January 20, 2017

Hello and Happy Weekend


Days when I can squeeze in a shower, put on make up, blow dry my hair and get dressed are days when I feel like a million bucks. I was able to pull all that off today as Bartles was taking his afternoon nap. Now that I am getting a better read at his schedules, going off to do my own thing during certain times of the day doesn't seem so daunting (although we still have accidents here and there).

I've also rearranged the house a little bit! 

We made a new place for Piri's memorial downstairs in the living room, my craft storage cabinet moved to another part of my room and my computer is back upstairs, also in our bedroom, where I hope to spend more time. I haven't been up here in a while -- since Bartles came -- but it's already been one month (yesterday!) since Bartles has come to stay with us and I think it's time to get back to our normal routine as much as possible (although I think I will continue to sleep with him downstairs  -- just easier when he needs to get up in the middle of the night to go pee or potty). 

So, what are you doing this weekend? 

Yangkyu and I played with the idea of taking Bartles to his first march (we took Piri to so many of them), the Women's March in Washington D.C., but logistically it may be just too crazy (Yangkyu also let me know that he had made an appointment for his deep tissue massage for early morning tomorrow - he's so obsessed with those massages). 

We're still figuring out what we're planning on doing (probably lots of gaming for Yangkyu and hopefully some craft time for me), but we hope you have a wonderful one!

January 17, 2017

Away we go: Bavaria, Germany (Pt. 5)


On day 7 of our trip to Germany we woke up bright eyed and quite excited to be making a day trip out to a little storybook town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It was one of those places I regretted not staying overnight (the other was Füssen). It was absolutely lovely.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is a popular town on one of the many stops along what is called the Romantic Road. It runs from Würzburg to Füssen and it is the most scenic route connecting Frankfurt with Munich. We opted not to rent a car and travel through the Romantic Road and instead made the day trip out from Munich using the regional train service leaving Munich Central Station in the morning. We bought our ticket from the ticket booth instead of the electronic kiosk and the ticket booth lady made sure that we were going to Rothenburg ob der Tauber as there are several towns in Germany named Rothenburg. According to Rick Steves' travel book, tourists do end up going to the wrong Rothenburg. Yikes. 

Aside from being excited to see this picturesque town, Yangkyu and were also excited for another reason. Karina, a long-time friend on Instagram and fellow cocker spaniel mom, offered to drive out to Rothenburg ob der Tauber from Stuttgart with her entire family, including Goofy and Yumsky (her adorable cockers), to meet us. Wha?! Really? For us? 

Many people who know me know that I shy away from meeting people. It's an introvert thing (hi - INFJ here) and I often times decline meeting people and utterly cringe inside wondering if I came off completely rude. It might be sound really weird, but I don't even meet my close friends on a regular basis and often times they have to text me if they haven't heard from me in a while to see if I'm doing ok. One of my closest girlfriends know this about me SO WELL and her personality is so flexible that while we were living just a few blocks away from each other in college, we spent the entire day hanging out by talking on the phone and chatting online at the same time. And for most of the time we didn't even talk on the phone or chat. Serious.





We arrived in Rothenburg ob der Tauber at around 10 am. It took us nearly 3 hours to get there and thinking back it really would have made sense to sleep here for one night. Karina and her family met us at 1 pm and we had a few hours to do a little sightseeing before meeting them for lunch. 

There were a few places I did want to see but a couple of the museums were closed and so we settled on three places -- 

St. Jakob's Church 
Where Tillman Riemenschneider's wood-carved Altar of the Holy Blood is located. It costs 2.5 euro to get in and on Sundays people must wait until after services end at 10:45 am to view. 

German Christmas Museum anKäthe Wohlfahrt 
The German Christmas Museum is just upstairs in the big Käthe Wohlfahrt store. It tells the history of Christmas decorations. It costs 4 euros to enter. At the very end of the museum you can write a little note on a paper ornament and hang it on their display tree. The hall leading you out of the exit will lead you straight into the Käthe Wohlfahrt store and it is huge and jam packed. We were literally walking in a long line the entire time inside the store. Its head office is located in Rothenburg ob der Tauber but we saw many Käthe Wohlfahrt stores all over Bavaria. 

Teddys Rothenburg
I don't know if I ever said this often on the blog but I had two Steiff bears growing up and I named them Bennie and Benna. My pops got them for me while he was on a business trip. They are so very old (just to give you an idea, the tags on their ears say Made in West Germany). I had many stuffed animals growing up but my two Steiff bears are the only ones I kept all these years. I still have them and purchased another one here. His name is Charly. There is a huge Steiff bear you can pose with in front of the store. This place certainly brought back a lot of childhood memories. 

We didn't get to stroll around the town too much or visit other shops or restaurants. Actually, we got lost as soon as arriving in Rothenburg. We ended up walking far away from the old town and lost precious time (and energy -- oh curse you, heavy camera). And so after visiting Teddys Rothenburg it was already time to meet Karina's family for lunch. They had reserved at Alter Keller, which allows dogs inside the restaurant, which was perfect since Goofy and Yumsky were joining in on the meeting.






Our meeting with Karina and her family was absolutely fantastic in every way possible. There were SO MANY laughs and conversations and curious questions (like how did you guys meet? this one drew so many laughs) and connection. There was none of the awkwardness I so dread when I meet people for the first time, and I fell in love with her family right away. I couldn't help but be drawn to the way they interact with each other and you could tell straightaway that there is so much love between them.

If you ask me to describe Karina's husband, Thor, I'd probably say he's a nice guy. It might come off as such a boring answer, but he is really such a nice guy! Thor made such an impression on Yangkyu that he couldn't help but talk about him during our train ride back home. He enjoyed the side conversations they had (while Karina and I were laughing and getting silly with alcohol). 

Karina and Thor's daughter Kaya, who has grown into such a beautiful young lady (I could've sworn the last time I saw a picture of her, she was still a kid!), and who I presume would've preferred to do teenage girl things and hang out with her friends on a precious Saturday, was so present and engaging and friendly. And while she has grown into a teenager, seeing her sitting between her parents, she was still their little girl. It was just such a sweet image to see, the three of them (well five, because you can't forget Goofy and Yumsky). 

And Karina. Oh Karina. She made me cry as soon as we sat down inside the restaurant. She had gotten me a little something and as soon as I opened it I just lost it. But not because I was sad, but because I was so touched that she made this little Piri doll for us. I just cried wondering about the days she spent making him - what she was thinking and feeling. I know, I wonder about the weirdest things, don't I?

And then I saw Piri's big nose and curious big eyes. They were exactly how I remembered them. And his floppy ears and the little patch of white fur on top of his head (which we always kept round and bald by the way - and the doll was exactly that way). Karina is one of the first people I started following on Instagram who was fellow cocker mom. She had Ally then who suddenly crossed the rainbow bridge during a routine procedure. It was heartbreaking and one of the first of our cocker spaniels to have crossed. Karina has been with us through all the good, the bad, the sad and the unbearable. She has always been there with her infectious smile (which I finally heard in person and will always remember whenever I read her posts and comments) and I am so thankful for her friendship and kind heart. 







Time went by too fast at Alter Keller (we ordered our meals, had dessert and more drinks and it was still not long enough). Afterwards as the sun was going down, we decided to head over to the Christmas market and walk about, shop a little and have a little Glühwein. Thor purchased these little raffle tickets for Karina and me and Karina won a batch of cookies while I got a pink body soap. Ha!

Unfortunately, as it was in Füssen and the King's Castles, my stomach began to hurt not too long after eating and I began to feel uncomfortable walking around and my thought quickly became fixated on wanting to be back in the hotel room in the comforts of my bed (ugh! GI Tract! Get with the program! Now is not the time to act up!). I had wanted to spend more time with Karina and her family and thought about just sucking it up but it just was too hard to do. And so they walked us over to the train station and we just caught the train headed back to Munich. 

The last image I saw of Karina's family was Thor walking with his arms around Karina and Kaya's shoulders. I had already fallen in love with them and this just sealed it. It was the perfect image to end our time in this storybook town. 

Thank you, Karina, Thor, Kaya, Goofy and Yumsky for driving out to meet us, for the wonderful food, laughs and good company. I really can't believe we actually met you, I look back and think it was all a dream. Yangkyu said next time if we are ever in Germany, he thinks we should stay the night with Karina's family and that my GI tract will just have to suck it up. Ha. 

The following day we were originally supposed to head out to another day trip but Yangkyu ended up getting sick and so we spent the day sleeping in and spending time at the Munich Christmas Market where we ran into the most delightful tradition, the Krampus run. 

Hope you'll come back for that story. 

January 12, 2017

Letters to Bartles // 001


Dear Bartles, 

Hi. My name is Jane. I'm the girl you've been sensing for the better part of the day (I know, I'm such a stalker).

I'm the girl who taps your butt after wiping your paws to say that you're all done and the one who tickles your face when you wake up in the morning. I'm also the one who gives you those dreaded ear cleaning sessions and wipes your mouth after you're done eating. I know. I like leaving crumbs on my face too after I'm done eating. But you know, manners and all that jazz.

Of all these things though, most importantly, I'm your new family. 

Hi Bartles. It's nice to meet you. I hope you like your new home. 

I used to write letters to Piri. Piri is my former cocker spaniel. He lived to be 17 and he crossed the rainbow bridge just a few months ago in October. I am not sure if there are still traces of his scent on the bed and blankets and pillows, but if you smell another cocker spaniel, that's him. I wish you could've met him. I think you both would've been really great friends (he used to slide off of his bed, too and you both pull off the best resting cocker face look). I know we still have to explore the upstairs of our house together, and when we do, I'll show you a little corner where his things are resting. 

I don't mean to do the same things I did for Piri to you. Sometimes I feel like continuing tradition is good while other times I feel you deserve something special of your own. But I am guessing that something special will come to me one of these days. And we have plenty of days ahead to give it time to happen organically. 




Bartles. I wonder a lot of things about you. But I think mainly, I wonder if you miss your previous human. I heard that he loved you very much and was very heartbroken to let you go. I'm sure you already know that. 

I know that dogs form strong bonds with their humans and I presume that your bond with him will never break. The other day I said to Yangkyu (he's the other guy that kind of follows you around like a stalker - oh he's the other human who is your family now - you know, the one who was eating the kabob you were eyeing), "I wonder if Bartles thinks he's just on a really long vacation and thinks that he will one day reunite with his human." That thought broke my heart.

I also thought that even though you have so many beds and blankets and fancy treats now, if you could be with your human, none of this materialistic stuff matters. Dogs are like that, right? As long as their human is with them, they don't need anything else.

And yet here you are, with us, not showing any signs of anxiety or sadness. You just go with the flow and despite everything you've been through and all the medical issues you are facing, you strut, and make the most of your days and look at the person who you are with at the moment with your very best face (and give face nudges - those melt my heart by the way).

Bartles. I know you had to say good bye to your very special human. I had to say good bye to a very special dog. So I think I may know what you are feeling. But perhaps, the two of us who lost someone very special in our lives, were meant to cross paths and create a special bond of our own. Not to replace what we lost but to add on.

I like that thought. I hope you do as well. 

Bartles. I have been noticing that you find me by smelling my feet. I hope they smell nice. 

Welcome home, Bartles. We have so many adventures ahead of us. Let's strut and make the most of it. 

Love, 

The new human girl in your life.

January 10, 2017

Away we go: Salzburg


On Day 6 of our trip to Germany, we took an hour and a half morning train ride over to Salzburg, Austria. 

When we were planning out the each of the days for our trip we were planning to start them early - 6 or 7 am - so that we can get as many hours in to sightsee as we can since we weren't planning on staying overnight. I already mentioned how in the past this worked perfectly well for us, but this trip made us realize that we no longer have the stamina to go long hours without feeling terribly tired. 

And so instead of buying expensive train tickets, we switched our plans last minute and bought the Bayern ticket, which are affordable ticket prices to travel around Bavaria and nearby areas, including Salzburg, which is considered a border town. The only catch with the Bayern ticket is that during the weekday you can only use it after 9 am (you can use it before 9 am during the weekend).

Choosing the affordable ticket had its cons -- starting late cut into our sightseeing time and we didn't get to see everything we had wanted in each of the places we went to, but seeing as though how easily tired we got, and sleep really helped us recuperate, starting slightly later in the day and going with the Bayern ticket probably worked out for the best.






Salzburg was one of the places I looked forward to the most. I know this sounds silly but growing up as a child trained in classical music, you kind of grow up with all things Mozart. You don't know how many times my days were filled with listening to Mozart and watching Amadeus (I still watch it like it is my first time watching). And so a big part of me was looking forward to the birthplace of Mozart. 

Salzburg is also a place where The Sound of Music was partially filmed. For friends who have followed our story for a while, you know how much The Sound of Music means to me. I grew up watching it (my mom loved musicals and The Sound of Music was one of those movies that she introduced me and brother to as kids and it often played in our home) and Yangkyu and I watch it every Thanksgiving evening. It's our little tradition. I know the words to all the songs and even to this day, I don't get sick of watching it.

There is a Sound of Music tour offered by a few touring companies in Salzburg, and as much as I love The Sound of Music, Yangkyu and I opted not to do it. We were already short on time and I didn't want to spend too much time doing one tour. I thought maybe we would try to at least go and see some shooting locations on our own, but this did not happen either. But that's ok. 








Backtracking a little -- as soon as we arrived in Salzburg, we purchased the Salzburg Card. It was one of the best things we purchased as it gave us free passes to museums, the fortress funicular and public transportation. I think it also gives you extended discounts on concerts, performances and other excursions, and while we didn't make use of that, purchasing the Salzburg Card still worked towards our advantage greatly. We purchased the Salzburg Card in the TI booth located inside the train station at the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof. 

The first place we visited while we were in Salzburg was the Residenz (free entrance with the Salzburg Card). But we didn't end up spending much time here as we did with the Munich Residenz. I think part of me felt a bit pressed for time. 

But one of my favorite places to visit in Salzburg (and where we did spend a good amount of time, although not enough) was the Hohensalzburg Fortress. It was huge and enormous and it was a little town all on its own. I only wish we had more time to stay there and enjoy the Christmas market and the eateries. We did get to enjoy the museum and Marionette Exhibit and walk around a bit. I was looking forward to the funicular ride up (where we didn't have to get on the long, hectic lines to purchase a ticket because of our Salzburg Card) but honestly, the ride wasn't all that great. We were all packed in like sardines and it was so crowded that it was hard to breathe and enjoy the scenery going up and down the fortress. I believe you also have the option of walking up the Fortress. Steep but doable walk.






My second most favorite thing to do in Salzburg was visiting Mozart's Birthplace (Geburtshaus), the house which he was born. I was looking forward to this museum but didn't expect too much because I read that it was pretty small. And while it wasn't sprawling, to me, it was intriguing, captivating and, quite frankly, amazing.

We unfortunately went at the same time a bunch of students were on a school trip and they were loud and boisterous and didn't care too much to be there, but we made do by staying behind in the first room and trying to take in all the information as slowly as possible to let the crowds of students through first. 

Because of time constraints, we didn't get a chance to go visit Mozart's Residence. Some of the museums closed around 5 or 6 pm and so that left us little room to go make rounds to all the places we wanted to see. This would happen at other cities we visited including Nuremburg, which had so many sights we wanted to see but missed out on. 





While Salzburg was beautiful and breathtaking, there were some things that happened here, which got me feeling a little puzzled. Some incidents required a bit of understanding on my part to not feel offended, while other incidents still feels like a bad experience (small but bad).

You know, when we were researching everything about Munich, one of the things that kept coming up was encouraging tourists to learn a little German and speak it while visiting. Something as basic as saying hello, good bye, good day, asking for simple directions and ordering something to eat or drink. It shows appreciation and also respect in a sense where you don't go to another country and expect everyone there to speak English. At first, this was a concept that was so hard for me to understand. 

Growing up, I hated it when people spoke to me in Korean (or whatever they thought was Korean) because for me, my experience with people speaking to me in my native language wasn't out of respect and appreciation, but to make fun and humiliate. It was to say that I was different. And inferior. I'm sure every Asian American kid has grown up with a classmate who came up to them with slanty eyes, making ching chong sounds and asking if we spoke English. Nevermind that we're American as well (either born in the US or naturalized, like myself) and that some of us don't even speak our heritage language. So this gesture, speaking in "your language" has always been a negative experience. And so I never really tried to speak to anyone in their language, afraid that maybe I would offend them too. 

In Salzburg, Yangkyu and I were in a chocolate shop and after we had paid, the elderly lady at the cash register said "xie xie", which is thank you in Mandarin. Leading up to this point, we had a couple of experiences - inside a restaurant and on the train - of people saying "konichiwa" or "sayonara" to us (which means good afternoon and good bye in Japanese - a language we don't speak because we are not Japanese nor are we Mandarin speaking Chinese). It felt as though it was mocking (a rowdy group of guys at a restaurant who had several rounds of drinks who said "konichiwa" as they passed by our table on their way out and a drunken couple who said "sayonora" behind us in the train - I guess you can blame alcohol, or not). 

Anyway, Yangkyu just smiled and I just ignored the "xie xie". But the elderly lady thought that we didn't hear her and said "xie xie" again, but louder. I (reluctantly) smiled, because I didn't want to come off rude, and said "Oh, we are not Chinese. We're Korean American." She paused and looked up thinking something and then said with a big smile, "Gam sa ham ni da!" That means thank you in Korean. I smiled, this time genuine, and said, "Yep. You got it. That means thank you in Korean." I realized then that for this woman, speaking in someone's native tongue was meant as a sign of appreciation. She took the time to memorize a word and use it at an appropriate time and thought I would be happy that someone did that. 

To be honest, any other time I would have gotten nit picky because for me while I was born in Korea, I am more comfortable with English. Although my second language, it has been my primary language for 31 years of my life (I am 38 years old). And so when someone who says "thank you" to me in English, it is speaking my language.

But to most, because I look different, because I look Asian, "thank you" or any other word in English would never really be thought to be my primary language. It's a sad fact that I live with every day. And while I don't want to diminish this lady's efforts and kindness in trying to extend a warm hand, my experience with language and how I have come to perceive language being used toward me should also not be invalidated. Some people say, "why do you always make things about race. She didn't mean it." I'm sure she didn't, but that doesn't mean she shouldn't know what she is doing can really imply. And because my whole life has been cast in the light of race, to me, a lot of my experiences and perspectives is about race. 





The other incidents were more off putting - maybe petty to even mention. 

Inside the gift shop, there was a person in front of me paying, and I was the only other customer in line. The man in front of me and the person behind the cash register were carrying on a conversation that felt so long that it made me feel a little awkward and uncomfortable to be just standing there. A few words to exchange is fine but there comes a point when you're standing there, with items in your hand, and you think, "um.. do you not want me to buy these?" It was awkward to me but I was trying to not let it get to me because we had a similar incident when we were visiting the King's Castles.

We were inside a small gift shop and after a number of customers paid and left, I was the only one left in the store. Just as I was done looking and I had walked up to the cash register with a number of items, when he received a phone call. The conversation carried for what I felt like was forever. To the point where standing there felt really uncomfortable. I almost left because it really felt like she was ignoring me on purpose. When she got off, she didn't apologize and said, "Oh that was my boss and I couldn't tell him to hang up or hold on." My initial reaction was, I didn't want to buy anything from that store, but I didn't want to be rude and walk off. But after encountering the similar incident at the Salzburg Residenz, I thought maybe perhaps that's just the way the culture is. No one really rushes, and people take time to talk to one another. I am not sure if this is true, but perhaps it is another way of looking at it. 

Which brings me to another cash register incident inside the Hohensalzburg Castle. I am not sure if this person is just really unhappy with her job, and while I don't expect people to smile at me, everything about her gesture was just really unwelcoming. When this happens, I immediately regret getting in line to buy. Why spend money at a place that treated me badly?

But what do I do? I get afraid that I might come off rude as well so I just suck it up and just go through with the unpleasant experience. But she took the cake though when she haphazardly passed Yangkyu's credit card back to him and dropped it and fell off to the wayside and she didn't even bother picking it back up to give it back to him. I was so appalled that I literally stuck around after paying to see if she was like this to other customers. She wasn't as rude, but she seemed really unhappy working there while attending to other customers. But other people also didn't mind the rudeness and I thought perhaps I am more sensitive to these experiences than most people. {shrug}

The final scratch my head moment came inside the Residenz again. There weren't a lot of people viewing the Residenz and in one of the rooms, we had the security people follow us around to make sure we wouldn't touch anything. They were following us, peeking over at us and just watching us like a hawk. This was partly the reason why we didn't stick around much and left quickly. Perhaps they experience inappropriate behaviors from tourists all the time, like touching when they are not supposed to, but being rounded up and generalized as tourist who would do such things just didn't make me feel very good. These kinds of things really put a damper in my day. 





But there is bound to be unpleasant experiences where travel is concerned and while I write about these experiences, there were more pleasant, kind and wonderful people than not. We had strangers looking out for us, online friends who drove out to meet us in person and gift us with good company, conversation and food, random people who gave us directions and help whenever we were lost and friendly vendors who gave us extra chestnuts and the ripest of apples. 

We ended our time in Salzburg at the Christmas market and spent time listening to carolers. It reminded me of home. It reminded me of Piri. It made me think of Bartles and all the untold stories yet to be told when we go back home.

On our way back to the train station, we came across a bridge with all these locks. I wished I knew about this beforehand because I would've brought one with our names -- Piri, Yangkyu, Jane and Bartles. I regretted missing out on the chance. (One of the reasons we had wanted to go to Paris was to put a lock on the bridge there, but then a friend told us it was taken down because of weight issues. I had no idea!)

The train ride back to Munich was a peaceful one. But it made me think a lot of Piri. The long train rides did that often in Germany. It made me cry a lot but laugh as well. 

We missed a lot of sightseeing places in Salzburg, but walking around at the fortress, Mozart's birthplace, the Salzburg Christmas market, St. Peter's Cemetary and Alter Markt was enough to make our trip well worth it. 



The following day, Yangkyu and I made an early trip out to Rothenberg ob der Tauber, truly a storybook town. There we had our long time Instagram friend and her family meet us and it was a such joyous meeting that went by too fast. 

Hope you'll come back for that story. 

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