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.

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Runic Magic in the forest.


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


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


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


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


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


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

Book your next trip to Bavaria with these 34 Stunning photos to inspire you to visit beautiful Bavaria, Germany

Book your next trip to Bavaria with these 34 Stunning photos to inspire you to visit beautiful Bavaria, Germany

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 Germany’s highest peak. In the winter skiers and snowboarders play in a winter wonderland, while in the summer hikers explore the wild terrain. Munich to Zugspitze mountain is an exhilarating day trip for the adventerous 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!

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 cog wheel 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 9:32am train leaves from Munich Hbh, platform 29.
9:54 or 10:54am train arrives at Garmisch Hbh
11:15 or 12:15 Zugspitzebahn leaves Garmisch Hbh for Zugspitze
12:28 or 1:28pm 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 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 11pm.

Skill Level for Neuschwanstein: 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

    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 farm land 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, you’re 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 snow flakes and crystals, but mostly, just enjoy the view. If you’re hungry there is a cafe and 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 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 Eibsee platz 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.
  • 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

Day Trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle

The castle looks unreal the first time you see it; a royal crown nestled a top the mighty Alps. It’s hard not to have your thoughts wander off to the seemingly impossible feat of the structure and off to a distant fairy tale land. This is the castle so great, it inspired Disney himself, to make it the icon of your favorite fairy tales. It’s easy to see why this day trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castle is one of the most popular excursions to the Alps. Enjoy taking photos and exploring the beautiful castle with a tour, or make it a day filled with adventures, including hiking and a bike ride.

Day trip from Munich Germany to the Disney Neuschwanstein Castle

The day trip from Munich to Neuschwanstein Castles is a great option for everyone. There is plenty to do from hiking, two different castle tours and a museum. You can even get up to the castle in style with a horse drawn carriage or bus, if you have mobility concerns. Since this is one of the most popular day trips it can get very crowded, if you go on the weekend be prepared to fight crowds and wait around. If you can, I recommend going in during the weekday in the summer. To avoid the longest line of you life, make sure you read the section on how to avoid the line, or you might head home unable to tour the castle. The first part of my guide, will help you get there on your own. Then at the end of the post, I’ll include some advise on taking a group tour with Mike’s Bikes. I’ve been to the area twice, once independently and once with Mike’s Bikes, Munich. Both are great options!
This guide covers specific details on getting to Neuschwanstein castle from Munich, ensuring you secure tickets to tour to the main castle and doing the gorge hike after. If you want to go to the museum or the other castle, plan according.

Day Trip from Munich to Newschwanstein Castle Independent Tour

Day Trip to Neuschwanstein Stats

Length of Time: A long full day, 8-10 hours depending on your activities.
Timetable: 9:52am train leaves from Munich Hbh.
11:55 train arrives in Füssen
12:20pm, bus arrives at ticketing
12:55 pick up tickets before 12:55
1:55 tour starts
2:30 tour ends
Time to explore, hike the gorge, take photos, eat lunch.. etc.
6:05pm last best train from fussen home, give yourself time to catch the bus and get a seat.

Skill Level for Neuschwanstein: 20-50 HP. As I mentioned before if anyone in your group has mobility issues there are options, such as busses and horse carriage rides, but there will be some light walking involved. For my more independent readers you can choose to take a little hike through the gorge or walk up. It’s really up to you how intense or relaxing you want this day to be.

Options and Cost to get to Neuschwanstein: Your cost for this tour will include the Bayern ticket. For groups of 2-5 people, always buy the group ticket, as it only costs you about 25 euros. This saves a ton of money. The cost for an adult to tour one castle is 13 Euros. For more ticketing prices, check here. Bring money for lunch and expect tourist prices.

Seasons: All. Be warned that in winter the gorge and bridge may be closed due to ice and snow. Check the website for more details.

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 and gloves and a warm jacket.
  • Good walking shoes.
  • Snacks.
  • Your ticket reservation information.
  • AVOID THE LINE: Reserve your tickets

    This should be the first thing you do before you even think about going to Neuschwanstein if you want to physically go inside the caste. If you do not do this, you will be waiting in a miserable line and during the summer you won’t even make it in to the castle. Trust me. I walked up to the reserved line on a hot sunny day during peak summer and picked up my tickets no problem, while the line to get tickets on spot almost ran all the way to the bus stop, which was a LONG WAY! Don’t be one of those suckers. RESERVE YOUR TICKETS HERE You can reserve your tickets two days in advance, meaning you want to do this by noon two days before your trip. You need a credit card to book online. You pay once you arrive, but this just puts a hold on your card. If you follow my guide, ensure that you do the tour at 1:55. YOU MUST PICK UP THE TICKETS BEFORE 12:55 OR YOU LOSE THEM The train arrives at 11:55 then by about 12:20 you should be getting off the near the ticketing center. Please note that you will need to hustle to get your tickets and get up to the castle. After your tour you will have plenty of time to wander around and enjoy the scenery and take photos.

    Getting to Füssen and the Ticketing Center

    The direct train to Füssen leaves the Munich Central Station at 9:52 a.m. It will be full, during the peak season, so be at your platform at least 20 min early, arriving at the station 30-45 min early, if you want time to buy tickets and get breakfast. Buy your ticket at any kiosk at the station, the U-bah station or S-bahn stations. If you want help see an attendant. Ensure you’re buying the group ticket to Füssen. Your train departs exactly on time from platform 29, but it will be parked and loading about 15-20 min before then.

    Kick back and relax as the train ends at your final destination, Füssen. Use the train’s bathroom before you go. If it’s summer there is only about 2 toilets where you buy tickets and the line is just as long as the non-reserved ticket line. As soon as you leave the train follow everyone out of the station, take a left stepping off the right and a right at the Y, and another right. You can easily follow the crowd, but you linger too long you’ll be waiting for another bus. Use your same ticket to hop on to bus 78. Ride to the bottom of the ticket center. Walk uphill and get in the reserved ticket line, pay for your ticket and ask any questions you might have.

    Getting to the Castle and your Tour

    Day trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle

    Day trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle

    There are four ways to get up to the castle, but my recommended route is to walk straight up the paved train, to make sure you have enough time to get there before your tour. The guide says it takes about 40 min to walk up, but I think I did it in about 20 minutes, as a fairly capable walker. There is also a horse drawn carriage for a dramatic entrance or a bus system that can get you most of the way uphill. I have not taken either of these, so ask if this is your mode of transportation. The 4th option is a good plan if you don’t have a tour at the castle at a specific time and it’s hiking up the gorge. I like to do this on the way down or with Mike’s Bike’s and I’ll go over that later. You should have plenty of time to meander and take photos on your way up and at at the top. The castle tour starts in the main courtyard of the castle, line up and enjoy your tour! One of my favorite reasons for doing this tour is you not only to learn about the history of the castle and King Ludwig II, but you also get some great photo ops otherwise unavailable. See below photos.

    Day trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle

    Day trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle

    Exploring After Your Tour

    Day Trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle

    Day Trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle

    After your tour is over you have plenty of time to explore the surrounding area. If you want a view like the photo above, walk up a bit further behind the castle to the Marienbrucke Bridge. This bridge gets very crowded in the summer. My sister and dad opted to stay behind and let my mother and I brave the bridge. Just be patient and you’ll get your turn at this majestic photo opp.

    Instead of walking down the same paved road you originally took, on your way back down from Marienbrucke to the main castle look for a dirt road that cuts into the gorge from your right. Occasionally this area is closed due to maintenance or flooding; pay attention to all signs and follow instructions. (Photos of this hike in the section about Mike’s Bikes.( You will be following the Pöllat river and you end near the toboggan ride and gondola. Keep an eye on the time and explore this area if you want, but make sure to be back at the train station by 5:50 for the last best train back from Munich (it’s not the last, but it’s the best.) To get back to the visitor and ticketing center follow Tegelbergstrasse to the west to Füssenstrasse and take a left.

    There are also plenty of forested walks back down instead of taking the main paved route. If hiking isn’t your thing, but you want to shake things up. This option was perfect for my parents. Aren’t they cute? This takes you right back to the visitor center and your map provided at ticketing has the trails.

    Day Trip from Munich Germany to Newschwanstein Castle

    Day Trip from Munich to Newschwanstein Castle with Mikes Bikes

    If independent adventures aren’t your thing, but you want to enjoy everything Neuschwanstein and Füssen have to offer, while making new friends, then check out Mike’s Bikes! The first time I came to Munich almost six years ago I used this company. They picked us up from our hostel and bused us out to the castle. They handled all ticketing and transportation, so we just had to enjoy the day. We started off by renting bikes and riding around Swan Lake. We got some amazing views of the castle from below.

    Day trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle 1

    After our bike ride we had lunch and hiked up the gorge to the castle where we took the tour. There were also plenty of options for anyone who didn’t want to bike, including a toboggan ride and tickets to the other castle or museum.
    Day trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle 3

    Day trip from Munich Germany to Neuschwanstein Castle 3

    It was a well put together tour and I normally don’t recommend pre-package tours, but this one was great! Find out more about Mike’s Bikes here.

    Pro Photography Tip

    If you want a great view of the castle from the front, with the old red stone facing, take the gondola up near the Toboggan, you’ll need to make this a priority and if you’re lucky the guide will allow you to open the window for photos. I have not done this, but this is where you find the stunning front photos without a drone.

    Getting Home from Newschwanstein

    Essentially follow the same route back home. From the ticketing center, head to the bus stop and take the bus back to the Füssen train station. Be careful which train you get on, if you want a direct train home take the RE 57513 at 4:06 or RE 57515 at 6:06. Many of the other trains stop half way through where you’ll have to change trains and can almost double your ride home. Grab some food or relax in order to make one of these if you have left over time. If you do get on a train that stops half way through, just exit and look for the platform with a train headed to Munich.

    I hope you enjoy your day trip from Munich Germany to the beautiful Neuschwanstein Castle. Let me know if you need any help planning your Munich trip and don’t miss these other day trips from Munich.
    Day Trip from Munich Hiking Tegernsee or this day trip to Dachau Memorial.

    Don’t forget to pin this to your favorite Germany, castle or European board!

    Enjoy the best day trip from Munich to the Disney inspired Neuschwanstein Castle in the German Alps. Enjoy the best day trip from Munich to the Disney inspired Neuschwanstein Castle in the German Alps.

Day Trip from Munich to Dachau Memorial

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana.

My stomach tightens in knots as I hold back tears of emotion. They leak from the corners of my eyes. It’s impossible not to feel the haunting pain echoing in the past as I wander through the quiet forest. The dip in the ground was once a trench to collect blood, but now grass and flowers sway in the wind. I can feel it though, I can feel what happened here deep inside my body. I feel sick and out of place, but I can’t look away, forcing myself to acknowledge what happened here. Dachau Memorial is a place that is important for travelers from all walks of life to experience. It helps us learn from the past and put in to perspective the immense amount of pain caused by the war. This day trip from Munich to Dachau Memorial is an absolute must when visiting Germany and it is easy to do on your own time during your stay in Munich.

Day Trip From Munich to Dachau Memorial

AUTHORS NOTE: Dachau is now a place of respect and peace. You’re free to wander around the grounds at your own pace, learning from the museum, or simply just taking in the space. However, it can be a very emotional day trip from Munich and it is important to take time to reflect on your well being. I’ve known friends and family members who have had to leave the museum or unable to enter the crematorium and bath house. That is perfectly fine. Do not push yourself to something you are not able to do. There are four church memorials where you are able to take a moment of prayer if you’re religious. Most of all, I hope we as humans learn from places like this and how important it is to study the past and vow to never repeat it.

Day Trip From Munich to Dachau Memorial Site

Day trip from Munich to Dachau entrance Wandering Chocobo

Day trip to Munich to Dachau Memorial Entrance

Day Trip Stats

Length of Time: About a 4 hour day. One hour for transit and 3 hours, or less, to explore Dachau.

Skill Level: 10 HP. This day is very easy for anyone with mobility concerns or health issues. You just need to be comfortable standing and walking for a few hours, but there are places to rest. It can also be quite emotional as I mentioned, so 3 hours can be too much for some.

Options and Cost to get to Dachau: The cost of the transportation ticket. An individual day ticket is about 12 Euros, with a group of 2-5 costing about 25 Euros. This will cover your train and any bus needs. It is free to enter the memorial site, with audio guides setting you back 3 euros. If you drive, parking is 3-5 Euros.

Seasons: All

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 hate and gloves and a warm jacket.
  • Tissues if you’re likely to get emotional.
  • Good walking shoes.
  • They have a cafe for food, but bring a snack if you want to save money.
  • How to Get to Dachau from Munich

    Dachau is one of the easier day trips from Munich, as the S-bahn or suburban line goes straight from Munich Hbf to the Dachau station. Catch any U-bahn line to the central station, then catch the S2 S-Bahn, or just get on the S2 line where it connects. You can purchase your single or day ticket, ensuring that it will cover the two inner zones of the Munich transportation system. Exit the S2 at the Dachau Bahnhof. The ride will take you about a total of 20 minutes. Once you arrive at the station, you must walk under the bridge and up a flight of stairs to where the busses pick you up. Board any of the busses that gather in this station, it should be bus 726. Ride this bus until you arrive at the memorial center. The bus basically goes in a giant circle and if you miss your stop, don’t panic. This will be the same bus you catch the way home as well. Exit the bus and follow the crowd, signs or turn right and cross through a parking lot to the memorial center.

    To access Dachau by car take the 308 or highway 8 follow signs for Dachau.

    Day Trip from Munich to Dachau memorial sculpture

    Exploring Dachau Memorial Center

    Once you walk up to the visitor center you can choose to go in and purchase an audio guide. This is recommended for anyone who wants to fully immerse themselves in the history and of the area.

    Day Trip from Munich to Dachau Wandering Chocobo

    It is really up to you how you want to explore this. You can follow the audio guide through the areas, or explore at your own pace. The museum is quite large and can take up to an hour or more to read and experience everything. I skimmed through the museum taking time in areas that interested me or seemed important, while skipping a movie here or a exhibit there. After the museum, you can walk around and enter a barracks, where you learn about the living conditions of the prisoners. After the only standing barracks there is a long walk-way dead ending at the religious memorials. You will find four religions memorials, a catholic, protestant, jewish and orthodox memorial, as well as a nunnery. Beyond that you will find the crematorium, “bath” house and killing trenches. You can actually go in the crematorium and bath house, if you choose. Entering there is unlike anything I’ve felt. It’s very emotional. Many people skip the killing trench, by accident as it is through a forest area. There is a path leading off the road to the crematorium. This is my favorite area of the memorial center as it’s in the woods and often quiet. It’s a good place to reflect and process your emotions.

    Day trip from Munich to Dachau Wandering Chocobo

    Day trip from Munich to Dachau Wandering Chocobo

    Day trip from Munich to Dachau Wandering Chocobo

    Day trip from Munich to Dachau Wandering Chocobo

    Day trip from Munich to Dachau Wandering Chocobo

    Day trip from Munich to Dachau Wandering Chocobo

    Whenever you feel ready to leave the Dachau memorial, you can head home the same way you came. If you bought the day ticket you can continue to use it for transportation. If you’re not ready to go home explore the area of Dachau. Dachau is not just a memorial, but a charming suburb of Munich. I hope that by visiting places such as the memorial we are able to learn from our mistakes and fight so that history never repeats itself. Share this with your friends or family visiting Munich, so they too can experience the emotional history behind the day trip from Munich to Dachau Memorial.

    Looking for more day trips from Munich? Don’t miss Andechs Monastery and Brewery! Day trip from Munich to Andechs Monastery by Wandering Chocobo

Winter Day Trip From Munich – Sledding at Spitzingsee

Live out your childhood dream with this winter day trip from Munich, sledding at Spitzingsee in a classic wooden toboggan! Hop on a one-hour regional train that takes you through the farms and mountains to the beautiful Spitzingsee. After you arrive, hike up a winding path into the mountains, dodging sleds as you go. The trail dead ends at a charming traditional Bavarian hut where you can warm up with some hearty food or German beer before beginning your epic sled ride. Ten solid minutes of wild sledding will leave you with lasting memories forever and a story to tell your kids about!

Winter Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzingsee

Winter Day Trip From Munich, Sledding at Spitzingsee

Munich is the perfect travel destination, no matter the season. If you ask me, winter may even be the best time to visit. Not only is the city charming with snow capped rooves, but you can visit the Christmas Markets, explore snow covered castles and go skiing or sledding in the Alps. It’s a fantastic launching point for the perfect snowy European winter getaway you’ve always dreamed of.

On the other hand if you live in Munich, surviving a long cold winter can be tough. As someone who grew up in Alaska my key piece of advice is to just get out and enjoy the outdoors! Sometimes it’s hard to know where to go or what to do, especially if you just moved here. This day trip from Munich is the perfect outing for a group of friends to beat the winter blues. In fact, I planned this trip for my boyfriend’s birthday and it was a hit. The entire group is already planning out next sledding adventure in Spitzingsee.

Day Trip Stats

Length of Time: 6 hour day. About 2 hours of transit and about 4 hours hiking, sledding, lunch and snowman making!

Skill Level: 50 HP, meaning the hike up can be a bit tiresome. It is about 40 min uphill walk through packed snow. However, you can take it as slow as you want and enjoy the scenery. For the sledding you just need a sense of adventure. The sides are banked, so you can’t go over, but you do go fast!

Options and Cost: The cost of your BOB ticket. If you have more than 2 people in your group, buy the group ticket, which is 31 Euros and saves your a ton! Bring some extra spending money for beer and lunch. The sledding ticket costs just under 5 euros.

Seasons: Winter

Packing List:

  • Small backpack.
  • Water bottle or camelback.
  • Camera, ensure it is safe for the sledding. I brought my GoPro for waterproof fun.
  • Snow boots or hiking boots. If all you have are runners, you should be fine, since the snow is packed, but I recommend one of the first two options as you might get wet.
  • Winter Jacket, hat, gloves and snowpants. Check the weather as sometimes it can be quite warm and all you will need is a light jacket. You work up a sweat walking uphill. So layers are a good idea as well.
  • Starting Your Day

    Your day will start from the Munich central Hbf. Head to the train station about 20-30 min before your catch the 10:04am train to Fischhausen-Neuhaus , so you can grab some breakfast, coffee, buy your ticket and have plenty of time to find your train. There are lots of ticketing stations near the platforms with english translation, they also have a kiosk with English speaking attendants to help, if you get confused. Buy your BOB (weekday) or Meridan (weekends) train group ticket heading to Bayrischzell. Head toward platforms 23-27, in the back corner, look for the train that has Bayrischzell lit on the front and all aboard! Make sure to load into the right car, as they can split. Ask someone if you are unsure! Most people will be able to speak some English.

    For more ticketing and train schedules you can use google maps or The BOB website.

    Munich Central Hbf Wandering Chocobo

    Finding Your Trail

    As soon as you leave the train station at Fischhausen-Neuhausen you’re going to want to immediately walk over to the bus stop, just to the left of the hut and station. It comes right after the train drops you off, so I suggest using the toilet on the train. Catch the RVO bus 9562, or I think any bus, and just hop off at the Spitzingsattel stop. From here, just cross the road and you’re at the bottom of the tail and you can begin the walk up! Be careful, sleds are coming down, so you can turn it into a DK video game, jumping over the people and dodging out of the way! It’s part of the fun. The hike up takes about 40 minutes, but a charming Bavarian hut, awaits you at the top.

    Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzingsee

    Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzingsee

    Ideas for at the Hut

    Of course, the first order of business should be to head inside and warm up. Get in line to order some food, like the traditional weisse wurst, or some of their amazing vegetarian food. You can also buy the sledding tickets at this hut while order food. You’ll need these for the ride down. If you’re not ready to ride down and end your adventure, head outside for more hiking, or my favorite, a snow ball fight and snowman making. We set up an awesome snowman and snow angel challenge. Keep an eye on the time, the last bus leave around 5pm and it will take you at least 10-15 min to get back down.

    Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzingsee 9

    Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzingsee 9

    Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzingsee 4

    Let the Sledding Begin!

    If you haven’t already, buy your tickets from the same counter that you order food. Just outside the hut you can exchange your ticket for a sled. Pro Tip: This is quite popular with locals and if you are pushing to catch the last group of sleds down before the bus stops the demand for sleds will be high. Also, Germans don’t know how to line up, they just push to the front. So, try and make sure you sled down before 4 to avoid chaos, if you get stuck in it, just be pushy and go get your sled!

    Winter Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzingsee 4

    Strap in for the wild 10 minute downhill ride! You can double up on the sled if not everyone got their own, or team up to race each other. Be careful not to take people out on their walk up and enjoy the ride!

    Day Trip From Munich Sledding Spitzingsee

    You want to ensure you’re at the bottom BEFORE 5pm or the bus stops running and you will need to walk back to the train, about a 30 min walk. Make sure to leave your sled along the snowbank and hop back on the same bus and load up on the next train back to Munich!

    I hope you enjoyed your day trip from Munich, sledding at Spitzingsee. This adventure has become a fast favorite among my group of friends. Everyone had a ball from the snowman making, hiking, drinking to one of the most epic sled rides I have ever experienced.

    What is your favorite winter sport? Don’t forget to pin or share this so your friend’s coming through Germany can plan an epic trip.

    Winter Day Trip from Munich Sledding Spitzinsee pinterest 1
    Winter Day trip From Munich sledding at Spitzingsee

Wandering Chocobo’s Year in Review. 2016 Travels

“Passports please,” a gruff voice demands.

A thick layer of icy breath melts in our toasty car. His mustache is frosted over and he appears to be a man that has eaten too much meat during his lifetime. His neck bulges.

Ganesh and I hand the Canadian boarder control our passports. His hard eyes move from passport to passport then look back at us. I can tell he doesn’t really understand. We don’t really fit in to any box that he can tick off, so he assumes he should be suspicious. An Australian with Indian/Singaporean heritage and a German drivers license and a white American girl from Alaska with a Nevada drivers license. Both in a a car with a Las Vegas license plate, that is filled to the brim with firewood and household goods.

“What in the tarnation are you two doing here?”

“Well, we met in Vegas, and what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.”

He laughed and sent us on our way. This was the first of many adventures Ganesh and I would embark on in 2016. We were on our way to Alaska to meet my family before beginning our move to Germany. Each adventure hosted a whole new slew of odd looks, stares, judgement, support and confusion, but it’s been worth every moment.

Best travel blogger 2016

2016 was the craziest year of my life. I up and moved to Germany to be with a boy I had only spent less than a full month in his company, though we spoke every day. Even after the big move, my adventure was just starting. I was finally liberated form my tiresome 9-5 job and was able to take off to see the world. I visited over 25 countries and I want to share my short form, personal narrative for each amazing place! I want to thank everyone for their support and love as I take off on one crazy adventure after another.

2016 Travel Year in Review

Iceland Jan. 2016

Gulfoss Iceland Winter Wandering Chocobo

Gulfoss Waterfall, Iceland. Jan 2016

Iceland appears before you, as a land molded by a Minecraft user, bending the very geological norms of our planet. Huge flat fields of stark colors and lava beds sprawl across the landscape and erupt to sharp defined edges of volcanoes and glaciers. There’s nowhere to hide in Iceland; you’re always exposed and vulnerable. Perhaps, that is what makes this land so breathtaking. For the time you’re there it’s you against the elements, as the elements mold you into an entirely new person.

This was our first major stop in the road to our relationship. I had committed to a move across the world for the love of my life and this trip put us to the test. There were times we were still trying to figure ourselves out, but every night, as the heater broke, we would huddle together for warmth and remember the excitement and joy that filled our future. Our days were strange. We awoke, frozen and hungry at 7 am, pitch dark met our eyes. The sun wasn’t even a glimmer on the horizon. We would struggle to dress, lending each other the dim light shining from our head lamp. I would open the door to dash out to pee. I had been holding it in all night, terrified of the bitter cold and absolute darkness. We would begin to drive our rented camper van, through snow storms and pitch black mornings. The sun would bless the glorious land for just a few hours and we soaked in some of the most amazing scenery we’ve ever seen. We scrambled to do as many things as we could in just a few hours. Too soon, darkness would fall again and we would keep driving, or pull over to cook dinner on a camper stove while we played cards, waiting for the sunlight to rise again. Read more about our trip to Iceland.

Paris Feb. 2016

Eiffel Tower Paris France Wandering Chocobo

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Being whisked away to Paris for Valentines Day is probably on a million different bucket lists, but to be honest, it wasn’t on mine. It did however, make my list of awesome adventures I never thought I would have when Ganesh, my boyfriend, booked us a getaway to Paris for a surprise Valentine’s weekend. Everything about this weekend was a surprise. The night before Valentines Day we walked up an old cobble stone street in the Latin Quarter. The late evening oozed the essence of the stereotypical Parisian romance. I begged to know what we were doing. I peaked in every shop window, curious. I was denied. We turned a sharp corner and he opened a door into a warm and cozy tasting room that smelled of fresh bread and wine. I knew I was in for a treat! I was about to experience the wonderful night of A Wine Tasting in Paris! The next day we woke from out wine induced slumber and began to eat our way through Paris on an amazing Parisian food tour.

Don’t worry, my time there wasn’t all romantic mush. We spent an ample amount of time hunting for the space invader 8 bit art scattered through the city and exploring Paris’ rich culture and history. The first time I came to Paris I didn’t like the city all that much. However, back again with an open mind and open heart I feel in love with this dynamic city.

Barcelona March 2016

Barcelona Streets, Spain Wandering Chocobo

Barcelona Streets, Spain

Just as the heat of the day grows too strong it’s time to return back to the cool confines of our boutique hotel, for a siesta. Shopping bags drop to the floor, heavy with unique hip and local wares from Palo Alto market and the El Born neighborhood. Waking, refreshed from our siesta we know its time to meander down to the beach, the fading light reflecting in the dainty curves of the lamp posts. “They’re incredibly sexy,” I think.

A massive, pitcher of red sangria sweats fat cool drops on to the weather beaten table. A hearty paella is slowly disappearing just as the orange sun sets into the horizon. The night doesn’t end here, it’s just beginning. Vivacious nightlife fills the streets of Barcelona. We find ourselves staggering home covered in sweat and my feet aching. This is the Barcelona way, a relaxed lifestyle filled with good times and the finer things in life.

This was my second trip to Barcelona. We skipped most of the touristy hot spots and during the long Easter weekend Ganesh and I were able to enjoy the Catalonian lifestyle to the fullest. Our days were filled indulging in good wine, good food and meandering the evolving hipster neighborhoods and The Nerd Triangle for vintage, geeky and unique finds. Barcelona will forever remain in my heart as a favorite European city.

Snowbombing Music Festival, Austria April 2016

Snowbombing Music Festival

Mid Mountain Party, Snowbombing Music Festival

A thick icy mist lays low, making visibility difficult. I might as well be closing my eyes as I snowboard down the mountain. My only guide to my destination is the booming bass coming from a massive payload of speakers. The mist clears and I feast my eyes on dozens of party goers in bright snow costumes dancing to some of the world’s best DJs. I quickly unstrap my board, grab a beer and join the madness. I have no time to change as the party moves down the mountain and into the woods for headlining act, The Prodigy. The next morning, I pull myself out of bed, strap on my snowboard and hit repeat for five full days. This is Snowbombing Music Festival in Mayrhofen, Austria. I don’t know if I will survive.

Snowbombing Music Festival is one of the craziest things I ever willingly put myself through. From Germany we loaded up the car and drove over to Austria, snowboards and sanity in tow. We then proceeded to put ourselves through five full days of snowboarding, mid mountain raves- including one in an igloo, and long nights of dark clubbing events. We connected on a deep level as we danced to tunes of James Zabiela, a DJ whose music holds a special place in our heart. We let out our inner angsty teen to the Prodigy and Groove Armada. The day we left to drive back to Germany, I think we left our sanity behind.

Austria was a hot destination for me in April. Aside from Snowbombing, I hopped on a train two other times to make the journey to our German neighbors. Once, just for a day to explore the charming town of Salzburg and another for a second ski weekend with our friends traveling Europe from Australia. I also found myself in Vienna later on in the year, to visit my dear friends backpacking Europe. Austria might even be my favorite country in Europe after so many memorable visits.

My Dream Vacation. May 2016

Sometime, two years ago on a cold night in London, I challenged a boy to a game of scrabble. If the boy won, I had to teach him to snowboard. If I won, he would have to accompany me on my dream vacation to Croatia, Turkey and Greece. With the letter z in my American English arsenal he went down with a valiant fight. Quite some time later Ganesh, the boy, found himself boarding a train to Hungary on the adventure of a life time. It wasn’t all dreams and amazing travels. Ganesh and I are still adjusting to life together. I had never lived with a boy and never spent a solid month with anyone, other than my best girl friends. There were times on the road we were working things out. Despite bumps on the road we came out of this stronger than ever. He passed the travel test and I know can say with confidence if we survived a month of backpacking we can survive anything.

Budapest, Hungary

Budapest Chain Bridge Wandering Chocobo

Chain Bridge in Budapest, Hungary

The city that actually never sleeps. Our day started by exploring the rich history and architecture of Fisherman’s Bastion and expanding our minds, following the foot steps of Hungary’s brilliant engineers. We meandered through the local markets and hip boutiques stopping for coffee every step of the way. We needed energy for the long, wild nights. As the sun set, our night quickly descended into a wild, seemingly never ending party. We raged in bars carved out of old Hungarian ruins, we gorged on wine in dimly lit hidden wine cellars and danced our face off at old thermal baths raves. Every morning we would crawl out of bed, just as we fell in, dusted ourselves off, set off to find amazing brunch before exploring a WWII museum. Budapest was one of the only places I ever fell victim to a scam. We didn’t realize it, until it was too late. We cut our losses and decided to move on with a hard lesson learned.

We chose an odd time to travel, it was the shoulder season and we soon found our options for moving from Budapest to Croatia were very little. With no direct train routes and a bus company with ratings in the negative, we decided to book a private car. This was common for the area, we found out. Our driver picked us up from Budapest and safely got us to the Croatian boarder where he immediately let his true colors of being an Croatian driver show.

“The Hungarians care much more for rules and regulations than the Croatians,” he laughed as he swerved off the road.

I gripped the “oh shit handle,” as we flew down the highway. Somehow we arrived safely in Zagreb where we rented a car to begin our epic Croatian Road Trip.


Plitvice Croatia Wandering Chocobo

Plitvice National Park, Croatia

Croatia is a gem, glittering along the Mediterranean. It has everything you could need for a vacation, adventure, culture, history, nightlife and friendly people. I was breathless exploring the lush national parks of Plitvice and Krka. The waterfalls cascaded down before me in a majestic foam. We stayed in a charming cottage with sheep and cats playing in the back garden.

The entire country was at our finger tips as the wind whipped our hair on the open road. The singing of the ocean organ rang in our ears and the sea breeze kissed our cheeks. I was speechless wandering the charming and ancient town of Split, a UNESCO world heritage town built literally on top of an old Roman palace. Oh, the history that happened here! Our two day kayak trip in Split was canceled, due to bad weather, so we scrambled to rebook accommodation. Miscommunication almost led us to move into a desperate beggars apartment, instead of the nice place over looking the beach that we had booked online. Google maps got us lost a time or two and we could do nothing but laugh and enjoy the beauty of the unknown towns. The roads were so narrow I closed my eyes and just waited to fall off the cliff into the ocean as Ganesh bravely drove us around the tight corners. We were transported into A Game of Thrones in Dubrovnik as we scaled the sturdy walls the charming red terra cotta roof tiles staring back.

Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mostar Bridge Bosnia Wandering Chocobo

Mostar Bridge, Bosnia

Mostar, a town riddled with bullet and bomb holes. Some of them are patched in an attempt to recover, but many building were just left to rot with gaping holes torn through their sides. On one side of the river the Christians build their church ever tall, adding yearly it seems. A cross stands high on the mountain side, but they can not see it. It is meant for the eyes of the Muslims across the river. I was told there was peace here once, no matter your race or religion, but not anymore. There is a bitter coldness that divides the people, even more than the physical boundary of the cold river. The mosques try and compete building their minarets most high. A Turkish style market floods the streets, venders desperate to sell their wares to tourists. We can’t seem to relax here as we stare into the signs saying, “Never forgot the loss we’ve suffered.”

Our tour guide and driver calls us back to the car to behind the drive back to Croatia. We cross the Bosnian Croatian boarder 3 more times, each time receiving a stamp from both countries. My passport is filling much more quickly than I anticipated. I need a new one I think as I look upon the luxury condos at the beach. The image of bullet holes burns my eyes.


Blue Mosque Istanbul Turkey Wandering Chocobo

Blue Mosque in Istanbul

The Turkish people like to take stabs at the Greeks and their own government. They laugh awkwardly, trying to put on a face of bravery and confidence. I can tell they’re just masking a past of conflict and many long troubled nights over their future. They’re friendly though and are happy to see tourists. After recent bombings there is not many of us. The venders in the Grand Bazaar of Istanbul eagerly beg us to buy something, anything, any price we want. They haven’t had a customer in days. Our hotel, normally at 80% occupancy is operating at less than 30%. We explore the European side of Istanbul and marvel at the Hagia Sophia, she’s covered in scars and is under going renovation. I look up to find images of Jesus Christ surrounded by the Arabic script and teachings of Muhammad. Religion is so odd. The Asian side of the city is lively and teaming with hip local restaurants and micro breweries. We watch the sunset at MODA park as we spit sunflower seeds into the ocean and watch the orange sunset give way to the dusty silhouettes of the mosques.

We moved from the most pivotal city in the history of the world and sailed high above the wondrous geology of Cappadocia in the hot air balloon ride of a life time. We crawled through dark tunnels carved out by early Christians, hiding for their lives. My mom would love this I think. How unfair is it that I get to see the very first churches of her religion and she’s at home praying for my safety while I travel to a place of unrest. I snap a photo of one of the first icons ever recorded in human history. This crappy photo will have to do.

Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia Turkey

Hot Air Balloon Cappadocia Turkey

We wiggle into our bathing suits to swim and wriggled in the silky mud of Pamukkale. I geek out over the weird geological and chemical reacation happening here. …..XYZ Beautiful girls post in perfectly done make up and hair pose for epic photos of Pamukkale. I look frumpy in my one piece and cover myself in more mud. Lastly, we carefully stepped through the ancient city of Ephesus, the Eastern Roman capital, we walked the very marble road that Julius Caesar’s graced. We saw the first sign of graffiti. How fitting, it was a mark for sailors to find the brothel. Not much has changed in 2,000 some odd years.

I smile holding the hand of Ganesh, the same boy I made a scrabble bet with years ago. There’s no one on the face of the planet I would rather board one of Turkeys sketchiest airlines with as we head to Greece. Thank you for the life time of adventures!


Parthenon Acropolis Athens, Greece

Parthenon Acropolis. Athens, Greece

Not much remains, tangibly, of the mighty Ancient Athenians. The Parthenon rests a top the Acropolis, one of the highest points of the city. It’s crumbling, but still standing. Lights shine on it, causing a glorious glow into the night. I have a bit of a crush on the ancient Greeks. I wander the city like a sponge, soaking up all the history I can. Here I learn things, my history book pages never told me. You need a good imagination to explore Athens. You find yourself sitting in the middle of an open field with a few fragments of a pillar scattered around you. In my mind I erect the Agora. It bustles with figments of my imagination. It’s beautiful, I think as I softly touch the marble. Every piece is a work of art. I worry that my fingers are still sticky from the honey covered Greek doughnuts I ate earlier and quickly pull them away.

Santorini Greece Wandering Chocobo

Santorini, Greece

The end of our glorious month-long dream vacation is nearing. It’s still the shoulder season though, so we found a steal of a deal on accommodation in Santorini. We settle in to our two bedroom villa overlooking the Caldera. After a month of backpacking we kick off our shoes and hop in our private pool with cool fruit flavored cider. We gorge on freshly caught seafood and a nice bottle of wine as we watch one of the best sunsets in the world. We don’t do a whole lot for the next few days, we go to the rocky beach from time to time, but most of our day is spent sprawled in our cave villa reflecting on the trip of a life time!

Copenhagen, Denmark June 2016

Copenhagen Nyhavn Denmark Wandering Chocobo

Nyhavn Copenhagen, Denmark

Humans here do what ever is they want to do, but they typically choose the right thing. Late at night entire streets are shut down with angsty kids. They’re blasting techno from speakers mounted on bicycles. Swarms of people join them as they proceed down the streets. Their numbers grow as tourists, such as us, and even older locals begin to dance. Cars simply reverse out or wait for the mass of people to pass before continuing on. No one is hurt, no property is damaged. I wait for the cops to show up, but they never do. They never need to. The next day continues as if nothing happened. We enjoy walking through the historic part of the city and watching the reflection of the colorful houses of Nyhavn light the canals.

“No photos and No running.” The sign reads. Photos prove the illegal business happening and running makes everyone think the cops have arrived. The free town of Christiania is an anarchist community in the middle of Copenhagen. It’s more organized than than any other part of the city combined. Clean alleyways, communal compounds, beautiful gardens and playgrounds for the kids fill the lovely space by the river. A food court with locally brewed beer sits below a grassy knoll filled with the smoky haze of people enjoying life. Everyone is equal, everyone is welcome and everyone seems to be happy to do their part for the community.

Israel June 2016

Jerusalem, Israel Wandering Chocobo

Jerusalem, Israel, near the Western Wall.

The sun sets at Tel Aviv beach. Small bars and beach side cafes make a last call as happy dogs run their humans along the beach. A metropolitan Mediterranean city glows in the background. We enjoy good food and drink late into the night. It seems just like any other city.

The next day we pack up and rent a car to drive off into the Israeli desert.

“Doesn’t the salt burn your bits?” Ganesh asks as we float in the dead sea, struggling to manage our ridiculous buoyancy.

“It’s not a gaping hole, you know,” I chide.

I stick my tongue to the water. It may as well have been a 9 volt battery. The sun burs. I imagine what this place must have been like thousands of years ago. With whales and fish swimming before the salt killed off everything in the water. I wonder where their bones lay?

The old city of Jerusalem, the center of western religion, is the strangest place I’ve ever been. I turn a corner and Jewish people are having fits of hysteria as they cry, furiously reading the Torah and kiss the Western wall. Another corner, and we are being kicked out for getting too near the mosque most sacred to the Muslims. They laugh at how naïve we can be. Another corner and we cover our heads and wonder in to the most intricate church I have ever seen. Shared by all Christians this is the church where Jesus Christ’s body was laid to be prepped for burial. Monks and priest chant hymns at the entrance to a wooden burial chamber. Deeper still, the dark cold stone hold chambers hold the inner most secrets of the Christians.

Every day we walk past a large center. It looks like a maximum security prison, but the sign on the outsides hints it is there to help civilians. Our local friend corrects us, “Sometimes you can hear the screams of those held within the walls at night. That’s where Palestinians go and never come back.” I shudder and we hurry off. The company we kept here gave us insight to the Palestinian and Israeli conflicts. I soon can’t leave my hotel without feeling it. This country is hiding something, something they don’t want the world to know, but I can feel it in my very bones. I promise myself to return and as a journalist begin to uncover as much as I can. My white privilege allows me to walk through security with minimal questions. Ganesh’s brown skin and Indian name grants him over an hour of intense questions.

EDC June 2016

EDC 2016 Wandering Chocobo

EDC 2016

Security shakes my furry rave boots and feels me up a few times. I pass the test and cross the barrier to wait for my friends. As they join me, huge smiles spread across our faces as we skip to the entrance of the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We enter a dark cement circular hallway that wraps around the entire speedway. It’s dark and bass is barely audible over the insulation. I lead my friends through door ahead. We enter a strobe filled hallway. The music grows louder. Goose bumps prickle my skin. The hallway opens up into the most magical scene. Fireworks are shooting off in the distance as thousands of beautiful people skip their way through EDC. Screams from carnival rides are barely heard over the music from more than 7 stages and the lights… well, the lights are just beautiful. We laugh as we tumble down the stairs into the speedway and our senses are over loaded. For three straight days we dance under the electric sky until 6 am.

Romantische Strasse July 2016

Romantische Strasse Wandering Chocobo

Small town along the Romantische Strasse

We’ve been traveling so much. Have we been gone from Germany every month? “I feel like I don’t even know Germany very well,” I say. “Let’s explore our own new home.”

The mighty Alps where that famous castle Neuschwanstein rests are the start of our epic road trip. The road wanders through tiny towns, castles, villages and cities along the Romantische Strasse. What most people do in over a week, we cram in to 3 days. The cattle farms and mountainside pastures give way lush farms and majestic castles, which in turn give way to to rolling wine hills and fields of windmills. We explore an ancient crater, where we find goats with pants, roaming.

“What the hell are they doing here? Who is in charge of these goats?”

Our final road trip is in the Rhine Valley. We book accommodation in an old timber style German house. I stumble walking from the bedroom to the bathroom. The entire house is crooked, but it’s adorable, so that is all that matters. I hope to find German wine that I like. Germans make a terrible red, so I settle on the Riesling and find one that I enjoy. There is a German soccer match on and we get stuck in the city of Koblenz in a frenzy of traffic. People are shirtless, hanging out the window. Screams and car horns blast through the wine valley. Germany won! They are victorious. To save time we take the Autobahn home. I am amazed at how much better the German’s drive compared to anyone in the U.S.

Hamburg Aug. 2016

hamburg Germany UNESCO Wandering Chocobo

Hamburg, Germany. The UNESCO old shipping warehouses.

Toto, we’re definitely not in Munich anymore. The streets are a bit grungy, a little dirty even. An entire day in May is set aside for wild protests and the gentrification effects are felt throughout the city. Things aren’t prim and proper like they are in Munich, but the residents are living. I have a wonderful local tour guide on the first night. Michelle, the expert city blogger at Sonderbarmii, was kind enough to learn about my interests and take me out to the hip nightlife spots and good eats. The next day I plan to meet with a whole group of strangers, but they don’t feel like strangers as they are all bloggers living in Germany. It is through their writing I feel like I know them already. We instantly bond over amazing breakfast, a free walking tour of the city and late night cocktails. My favorite part is exploring the UNESCO heritage site of the old shipping warehouses. The beautiful brick alley ways rise from the water. They have more bridges than Venice I am told over and over. We end the tour at a French crepe house. Our waiter, possibly flirting, douses our crepes in alcohol and we get pretty boozed. I am so thankful to have connected with these amazing bloggers and am honored to be among such creative and adventurous women.

Thank you to the following empowering women for being gracious hosts and traveling from all over Germany to network. We found each other the group Female Travel Bloggers. Mary, a global life blogger at Global Mary. Jordan, from Beer Time with Wagner, writes about inspiring, affordable European travel in off-the-beaten-path countries! Manon, from The Dutch Country Side, will take you to new destinations, share opinions and travel guides. Lastly, don’t miss Ria, the German travel blogger in charge of Ria on Tour who has some great insider tips on Hamburg!

Family Vacation- Germany and Road Trip to Italy Aug. 2016

Wendelstein Cave Wandering Chocobo

Wendelstein Cave, German Alps

If there is one thing I am thankful all my traveling has brought, is that it pushed my family to be more open minded to explore the world. When they booked a trip to travel across the world for the very first time, I was thrilled. I wanted everything and every moment to be perfect. I planned the best showcase of Germany. We explored the ins and outs of Munich, from the old city to the up and coming cultural centers. My sister and I joked about having to remove our eyes after an evening of drinking by the Isar. Older German nudes stretched, praising the sun, everything was exposed. I took my family to the charming fairy tale town of Rothenburg, a vibrant Medieval city. My dad went bananas taking photos while my mom, sister and I walked around, shopping and soaking in the rich history. We rented a car and drove the beautiful scenic highway from Germany through Lichtenstein and Switzerland and ended in Italy. Our car went up and down as we rolled through the Swiss Alps. We grew up in Alaska, but the mountains are nothing compared to this. Our final destination was Cinque Terre. We all became child like again, playing in the ocean. My mom and dad powered through and in the blazing heat hiked the Cinque Terre walk. I was so proud of them and so happy to be in this beautiful land with them. I am forever thankful for the gifts and adventures traveling has brought myself and my family.

Ibiza Sept. 2016

Ibiza Sunset Cafe Del Mar

Sunset at Cafe Del Mar, Ibiza, Spain.

“We’re going to go to Ibiza one day,” we promised each other. Four best friends in love with electronic music at the tender age of 14. The album blaring in the car was the first In Search of Sunrise Compilation. The Sunrise in Ibiza painted on the cover. We made it some years later, still best friends and we watched the Sunrise in Ibiza, we cried and held each other. It was so beautiful.

“If I ever find a boy worth spending my life with, I’ll bring him here.” I said.

6 years later I found that boy and upon hearing my favorite club was closing I impulsively booked us a ticket to my favorite place on the planet. We bought a beautiful bottle of Champagne and watched the sunset at Café del Mar. “How cool is he?” I think. To sit here listening to classic lounge music and willing to fly around the world, just to watch a sunset. The bright purple of the sunset blinded me.

The purple disappeared over the horizon and we lined up for Space, Ibiza. The best club in the world and a club that holds a special place in my heart. We danced as hard as we could to say goodbye to a place of magic and love. Just before the sunrise began, we stumbled out of the club and moved to the beach to watch the start of a new day. We held each other tightly and shared our inner most secrets to the early morning light. If you ever want to experience the most amazing sunrise and sunset go to Ibiza and you’ll forever be in the love with the world.

U.K. Wedding Sept. 2016

U.K. Wedding Wandering Chocobo

Alex and Claire’s wedding near Tamworth, U.K.

You know that saying, “All my friends are getting married, and I’m just over here traveling the world?”

Well, up until this trip I was able to say, “None of my friends are getting married and we’re just all traveling the world.”

It was the lovely Mr. and Mrs. Alex and Claire Christie who broke the cycle and wed in a lovely British countryside barn. 6 years ago, Alex got on his first airplane and flew to Amsterdam where he met 4 backpackers from Alaska he had never met in person. Well, things went well enough on that trip we became friends for life. So, Country and Val flew over from Alaska to the attend the wedding. I was so honored to be part of this special day. It was simply perfect!

Val almost didn’t make it. She agreed to come, then regretfully declined, then confirmed attendance, then once again stated she was unable to come (changing airline prices and job vacation time etc.) Anyways, the weekend before the wedding she was watching Mr. Robot and having some wine. During the Mr. Robot show there was a scene where they were talking about binary code and relating it to life. Are you a 1 or a 0? Are you a yes or a no? Are you on or are you off? She immediately decided that she was a 1 and took action, buying a flight to Europe the very next morning. I think we should all be a bit more like Val when she watches Mr. Robot. Be a 1. Take risks and action, hell even buy a ticket to Europe for tomorrow if that’s what you want to do!

Ireland Sept. 2016

Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Ireland Wandering Chocobo

Cliffs of Moher, Doolin, Ireland

I couldn’t tell if I was laughing or crying. Maybe I was doing both. I shouldn’t have been doing either because I was driving in downtown Dublin, on the left side of the road. We had just been traumatized after we entered a 2 mile tunnel for trucks. It required a toll and gave us access to the docks. The toll guard laughed at us. We missed the turn for our hostel 6 times, each time adding on 20 min to our drive, thanks to one way roads. Finally, we made the turn and I somehow wedged us in narrow left hand upward spiral in a parking garage. Laughter and tears filled the garage. There is something infectious about my two best friends. We have a good time wherever we go. I was so happy to be experiencing the terrifying roads of Ireland with them, I didn’t care if I was stuck in the garage.

Dublin was a bit crazy a little trashy, but a lot of fun. However, we were only there for a day as it was time to see the rest of Ireland. I drove cautiously to the Cliffs of Moher in Doolin. We stopped in graveyards along the way, usually to pee and almost always to yell, “bring out yer’ dead.” We had fake sword fights in old Irish castles. We encountered friendly Irish folk, some toothless and overly friendly in overly crowded bars. We picked up two hitchhikers along the way. A father and son from Bulgaria. The entire rental car smelled for hours after we dropped them off. It was nice to have a break from couple travel with Ganesh and enjoy the ease of best friend travel once again.

Oktoberfest Sept./Oct. 2016

Oktoberfest 2016 Munich Wandering Chocobo

Oktoberfest 2016 with Country

Der Gemütlichkeit, a word that doesn’t quite translate into English, but if it did, it would mean a warm cozy feeling. That is the essence of Oktoberfest. My two best friends from Alaska are still with me and as we walk in through the entrance my nose is immediately greeted with the smell of warm sugar toasted nuts. Everyone is singing, happy and enjoying life. The tents, loom over us, showing their brewery brand swag proudly and up high. Inside the tent, pure joy and camaraderie welcomes our group. We are friends with the entire tent. German oompa bands sing all the traditional German sing along songs, as well as classics like Country Roads. I can only ever finish at most 4 liters of beer before I know it’s time to take myself home. I somehow lost my two friends. I think they’ll be alright though. They have my address. Before I make it home, I always stop and go on all the rides. I almost vomit. Too much beer. Too much motion. Finally, I make it home and I struggle to rip off my dirndl in a drunken stupor. I pass out by 4 p.m. and wake up by 7am ready for round 2. However, my friends are still missing. One turns up in a tent 30 min outside of Munich and the other could not navigate back home and had a giant sleepover with the other drunken delinquents. I chew them out, we laugh it off and do it all over again.

Stockholm Oct. 2016

Travel to Stockholm, Sweden Wandering Chocobo

Stockholm, Sweden

The bitter cold whips through my scarf. I feel at home, so at home. This is the country that Alaska should be. With it’s cold climate, fine architecture, social government and low crime rates, this must be what utopia is like. I eagerly order caribou steak and moose burgers almost every meal I can. Who knows when I get another chance to indulge like this. Ganesh’s parents join us for the quick weekend trip, so we stick to activities we can all enjoy. We visit the Vasa Museum. A perfectly preserved war ship from the 1600s floats in he middle of a dark room. It was a faulty design, but no one wanted to disappoint and tell the King, so they sailed her anyways and she sunk just off the Stockholm harbor. She was recovered hundreds of years later. Late into the night we venture to the old town and into a quirky jazz club. Ganesh’s parents love jazz and we enjoy the smile on their face as we jam the night away.

Las Vegas Oct. 2016

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas, Nevada Wandering Chocobo

Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas, Nevada

My second trip to Vegas was very different than my EDC experience. I had another friend getting hitched, but that’s ok. I’m still traveling the world.;-) I had the honor of officiating one of my best friend’s wedding. Erik and Chrissy are a match made in heaven. The MGM suite overlooking the strip fills with close friend and family as I begin the ceremony. The vows included Method Man lyrics and Pokemon quotes and it was just perfect.

I think this will be the last time I go to Vegas for quite some time. I enjoyed my romp in the desert for two years, but with the EDC phase behind me, Jacqueline, my best friend, moving to Portland and two visits this year I think it’s time to set my eyes on new adventures. I said goodbye to my former home with by exploring everything in Las Vegas that wasn’t the strip. I went on many outdoor adventures after the wedding, my favorite hiking in Red Rock. I also explore the local and hipster side of Vegas. If you get off the strip the desert really has a lot to offer.

Singapore Nov. 2016

Supertrees-Singapore-Gardens-by-the-Bay Wandering Chocobo

For one of the first times in my life I am a minority, but that’s just in numbers, not the way I am treated. Singapore is one of the loveliest countries I have ever been to. Ganesh and I are looked upon as equals as we explore the new and old sides of the city. The jet lag after traveling from Munich is really getting dragging me down. I struggle to stay awake. I spend most of the first day sleeping, but that’s ok. I need it. The second day we wander through the Gardens by the Bay. The first garden has a thundering waterfall crashing down several stories. You can walk up to the top exploring the flora of a tropical cloud forest. Orchids grow like weeds here. The second contains flora from every continent. I laugh at the penis shaped cactus and admire the African gourd trees. Outside the super trees loom as beautiful artificial trees, but they produce energy to fun the garden. The light up at night in a neon glow. Simply Beautiful.

The next day Ganesh takes me to parts of the city where he went as a kid. We eat a traditional Indian breakfast in Little India, and lunch at the Hawker centers in China Town. This is one of the few places on the planet I think all religions and all cultures truly live in harmony. If it wasn’t so hot here, I might even move.

We had a great guide, an old friend of Ganesh’s who let us stay with him and his wife. He’s a huge nerd and I played my first dungeons and dragons game. Ganesh died and we all struggle, but my barbarian character will live on to play more games.

We board one of the last flights of the year and begin out month long journey in Australia, the place Ganesh calls home.

Australia Dec. 2016

Daintree Rainforest National Park Australia Wandering Chocobo

Daintree Rainforest, Queensland, Australia

My first week in Australia I don’t see much other than the inside of a class room and the bottom of the ocean floor off Manly Beach. Determined to see the Great Barrier reef before it’s too late I sign up to take my open water scuba course. My first dive and I am instantly hooked. I will scuba dive around the world!

We have a vigorous schedule this month and soon after my class we begin the drive up to Brisbane. We stop in Ballina where Ganesh grew up. A giant ugly shrimp rears it’s head as the iconic statue of the area. You can get fresh shrimp by the bucket here. We stop at the Eltham pub. A charming little hotel and pub near Ballina. We know the owners and after 3 or 4 bottles of wine and the pub is closed I am asked if I want to go Cane Toad hunting.

“Cane what hunting?” I ask.

All the lights in the pub go off and I am told to sit quietly and wait. Five minutes pass and I am handed a flashlight. I am giddy with wine and excitement. I spot one and flash my light on it. It freezes and and we catch it with a garbage grabber. 1 down many to go. I go to bed prideful that night. I feel like a real Australian.

In Brisbane, a city of hip edgy culture and a bit of redneck I find a full moon party by the water and we meet up with old friends.

Melbourne is for eating and drinking. I drink as many cocktails as I think the human can tolerate. Each one is better than the last. Liquid nitrogen burns the foamy top into a yummy icy treat. I am in heaven I think.

Tropical North Queensland, where the forest meets the ocean, is my favorite place so far. We explore the bottom of the sea and the depths of the forest. We hike into the Daintree Rainforest. Everything is moving and breathing. I feel alive, as I breath in the fresh warm air. A wild and rare Cassowary crosses the road. There are only 1,200 left and even though the can rip out my insides in a heart beat I watch it in awe. We swim in natural Billabongs thankful for the cool water. As the night falls we cross a pulley bridge over croc infested water as bats swarm out of their caves ready to hunt.

Early morning greets us as we head to the marina. We load up on to a boat and receive our briefings and dive plans from the dive master. I can hardly sit still. My entire life I’ve wanted to be here in this moment. We begin out decent. I breath like Darth Vader through my regulator. In and out. In and out. A shark scurries out of a cave and we enter. In and out. I hear the click click click of fish all around feeding on coral. The colors and life is so abundant around me. It’s so beautiful, I could cry and add my salty tears to the ocean.

We must save our beautiful planet, before it’s too late. 2017 is the year of sustainable travel and the Wandering Chocobo will be under going some changes to align with more sustainable travel. What will you be doing to help our planet next year?

Christmas is spent in the hot sunny Australian summer. It’s so strange not seeing snow all around me. I miss it, but I enjoy our beach side BBQ and cold seafood fest. I was always a sucker for traditions, but sometimes you just need to let them go and start new ones.

The new year will start in Sydney. We will watch the fireworks explode over the harbor. This time last year we were stopped at the Canadian border, waiting to start the adventure of a life time.

On to 2017!

As I sat down to write this I had no idea that 7,000 words later I would only begin to skim the surface of my story in 2016. Sometimes it feels like I am living in a dream. I’ve received some hate from former friends along the way, people that judge me for taking off and traveling, but my true friends and family have been so supportive. I know I am very privileged to be living the life I am, but it’s not with out hard work that I am where I am. I get lonely sometimes. Being an expat in a foreign country can be alienating and I feel myself drifting from friends back home. So, my goal for 2017 is to pick up a phone and call some of you, travel to see some of you and slow down a bit and enjoy my new home.

Where are you traveling to in 2017? Where was your favorite destination in 2016 let me know in the comments!

Happy New Year and happy travels!

The Wandering Chocobo