Visiting World Wonders: The Black Forest

Let’s talk about The Black Forest today.

For the previous post in the series, click here.

Hello everyone! Today’s wonder is a natural one and one that I personally have been intrigued by for years. I studied German as my third language in middle school and for one of my assignments we had to do research on tourist spots in Germany. That’s when I first came across the Schwarzwald, or literally, The Black Forest, named so for being so dense that it actually appears black. My interest was piqued; Could it really that dark?

The more I looked into this mythical place, the more interested I got. The Black Forest region is responsible for many good things in the world today. To name a few, cuckoo clocks, black forest cake and the most fascinating to me, fairytales. This area has most commonly been associated with being the backdrop for many of the Grimm Brothers’ fairytales with notable ones being Hansel and Gretel and Little Red riding hood. (If you couldn’t guess it yet, I ended up doing the assignment with the biggest portion of it dedicated to the Black Forest.)

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Now that you have somewhat of a backstory on me and the Black Forest, I hope you can understand the level of my excitement to visit the forest of literal fairy tales. We stopped at the Black Forest while driving from Mannheim to Zurich and it was an actual dream come true. I had been so fascinated by this place and now, I was actually there. It was mind-blowingly unreal.

To answer the most obvious question, yes, I honestly believe it really is that dark. It’s huge and it stretches over the mountains as far as you can see. I only walked through a very small portion of it and that too in peak daytime but it was pretty dark inside and this is at the edge of the forest. I can only imagine how dark it would be further in the forest.

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We stopped at one of the charming little towns that are in the Black Forest and did two really awesome things; We had an authentic Black forest cake and we went to a Cuckoo Clock workshop. As a cake lover who has had many different Black Forest cakes growing up, the best one was definitely the original, in the heart of the Black Forest itself. Plus, I get to say I had Black Forest cake in the Black Forest. It is immensely satisfying.

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In the Cuckoo Clock workshop, we saw many different cuckoo clocks of different sizes and different methods of working. Some had just the cuckoo pop out every hour, some played music, some even had characters that moved and played out entire stories with the music but all clocks had an incredible level of detail and were made with a lot of love and it was obvious how proud the lovely people at the workshop were of their work. We ended up buying one ourselves for our bedroom and fulfilling all our childhood dreams of having an actual cuckoo clock in our room.

We also witnessed the hourly show on the giant cuckoo clock in the town square and it was nothing short of magical. The Black Forest was every bit as charming, mythical and straight out a  fairy tale as I imagined it to be and I am so glad I got to actually visit and see it with my eyes and experience the magic in the place in person. I hope I get to go back again someday and experience more of the fairytale that the Schwarzwald is.

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THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Black Forest? Do you think it is actually as ‘Black’ as the name suggests? Comment below with what you think about it, I’d love to hear from you!

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Visiting World Wonders: The Trevi Fountain

Let’s talk about the Trevi Fountain today.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

Hi, everyone! Today’s monument is considered to be one of the most beautiful fountains in the world and I’m writing to tell you, from experience, of course, that that is most definitely the truth. Today, we are talking about my experience with the UNESCO World Heritage site, world wonder and one of the most famous fountains in the world the Fontana di Trevi, or the Trevi Fountain as it is more popularly known.

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The Trevi Fountain was our first stop in the city of Rome itself, after having been to the Vatican. The Trevi fountain is one of the oldest water sources in the city of Rome, existing since at least 19 BC and has over the centuries developed into a symbol of the city of Rome itself.

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While we were walking to the fountain on a hot summer’s day through a delicious smelling street (They had roadside pizza. Italy, people. Italy knows what’s up.) the first thing that I saw were the statues on the top of the Trevi fountain almost glowing under the sun. Once we reached the end of the street, the grandeur of the Trevi Fountain hit us with full force. The massive facade of the fountains, the shining white marble, the pristine blue waters tumbling over the stone, the Trevi Fountain is, in my most humble opinion, the beauty of Rome exemplified.

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For me, the Trevi Fountain had a certain aura of myth and mystique, from what I read about it and saw in various movies and books and I feel like in person, that the fountain takes that aura and multiplies it manifold. From the statue of Oceanus standing in the middle in all his glory,to the two divergent horses pulling his chariot,to the arch above them,to Triton blowing his shell to signal Oceanus’ arrival,to the intricate detail on every single other sculpture that adorns the facade of the Trevi fountain the one word that comes to mind is majesty. The fact that these majestic, massive, beautiful fountains, an actual work of art have been around exactly as I see them for nearly 300 years was so mind-boggling to me; that this kind of beauty just exists and for someone, this is just something they pass every day. It is easy to say that I was completely dazzled by the shine of the white marble( and the water) at the Fontana Di Trevi.

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Once, I broke a little out of my daze and looked down at the clear pool of water, the glint of the coins at the bottom of the fountain caught my eye. That’s when I remembered the coin throwing ritual associated with the Trevi fountain. I took out my Euro and turned my back and threw the coin over my left shoulder with my right hand just as I had read it should be done. Legend has it, that ensures my return to Rome. If you throw 2 coins, it means you will fall in love with a gorgeous Italian. Throw three and you’ll marry them. I threw just the one because I had other ideas about finding gorgeous Italians to fall in love with that I’ll just get to.

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I threw my coin and opened my eyes and I’m disappointed to say that neither was I mistaken for an Italian pop star and nor did any Italian pop stars ask me to meet them at the Trevi fountain the next day for a magical day in Rome. With the newfound wisdom that What Dreams Are Made Of are Lies my Lizzie McGuire Movie based childhood expectations were smashed to bits and that was about as magical as my day with the Trevi fountain got.

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With that, we left the fountain soon after to continue with our day out in Rome. There’s a lot I can say about the fountain, but the truth is, just about all of it has been said already. I just hope from the bottom of my heart, that the legend of the Trevi fountain is true and that the coin I threw brings me back to the beautiful city of Rome because my mythology fanatic self has not had enough of the city and I hope it happens soon.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Trevi Fountain? Did you find your gorgeous Italian? If yes,was it the coin way or the Disney pop star doppelgänger way? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

Visiting World Wonders: The Grand Place

Let’s talk about the Grand Place, Brussels, today.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

Hi everyone! So this world wonder is not a monument per se, rather its a market square. It’s also not as well-known as the Eiffel Tower but maybe that is just me because I found out about it only in my pre-vacation research. Today, we are talking about the central market square of the city of Brussels, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful market squares in Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Grand Place or the Grote Markt, as the locals call it.

On the beautiful sunny afternoon of 5th June 2017, we reached Brussels, capital of Belgium and the seat of power of the European Union and were soon walking to our first stop a.k.a the one in the spotlight today, the Grand Place. Now, Brussels, unlike Paris, as a city, I didn’t have any pre-set notions about. For me, it’s always been the capital of the EU, capital of the fantastic country that came up with the godsend to food that are Belgian waffles (And Belgian fries and Belgian chocolate) and the capital of the country that came up with the brains behind my childhood comic book hero, Tintin. In simple words, I loved(Read love) Belgium as a country because it was responsible for the many loves I have had through life.

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In real life though, from my experience, Brussels is a city whose power, authority and responsibility shine through. It is very organised, calm, peaceful, clean and laid out very well. The peace of Brussels after the glitz of Paris(As much as I love Paris) was honestly, a highly welcome change.

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Getting back to our topic, we walked through a street or two, not many, and there we were, in the middle of the market square’s main square. (Aha!) The ornate, beautiful architecture of all the buildings in sight was the first thing that caught my eye. Then, the gold on the many Guildhalls glinting in the sun did. Yes, the nine Guildhalls of the Grand Place, have actual gold on the buildings. Regardless of whether current slang is considered or not, the buildings were golden.

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As I looked up, the bell tower of the town hall, stuck out. That brought my attention to the gothic style town hall and how it didn’t seem to be even. The tower was off centre vis the hall itself. There’s even a legend to do with this that our guide told us of when I asked her about this. It is believed that when the architect realised this calculation error of his upon the construction of the town hall, he committed suicide. Nevertheless, the building was extremely breathtaking and the architecture was in my opinion, exceptional.

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We decided to venture into one of the many streets. On turning the corner, the heavenly smell of chocolate was everywhere and on all sides, beautiful, cute, tiny and huge, colourful chocolate stores popped up. I’m only human, so I went in and had more samples of delicious, smooth, rich chocolate( At multiple stores, please, I have some self-respect. ) than I will ever admit. I am happy to report that at this point I was convinced already that I  loved the Grote Markt very much.

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On turning the next corner, I spied through the corner of my eye amazing Tintin street art.(Which is pictured below.) The street art, comic book based and otherwise, didn’t stop after that and the Grand Place is for sure, the abode for amazing street art. That’s also when I noticed that we were surrounded by comic stores, tons and tons of them. Imagine an entire Tintin themed or even an entire Asterix and Obelix themed store. I didn’t even think it could be real but hey, there they were. My childhood self would’ve died to be there. My adult self nearly did. So, the themed comic stores were my second Grand Place adventure. Could I love this place more? ( Answer: Yes, I could. Let’s continue and you’ll know why. )

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At the end of the street, we had reached the Manneken Pis or the Boy Who Pisses. It is a rather cheeky bronze sculpture of a naked little boy well, peeing. It is considered an important symbol of the city of Brussels itself. The story behind that goes, that long long ago while Brussels was under siege by foreign powers, the foreigners decided to place explosives around the city. The little boy pissed on the burning fuse of the explosives and unknowingly saved the city. To commemorate him and his ‘valour’, the sculpture was made.

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From here, we turned onto a different street, driven to that by waffles for a euro sign I saw and essentially dragged everyone towards. This street was where I was convinced we had entered some sort of wormhole to waffle heaven because there were waffles being sold EVERYWHERE. Waffles with different colourful toppings in all shop displays, the aroma of fresh waffles, the names of various kinds of waffles just flying around, and the taste eventually, that street was a treat for all senses! Of course, we rushed in and got our own waffle and yes, it was the best and the most delicious Belgian Waffle I ever had! I can now say I’ve had a Belgian Waffle, literally. (Bucket list item, check.) At this point, The Grand Place had my heart. (Or was it the waffles? We may never know.)

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With that, our adventures with the Grand Place were all done. The reason why I liked that place were many (Read the street art, the chocolates, the waffles, and the comic stores), but the biggest is how it offers you Belgium’s best, quite literally. Each street was a delight and I barely scratched the surface of the Grand Place, so I can’t even imagine what treasures the many other streets must hold. It is a mini slice of the Belgian culture and everything that makes it what it is and is especially a glimpse into the old Belgium, with the medieval architecture of the Guildhalls, the town hall, the horse-driven carriage rides and whatnot.

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In conclusion, I’d like to say that The Grand Place now holds a Grand Place in my heart (Cheesy, but I had to. How could I let this opportunity pass? )I would definitely love to go there again to find more of my favourites just tucked away one street corner away from each other.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Grand Place? What was your favourite thing about it? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

For the next post in the series, click here.