6 Reasons a Fairy-Tale Fan Should Visit Germany

As a lover of the Grimm Fairy Tales, my time spent in Germany was wrapped up in imagining I was inside one of their stories. Marburg and Kassel are to this day some of my favorite cities I have visited, and I look forward to going back to Germany one day to explore more of the places I’ve compiled on this list. Without further ado, here I present 6 reasons that a Grimm Fairy Tale fan must travel to Germany!


Marburg, 2013. c. Leah Putz


  1. Neuschwanstein Castle

If Neuschwanstein Castle looks familiar to you it’s not surprising, as Disney used the castle for inspiration when building Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty castle. The castle’s opulence, as well as its high position overlooking the beautiful countryside, make it easy to imagine you’re inside a fairy-tale! If you don’t have a chance to visit Neuschwanstein specifically, it’s okay. West Germany is covered in castles, and any one of them is a magical experience to tour.

  1. Marburg

Nestled in West-Central Germany sits Marburg, the city where the Grimm brothers collected many of their stories. Both Marburg and the brothers left a lasting impression on one another. Jacob and Wilhelm studied at Marburg University, where their appetite for literature and culture was awakened.


Me in Marburg, 2013. c. Leah Putz


  1. Rapunzel’s Tower

Jouney to Trendelburg to stay at Hotel Burg and see Rapunzel’s Tower! Rumor is that Rapunzel was locked away in the very tower that stands connected to Trendelburg Castle today, and you can climb to the top and catch a far-reaching view of the German countryside. The castle doubles as a hotel as well, complete with a restaraunt and spa, making it a complete package of all you could ever want!


  1. “Talking Mirror” in Lohr am Main

“Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” Any fairy tale fan would recognize this signature line from ‘Snow White.’ According to legend, the story of ‘Snow White’ stems from the real-life relationship between Maria Sophia Margaretha Catherina von und zu Erthal and her strained relationship with her ‘wicked’ step-mother, Claudia Elizabeth con Reichenstein. Claudia owned an ornate mirror from Lohr, who’s mirror’s have the reputation of always speaking the truth. The mirror worked it’s way into ‘Snow White’ as the magic mirror on the wall. This mirror, known as the “Talking Mirror,” is available to be seen at the Spessart Museum in Lohr am Main.


Kassel, 2013. c. Leah Putz


  1. Kassel

Kassel is the epicenter of all things Grimm. The brothers lived there and worked at the Hessen State Library for many years. Today, there are many reminders in Kassel marking the city as the Grimm hometown, including a Brothers Grimm Monument, guided Grimm and fairy-tale tours, and the Bruder Grimm Museum, which houses an original copy of the Fairy-Tales, which is annotated by Jacob and Wilhelm.
1.Fairy-Tale Road Trip

Rent a car and hop onto the road to follow a 370 mile route running from Hanau, Germany to Bremen, Germany, covering a large chunk of Western Germany. The route is dappled with historic sites from the lives of Jacob and Wilhem Grimm, as well as sites that may have served as inspiration for their collection of Fairy-Tales. If you coast along this path, you’ll be able to see not only the fairytale gems on this list and many more, but the beauty of the German countryside as well!


Kassel, 2013. c. Leah Putz


A Historic Gem: Stirling

Stirling, Scotland, otherwise known as ‘The Gateway of the Highlands,’ has a history stretching all the way back to the Stone Age. It’s position at the border between the Lowlands and the Highlands of Scotland made it an desirable point of conquest, attracting both the Vikings and the English over the course of history. The most well-known battles taking place during the Wars of Scottish Independence at Stirling Bridge in 1297. The film Braveheart may come to mind, and rightfully so, as in Stirling nearby in the village of Bannockburn William Wallace and Robert the Bruce attacked the English.


River Forth, Where Many Battles of the Wars of Scottish Independence were Fought, 2014. c. Leah Putz

One of the most wonderful things about Stirling, to me, is that this rich history hasn’t been forgotten over the course of so many hundreds of years. I came to Stirling intending to just pass through and head further north immediately, but when I got a sense of where I was, I decided to stick around and explore for a bit before continuing on. From my experience the citizens are eager to share what Stirling has to offer with tourists. On the way into Stirling from the nearby village of Duone, my cab driver pointed to the river near Stirling bridge and said “There’s the spot where William Wallace ambushed the English army.” He also pointed out the Wallace Monument, which holds William’s sword, and mentioned that there’s a statue that bears “striking resemblance to Mel Gibson” of Wallace near the monument.


Wallace Monument and the Highlands, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Speaking of the Wallace Monument, a hike up to the top of Stirling hill, where the Stirling Castle is perched, lends a breathtaking view of both the Monument and the surrounding jagged hills that are so characteristic of Scotland. Stirling Castle itself is also a thing of majesty, being one of the largest and most historically significant castles in all of Scotland, and is considered a Scheduled Ancient Monument by the U.K. Among the events that have occurred at the castle are the crowning of Mary Queen of Scots in 1542, and a failed attempt to take the castle from the English by Bonnie Prince Charlie toward the end of the doomed Jacobite Rising in Scotland in 1745.


Stirling Castle and cemetery, 2014. c. Leah Putz

I found my time strolling aimlessly through Stirling incredibly enriching and well spent. Just down from the castle the heart of the Old Town (called locally Top of the Town) survives, giving Stirling a distinct and medieval look. I also stopped by the Church of the Holy Rude, which has stood near Stirling cemetery since 1129. I tried to take everything in, admiring how much history was beneath my feet, and still standing.

Top 5 Things to do in Cork City

  1. Old English Market


The best sausage I’ve ever had in my life was at the Old English Market in Cork. The sausages alone are reason enough to visit, let alone all the other foods and history (two of my favorite things). The market is best known for its fresh meats, buttered eggs, spiced beef, and other delicious treats.

Though the current building was built in the mid-1800s, a market had stood on site since as early as 1788. The market has since drawn many visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II and has won a gold medal from Europa Nostra!


The River Lee, Cork, 2015. c. Leah Putz


  1. Cork City Gaol


If you want to visit a building with a grim, but fascinating history, look no further than the Cork City Gaol. Now a museum, the Gaol operated as a prison for nearly 100 years, having opened in 1824, and saw Cork through a lot of turmoil, including the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.

After closing the prison in 1923, the Gaol operated briefly as a radio station, but stood empty for almost 50 years before reopening as a museum as recently at 1993. Today, you can tour the Gaol and witness the history of the prison firsthand, not to mention the beautiful 17th century architecture., for an adult admission rate of only €8,00.


  1. Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral


Speaking of architecture, Saint Fin Barre’s Cathedral is a magnificent work of it. It was built in the 1800s by William Burges in the French Gothic style, and is marvelously imposing. If you’re a religious Catholic, it may be interesting to see the burial places of bishop William Lyon and archbishop Richard Boyle, who were both laid to rest here. Saint Fin Barre himself was supposedly buried in a graveyard at the east end of the Cathedral after founding a monastery on site in 606A.D.

Tours of the Cathedral are only €5,00- a very low cost for the opportunity to explore such a beautiful building.


View of Cork City from the Shandon Tower, 2015. c. Leah Putz


  1. Shandon Tower


Connected to the Church of St. Anne is the Shandon Tower, which consists of the clock tower and the bell tower of the church. The tower stands tall over the city and is a striking and famous landmark. The clock, which is known as the ‘Four-Faced Liar,’ shows a slightly different time of each of its four faces. Atop the tower is a salmon-shaped weather vane painted in gold leaf, symbolizing how important fishing industry was to Cork.

For only €5,00, you can climb to the top of the tower, ring the church bells, and witness an incredible 360 degree view of the city from above.


The Shandon Tower, 2015. c. Leah Putz


1.Visit pubs

Sitting down in the pub, listening to live traditional Irish music, and having a pint of beer is a staple of Irish culture. During my time in Cork, I visited many of the pubs including Mutton Lane and the Sin e. The Sin e is considered by many to be one of the best pubs in Ireland, and was voted one of the best places in the world to spend St. Patrick’s Day!

My favorite thing about the pubs in Cork is the atmosphere. Rather than having electric light bulbs, a lot of pubs had empty liquor bottles with long lit candles in the neck scattered throughout the bar, and fairy lights. This creates a relaxing aura and, coupled with the traditional Irish music, there is no mistaking that you are in Ireland.


First Guinness in Mutton Lane, 2015. c. Leah Putz

Florence: A City of Art

As an art lover myself, I feel confident in saying that Florence is a dream city for those who love art. It’s rich history has produced the likes of Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, among others. There is hardly a name from the Italian Renaissance that doesn’t have the stamp ‘Made in Florence’ on it.


Statue of da Vinci in a Piazza, 2011. c. Renee Brown

One of the most important names in Florentine history is the name of Medici. The Medici were a prominent banking family that rose to power in the 13th century. They not only had their hands in the banks, but politics, art, and religion not only in Florence but in Rome as well, have put into place no less than 4 popes during their 300 year reign. Under Cosimo de Medici, who rose to power in 1434, and his son and then grandson Lorenzo the Magnificent, the arts in Florence thrived. The Medici supported artists such as Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and other household names of the Renaissance. The palace of the Medici, the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, is now a museum that can be toured. I saw the building, but didn’t have a chance to go inside. Considering the importance of the Medici, I’ll be sure to visit when I go to Florence again someday.

Exterior and Interior of the Duomo, 2011. c. Renee Brown

Perhaps the most famous landmark in Florence is the Duomo, or the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori. Construction began on the cathedral in 1296 and took 140 years to complete, and for the majority of this time it stood dome-less. The creation of the dome was a problem for the medieval architects constructing the Cathedral. The domes in Rome had been built by the Romans, and the measurements and skills required had been lost during the dark ages, so no one knew how to build a dome, let alone one of the size and weight required for the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiori. That all changed when the Medici commissioned Filippo Brunelleschi. He took on one of the most difficult projects of the Renaissance, and he completed it in only 16 years. To this day, the Duomo is, to me at least, the most impressive and awe-inspiring landmark in Florence. One of my favorite things I did in Florence was climb the 463 steps through a narrow, twisting corridor to the top of the Duomo to catch a bird’s eye view of the city and the surrounding Tuscan landscape.


On top of the Duomo, 2011. c. Leah Putz

Close by the Duomo lies,  the Baptistery of Saint John. This octagonal building was constructed between 1059 and 1128, making it one of the oldest buildings in Florence. This alone makes it worth visiting, but when you consider the doors of Ghiberti as well, it becomes clear that you can’t visit Florence without visiting the Baptistery. Lorenzo Ghiberti won the opportunity to design the doors of the Baptistery in a competition in 1401. In the next 21 years after winning, Ghiberti created his masterpiece- gilded bronze doors with 28 panels detailing scenes from the New Testament, as well as the Four Evangelists and the Church Fathers- The Gates of Paradise. The Gates of Paradise on the Baptistery now are copies so as to preserve the originals, but they are no less magnificent.

The Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti, 2011. c. Renee Brown

A visit to Florence isn’t complete without stopping in at least one of it’s many museums. The Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi Gallery are two of the most well-known of these, and for good reason. I was forced with the decision of choosing which to go to as I didn’t have time to visit both, so I made my way to the Accademia Gallery to see one of the most famous statues in history, David by Michelangelo. The Accademia has many other masterpieces by Michelangelo and others to be seen, but it is most well known for housing David. No photos were permitted in the Gallery, but I can tell you David stands tall, mighty, and overwhelming under a skylight in the center of four converging halls in the museum.

The Uffizi Gallery is just as marvelous as the Accademia. Some of the most famous Renaissance paintings are displayed in the Uffizi, including The Birth of Venus and La Primavera by Botticelli, Venus of Urbino by Titian, Bacchus by Caravaggio, and Judith and Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi. With a compliation this fantastic, the Uffizi is a must-see even for those who aren’t in love with art.

Florence stands as one of the mightiest cities in history. It’s rich contributions to western culture and art have shaped the world as it is today. This ancient city holds some of the most world-renowned works of art in European history, and it’s impossible to stroll through its streets without feeling this richness of its history and culture.


Ponte Vecchio and Arno River, 2011. c. Renee Brown

Into a Magical Forest: Puzzlewood

Have you ever felt the desire to step into a fantasy land? Where magic and fairies and wonder seem possible? Look no further than a special section of the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, England known as Puzzlewood. Maze-like pathways were built into the forest in the 1800s, allowing tourists to witness the ancient trees and moss-covered rock formations that are unique to Puzzlewood.


Pathway in Puzzlewood forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz

Upon setting foot in this enchanting forest, it feels like you’re walking into Middle-Earth, or some sort of magical fairy land. The twisted roots and trees, growing moss covered over nearly everything, and the centuries-old pathways make it a very whimsical place to wander through.


Puzzlewood forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz

The best thing about the forest, to me, though, is the fact that it was often visited by my favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien. His descriptions of Fangorn Forest, the Old Forest, and even Mirkwood are a bit reminiscent of Puzzlewood, and it’s easy to believe that the Forest of Dean may have been an inspiration for him. I like to believe that because while inside Puzzlewood, it’s easy to imagine you’re in the depths of Fangorn Forest, half expecting an elf to pop out from behind a tree or an Ent to spring to life.


Sign at Puzzlewood, 2014. c. Leah Putz

The beauty of the forest hasn’t been missed by Hollywood or the BBC, either. If any of my photos from Puzzlewood look familiar, it may be because you’ve seen it on film. The forest has been featured in Doctor Who, Merlin, and most recently Star Wars: the Force Awakens. After I had visited I made it a game to try to find Puzzlewood in the Star Wars movie (hint: when Rey and Kylo Ren are fighting there about halfway through the film) and in the Doctor Who episode ‘Flesh and Stone.’ I don’t blame directors for choosing Puzzlewood as a filming location- of my dozens of photos I took during my hours of ambling through the 14 acres of wood, I didn’t have a single bad shot.


Puzzlewood Forest, 2014. c. Leah Putz

After about a two hour train journey from London to Lydney, and then a taxi from the Lydney train station, I arrived at Puzzlewood on a slightly rainy day in August, but even though the weather wasn’t ideal, the forest and the surrounding areas were still incredibly lovely. The entrance to Puzzlewood is adorned with an adorable cafe (called Puzzlewood Cafe) and farm animals including Highland cattle, ponies, sheep, ducks, and goats. There are also numerous outdoor and indoor play areas, making it a very family-friendly outing.


Hawaiian Travel Tips

While I don’t have a ton of experience in tropical areas (Mexico, the Bahamas, and Florida are pretty much the extent of it), after this weekend I can say with confidence that Oahu, Hawaii is so far my favorite tropical locale. I have a lovely friend who showed me around for the short period of time I was on the island, and we packed a lot into the day and a half I was there. After my experience in Oahu, I compiled some tips on how to make the most out of a short (or long) period of time on this beautiful island.

Be Adventurous with Beach Activities

The beach is usually the first thing that comes to mind when most people think of Hawaii, myself included. My favorite thing to do at the beach is relax and admire the view (which is exactly what I did in Kailua at Lanikai Beach). However, there are numerous  more audacious activities at the countless beaches in Oahu. Snorkeling, surfing, kite-surfing, and paddle boarding are just a few exciting beach endeavors you can partake in whilst in Hawaii.


Lanikai Beach, Kailua, 2017. c. Leah Putz


Explore the Waikiki Strip

Waikiki is the main area in Honolulu that tourists tend to gravitate to, and understandably so.  I decided to check out the International Marketplace- which turned out to be more like a mall filled with high-end shops such as Saks Fifth Avenue. What struck me about this ‘mall’ though was that it had pavilions and trees in the middle of it and everything was open air. A lot of the shopping centers and buildings in Hawaii are built like this, winding around nature rather than building right on top of it. Complete with a large beach, copious shops and malls, restaurants, and tourist shops, there isn’t much to be missed in the main strip next to the beach in Waikiki.


Inside the International Marketplace on the Waikiki Strip, 2017. c. Leah Putz


Go Hiking

It’s difficult to choose which hike to go on in Oahu, considering there are a mulitude of them and they all have something unique to offer. If I had had more time in Hawaii, I would have done a different hike every day. Some of the most common hikes on the island are the Lanikai Pillboxes hike, the Diamond Head hike, and the Koko Crater Arch hike. My friend and I did the Waimano Trail hike, which I loved because it felt like I was in ‘Lost’ or something on a trek through the jungle. We didn’t have enough time to complete the hike (I had to start heading to the airport), but what we saw was strikingly beautiful and it made me want to go back to finish that hike and try some of the many others that the island has to offer.


On the Waimano Trail, 2017. c. Leah Putz


Rent a Car

I was lucky enough to have a friend that was able (and willing) to drive me around the island, but I you don’t know anybody who lives in Oahu I would highly recommend renting a car. Simply driving around the island and admiring the scenery is a wonderful experience. We drove from the Leeward (west) side of the island to the Windward (east) side to visit Kailua and the drive through the mountains was nothing short of incredible. From the lowest valley to the highest peak, everything was covered in the riches of green, creating a landscape that felt like it came right out of a movie. Renting a car would allow you to travel through the mountains and see what I’m talking about, as well as making it a lot easier to access the many beaches and hikes I mentioned earlier. Overall, it will allow you to see and experience the most of what Oahu has to offer.


Entering the Mountains on the Highway, 2017. c. Leah Putz

15 Things to do in London for Free

London can be expensive. In fact, I’ve heard it called the most expensive city in the world. However, there are countless things to do/see in London without spending huge amounts of money and still managing to make the most of the city. One couldn’t possibly put together a list of everything  to do in this vast and magnificent city, but you have to start somewhere. So, without further ado, here are 15 things you can do for free in London!

   15. St. Dunstan-in-the-East

St. Dunstan-in-the-East, a cathedral built in approximately 1100 A.D., has seen its fair share of turmoil. Throughout numerous repairs and rebuilds, the church survived the Great Fire of London in 1666 A.D. only to be nearly destroyed in the WWII Blitz of 1941. Only the north and south walls remained in addition to Christopher Wren’s tower and steeple. Rather than rebuilding yet again, the City of London made the brilliant decision to turn the cathedral ruins into a garden with a fountain in the center of the Nave. This site is one of the most striking and peaceful areas in the city and serves as a reminder that beauty can endure even after such destruction.


Cathedral Window at St. Dunstan-in-the-East, 2016. c. Leah Putz


  1. Sample Global Foods at the Camden Market

Exploring the numerous shops, restaurants, and markets of Camden Town is an adventure in and of itself. The market is open every day, and there are countless food stands featuring food and drinks from all over the world. A lot of the small stalls offer samples as you stroll along, and it easy to end up feeling like you’ve eaten a full meal for free after meandering through the markets.


  1. Explore Greenwich

The borough of Greenwich is renowned for its maritime history and its location on the Meridian line at 0 longitude. This area in the eastern half of London south of the Thames has a lot to offer. The National Maritime museum, established in 1934 offers free entrance and sits on the edge of the beautiful Greenwich park. At the top of the hill in the park is the Royal Observatory and marks the Meridian line. From this vantage point, you can see a wonderful view of Greenwich Park and the skyline of London.


View from the top of the hill at Greenwich Park, 2016. c. Leah Putz


  1. Chinatown

Located near Soho, London’s Chinatown is jampacked with authentic shops, restaurants, and culture. Grabbing a bubble tea and strolling through this area is a wonderful way to see a historical and rich part of the city, complete with a Chinese gates and a pavilion.


Chinatown, 2014. c. Leah Putz


  1. Piccadilly Circus

A good way to describe Piccadilly Circus is to say that it’s like the Times Square of London- complete with giant advertisements and an insane amount of tourists. Near this area is a plethora of tourist shops where you are sure you find the perfect souvenir to commemorate your time in London.


  1. Visit the many parks

London is full of green space. No matter where you are in the city, you’re probably within walking distance of a public park or garden, which can’t be said for many large cities in the world. Some of the most popular of these parks are Hyde Park, Regent’s Park, St. James Park, and Green Park. All of these parks, and many more, provide natural beauty and scenery to contrast the city landscape.


Hyde Park, 2014. c. Leah Putz


  1. Buckingham Palace

While it costs money to go inside Buckingham palace, it is free to admire the face of the Queen’s home, complete with a magnificent fountain and palace guards. I would recommend planning your visit to coincide with the changing of the guard, which takes place daily at 11:30 am during the summer months and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday between 10:15 and 11:45 am during the winter.  This is spectacular to witness.


Buckingham Palace fountain, 2014. c. Leah Putz


  1. Southbank

Southbank is one of my favorite parts of London. Complete with music, pubs and history, a lot of what is amazing about London can be found in this area beside the river. One of the most well-known staples of Southbank is Shakespeare’s Globe Theater. The theater is unmistakable as it is the only thatched-roof building in the city after the Great fire of London. The theater is still active and you can see shows performed there in the traditional Renaissance style if you’re willing to pay the ticket prices!


  1. Delight in one of the many museums

One of the things London does best is its museums. There are too many to count, and almost all offer free admission. My favorite is the Victoria and Albert Museum, which is full of fantastic art and historical artifacts. The British Museum is also incredible and houses the Rosetta Stone and statues from the Parthenon in Greece among others. Some other honorable mentions are the National Gallery, the National History Museum, and the Museum of London.


Natural History Museum, 2015. c. Leah Putz


  1. Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square sits in the City of Westminster and is a tourist must-see. No matter which direction you face when in the center of this square you’ll be looking towards a major monument. In the center of the square stands Nelson’s Column complete with four guarding lion statues and a large nearby fountain. There are also four pillars that mark the corners of Trafalgar, each with a statue of a figure from British history, with the exception of the fourth pillar which is reserved for commissioned pieces.


Sitting on the fountain in Trafalgar Square, 2014. c. Leah Putz


  1. Westminster Abbey

Like Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey also costs money to enter. However, the exterior is a romantic mixture of Romanesque and Gothic architecture and, quite honestly, breathtaking. The architecture of the Abbey is incredible and worth visiting even if you decide not to pay the ticket price to go inside.


Westminster Abbey, 2014. c. Leah Putz


  1. Stroll along one of the city walks

London has countless paths that make for fantastic city walks. My favorite is the walk along the Mall stretching from Buckingham Palace through to Trafalgar Square. Another great walk is along Fleet Street, which is one of the oldest streets in London and makes its way to St. Paul’s Cathedral. As I said, there is a plethora of these walks to choose from, and they all offer a great way to see and explore the city.


  1. The Gardens of Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace is most well known for being the London home of Prince William, Duchess Kate Middleton, and their two adorable tots. The palace is also known for its beautiful front gardens. The Sunken Garden was inspired by a similar garden at Hampton Court Palace and is complete with numerous flower beds and a pond. Surrounding the Sunken Garden is what’s called the Cradle Walk, which is a shaded arched walkway with window-like cutouts that allow you to admire the beauty of the colorful Sunken Garden.


Sunken Garden at Kensington Palace, 2016. c. Leah Putz


  1. Parliament and ‘Big Ben’

The Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower (known incorrectly as Big Ben, which is actually just the name of the bell inside the tower) are possibly the most recognizable landmarks of London. If you’ve ever seen a movie taking place in London, or a poster of the city, or a photograph, the majority of the time you’ll see these picturesque buildings. Visiting this area is a good way to pinch yourself and allow it to really sink in that you’re in London!


‘Big Ben’ and the Houses of Parliament, 2016. c. Leah Putz


  1. Admire the city

Stop a minute and really take in the sites, sounds, and culture of the capital of the United Kingdom. London is one of the oldest and richest cities in the world, and it’s a privilege to be able to meander its ancient streets, see the sites, and discover what makes this spectacular city so amazing.