January 28, 2016

A Night at the Museum

Everyone should visit the British Museum at least once in their life. Few places in the world can boast as many artifacts, from as many civilizations, spanning as many centuries, as this gem of history located in London.

Like many museums in London, the British Museum has no entry fee for the permanent exhibits, although a suggested donation of 3-5 euros per person is appreciated, particularly if you grab a museum map. And since the British Museum encompasses 990,000 square feet (that's 22 acres), you may actually need a map to find all the artifacts you want to see. Come prepared with a game plan or you'll leave exhausted!

Both my visits to the Museum have begun and ended with a few minutes in front of the Rosetta Stone. This famous lingual decoder was the key to ending the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphs after its discovery in 1799, and I have an utter fascination with it. I get chills every time I get to view it in person and think about how just one artifact could bring about the understanding of an entire culture and written language.

Another personal favorite is the Sutton Hoo exhibit, the 20th century discovery of 6th and 7th century burial mounds in East Anglia, England. I first learned about Sutton Hoo in middle school when my mother assigned me to write a research paper on the topic. It is an unbelievable experience to stare history in the face after having studied and researched that particular topic from an early age. As my own heritage is Swedish, to which the Sutton Hoo burial possesses more than a few similarities with Swedish burials of the same era, it was all the more meaningful to look at the Sutton Hoo artifacts and other Viking-influenced Anglo-Saxon pieces in the exhibit.

Having explored Athens earlier this year, my September 2015 visit to the British Museum provided the perfect opportunity to view the sculptures and friezes taken from the Parthenon between 1801 and 1812. The marbles and statues are, in a word, amazing. These 2,000 year old pieces of history are in remarkable condition, although their current display in the British Museum leaves much to be desired as they blend in with the gray walls of the room. No two figures are alike, and the detail invested into each carving manifests the pride the artist took in creating these masterpieces.

These are just a few examples of what the British Museum has to offer, and yet it can easily represent several hours of your time viewing them. Be wise with your time and plan your trip in advance, knowing what specific artifacts or exhibits you'd like to view and taking advantage of the museum maps to find your way around.

What are your favorite exhibits at the British Museum?

January 22, 2016

A Travel Themed Nursery

Time has a funny habit of speeding up when you get older. But I never knew how it would fly by even faster once you have a baby - except during those 2 a.m. feedings, that is!

For those of you who didn't see the announcement on our Facebook, Baby Gypsy arrived four weeks ago in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve. I was fortunate to have a fairly quick labor and am still blessing the wonderful person who invented epidurals. Ain't nobody got time for the pain of contractions!

From the moment she arrived, we've been wrapped around her tiny fingers, and we cannot wait to continue exploring the world with her and see it through her eyes! Originally, we had thought to visit Germany in March and introduce her to all her relatives there while I was still on maternity leave. However, due in part to her vaccination schedule but primarily because Europe is still a mess with the "refugee" crisis (and I have no inclination to experience firsthand the type of attacks that occurred in Cologne on New Years Eve), we're postponing for later this year, most likely in September.

So since we can't take baby traveling abroad yet, we've decided to bring the traveling to her with a travel themed nursery!

A photo posted by Thrifty Gypsy's Travels (@thriftygypsy87) on

These lovely canvases were selected and gifted by Baby Gypsy's godmother, who totally gets us because this is such an awesome gift! I love how we'll be able to use them for any future baby gypsies, too.

Left: Painted fabric, woven decorative (pink and tan), zebra painting, Ugandan flag, and rock from Lake Victoria - all from Uganda - along with a seashell cross from shells gathered in Virginia beach.
Top Right: Map of the world above the crib
Bottom Right: Painting of the Outer Banks, souvenir cup from NYC, and souvenir music box trinket from Paris

I am still working on a postcard mobile to suspend from the ceiling, and we will continue adding to Baby Gypsy's travel collection over the years. But this is a good start for our little traveler, and I'm so pleased with how it's turning out!

What other travel themed decorations or items would you suggest for Baby Gypsy's room?

January 21, 2016

Traipsing Through Thailand ~ Me and My Itchy Feet

Ever been to Thailand? 

I haven't, but after reading this guest post from Joanna of Me and My Itchy Feet, you could safely say that Bangkok has been added to my bucket list!


Hello, readers of Thrifty Gypsy’s Travels. While the two gypsies are spending their precious first moments with baby gypsy, I’ve decided to take over the floor and write a word or two here. My name is Joanna, and I usually blog over at Me and My Itchy Feet, where I describe the world as I see it and discover it. Mostly with my family, be it the four of us or with my husband only. We travel mostly around Europe, but we have visited the far east in the autumn as well. And that’s what I’d like to focus on this time.
Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall
I’ve wanted to visit Thailand for quite some time now. We almost made it certain to go there during the upcoming winter school break, but after a lot of talking, discussing and counting the days, we decided to postpone it for… no idea how long. We had a trip to Egypt still ahead of us, a cruise down the Nile river, and summer holidays to plan, so we decided not to dwell on the Thai idea. Once our cruise got cancelled, though, that idea popped right back into my head, made its place, a comfortable one, and made me book flight tickets for October. Rainy season, I know, but Thailand. I mean, Thailand. Rainy season couldn’t stop me.

Once we had our flight tickets, I could finally focus on reading about Thailand and planning the trip. There were so many places I wanted to visit, so many things I wanted to do, and so little time we could spend there. I was adding places to the list and then crossing them out again. That process went on and on for two weeks or so (we booked the flights a month before the trip), when I was finally content with the general plan. Not too thrilled, cause I still wanted to see more, visit more, do more, stay longer! But I was content enough. A good first trip, I kept telling myself. We had a little bit of a huge city sightseeing (Bangkok), a few active days on the west coast (Ao Nang in Krabi province. Yes, that’s the place from which you can go and see the famous PhiPhi Island. And no, we didn’t do that). Then we had a few days on an island that felt like a paradise on earth, just a little bit cluttered and full of trash. But still beautiful, though. Towards the end, we were to get back to the big city (Bangkok yet again) to go a bit north and see one of the former capitals of Thailand, Ayutthaye (or however that one is spelled, 'cause I’ve seen at least three or four different ways to spell it ;)). We didn’t get to the last one. But we saw some other parts of Bangkok instead.

Dusit Garden
Thailand is full of colours, full of flavours, full of smells, full of energy, full of nature, full of contrast, full of friendly people. It’s easy to explore on your own. You can arrange everything beforehand, with the Internet as your main means for communication. Or you can get there and get everything organised while you’re already there. It’s up to you, both would surely turn out successful. Or, at least, both worked for us.

Today, I’d like to show you that even when you get to the most touristy places in Thailand, you don’t have to do the most cliché stuff there. I mean, you can, sure. They’re popular for a reason, I have no doubt in that. But you can try something else as well.

Bangkok is a city that never sleeps. With traffic jams that you can get stuck in for hours. And at any time, probably. That was one of the reasons why we didn’t decide to get out of Bangkok once we already got back to the city. Cause we spent the whole previous afternoon/early evening stuck in traffic jam on the way from the airport to our hostel. During our first stop in Bangkok we visited the most touristy spots in the city, i.e. the Grand Palace (with the Emerald Buddha statue), Wat Pho (with the Lying Buddha statue), Wat Traimit (with the Golden Buddha statue), we cruised the canals of Bangkok, got lost in the Chinese district, had a tuk tuk ride, had a water tram ride, watched a Thai cultural show on Khao San Road, ate the most delicious coconut ice cream I’ve ever had, tried some exotic fruit and the famous pad thai. On our second stop in the city, we decided to explore some other parts of the city, that we couldn’t read as much about in the travel guides. Bits and pieces in “additional stuff” sections, yes. But not the “hey, you’ve gotta visit this place for sure” revelations.

Dusit Garden
We stayed in a hostel which was a walking distance from Khao San Road. Close enough to get there any time we wanted to, but far enough for us to stay in a quieter neighbourhood with lots of local food stalls and tiny restaurants. A walking distance from our hostel (for us a walking distance can be long, but it took us about half an hour to get there) was a place called the Dusit Garden.

First, we wanted to see world’s largest golden teakwood mansion – Vimanmek Mansion. In order to get inside, you have to be properly dressed. Sleeves covering your shoulders, pants/skirts covering your knees are a must, both for men and women. Once you get past the proper dresscode control, you might feel like you’ve made it, you’re in, you’re about to see the mansion. Yes. And no. You get closer to it, that’s true, but then there’s another control point. You have to leave all your belongings in lockers. And by all, I mean all. Cameras, phones, sunglasses, hats… You can buy yourself a book guide, though. And that you are allowed to take inside. Left everything and ready to get inside? Yet again, almost. You get to the mansion building itself and you’re asked to leave your shoes. It’s common in Thailand to get in many places barefoot. Vimanmek Mansion is no different in that respect. But once you leave your shoes, you can finally get inside the mansion. The mansion dates back to the sole beginning of the twentieth century. And it’s all made of teakwood. Beautifully ornamented, it houses a wide collection of china, ivory, beautiful furniture, and family souvenirs. Through the windows, you can see other parts of the building, its gardens and waters. There were not too many people inside, so there was no rush in seeing the place and no one was getting into our way. Always a plus. Once you get out of the mansion and pick up your belongings from the lockers, you are allowed to photograph the mansion from the outside. Seeing the mansion doesn’t take too much time and, as for me, it’s worth it. Especially that it’s not the only building to see in Dusit Garden.

Vimanmek Mansion

Apart from seeing some smaller buildings, mostly housing some parts of the exhibition, you can also see the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall. The largest stone building in the garden, totally different from all the other ones in the area, is a place where you can learn more about modern Thai art. It’s a building that houses the Exhibition of Masterpieces of Arts of the Kingdom V by the Support Foundation of HM Queen Sirikit. I’m not into galleries, art, not even too much into museums. But we were intrigued enough to get into this building as well. It’s enormous. Women have to wear long skirts or dresses, pants are not allowed (I had to put on a skirt on top of my trousers. And a top that was ok in Vimanmek, was no longer ok here – had to put on a t-shirt). Once you get inside, you are given an audio guide that takes you through the exhibit. You can learn a lot about Thai art. Contemporary yet traditional at the same time. All of the stuff they display inside was made for the royal family within the last twenty years (more or less). The masterpieces are made using the following techniques: woodcarving, beetle wing decoration, embroidery, weaving, to name a few. Some are made using a mixture of techniques. They are very detailed, perfectly made. Gorgeous. I couldn’t stop marvelling at them. And they were so much different from the art seen in Europe. Me, not a fan of galleries, couldn’t leave the place. Luckily, I got hungry.

Many people get overwhelmed with Bangkok. With its atmosphere. Its noise. The amount of people you see everywhere. But once you get away from the most touristy spots, you might find it more pleasant. Or, at least, most bearable. We surely did. If you want to find out what else we did in Thailand, make sure to visit my blog, Me and My Itchy Feet, or like my Facebook page!

Dusit Garden


Have you visited Thailand? Be sure to check out Joanna's other posts about exploring the Grand Palace and Emerald Buddha and how her trip to Thailand came to fruition!

*All photos in this post are the property of Joanna of Me and My Itchy Feet and are used here with permission.

Linking up with A Brit and A Southerner for #WeekendWanderlust!

January 12, 2016

Mittelalterfest ~ Going Medieval in the Heart of Bavaria

Americans have a fascination with reenactments - and not just those that pertain directly to American history! While Civil War and Revolutionary War reenactments are more common on the East Coast of the U.S., medieval and renaissance fairs can be found throughout the entire country.  These fairs are characterized by attendees and organizers alike dressed in costumes, drinking beer, eating smoked meats, showing off copious amounts of cleavage, and participating in medieval fight sequences, usually hosted in large fields where medieval-style tents have been erected for an appropriate backdrop.

Ye beautiful beer maiden.
But these American Renaissance Fairs simply cannot top attending a Mittelalterfest (Middle Ages Festival) hosted just outside a medieval town in the heart of Germany's Bavaria - it's the legit renaissance fair experience!

As with American Ren Fairs (as they're so lovingly shortened in American slang), there is usually a small fee to attend a Mittelalterfest. While costumes are not mandatory, they are highly encouraged and can elicit praise from random strangers, especially if you're sporting an impressive beard as an accessory. At Wassertrüdingen's Mittelalterfest in 2012, we began by walking through a recreation of a medieval village, replete with blacksmiths, basket-weavers, woodworkers, farmers, and of course an area with long tables and benches for some good ol' fashioned, medieval-style beer swigging and slogging. You can imagine which part of the "village" proved to be the most popular.

A German renaissance festival is also similar to its American counterparts in that not all the costumed attendees are sporting authentic-looking medieval garb. Kilted bagpipers, the 18th century clothed boys' marching band of a neighboring town, and a few people who looked like they just wandered in from Comic Con could be found throughout the festival, spicing up the crowd as it were.

While the beer and wurst (sausages) were certainly popular, once the festival's Beer Queen finished serving the masses, attention turned to the Ritterspiele or Knights' Games, which were held towards the end of the evening. Hello, men in tights! Oh, and sporting fancy armor, large swords, and beautiful horses. If you forget about the lack of indoor plumbing, that life expectancy was roughly age 30, and unless you were a merchant or nobility, your life pretty much sucked, the middle ages were kind of sexy, weren't they?

Of course, the entire tournament, like the festival, will be done in German, which means that any humor created by the tournament master or contestants will be completely lost on you if you don't sprechen die deutsch as I did not back in 2012. However, it does lend an other-worldliness to the festival, making it seem that much more authentic, especially when the hand to hand combatants and jousting knights start screaming at each other. You'll be utterly terrified and thrilled - because you have no idea what's going on!

So in short if you're ever in Germany and just so happen to see a Mittelalterfest or Ritterspiele being advertised, go find yourself some tights, a tunic, or a busty bustier and join in on the medieval fun. Make some German friends over a tall one at the beer tables and cheer on your favorite knight as he tries to wallop the other guy off his horse. You'll have a blast, guaranteed!

Have you ever attended a renaissance fair?

Photo cred to S.W. on all pictures.