Happiness is like a butterfly.
The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.
But if you turn your attention to other things,
It comes and sits softly on your shoulder.
 – Henry David Thoreau


One of the things I love most about living in Germany, or specifically in Munich, is that there is almost always a festival going on – or there’s one to look forward to. Of course, there is Oktoberfest, the obvious frontrunner. But many are surprised to learn that there are a variety of other events throughout the year also.

During the holiday season, there is a plethora of Christmas Markets, or Weihnachtsmärkte, that offer handmade goods, yummy treats, and warm spiced wine known as Glühwein – a German holiday specialty. While there are many markets scattered throughout Munich to choose from, the main event to check out is the Tollwood Festival, held at the Theresienwiese (also where Oktoberfest takes place). Large tents are set up throughout the area, some filled with retail and food booths, and others with bars and even a performance platform for live music. Grab a mug of warm Glühwein and stroll through the tents and get ready to be put in the holiday spirit.

Fast forward a few months to Faschingsfest, otherwise known as Karneval. This Mardi Gras celebration of Germany is filled with costume parties, parades, and music. The carnival season traditionally begins on November 11th, but the real party begins a few weeks prior to beginning of lent, where hundreds of costume balls are held throughout the city, showcasing everything from stylishly elegant masquerades to those dressed in rainbow wigs, crazy makeup, and other insane getups. One thing is for certain during this festival: anything and everything goes!

Next on the list is Starkbierfest, which literally means Strong Beer Festival. Conveniently, this three week party frenzy full of good beer and even better people watching begins right at the end of lent. There’s a reason the beer is extra strong this time. Specially brewed for the occasion and served in a Keferloher (1 liter ceramic stein), you won’t need more than a couple Starkbier to be dancing on the benches with the locals and singing along to the modern and traditional German music. Trust me. This celebration is held at multiple beer halls and breweries throughout the city, but the most popular choice for the grandest party of all seems to be at Paulaner “Nockherberg” brewery, where hundreds of people pile in Oktoberfest style, dressed in their tradition Dirndl or Lederhosen ready for a good old fashioned Bierfest.

Just when you thought you’d consumed enough beer to last you until Oktoberfest, along comes Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival). Held at the Theresienwiese, many consider this festival to be a mini Oktoberfest, complete with carnival rides and those all too famous beer tents. While the tents appear to be about 1/2 the size of the Oktoberfest tents (and there are only a handful to choose from compared to the selection of Oktoberfest’s 14 large Halls, and that’s not counting the smaller ones…), delicious beer in 1 liter Maß and traditional munchies are served while a live band plays new hits and traditional favorites. Naturally, most everyone makes their way up on top of the benches after their first or second Maß for a dance party. And don’t forget your Dirndl or Lederhosen! Be prepared to hear more English than German as you are bound to encounter more tourists than locals at this festival. Think of this as a warm-up for Oktoberfest…

But don’t begin your preparations for that world famous beer festival just yet…there’s one more festival to check out before it’s that time of year again. Tollwood Sommerfestival, held at the Olympiapark from the end of June to the end of July, offers everything from performing artists and theater groups, to handicrafts and food, to a music arena displaying a variety of groups, this year ranging from Erykah Badu, to Billy Idol, to Lady Antebellum among many others. You won’t find any crazy Bier halls at this event, but it’s Germany after all, so you can expect to sip on a tasty Deutsche brew while enjoying everything this festival has to offer.

You grow up the day you have your first real laugh- at yourself. 
Ethel Barrymore

If you’re going to be able to look back on something and laugh about it, you might as well laugh about it now. 
Marie Osmond

When anybody laughs, he has no mind, no thought, no problem, no suffering. 
Sri H. W. L. Poonja (Papaji)

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction

that human beings are not born once and for all

on the day their mothers give birth to them,

but that life obliges them over and over again

to give birth to themselves.”

– Gabriel García Márquez

I miss my favorite foods, my favorite restaurants. And my mom’s cooking. I’ve found it interesting that one of the things I miss most about home isn’t home itself, but the food! There are some things that Europe just can’t replace.

For example, Mexican food. Which has been a struggle, I love Mexican food…except for chorizo. I can live without that. If you don’t know what chorizo is, then you don’t want to know. Trust me.

The lack of authentic Mexican cuisine here in Germany has been wearing on my longing taste buds. And it’s not just Germany, it’s Europe in general. I kid you not, I have searched hi & lo for mexican restaurants in many of the countries I have visited, and there has [almost] always been one of two results: terrible food, or there isn’t even a single Mexican place to begin with. There’s only so much brezn and potato salad I can handle. So, when I discovered two burrito spots in Munich that actually had decent food, I jumped at the chance to try them out.

First up is Pure Burrito, which my friend Genevieve introduced to me. Located between U-bahn stops Sendlinger Tor and Goetheplatz, it offers a set up similar to Chipotle, a Mexican-American chain restaurant, as it is made directly in front of you, so you can choose exactly what you want. Most of the staff either speaks perfect English, or are actually from the States, and with the type of music they play – rock, oldies, and thankfully not techno – it almost feels like you’ve been transported back to a place in the States. Choose your protein (sorry veggies, no tofu for you), black or pinto beans, roasted peppers, rice, lettuce, guacamole (although their version is more of an avocado paste) and either mango, mild, medium, or spicy salsa. They even have cheddar cheese and sour cream, two of my favorite ingredients and probably two of the hardest to duplicate here in Germany. It lacks Mexican rice, but other than that, I can’t complain. It doesn’t quite make my spicy scale, although anything spicy is near impossible to find in Germany. But, it’s cheap enough, at €4 for a small burrito and €6 for a large, and they offer takeout or eat-in. This will definitely suffice until I get home.

Next is Condesa, a little hole-in-the-wall place right around the corner from the Münchner Freiheit bus station. Now this place feels authentic, right down to the Spanish speaking staff, music, and decorations. It’s tiny, but the walls are painted bright colors and the atmosphere is nice. And with real Mexican rice, refried beans, sour cream and guac – and even spicy salsa, this place lands at the top of my list. The ingredients taste extremely fresh, making me feel healthier than I probably actually am, but that’s okay. They offer tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and salads. Choose your protein – vegetarians just get extra veggies, and randomly, potatoes – and then they do they rest, with rice, beans, cheese, lettuce, salsa, and sour cream. This is also an eat-in or take-away spot. And lucky for me, this place is only a five minute bike ride from where I live. Let’s just say Condesa might have a new regular.

“Do not be too moral.

You may cheat yourself out of much life so.

Aim above morality.

Be not simply good,

be good for something.”

-Henry David Thoreau

In need of a girl’s weekend, my friend Genevieve and I ventured to Salzburg, Austria for a quick getaway. Surprisingly, neither of us had visited this neighboring city, which is only a two hour train ride away.

We purchased a Bayern train ticket, which costs €29 for up to five people traveling together. And no, that’s not €29 each, that’s €29 for everyone. And it gets better; this ticket is good for anywhere in Bayern and for round trip when used in the same day.

We opted to stay the night – it was St. Patty’s Day after all – which still only cost us roughly €30 round trip. And, we lucked out with our hostel, Jufa Salzburg; only five minutes walking distance from Altstadt (Old Town) at only €22/night with a free breakfast. Anywhere with free food, I’m there.

We arrived on a gorgeous, sunny Saturday morning, and from the second we stepped off the bus, I was overwhelmed with the city’s charm and beauty.

We weaved in and out of the small streets of Altstadt and stumbled upon an open air market selling traditional chocolates, pastries, meats, cheeses, flowers, and handmade goods [Tip: Be sure to try the Mozartkugel, a traditional Salzburg chocolate with pistachio marzipan and nougat. You’ll notice there are two types, one wrapped in gold and red foil, the other in silver and blue. Opt for the silver and blue, a bit more expensive but it is handmade from the original recipe, while the other is mass produced]. The public square we found ourselves in was busy with activity, much like Munich, but the atmosphere was on a whole other level. It was calm, despite the crowds of wandering tourists and shopping locals. And clean. The air, the streets, the buildings. This definitely wasn’t Berlin. Not a trace of graffiti.

Salzburg, literally meaning “Salt Castle” (Salzburg has a plethora of salt mines), is not only known for its beauty, but for also for being the birthplace of composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the setting of the film The Sound of Music.

The Palace of Leopoldskron

Since we only had 24 hours to spend in this little gem of a city, we just had time for the main sights, including Mirabell Palace Gardens, featuring the unicorn fountain used for the “Do-Re-Mi” song in The Sound of Music; Mozart’s birthplace and residence; the palace of Leopoldskron, also seen in The Sound of Music; the Salzburg Cathedral – Salzburger Dom; and the Hohensalzburg Castle, which rests on the top of a hill situated in Altstadt overlooking the rest of the city.

Hohensalzburg Castle

Although usually brimming with flowers and green trees, the Mirabell Palace Gardens illuminated a feeling of desolation and haunted beauty, with the naked tree limbs and wilted flowers quietly anticipating the sun and warmth of spring but being forced to remain hidden from view for a few weeks longer.

The Hohensalzburg Castle, which casts its gaze on the entire city below and offers a beautiful view, wins for most expensive (for what you’re getting), priced at €7,50 to enter through the front gates. Genevieve and I, determined to stick to our low budgets, opted to skip out on the optimal view and went for the free alternative, which was offered from the highest point before entering the front gates. We may not have gotten the full experience, but its hard to go wrong with this view, from any angle.

While we only managed to scratch the surface of the many delights of Salzburg, I have a feeling I’ll be back before the year is over. Salzburg may be small, but it has so much to offer. Whoever said size matters, was wrong.