Wolfgang Buerkle: A Journalist’s Passion for Travel and Exploring Old ‘Rocks’

13 January, 2023 | Blog, Interviews

 

Wolfgang is a journalist and blogger from Germany that enjoys exploring the world and writing about it. Though he is not too fond of risky adventures, his German punctuality and a good sense of organisation enable him to see the most even on short trips. He enjoys exploring old ‘rocks’, as he calls them, the most.

 

Ethiopia

 

Wolfgang, please tell us something about yourself. Who are you, where do you come from, and how did you start travelling in the first place?

 

I am a German blogger and journalist, trying to take you along on my travels all around the globe – with exciting stories and unique photos. My enthusiasm for travelling developed rather slowly: I joined up with the local YMCA as a teenager, soon visiting summer camps and youth trips to Spain, Italy, or Greece. There I started writing about my experiences abroad.

Then I went to the US for about a year, visiting the high school. After that, I went to university back in Germany. My interest in travelling soon started to grow more, and, after taking an “eye-opening” trip to Ghana with some fellow YMCA people, I wanted to see much more of the world.

Since I always try to explore a new part of the world, it adds up to more than 70 countries today. My blog Wander with Wolf started as some kind of travel diary and is still just a fun thing to do.

 

Bhutan

 

Tell us about not so popular, but valuable places to visit in your motherland.

 

During the pandemic I certainly had a lot of time to travel around Germany – the country is indeed more diverse than many people abroad think. Of course, most tourists only check out Munich, Neuschwanstein, Berlin and the huge travel destinations. But every corner of the country has its precious gems.

There are beautiful vineyards, hundreds of small castles and amazing ruins in all parts of Germany, and lovely medieval cities like Quedlinburg, Monschau, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber. You can go skiing in the south or you can enjoy white beaches in the northeast.

Personally, I prefer my “home base” in Rhineland-Palatinate, not far from Frankfurt. Between the cities of Mainz and Worms, along the river Rhine, you will find small towns surrounded by vineyards, where you can visit wine festivals and the “Strausswirtschaften” (wine taverns), where you can hike and bike, and where life sometimes is just a little bit more relaxed.

 

Jordan

 

What is your most preferred style of travel and why? When you travel, what are your biggest interests?

 

When I travel alone I want to see and explore as much as possible. I try to be rather well prepared by reading a lot about the destination and about things to explore. While travelling, I usually don’t take long breaks – and sometimes visit three castles a day in Slovakia or walk 10 miles straight through Bangkok to check out all the relevant spots.

Recently, I started to use E-Scooters in huge cities to speed up sightseeing. When I travel with groups, I do get rather impatient when some of them want to eat somewhere for two hours, knowing that the next highlight could just be minutes away. Nonetheless, in some countries, especially where I don’t speak the native language, I prefer to travel with a small group, enjoying the explanations of the guide, and the comfort of not having to think about the next accommodation or place to visit.

What fascinates me most in other countries are “old stones” – like castles, temples, and pyramids. I love the Sudan, Myanmar, and Cambodia, castles in Europe and Roman ruins – and all the remains of the Aztecs and Incas in Central and South America. And of course the Moai on Easter Island. How all those magical places developed is totally fascinating.

Additionally, I always try to eat all the native stuff I can get, even maggots and guinea pigs

 

Guatemala

 

Have you ever been in an extreme situation? Tell us about the most exciting.

 

Until now, I think I have been rather lucky: I was never robbed, severely injured or really threatened during my travels. After all, I try to avoid “extreme” situations – usually being a more relaxed and careful type of person. I avoid skydiving or bungee jumping, for example.

But I have been in some more or less disagreeable situations. When Covid broke out, I was just in Guatemala – and when the airports were closed, I had to get out of the country rather fast, taking a strenuous 30-hour-bus ride to Mexico City for one of the last flights back to Germany. In Bhutan, after visiting a temple festival, I was bitten by a dog – and since rabies is still common in some parts of the country, I had to get a whole lot of vaccine shots afterwards.

An “exciting” extreme, on the other hand, was hiking near the top of the Chimborazo in Ecuador – in fact, the mountain, which is the farthest point on the Earth’s surface from the Earth’s centre. Another extreme situation I witnessed was the “traditional whipping” of women in southern Ethiopia. Although it is an accepted courting ritual with the Hamar people, I really had a hard time watching this rather masochistic behaviour.

 

Easter Island

 

What is it about the travel that gets you excited the most and what keeps you going even when it is tough?

 

For me, it’s a simple fact: every country has beautiful spots – and I want to see as many as possible. This is what keeps me travelling.

The problem is – the earth is huge and so this search might be rather endless. I hope to see it as much as possible.

 

Galapagos

 

How did your general view of the world change with travelling?

 

Travel really does broaden your way of thinking. With curiosity and an open mind, you can enjoy all the different cultures, different religions – and definitely different opinions.

Every day, you can learn something new and exciting, or you see something, which you would have never thought of before. While visiting India, Iran, and so many other countries, I certainly got rid of many preconceptions.

 

Sudan

 

Chile

 

Which culture/country is the closest to your mentality and which is the most alien, and why?

 

I do feel quite comfortable not only in German-speaking countries but also on the British Isles. Not only language-wise but travelling through these regions is always very easy and secure. You always find great spots to explore and good beer to drink.

All in all, I try to welcome all cultures, and never really felt totally out of place. There are only a few things that annoy me. I am German Рand the clich̩ of being punctual usually does apply to me, so I have a hard time in countries where punctuality is rather vague or where bureaucracy makes travelling difficult.

 

Iran

 

So what are your most recent trips and your travel plans for 2022? 

(Disclaimer: this interview was made in April 2022)

 

Recently, I visited Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary – three countries with a lot in common: great castles, medieval cities, and beautiful nature.

Next, I will fly to Greece for a relaxing holiday with my girlfriend. I haven’t decided about my subsequent trips yet, but I look forward to exploring South Africa, Brazil, or Japan in the near future.

And of course, all the other countries that are still in my list.

 

Scotland

 

Mongolia

 

Finally our signature question – if you could invite any 4 people to dinner, from any period in history, who would your guests be?

 

Alexander von Humboldt, Jane Goodall, Michael Palin, and Rüdiger Nehberg.

Humboldt is one of the best-known explorers from the 19th century – and could probably talk for hours about his scientific research abroad.

Jane Goodall is an expert on chimpanzees, and I really admire her lifelong determination, while at the same time being so enthusiastic and very kind.

Palin, once a member of the Monty Python comedy group, has been in some really enjoyable travel shows. I read some of his books about these journeys – always entertaining and informative. And he would certainly be great for singing his “Lumberjack Song”.

Rüdiger Nehberg, also known as “Sir Vival”, was a German survival expert and activist. He did some exciting and dangerous travels, writing books about it, later becoming an activist for protecting endangered tribes like the Yanomami, and fighting female genital mutilation. He died in 2020 but his books are still worth a read.

 

Java

 

 

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