By Clara Ferance
As founder of international jewelry company Sikara & Co., Mousumi Shaw is no stranger to travel. In addition to being a talented photographer and entrepreneur, she has a deep passion for experiencing new cultures, hearing the stories of local people, and creating jewels that reflect this history. In all of her jewelry pieces, her Sikara brand strives to blend “past heritage with a new, modern spirit.” This concept of fusion is apparent in Mousumi’s art, but also in her personal life as an Indian American married to a German spouse! Mousumi first met Rosedale Travel founder, Kirsten Billhardt through their Harvard Business School Alumni network, where they quickly bonded over their German husbands and became close friends. Kirsten’s husband, Bjorn, and Mousumi’s brother are best friends, and Bjorn served as the officiant at Mousumi and Sascha’s wedding.
So far, Mousumi has visited 50+ countries, designing 11 unique jewelry collections inspired by almost a dozen different destinations from her travels. From stunning art pieces influenced by the architecture of Bilbao & Barcelona to earrings reminiscent of Indian desserts to cocktail rings that imitate the nature of the Brazilian Amazon rainforests—her amazing work isn’t the only hidden gem she’s uncovered. Thanks to her extensive global experience, she’s got plenty of travel tips that achieve the perfect fusion of culturally enriching, family-friendly, and fun!
Advantages of A Multicultural Family
Q: How do you & your husband’s different cultures (Indian and German) work together?
Indian and German cultures are actually quite opposite! Germans are very structured, planned, on-time, and formal…which directly contrasts with Indian culture. We tend to be more informal, loud, and on Indian Standard Time (aka IST). But both heritages share a similar focus on living a natural, Ayurvedic lifestyle—hence the love Sascha and I share for biking, hiking, and any activity outdoors. Both cultures are quite active in their communities when possible; the culture revolves around family and many have a tight-knit, multigenerational approach to living.
Q: What are the cultural customs, cuisine, or travel opportunities that you’ve come to share?
I think we both appreciate each other’s cuisine and cultures. When Sascha and I got married, we had the traditional Indian Mehndi, Sangeet, and Bengali Indian wedding with four days of festivities! But we also balanced that with a day for our guests in Fredericksburg, an old German town outside of Austin, Texas.
My husband will wear his Kurta and Indian suits when it’s time for the Indian festivals of Holi and Diwali. Equally, I have a dirndl and our six-year-old loves wearing the traditional Bavarian lederhosen. In September, Oktoberfest is always so much fun and often we try to visit Sascha’s family in Munich to celebrate. When it comes to German cuisine, my favorite treats are schnitzel, sausages, and any of their potato dishes. Not to mention, German bakeries are AMAZING! We freeze and bring back pretzels, German bread, and muesli cereal.
Top Things To Do in Munich, Germany
Q: You mentioned you’ve lived in Munich for a few years since your husband is from there. Especially considering the upcoming Oktoberfest season and winter holiday travel planning, what places to see or must-do activities do you recommend?
Oktoberfest usually takes place during the last two weeks of September in Munich. It’s actually a very family-oriented event with a huge area with rides, bumper cars, Ferris wheels, and more. We have a 6-year-old, and luckily most places in Germany are very children friendly. They are allowed in beer halls and biergartens—plus, most places typically have an outdoor playground so adults can dine and relax, while the children also have their own fun. Alternatively, if you can’t make it in the fall, visiting Munich is equally as fun in the winter! Despite the colder temps, Christmas markets in November and December are a magical way to enjoy the holiday festivities.
Here are some of my favorite restaurants, hiking areas, and excursions in Munich and the surrounding area that I highly recommend!
- Kaisergarten (Typical Bavarian food)
- Spice Bazaar (Upscale Mediterranean food)
- Aimy or Chu Chin (Asian cuisine with cute outdoor seating)
- Backspielhaus (A great brunch place with kids but make a reservation!)
- Schlosscafe in Palmenhaus (Inside Nymphenburg Palace – try their schnitzel)
- Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower in English Garten – they have bands playing at this beautiful outdoor Biergarten)
- Hirschgarten (Another Biergarten with a petting zoo for the kids!)
Places To Visit:
- Nymphenburg Palace (it houses the Museum of Humankind and Nature)
- Hellabrunn Zoo (great for kids!)
- WildPark Poing
- Hofreiter Berry Farm (pick berries with the kids)
- Deutsches Museum or BMW Museum
- Watch the surfing in the English Garten
- Swim and Sauna in the Thermal Erding Water Park
- Olympia Park (Beautiful park where you can bike, run, picnic with the kids. Plus there’s a tower that takes you up to see all of Munich and Bavaria!)
- Day trips a bit father out: Regensburg, Lake Starnberg, Chiemsee Castle, Marchenwald Children’s Amusement Park
- Garmisch-Partenkirchen (known for its amazing ski resorts and Alpine views!)
- Tegern Lake (eat at café Kaefer overlooking the water)
- Maisinger Lake, Schlier Lake, Staffel Lake
- And countless more…. nature is all around!
General Travel Tips & Recommendations
Q: As previously mentioned, you’ve traveled quite a bit! So, what’s your favorite place to travel? Do you have a dream travel destination that’s still on your list?
I have a special love for Bali. I love the culture, the food, the fashion, the people, and the landscape. It’s so tranquil and beautiful—the perfect wellness trip for quiet, meditative reflection. It’s the first place I traveled to on my own and it has had a lasting impression on me. I’ve been back for 2 destination weddings and can’t wait to go back with my boys.
I really want to go to Antarctica, one of the most remote and special places in the world. The closest I’ve been is to Patagonia to see the glaciers; they are melting sadly and I want to go experience this part of the world to create a new line of jewelry to build awareness of this environmental issue that persists. If I can train, recruit a few friends, and have the support of my family, I would love to participate in Race the Planet in the next few years. I have had several friends who have done this race and have inspired me to do this! Also, I really want to visit the Galápagos Islands. I absolutely adore nature—it reminds me of our amazing, majestic planet.
Q: Any special recommendations for a “hidden gem” destination to visit?
During graduate school in 2004, I had the opportunity to visit Cuba for academic study. It was wonderful to integrate with the local community to learn about the language and culture firsthand. It was also one of my favorite places to photograph since it felt so “caught in time.”
Q: What best general travel tips do you have?
Use packing cubes when you pack! It makes it much easier to find things and organize yourself, especially when you have to move around from one place to another. Make sure to buy travel insurance! When I was younger, I never knew that most U.S. health insurances do not cover you abroad. It is a huge relief to have coverage—especially if your plan includes things like stolen or lost items, missed flights, etc.
If you have plans to travel to Europe, look at booking outbound flights into the U.S. Sometimes they can be half the price! Life happens and United or Southwest airlines have some of the best cancellation policies (zero cancellation fees)! Although I’m not a group tour person, when I’m traveling with a larger group, like my multi-generational family, these preplanned guided excursions are a great option!
And if you dislike the stress of finding flights, booking a hotel, and everything else that comes with planning a trip, let Rosedale Travel handle the details for you!
Sikara & Co. is on a mission to bring the world closer together by celebrating global designs from the world’s most spectacular places. Their handcrafted jewelry, created with sterling silver & 18K vermeil with semi-precious stones, strives to share the beauty of the world with our customers.
Just like Mousumi Shaw and her incredible international team of designers, Rosedale Travel believes that when people learn about other cultures, connectivity happens, understanding grows, and love blossoms. We’re passionate about crafting the best luxury travel experience for our customers so that they can create lasting memories as they explore the big, beautiful world!
Visit Sikara at www.sikara.com.
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