Travel: Jewel of the Black Forest – Freiburg, Germany


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Germany’s enchanting Black Forest is at once formidable yet inviting; the enigmatic muse behind the world-famous fairytales of the Brothers Grimm. Its towering mountains and surrounding foliage are dangerously seductive in winter, and wonderfully radiant in summer. I’d decided to visit an old friend in Freiburg just a week ago because of its excellent location in Germany, just an hour away by train from France and Switzerland.

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Freiburg is a university city known for its vibrant arts and culture, charming medieval architecture and for churning out great thinkers like Max Weber and Friedrich Hayek.

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Let’s take a tour, shall we? I’ll take you through some of the more interesting parts of the city before ending off with the places you have to try for some authentic German food with wonderful hospitality.

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The Münster or Freiburg Cathedral is regarded as one of the finest examples of gothic architecture in Germany. It was started in 1200 in the romanesque style before continuing in the gothic style about 30 years later. You’ll find many cathedrals in Europe host an eclectic blend of influences as a signature of the times, where building extensions and reparations lend a truly unique character to each church.

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This is the only Gothic church tower completed in the Middle Ages that is still left standing in Germany today. Truly spectacular.

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Gothic architecture tends to feature incredibly high ceilings, to invoke a grandeur that renders worshippers infinitesimal. It also inspires introspection and silent prayer with small windows and a closed structure. These statues of the ten virgins are also incredibly well-preserved, with the once vibrant paint now muted, dainty pastel.

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Münsterplatz

Just outside the Münster is a farmers’ market that opens everyday from 7am to around noon. There is a wonderful array of local produce like native peppers, fruit and vegetables.

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We couldn’t resist tucking into a second breakfast of Currywurst which is a local fast food favourite! It’s basically curry powder mixed with ketchup poured generously over a deep fried juicy pork sausage and topped with sauteéd onions. This was absolutely perfect for a rainy day! Mm..

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Musings: The Art of Free Falling


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“Life is not a substance, like water or a rock; it’s a process like fire or a wave crashing on the shore.. Our moments are brief against the expanse of eternity.” — Sean Carroll, The Big Picture

You are the master of your destiny. The slick war cry of the larger-than-life motivational speakers peddling self-empowerment to the lost. But even the powerful are not immune to the inevitable – illness, death, disaster. And as much as we’d like to congratulate ourselves on our seeming invincibility, I’m going to say something unpopular.

You don’t have as much control of your life as you think.

How else do you explain perfectly innocent people who do good things, follow all the rules and somehow still meet with tragedy or suffer a lifetime of hardship? Starving children, people delivered right into the heart of war, tragic accidents, natural disasters. Every one of us is at the mercy of a far greater force. For better or for worse, the hand you’re dealt in life is simply determined by a roll of the cosmic dice.

Now that bitter pill might cause a lump in your throat at first, but let it settle and you’ll find the idea quite liberating. Fortune is fickle. Whatever we enjoy today – love, comfort, a good life – is a gift that can be taken away at any minute. Once we stop trying to control the things that are beyond our reach, we can find the time and space to  truly appreciate everything we have right this moment.

People always say, “Each time you fall, just dust yourself and get right up.” But what if life is one long free fall? Every day, we careen into the unknown. We make do with what we have, stumble with our limited knowledge in the direction of goodness, and hope for the best. But it doesn’t mean we’re helpless or passive. We can take charge of our happiness by cultivating a spirit of constant gratitude and compassion for others. That brings a deep, simple joy no one can take from you, however little you have.

Obsessing over taking complete control of your life or that of others is unchecked hubris. It can only lead to misery. It may sound counter-intuitive to accept our relative insignificance in the big scheme of things. But in time, it’ll actually give us a much more accurate benchmark for our expectations. And having realistic expectations of yourself and the world around you will bring you that often elusive peace of mind.

So when you find yourself struggling to stay afloat, stop thrashing. Instead, just lie back, go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

Musings: The Right to Believe


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There is no communication more authentic than that between you and your idea of a greater power.

It could be God, the laws of nature, or a multitude of deities. Even atheists find their own way to connect with the Universe. It doesn’t matter who or what you reach out to. That private, heartfelt communion is a truly beautiful thing.

I was baptised Catholic and have identified as one for most of my life, even though I don’t go for Mass very much anymore. The truth is, as I get older, I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of organised religion. Mainly because it so often condemns and attacks those who don’t hold the same beliefs. We could wax lyrical about the pros and cons of religion, but that’s not what this thought bubble is about. (Although if you want to go there, consider Hitchens as mandatory reading.)

This is about the simple idea that a deep, transcendental connection with a higher power is a wonderfully precious thing, and should be respected as such. It’s an energy that’s incredibly honest, humbling, and often built on goodwill. It is life’s purpose revealed, shame and guilt brought to penance, fear finding comfort, and faith in the face of loss. And more importantly, it is deeply personal.

It pains me to report the horrifying things that happen everyday in religious wars and conflict. The frightening massacres in Syria, increasing number of chilling extremist attacks around the world, and senseless violence that goes unchecked. And i think if more of us could let every other person make sense of their existence in this world in the way they like (without hurting others of course), needless suffering can be avoided. Not everyone has to buy the same ticket to paradise.

This definitely isn’t an attack on religion or I’d be contradicting myself. It’s just a heartfelt appeal to each one of us as fellow human beings, to understand that others should be free choose their beliefs without threat of persecution. After all, we all want the same things in the end, don’t we?

Travel: The Best of New York City!


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I’ll be honest. I never thought I’d fall head over heels for a place like New York City. I mean, I get it. There’s a reason they call it the “greatest city in the world”. The towering skyscrapers, the glittering constellation of lights and billboards; the cosmopolitan, fast-paced, no-bullshit culture. But I’ve always been more of an European soul. And yet, I stand corrected.

It took me seven days to peel through the hard, gritty exterior of the city. And what I discovered at its core was a surprising warmth, resilience and a bold creative energy you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. So buckle up, it’s going to be a wild ride!

The Highline

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The Highline Park is one of the best ways to put your finger on the pulse of the city. In the golden glow of the sunset, even a concrete jungle glittered like a cave of jewels.

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The 2.3-kilometre park is built on an unused portion of the West Side Line running to the Lower West Side of Manhattan. It’s an elevated trail that winds through apartment blocks, skyscrapers, and across bustling roads amid lush greenery (or what was left of it for winter).

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It was fascinating to see some of the old buildings up close, peer into the homes of New Yorkers (hehe), and even enjoy the colourful burst of graffiti and street art that surprised us at every corner.

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My suggestion? Go have some amazing lobsters, oysters and sushi at Chelsea Market before taking a nice long stroll at sunset.

Central Park

A visit to NYC would not be complete without immersing yourself in one of the most filmed locations in the world. It’s a National Historic Landmark sprawling 843 acres, and receives close to 40 million visitors a year! And no wonder. Just look at this gorgeous view.

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There were horse carriage tours and joggers running even in the cold, but we held hands and strolled a good hour from Trump Tower across white bridges, reflective lakes and trees burning a fiery crimson.

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If you need to get anywhere in the city, I recommend a scenic walk through Central Park. It’s wonderfully invigorating. Plus, if you’re dog lovers like we are, there’s plenty of furry eye candy.

Grand Central Terminal

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