Erice-Craze

The primary reason why I wanted to visit Sicily, was Erice. For those who have visited, they would agree with the steffisays-sicily-erice-castle-ruins-venus-venere-castelloimportance of visiting such a place, and others are curious to know why. Erice situated on top of a mountain, is a medieval fortified town with breathtaking views. You can go for a walk in the cobbled streets, for food, shopping or to indulge in its historical importance.

When we got there, it was very difficult to take it all in – I could not believe that after so many years dreaming about it, I was there in the flesh. We spent a good hour just walking aimlessly enjoying the surroundings. Although it was still April, Erice was buzzing with tourists.

Highlights of Erice:

The views
The below pictures can speak for themselves. Since Erice is so high up, you can capture beautiful photos with the castle and the wondrous beaches all around.

Castello di Venere
Although now in ruins (which date back to the Norman Period), this castle enjoys views all around. It is built on the top-most part of the castle. The reason behind its name which translates to English as the Venus Castle, is due to the fact that at the very spot there was the temple of Venus Eryx, dedicated to the Italian love goddess; mother of Cupid.


Giardino del Balio
As the name states, this is a garden, well sized  and definitely relaxing. It is situated very close by to the castle and towers, which means it’s busy and with gorgeous views. If we had a lot of time on our hands, we would have definitely sat down on the benches and watched the world go by! Unfortunately time was of the essence since we were in Sicily for just five full days, so we had to get on with the next attraction!

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Toretta Pepoli
Built on the slopes of Mount Erice, one can find a small castle which was built in the 1800s. This property was used mainly for meditation and was later on abandoned. In July 2014, it was re-opened again after several years in restoration. One now can visit to admire the architecture and of course the views.

Tasty Sicilian Nibbles
If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, I recommend Pasticceria Maria Grammatico, for the typical Erice sweet: The Genovesi Ericine! We also enjoyed Cannoli Siciliani from there, and I can tell you, it was hard to just choose two from their vast variety!

Photos taken by myself while in Sicily. Kindly seek permission before re-using.. For more photos visit my Instagram page.

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5 Steps to NOT be an asshole

It is true that being proud and comfortable with yourself has its benefits… However, if you find yourself looking at your image gallery on social media, and all you are brostop-being-an-assholewsing through is pictures of yourself, you have probably taken it too far. If you find yourself continuously talking about yourself, and your only specialty is proving others wrong, then it’s time to admit you have a problem.

If this bothers you on the verge of becoming pissed off, as you think I am writing about you, keep reading… I dare you!

Here’s a few points on how to build yourself into a regular human being to give you the possibility of having meaningful relationships:

1. Being Right
One of the ways to drive another crazy is this idea that you have to always be right. It gets worse when you are in the wrong, but you keep persisting until you hear the other agreeing with you. The reason why one keeps being so persistent is probably because it feels good to be right. However, this is at a detriment of friendships and relationships, as in reality no one enjoys being proven wrong every time there is an argument; let alone when they are sure they are right!

2. Me first
As much as we should respect ourselves, one should not interrupt another – one should listen. Sometimes, all we need is to be heard. No need to come up with a fix or a solution. Although the intention might be genuine, we need to learn to listen, let the other feel and express what he is feeling and instead, understand what they are going through. If they need your help, they will let you know since they chose to confide in you.

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3. Ass kissing
The opposite of always being right, is trying too hard to get people to like you. Being that person who agrees to anything and everything, will make those around you lose your credibility.  Your words will not mean much since they are adjusted depending on the belief of your audience.

4. Attitude
No one is perfect, and everyone falls in this equation – including you! Stop being such a selfish, inconsiderate jerk. The world is not yours, but ours to share and live in. If you have nothing nice to say, you are better keeping your mouth shut! The only way you can be considerate is by thinking things through – Pause and review what you are about to say; be it in person, on the phone, email etc. Practice makes perfect – Funny, practice makes us better people.

5. Building up
Instead of talking about yourself, spend time to compliment someone unprovoked… Ask a question about themselves and their life in a conversation. Celebrate the success of others, rather than turning the subject about yourself. Stop thinking about yourself and focus on the others in the room with you. If you truly care about those around you, it will sooner or later become natural to do so, and your actions will follow suit.

Your wishes, My dreams

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I see you looking at me
With those big brown eyes
From which I can view everything:
Your longings, desires,
Your wishes –

You make my heart
race,
You make me grasp
for air.
You are my reason,
for all that is good.

Your desires, are my goals.
Your longings, are mine too.
Your wishes will come true,
Let’s work on them together;
Two hearts, beating as one.

What we have between us
is what I have been searching for;
for years, I dreamt about this
moment, about having it all.
Your love is the answer.

You are my real-life dream.
I want your love. I long –
for your presence in my life.
I desire your body, your soul;
my heart you stole.

______________________________________________
Steffi 2018.03.28

Dear Know-It-All

Dear Know-It-All,

I would love to invite you – you who have a problem with my writing or myself as a person, to unfollow me, unfriend me, block me or whatever you deem reasonable to do. Get it OUT of your system. Get off from that high horse of yours and stop being so damn proud – and childish!

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WHO do you think you are impressing?
You already know the answer of this with the lack of feedback you get on such posts and efforts you make to ridicule those around you!

Personally I cannot care any less, but please if you have a little respect left for yourself and to the people you say you love and care for (and to all your unreal and fake friends online), just put a STOP to this. Put simply: Learn to live YOUR life. We really do not care what your thoughts are on this subject.

P.S. If you have nothing nice to say, you are better off saying nothing at all! Otherwise, just blurt it out already. I realise you have a lot of time to spare, but luckily the rest of the world does not! 😉

Ahh… I feel so much better! Now, off with your head!

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Best Castles in Germany

I have quite a soft-spot for Germany. My fascination started way back when I was barely a teenager. At that time, I was supporting the German National Football Club, better known as Die Mannschaft. Since then, I discovered another love – Castles. After exhausting my travels in the UK, in 2016 I started traveling to Germany. So far, I have visited between 30 to 40 castles in Germany and based on my experience, I would like to write about my favourite 5 castles (so far!) in Deutschland!

Burg Hohenzollern

Located on top of Mount Hohenzollern, one can find a very distinguished castle.  What I would also call distinguished is the view from the castle onto the surroundings; the mesmerizing view of the Black Forest. Upon entering this castle, one would realise that no expense was spared in building and maintaining this castle.

The first mention of the castle was in 1267, however the mentioned castle was completely destroyed in 1423. Roughly 30 years later, the second Hohenzollern Castle was built – now bigger than ever. The fortification around it is a testimony of several conversions the castle has endured during its lifetime. To this day, the structure is sound and in perfect condition thanks to all the tourists who have visited and will visit in the years to come. Personally, I appreciate it when admission fees are used for the maintenance and renovation of the castle I visited.

 

Burg Eltz

Located along the Mosel Valley, one finds a breathtaking castle by the name of Eltz. Remembering the first time I visited this castle, I was unaware of the long (and pleasant) walk in the forest to reach it. We were puzzled; How is it that we are visiting a castle so out of sight? Trust me, the fifteen minute walk is worthwhile. If you find this as an obstacle, you can always take the shuttle bus however! English tours are available in this castle which is kind of expected considering how popular this castle is.

The castle is still owned by the same family who around 33 generation ago lived there. Eltz is one of the only three castles on the left bank of River Rhine which has never been destroyed. Construction started prior to 1157. Another house within the castle was built in the 1400s, whilst the third part of the castle was considered finished in the 1530s. The upside of this last construction is the fact that each room was heated, unlike the remaining parts of the castle which were partly heated only. The Eltz family is still considered noble to this day.

Schloss Drachenburg

Although Shloss Drachenburg looks like a castle, in fact to me, it looks very similar to Disney Castle, this is considered as a villa. What is unbelievable about it is that it was built in just two years between 1882 and 1884. It belonged to a banker who initially planned to make it a home, but then he didn’t. It was later donated to the State Foundation and is now open for the public. The western facade of the palace was heavily damaged in WW2. The restoration took many years to fulfill as even roofs needed to be replaced.

Aside from the beautiful views of Bonn and the river from the very top of the castle, one must admire the interiors who have been hand-painted all these years ago and are to this day so well maintained. I also remember huge stained glass windows, with details I have never witnessed before; and even after visiting several other castles in other countries, still remain unbeatable…

Pfalzgrafenstein Castle

Pfalzgrafenstein – such a big name, for such a small castle! One can find this little gem in the middle of River Rhine. In fact, to gain access to it, you’d have to ride a short boat trip. Once we arrived on Falkenau island we started by admiring the river from a different angle. We also noticed that from a certain level, this castle looks like a ship. Since the river’s depth varies due to seasonality, the castle had to be built in such a way that it did not flood when the water rises.

Built between 1326 and 1327, its function was as a toll-collecting station. A chain across the river forced ships to stop and pay the fee. If they did not cooperate, they were kept in the castle’s dungeon until a ransom was received. Although the castle was restored to its glory, to this day one does not find neither electricity nor a lavatory. The area is a World Heritage site.

Neuschwanstein Castle

Possibly the more popular castle not only in Germany but worldwide. What many do not know, is the sad story behind it. Back in the 1800s, the King Ludwig II, started to build this most magnificent and luxurious castle, only he died before it was completely finished. In fact, the king only lived in the castle for 172 years (in his private headquarters, whilst it was still being built), and it was opened for public viewing shortly after he died in the year 1886.

It is my intention to rebuild the old castle ruin of Hohenschwangau near the Pöllat Gorge in the authentic style of the old German knights’ castles, and I must confess to you that I am looking forward very much to living there one day […]; you know the revered guest I would like to accommodate there; the location is one of the most beautiful to be found, holy and unapproachable, a worthy temple for the divine friend who has brought salvation and true blessing to the world…

— Ludwig II, Letter to Richard Wagner, May 1868[14]

 

Most of the photos above are my own (apart from interior photos of Neuschwanstein, Eltz and Hohenzollern for the simple reason that it was not allowed). Kindly seek permission before re-using.

5 Simple Ways to Wow Your Wedding Guests

You’d like to think that simply looking your stunning best will be enough to make your wedding guests say ‘wow,’ and it will! But it’s also true that every bride looks amazing on their special day. If you want to make yours stand out from the crowd, then you’ll want to go the extra mile to make it memorable. Below, we take a look at five ways you can make your guests feel the love – and have a day they’ll always remember.

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Pick a Unique Venue

You could pick a venue that’s close to where you live, but where’s the fun in that? There are a million and one unique, beautiful venues across Europe, and with inexpensive flights available to and from many countries, it’s not that much of a hassle to ask your friends and family to travel overseas. If you’re not of an overly traditional bent, then you might want to consider getting married away from the church. A beautiful ceremony set among lush woodlands, with fairy lights making the space look extra magical, for example, is guaranteed to impress your guests.

Make a Strong First Impression

Of course, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to wow your wedding guests before they reach the ceremony. You can make a strong first impression by investing in beautiful wedding invitations, and by asking your guests to RSVP with added details – such as a song they’d like to hear at the wedding party. You may even ‘wow’ your guests by simply asking that they don’t bring anything other than themselves – that means no gifts – to the wedding, which is a touching detail if the ceremony is taking place overseas. Get creative with your invites, and you’ll have people keenly anticipating the fun days to come!

Riding in Style

The ceremony and the party rarely take place at the same place, so how are your guests going to get from one place to the other? Normally, this will involve a series of taxis, but there’s not going to be anything normal about your wedding! Instead, put on some funky transport, such as a themed party coach, or limos, or – if it’s not too far – a series of horse carriages for everyone. It’ll be much more exciting than having everyone patiently queuing for the next series of taxis to turn up.

Extra Touches

You’re going to have people from all walks of life attending your wedding; relatives, old friends, work colleagues, and so on, and they’re not all going to know one another. So why not help them up by adding a “who’s who” to the seating plan? You can show everyone how they know each other through six degrees of separation. It’s a great way to move past small talk and onto the fun times!

And Relax

You’ve got a dance-floor; how about a place to relax? Some people don’t want to dance all night but do want to be involved. Create a space that allows them to be involved and also unwind. They’ll love you for it.

Auschwitz – A change of heart

If there was one place that I visited in Poland, which has impacted my life it’s Auschwitz. Although I read, view documentaries and discussed this place and what happened here a multitude of times, I could not have imagined what the people have went through.

Welcome to Auschwitz

Being there, in one of the coldest days in Poland in the last ten years, I began to imagine, how these innocent people must have felt. They arrived in this destination, feeling uneased, terrified of what’s next… taken away from their loved ones. They were stripped down off their clothes and possessions. Freezing cold, working harder than you ever thought possible, malnutritioned. Did you know that these workers on average didn’t last a week? And those, were the lucky ones. The rest, well you probably already know what happened to them.

I felt sadness, a heavy heart, bad things transpired here.

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What I did not know before going to Auschwitz was to how many men, women and children this happened. Although I was familiar with the numbers, I could not quantify it. In a few words, a section of this museum (it’s no longer referred as a concentration camp) is dedicated to “Proof”. Here, you can see an abundant amount of what was left behind – shoes, hair, utensils, luggage. This was what made my heart slow down with pain and disgust, what really angered me. Now, I understood. Now, I know that this was one of the worst, if not the worst experiment that ever happened in the world.  I felt humiliated to be called human, I hope that such a thing never happens again. Although we were not alive then, we should still be aware of what occurred, and we have to be intelligent enough to not let it happen ever again.

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All photos are my own, please seek permission before making use of them. Thank you.

Belated 30th Birthday Post

Exactly five months ago, on the 16th of October, it was my birthday. My 30th.

We woke up in Scotland, because we discovered that we like traveling for our birthdays. It was a windy day! So much so, Hurricane Ophelia was visiting! This did not stop us from having a lovely day out in the countryside, visiting several castles and eating at Jamie’s Italian in Glasgow. For the first time in my life, I had a clear picture of where my life is going. I did not care where I am, I was just happy spending my day with the person who means the most to me.

In the past years, I always reflected on what I have achieved, but this time round, I reflected on my future; our future. It is true, that in the year 2017, so much has happened. For starters I went on so many holidays: Hungary, Bath UK, Wales, Romania, Denmark, Cornwall, Austria, Scotland and Germany! But the most important of all, I met Daniel who has turned my life upside down. My traveling partner, the love of my life! I finally found him, and I ain’t letting him go. 🙂

But most of all, this birthday was so significant to me because as my birthday gift, Daniel bought me a promise ring. As much as I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with this man, I was still caught off guard. From then on, our path has become a little clearer. In fact, as of November, it’s been full-on planning for our big day coming up in 2019!

And folks, that is a happy ending right there!

When to get married in Malta: Seasonality

Maltese brides and grooms tend to play it safe when it comes to their wedding. Even if you are not a bride-zilla, you would most likely still not want a rainy wedding day as this would disrupt all your plans, be it traffic, wedding venue and dirtying your oh-so-white wedding dress! Funnily enough though, we don’t always think of the pros and cons that each season in Malta comes with!

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No snow in Malta, but you catch my drift!

Spring:
The weather starts changing from cold to warm
Happy guest mood since winter is over, and soon it is time for summer
A lot of fruit and veg are back in season, which means more variety when it comes to your menu
The grass is greener! And the flowers start bloom. Needless to say this will enhance your wedding photos, and no doubt, the floral choice for decor is at its best.
Allergy season (this was the only reason why I couldn’t go for a Spring wedding!)
Children are still in school, which might cause certain parents to not attend your wedding

Summer:
Risk of rain is close to none
Longer days, breezy evenings
If you are choosing Malta as your destination wedding, it is more likely that guests will attend as they can combine the wedding with a holiday, and the kids are off school
Summer season is the most popular season of all. If you are very specific on dates and venues, you have to plan very much ahead. Two years minimum, but three years ahead is advised
Noon summer weddings should be illegal. It is crazy to say the least!
Peak wedding season. Guests might choose to attend another wedding, not yours

Autumn:
Milder weather, ideal for noon weddings
The changes of the colour of leaves and trees makes for a magical and romantic background to your wedding photos
Children are back in school, which might cause certain parents to not attend your wedding
Risk of bad weather

Winter:
Classic and traditional Christmas themed weddings are amazing
Availability of venue and other suppliers are abundant
Cheaper deals on venue and vendors due to being off season
Noon weddings are appropriate as days are shorter
Brides have more dress options
✗ Bad weather is likely
✗ Wedding photos outdoors might be a bust due to weather conditions
✗ Festive season might discourage guests as they might rather spend it with close family
✗ Guest may be short on money as it is Christmas season

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