.

Day Trip from Munich to Ride in the Alps

Stats for Your Day Trip to the Ski The Alps

Length of Time: A long full day, 12-18 hours with an early 6:00am start.
Most busses depart around 6-6:30am. Make sure arrive 20 min early and check the time for each trip individually.
Home between 7pm-11pm. If you want to be home early, choose option 1 or 2. Option three, Winter Party gets you home very late and is a LONG day. Please see each section for more details. Also keep an eye on where you are on the mountain so you don’t miss your transportation back home.

Skill Level: 80HP. Advanced to more difficult. If you’re a beginner skier or snowboarder grab some lessons and rent some gear! Enjoy everything from easy to black runs depending on your skill level.

Options and Cost: Cost ranges from 45-75 euros for the day, depending on the mountain. Bring extra cash for drinks or food as needed.

Seasons: Winter.

Packing List:

  • Ski & Snowboard gear. If you don’t have any, rent from the mountain.
  • Small backpack, can be left on bus.
  • Water.
  • Winter Gear.
  • PASSPORT, YOU DO CROSS A BORDER.
  • Tickets you bought online, for Ski Bus and Winter Party.
  • 2 Euro coin for deposit on lift ticket
  • Day Trip with Ski Bus München to the Austrian Alps


    HochZillertal Zillertal Arena Ski resort Austria Ski Bus München

    I think this option is the best for anyone looking for an all inclusive, stress free package to ride in Austria. The Austrian Alps are bigger and better than the slopes you’ll find in Germany, so I choose this option when I can. There are four packages, ranging in price and varying mountain terrains. Hochzillertal is my favorite as it runs every Saturday, is reasonably priced and the transit time is manageable. Find more information in selecting an option that is best for you here.

    Skiing and snowboarding in the Austrian Alps from Munich

    Ski Bus München is one of my favorite activities to do as a local in Munich. It’s so well organized and stress free that even guests traveling through Munich for only a few days can participate. Purchase your tickets online a few days before, because on busy weekends the buses can fill up and sell out. The ski bus typically picks up and drops off at the main Munich bus station, called the ZOB. You will want to be at the station between 6am-6:20am depending one which package you booked. ZOB Munich Ski Bus Munich The easiest way to get there is to find an U-bahn that connects to an S-bahn, or just hop on an S-bahn heading to Hackerbrücke station. Cross the bridge at Hackerbrücke, enter the bottom of the station and look for a bus headed to your destination. Ask the drivers if you need help. Plan your transit out the night before, so you’re not late. You want to arrive 20 min early, at least, to find the right bus and get a seat next to your friends. You will need to show your ticket to the host or driver before loading up on the bus. As soon as the bus departs you will be given your lift ticket, in exchange for 2 euros, and a light breakfast. The host will explain the trip and what time to be back at the bus. If you have any questions, they usually speak enough English to help you. Always remember your bus driver and where you’re dropped off. Once you arrive in Austria the fun starts! Rent gear or head straight up the mountain for a fun filled day of skiing and snowboarding in the gorgeous Austrian Alps. At the end of the day, turn your ski ticket in to the driver for a refreshing beer! You’ll be back in Munich in time for a late dinner around 6-7pm.

    Day Trip from Munich to ski or snowboard in the Alps Hochzillertal

    Day Trip from Munich to ski or snowboard in the Alps Hochzillertal

    Day Trip from Munich to ski or snowboard in the Alps Hochzillertal

    Day Trip from Munich to Ski & Snowboard Garmisch

    This option is for a more independent traveler or local who wants to stick closer to Munich. You’re completely on your own to navigate the train system and there is no group host or guide with you. Your final destination is Garmisch Classic, famous for the Olympics, and it is a great place to ski in the German Alps.

    Day trip from Munich to Ski and Snowboard at Garmisch the German Alps

    Our journey starts at the Munich Central Train station or Hbh. I suggest getting in the DB (Deutsch Bahn) ticketing line to buy your Garmish Classic train and ski pass. You can purchase them from the machines as well, but it’s a bit confusing for a non-local. For 48 Euros you get RT train fare and a ski pass to Garmisch Classic resort. I recommend taking the 7:13 or 7:32am train that departs on time from platform 29. Make sure to arrive 20 min early to get tickets and a seat. The train dead ends at Garmisch-Partenkirche Hbh. From there you will need to take your train tickets and follow the signs for the Z
    ugspitzebahn. Exchange your ticket for your ski pass, which will get you on the next train and wait at the platform for it. This train is charming, as it is a classic train from the 80s or 90s! Ride this to Hausberg stop. From there you can rent gear or head straight up the mountain. I believe this train stops running around 7, so make sure after your day of skiing you wrap things by by about 6:30 to head back to Munich! Worst case you can walk to the main Garmisch Hbh to get back to Munich. Almost everyone here speaks English, as it’s a popular destination for U.S. military members, with a base near by.

    Day trip from Munich to Ski and Snowboard at Garmisch the German Alps

    Day trip from Munich to Ski and Snowboard at Garmisch the German Alps

    Day trip from Munich to Ski and Snowboard at Garmisch the German Alps

    Day trip from Munich to Ski and Snowboard at Garmisch the German Alps

    Winter Party Day Trip from Munich with Aprés-Ski

    If you like to party this option is for you! Start your day off with a full day of snowboarding in the Austrian Alps and then buckle up for 3-4 hours of Aprés-Ski. This option is perfect for uni students, young couples or groups of friends who are looking for a unique party experience.

    Winter Party day trip from Munich

    This option is another all inclusive guided trip. For 75 euros you get a RT bus to and from the mountain, breakfast, energy drink, lunch, lift ticket, 2 drinks and time to party! Find more information on their website. It is in German and can be hard to translate, use google if you need help. Remember to buy your tickets a few days in advance and have them with you to get on the bus. The pick up and drop off location is near the Munich Ostbahnhof, which is accessible by all S-bahn lines. From there use this map to find the bus pick up location. Your host will welcome you aboard and provide you with the breakfast, energy drink and any help you might need. Again, your host usually will know some English if you need help figuring out times and location for your day. After you arrive at the mountain you will have the day to snowboard or ski. Lunch is at a specific spot and you will receive lunch tickets from your host. At the end of the day head back to your bus to drop off any gear and then follow the music to the after party. Enjoy Alpine schlager music and a wild time. Drink as much as you want, since you’re not driving home! This is a long day and you will not be back in Munich until around 11pm.

    Winter Party Munich

    Winter Party Munich

    Enjoy your fun filled day in the beautiful Alps. Don’t forget to pin this to your favorite outdoor or German board! Happy Shredding!

    Enjoy a fun filled day of skiing or snowboarding in the German and Austrian alps with these easy day trips from Munich, Germany

    Enjoy a fun filled day of skiing or snowboarding in the German and Austrian alps with these easy day trips from Munich, Germany