The Faces of Ausangate

Andean Lodges: Roberto, our horseman, shows off one of his many trekking hats

As you can see from the Ausangate lodge trek post and video, our trek along the Camino del Apu Ausangate was full of natural and cultural highs. For many people, the spectacular landscapes and isolated Andean villages are reason enough to do the trek. But we also wanted to stop and reflect a bit on the unique relationship between Andean Lodges and the communities of Chillca and Osefina which greatly benefit from these treks. Continue…

Our Crazy Antarctica Family

Click images in this post to enlarge

An unexpected highlight of our trip way way way down under was the cast of crazy, fascinating, wacky, spectacular, smart, hilarious characters that became our family aboard the Akademik Sergey Vavilov. It had never really occurred to us before, but Antarctica attracts an especially awesome crowd of people.

These are people who value experiences above all else, people who treasure exotic destinations, wildlife, extraordinary landscapes and adventure. These people – both passengers and crew – are living a dream to sail to the edges of the earth. They don’t end up here by accident; they end up here because they think a bit differently from the average Joe. Throw in some zodiacs and a hula-hoop artist and you’ve Continue…

San Cristobal Tribal Markets

Chiapas market

Without a doubt, the highlight of any trip to beautiful San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas is a visit to the regional markets full of colorful Tzotzil and Tzeltal people. We explored the local market here in San Cristobal as well as the markets in Tenejapa, San Lorenzo Zinacantan and San Juan Chamula. It’s a feast for the senses and a quick course in the diversity of the region. Each village features unique local garb. Don’t miss the black, rug-like skirts of San Juan Chamula and the elaborately embroidered designs of San Lorenzo Zinacantan.

If you visit, try to get to those markets early to catch stunning processions of locals as they leave the church on market day. This is the best time to see everyone decked out in colorful turbans, heavy ponchos, and ribboned hats. (And don’t miss their very cool traditional footwear.) As in neighboring Guatemala, if you do decide to visit less touristed markets such as Tenejapa, be very careful Continue…

Mayans and Mennonites

mennonitesLook for Mennonite crossing signs in rural Campeche

One of my favorite experiences while traveling through Campeche was seeing the many Mennonite communities along the way. As a German I was curious. Persecuted for their beliefs, the Mennonites had left the German speaking parts of central Europe hundreds of years ago. And up until now, I had never encountered them.

Walking through a local market, I found myself being transported back in time. In the sea of short Mayans, there were tall, pale women in dark floral-print dresses and men in black overalls, plaid shirts and straw hats. It was surreal. Although I couldn’t stop staring at them, I was mostly curious about their Germanic language. After all, they were my people (or so I thought). A few days later, we finally had a chance to talk to them.

While visiting an archaeological site near Hopelchen, we met a young Mennonite couple who had just emigrated from Continue…

Sometimes a Cigar…

Sometimes a cigar...

…isn’t just a cigar. Sometimes, it’s an entire adventure. Happy April Fool’s day. This one is a bit of an inside joke. 😉

A Hard Day’s Work

Woman in Chichen Itza

I stood watching this little old woman selling embroidered handkerchiefs near the Great Ball Court in Chichen Itza. The tiny Mayan woman, who could not have been more than four and a half feet tall, was hiding from the heat in a shadow waiting for tourists to wander by. Imagine standing in 90 degree heat all day long at her age to make a few dollars a day. It puts our splurge in Cancun into embarrassing perspective.

Remembering the Lady in the Snake Bone Crown

For years, we referred to her as the “lady in the snake bone crown.” We met her while we were people watching at the market in Bontoc in the Philippines. Perhaps, “met” is a bit of an exaggeration as we really couldn’t speak to her. But we sat with her as she showed us her tattoos and her snake skeleton hairpiece, memories of a rapidly vanishing age. Despite the fact that we did not know her name or really anything about her, we remembered her very well. In fact, meeting her was one of the most meaningful experiences we had in the Philippines, a country full of amazing people.

In March 2013, Janet Scott Tama wrote to us to tell us the lady in the snake bone crown was Ina Ngallowan from Tucucan, a village near the Maligcong rice terraces, and that she was still alive and doing well. Putting a name to Ina’s face was an exciting discovery for us. We had talked about her and Bontoc’s vanishing traditional culture many times.

Last week, we received an email from Tesiesakoy Chapap telling us that Ina had passed away. We can Continue…

The Olga Show

So who’s the best street performer in Berlin? That might sound like a tough question considering all the talented musicians, acrobats, magicians and more who pass through the city each year.

In our opinion, the answer is quite obvious: it’s Olga Kholodnaia, a Russian violinist who stops us in our tracks every time we happen upon one of her performances.

Over and over, she pops up in crowded hot spots such as Alexanderplatz or Mauerpark and always draws a crowd with her upbeat take on a variety of artists from Vivaldi to Nirvana. My personal favorite Continue…

History in the Streets of Berlin

This year, Berlin turns 775!!! To celebrate, Berlin is hosting a range of events including two open air projects City in the Middle Ages and City of Diversity, which culminate on October 28 with an official birthday celebration in the Nikolaiviertel. That means you still have one month to check out what’s going on as well as to enjoy Berlin while she’s still a youthful 774. (Don’t worry Berlin, you don’t look a day over 500.)

As a taste of what’s going on, we wandered through the Nikolaiviertel and photographed Berliners reenacting 700 years Continue…

Seaport Village Busker

While we were strolling along the bay at San Diego’s Seaport Village, this busker sporting white 18th-century garb caught our attention. You go girl, don’t let that economic crisis get you down. 🙂