Christmas Chillin’ and Chocolate Fillin’ in Berlin (video)

Weinacht
Weihnachtsmarkt, Alexanderplatz, Berlin  Photo Russ Johnson

I am not a feral shopper, a pack rat ripping through the carrion at Best Buy on Black Friday or maniacally pounding a keyboard on Cyber Monday. I like to take the holidays calmly…and slowly. I would gladly become a standard bearer for a Slow Christmas Movement.

I can do this in Europe thanks to a glass of hot mulled wine or chocolate, a juicy sausage, a gingerbread cookie huddled next to a firepit at a Christmas Market.

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A Town Called Wingo

Wingo, Ghost Town, California
Wingo, California (c)2014 Russell Johnson

First it is there, then it isn’t. I have seen it on some maps but not on others. It is a town, I think, in the middle of a swamp between the wine-logged valleys of Sonoma and Napa.

I love its name: Wingo. Sounds like a badass western town full of mean hombres.

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On The Beach in Kochi, India

KeralaBeach600-2Kochi Beach – Oil Painting, Pat Meier-Johnson

They looked like confetti. Crowds of families wading in the shallow waters of Kochi, just a short distance from the giant fairy-blue fishing nets of this port city in southwest India. Holding their peacock-colored saris up just above the water line, women shared some time off with their boyfriends, children or friends.

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Heaven and Hell at Lake Titicaca


Lake Titicaca, Peru –  Photo: Russ Johnson

I gasp, I grunt. Normally, I find climbing a small hill easy. I am not a mountaineer but somewhere in my DNA there are at least couple of strands of mountain goat. I am at 12,500 feet aiming for 13,000 and despite a prophylactic chaw of cocoa leaf presented to me at a welcoming ceremony, my lungs beg for oxygen.

I have just disembarked a boat that had taken me across Lake Titicaca. And yes, there really is a Lake Titicaca, the inland sea in Peru with the name we all giggled about in fourth-grade geography class. I am trudging, with backpack, up a hill on the island of Suasi to a lodge where I will spend the next few days. In comparison to where I have just been, this is starting to look like heaven.

AUDIO VERSION

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