How can something as simple as a walk in the woods bring such pleasure and delight? It’s when we walk with purpose, taking in our surroundings and observing nature at its best that our soul rejoices in such beauty and creation.
The fall season is undoubtedly the most beautiful as many would agree. Golden leaves scattered everywhere and some still afloat in the air, making their way slowly but surely to the ground. Trees, bare as they may be, display such poise and stature, ready to be clothed with the next season’s gifts of snow and ice. Such wonder, my soul sings. Such beauty in simplicity that I leave the woods feeling rejuvenated, soothed and revived.
Dresden is the only city of former East Germany (discounting East Berlin) that we visited and we were keen to see how different it would be from other parts of Germany. We were charmed by Dresden’s Alstadt (old city) with its distinctive Baroque style architecture and Soviet style pastel coloured buildings with cute windows poking out of the rooftops. Despite being completely bombed out during WWII with only a few buildings left standing, the old city was rebuilt to resemble its former glory. Dresden reminded us of Prague and this could be attributed to the Soviet influence or just simply physical proximity of both cities.
The newer part of Dresden known as Neustadt is what stayed with us. We were drawn to this quirky area known as Kunsthofpassage which is a courtyard with several buildings, each with a unique modern design. The best design is known as the ‘Court of Water’ which merges architecture (funnels, gutters and pipes) and nature (rain water) to create music. I’ve never seen anything more clever. These buildings are inhabited by locals and indie or vintage shops which adds to the charm of this place.
On a whole Dresden took us by surprise with its old and new and is worth stopping over for a day or two if not more.
There, you heard it first here on this blog. Sounds like a far fetched claim? Maybe. But hear me out first.
Berlin is the cheapest European capital we’ve been to, and probably one of the cheapest cities to visit in Europe. I judge this on the following criteria: Airbnb accommodation (our choice of lodging), transport costs and groceries. This has also been backed up by locals and migrants who live here as well as friends who have visited Berlin.
Berlin is a fairly young city, having reunified less than 30 years ago. After the fall of the wall, rent and property in East Berlin was apparently so cheap that there was an influx of artists, students and low to middle income earners to this part of town. East Berlin is hot and now is a good time to buy property in this part of town because it is only going to attract further development and gentrification before prices skyrocket.
Berlin is cosmopolitan. International cuisine is everywhere and migrants are welcomed to this city. English is widely spoken and Berliners appear to be open to accepting new cultures and faces.
Berlin is exciting. The art and music scene here is thriving. The only place where I’ve heard more talented buskers than in Berlin is New York, and that says a lot. The buskers here are very well received and supported. Art is everywhere and the street art here is the best I’ve seen. So expressive and meaningful.
These are the reasons why I think Berlin is an emerging city with potential and so much to offer. I was asked to describe Berlin. I liken Berlin to New York city, say 30 years ago when it was at the height of its prime. Up and coming, fresh to the scene but one to watch out for.
Some days we count our blessings and feel incredibly lucky to be on this journey seeing some pretty amazing stuff that some people only dream of. The Amalfi Coast in the south of Italy is probably what these dreams are made of. Rugged coastlines that connect picturesque coastal villages amidst a backdrop of the Mediterranean sea left our jaw dropping more than once. Ravello, one of the villages that sits atop the hills above the coastline offered us unparalleled views of the Amalfi. The beautiful Villa Rufolo in Ravello is unquestionably one of the best places to take in this view, with perfectly manicured gardens and the prettiest autumn leaves draped over the walls of the villa.
Our Malta experience was an interesting one. Challenged by a bout of health issues the entire time we were there plus a poor local transport system somewhat detracted from what could have been a very positive experience in this former British colony. Malta smothered us in heat and humidity (an average of 25 degrees Celsius in autumn!) every hour of the day that our bodies were just craving the beach and ice cream (which did not help my cough). We welcomed any prolonging of summer weather, knowing very well how harsh the European winter will be, but the heat was not conducive for waiting for often delayed buses.
We were also smothered with the best of Maltese hospitality, meeting some very friendly locals who were proud of their culture. We found their language fascinating to say the least. The Maltese language looks Arabic when written but sounds Italian when spoken. Try figuring that out This country is also strongly religious, which probably explains the low crime rate of the population in general. Most locals attend mass on Sunday and church bells can be heard ringing on a Sunday morning.
Valletta, the capital of Malta is the prettiest city we visited with a harbour that is second to none, truly. So stunning is the harbour that this is the main attraction of Malta. The famous sandstone buildings are everywhere and if you haven’t already noticed from the pictures, doors and windows stand out in shades of green or red.
There is so much more to Malta than what I’ve summarised but let’s just say this little country has left an indelible mark in our travels.
We drove for days in search of the Tuscan dream. Think rolling green hills dotted with lines of cypress trees and stone farmhouses that beckon you to their doorstep. We found it all and more.
The Tuscan region of Chianti and Val D’orcia is not unheard of. But hearing all about it and finally seeing it right before our eyes is one dream come true. The golden vineyards of Chianti stretch on for miles as far as the eye can see and resemble fields of flowers from afar. The undulated green and brown hills of Val D’orcia are simply stunning like nothing I’ve ever seen before. And the cypress trees. I could go on and on about the trees. To me and many others, the cypress tree is the epitome of Tuscany. Without these trees, Tuscany can no longer be.
There was so much more that we saw beyond these pictures. Medieval towns that sit majestically on hilltops, eerie old abbeys with heavenly acoustics, long windy roads framed with cypress trees leading up to wineries and sleepy towns that seem a bit deserted.