Vacation

Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany

Today we went to Oktoberfest in Munich! It was wonderful.

The Marienplatz (St. Mary, Our Lady’s Square) is a central square in the city center of Munich, Germany. It has been the city’s main square since 1158. This is a view of the city hall.
View of the Neues Rathaus and Frauenkirche looking west.
View of the Mariensäule, a Marian column located on the Marienplatz in Munich, Germany. Mary is revered here as Patrona Bavariae (Protector of Bavaria). The column is topped by a golden statue of the Virgin Mary standing on a crescent moon as the Queen of Heaven, created in 1590. The Mariensäule in Munich was the first column of this type built north of the Alps and inspired erecting other Marian columns in this part of Europe.
The entrance to Oktoberfest, the world’s largest beer festival, which begins in Munich, Germany, on September 22. A celebration of Bavarian folk traditions, the event is attended yearly by more than 6.2 million tourists from around the world.
There are about 80 rides on the Oktoberfest run by carny families, most of who have been working for the Oktoberfest since the beginning of the 20th century.
Celebrating Oktoberfest with gingerbread hearts. These whimsical hearts are known as “Lebkuchenherz” (German for “gingerbread heart”). A gingerbread heart is a customary accessory for women who wear traditional dirndl dresses to Oktoberfest.
This was our beer tent for Oktoberfest. The Schottenhamel Spatenbrau is one of the most important tents of the Wiesn, as everything starts inside this tent. On the opening day of the Wiesn, at 12 pm on the dot, the mayor of Munich, Dieter Reiter will tap the first keg and call out “O’zapft is!” confirming that the tapping was successful. It is only after this that all other tents may begin to serve beer. The Schottenhamel tent, which in 1867 was just a small beer booth with 50 seats, has become the largest Wiesn tent with 10,000 seats.
Our tickets to enter the tent reservation.
The appetizers at Oktoberfest, every table gets one. We had 2 tables.
Can’t go wrong with a beer and a pretzel. The pretzels are huge.
All beer served at the Oktoberfest tents must be from one of Munich’s six breweries—Paulaner, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, Augustiner, Hofbräu, and Löwenbräu. The beer must also follow the Reinheitsgebot. The dinner also comes with roasted chicken and potatoes.
View from the top of the Ferris wheel at Oktoberfest. Each of the tents holds around 10,000 people.
Inside the Paulanergarten tent.
Inside the Hacker-Festzelt tent.
Inside the Hofbrau Festzelt tent.

Last Day in Romania

Spent my last day in Romania walking around the city of Bucharest.

The Capitoline Wolf suckling the twins Romulus and Remus, the famous twin founders of Rome being fed by the wolf that allegedly raised them. The statue was favored by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, who donated copies of the statues to various places around the world
One last walk through the streets of Bucharest to send off my postcards to the United States.
The Saint Spyridon the New Church (Romanian: Sfântul Spiridon Nou) is a Romanian Orthodox church in Bucharest, originally built with gothic influences in 1860.
The entrance to the church.
The altar of the church.
Sending off the watercolored postcards that I created in Romania for my friends back in the United States.

 

Transylvania, Romania

The next day we took a private tour of Transylvania, we wanted to visit both Poenari Fortress and Castle Bran.

Deep in the heart of Transylvania, lies Poenari Fortress. A ruined castle in Romania, which was home to Vlad the Impaler, aka, “Dracula”.
The fortress lies high on top of the Carpathian mountains. It was constructed around the beginning of the 13th century by Wallachians. In the 15th century, realizing the potential for a castle perched high on a steep precipice of rock, Vlad III the Impaler repaired the structure, making it one of his main fortresses. Although the castle was used for many years after Vlad’s death in 1476, it eventually was abandoned again in the first half of the 16th century and was in ruins by the 17th century. A landslide caused by an earthquake brought down parts of the castle which crashed into the river far below. It was slightly repaired and the walls and its towers still stand today.
Access to the citadel is made by climbing the 1,480 concrete stairs. (My legs hurt for a whole week after this climb).
It is said that one day Vlad Țepeș was hunting along the banks of the river and had noticed the ruins of an old castle on top of a cliff on Mount Albina, a cliff surrounded by the Argiș river, and inhabited only by vultures and other birds of prey. He decided that it would be the perfect place for a defensive fortress, so he conceived the design to restore it to its former glory.
Entering the castle ruins, you can wander at will, scrambling over original stones that have held up well over the centuries. Here I am by the door that leads to the “dungeon”.
The views from the top of Poenari are amazing! I shot video footage with my GoPro, as soon as I am able, I will post the footage.
This is Transylvania in Romania. Full of life and everything was so green.
Our tour guide even stopped so that we could buy homemade jam from a Romanian local.
After leaving Poenari Fortress, we made our way to Bran Castle, a national monument and landmark in Romania. The fortress is situated on the border between Transylvania and Wallachia. Commonly known as “Dracula’s Castle” (although it is one among several locations linked to the Dracula legend, including Poenari Castle and Hunyadi Castle), it is often erroneously referred to as the home of the title character in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. There is, however, no evidence that Stoker knew anything about this castle, which has very little associations with Vlad the Impaler, voivode of Wallachia, the putative inspiration for Dracula.
Here I am in a room dedicated to the one and only, Vlad the Impaler.
The castle is so beautiful! It belonged to the Hungarian Kings but due to the failure of King Vladislas II (r. 1471–1516) to repay loans, the city of Brașov regained possession of the fortress in 1533.
Of course, I had to “sneak” in a glass of red wine, like a real vampiress.

Bucharest, Romania

Today we flew out to Bucharest, Romania. We missed our plane so we had to board another flight and were only behind schedule by about 2 hours.

The currency used here is the Romanian Leu. What I noticed was that it was printed on really pretty paper.
Walking through the streets of Bucharest.
Our little quaint hotel, the “Old City Bucharest NF Hotel” right in the heart of a city full of life.
The Rembrandt Hotel on the right, with the Grand Cafe Van Gogh adjacent.
One of the menu designs of the Van Gogh Cafe, of course you know we had to eat here!
The inside of the restaurant is so beautiful.
Van Gogh Cafe.
I ordered a raspberry daiquiri.
This town has tons of Dracula souvenirs and memorabilia.
Here I am with my cousins, walking around checking out the rest of Old Town Bucharest.

Frankfurt, Germany

Started my vacation this year in Frankfurt, Germany. I went with my cousins and our first stop was filled with great food and drinks.

Frankfurt’s “Old Town”, although it was partially destroyed during World War II, it’s been fully reconstructed in the years since, saving many of the original buildings.
Saint Bartholomeus’ Cathedral. This 13th-century church is the site of the coronation of German kings and Emperors of the Holy Roman Empire for centuries. The cathedral is the largest church in Frankfurt and lies on the banks on the River Main.
This is how they do their franks here!
And don’t forget their chicken and potatoes.
I even had a chance to visit one of the local galleries in town. This one had a modern art exhibit.

2018 Comic Con

I had a great time exhibiting at this year’s Comic-Con in San Diego.

Wakanda Forever! These costumes were awesome.
My table partner this year was Cartoon Flophouse’s Michael Aushenker. We are kind of goofing off in this picture.
With our visitor, Frederick Luis Aldama who is a Professor of English and Distinguished Scholar at The Ohio State University. He teaches courses on Latinx & Latin American culture including literature, film, TV, music, sports, video games, and comic books. He is the author and editor of thirty-four books, including the Eisner Award-winning “Latinx Superheroes in Mainstream Comics.” Of course, this photo was taken approximately 8 or so hours before winning his Eisner Award at the 2018 Comic-Con! Congratulations Profe, we are so proud of you!
The Korean ice cream that I picked up at SomiSomi, San Diego. It’s black sesame & taro swirl with happy toppings. The waffle cone is shaped like a goldfish!
The Grady twins were one of my favorite costumes.
Just for fun, the Tightrope Girl from Disney’s Haunted Mansion.
Black Heroes Matter, the Pink Panther!
The highlight of the convention for me was meeting Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer. (Eric Singer though!)
Before leaving San Diego, I had to stop at the Boba Bar for a fruit “puffle” made with a delicious waffle, pineapple ice cream, fresh fruit and drizzled with honey. The perfect ending to the perfect day.

Paris, France

This was my last day in Europe, so I made the best of it before my flight home.

I spent the morning at the Eiffel Tower, a wrought iron lattice tower on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It’s named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, who designed and built the tower.
The tower has three levels for visitors, with restaurants and gift shops on the first and second levels. This is the view from the first level, overlooking the city.
At lunch, I headed over to the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a Roman Catholic church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
The dome inside the church has a giant mosaic of Christ in Glory by Olivier Merson, H. M. Magne, and R. Martin and is one of the largest mosaics in the world. It represents the risen Christ, clothed in white and with arms extended, revealing a golden heart. Surrounding him, in various sizes, a world of adorers is represented, including the Saints who protect France: the Virgin Mary and Saint Michael, Saint Joan of Arc, as well as a personification of France offering her crown and Pope Leo XIII offering the world.
I had lunch at Place du Tertre Montmartre, which is an area known as the “Painter’s Neighborhood”, its small and steep narrow streets are home to the oldest cabarets. This area is also full of restaurants with terraces and painters selling their work to tourists and locals.
Had the best Crème brûlée dessert in this neighborhood.
After lunch, I had a few hours before my flight home so I walked through the streets of Rue de Steinkerque at the bottom of the hill, which is filled with souvenir shops.
I couldn’t leave Paris without a visit to my favorite chocolate shop, Maison Georges Larnicol for souvenir chocolates and macarons. This is a beautiful chocolate which has a mold of The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Moulin Rouge, and The Arc de Triomphe. I picked this up for my brother who asked me to bring him chocolate from France.
I also picked up chocolate Eiffel Towers for my nieces and nephews. Goodbye France, I will miss you!

 

Colmar, France

On Monday, we spent the day in Colmar, France. We took the train, it’s an hour away by the train, going east.

Colmar is a town in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, near the border with Germany. The town has cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. It is also known as “Little Venice”.

 

The whole city looks like a page out of an old fairy tale with churches, cobblestone streets, cute houses, and canals. It’s not very big so everything is walking distance. The city is quite charming.
Colmar is also the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi, who created the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor. A replica of the Statue of Liberty greets visitors in the middle of town. The copper-green resin replica stands 39 feet high in the middle of a busy roundabout at the north end of town. So whether you’re driving in from Strasbourg on the D83, or heading into town from the Colmar airport, you’ll be welcomed by a lovingly rendered homage to the work of a local boy who made good.

 

The town also has little metal markers throughout the city to help guide your walking tour, although they lead everywhere and I didn’t notice they took you anywhere in particular. It was still fun to follow them.
At the end of our day trip, we took the train back to Paris and visited the famous Arc de Triomphe. Many people do not realize that you can go to the top, if you look at the picture closely, you can see people standing at the top of the arc.

 

This is the view of the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc.
The view from the top of the Arc looking towards the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle.