1. Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here. – Sue Monk Kidd
By the end of 2016, we had two choices: we could either give up OpenUpNow.net and stop blogging, OR give up our website and start a new one from scratch. Obviously, we chose the latter. Because having a hosting service destroy our 3 years of strenuous work was already harsh enough. We couldn’t let them ruin our passion for writing and encouraging other people to open up to the world.
In January 2017, we officially launched Travel with Mei and Kerstin.
A new start, with a new hosting, a new domain, and a new design. And most importantly, a new concept: on this travel blog, we tell and share stories. Offering travel tips is the main reason why we blog. But we choose to build our advices, reviews and insights into one of our many travel anecdotes to give you a story. Because, like Peter Forbes puts it: Stories create community, enable us to see through the eyes of other people, and open us to the claims of others.
2. Castles are forests of stones. – George Herbert
Storytelling is one of our passions. And castle-hopping is another one. Ever since we’re back in Luxembourg, we keep exploring castles, may it be in our motherland (here’s a story of our 10 favorite castles in Luxembourg), or in other European countries.
In February this year, I once again kidnapped Kerstin for a surprise road trip, this time to Germany. After visiting the little medieval town of Maulbronn, we continued to the Hohenzollern Castle, the Lichtenstein Castle, the Sigmaringen Castle, and even slept in the Bischofsschloss Castle Hotel.
3. Coming in solemn beauty like slow old tunes of Spain. – John Masefield
Our trip to Toledo was another journey back in time. Rediscovering the vestiges in the labyrinth of winding cobbled streets, strolling through the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes, exploring Sephardic synagogues, and touring the Alcazar, made us reflect upon the peaceful coexistence of Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities in the medieval “City of Three Cultures”.
Our voyage then took us to Madrid, where we roamed through the lively capital of Spain, and feasted on tapas and paella under a cerulean sky.
4. The lakes and the mountains have become my landscape, my real world. – Georges Simenon
When I finished reading Ben Okri’s “The Age of Magic” in April, I had a serious need to see lakes and mountains. So off we drove to Lake Annecy in the French Alps.
The fresh air and crystal clear lake waters were invigorating. No other place could have been better to unwind and meditate. But the freezing wind ended up making me sick at the end of our trip. If Kerstin’s grandfather were still alive, he certainly would have warned me to be careful of the “R months“.
5. If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris […], then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast. – Ernest Hemingway
When we left Paris in 2013 after having lived there for a decade, we thought we would return at least once or twice a year. But time flies, and soon four years went by. Walking through Paname, where every little corner reminded us of our past was deeply heart-aching.
Nostalgia hit us hard, and I haven’t been able to tell you more about Paris than what I wrote in this story. But still, we were happy that we finally made it back to the place we once called home.
6. Very few people have visited Luxembourg – when I went there and looked at it, I said, my God, it’s built on a rock. And within the rock they had a castle, and within the city there’s a network of tunnels so the residents could move around and defend themselves. – I. M. Pei
I grew up in Luxembourg City, but it never occurred to me how lucky I was. When we resettled down in our country 4 years ago, we chose to live in the north. This year, we finally took some time to consciously explore both the Upper and the Lower cities of the capital, which brought back some (bitter) sweet childhood memories.
For the National Day on June 23, we even went to watch the annual parade and exceptional fireworks that we hadn’t seen for over 16 years.
7. There is a kind of flame in Crete – let us call it “soul” – something more powerful than either life or death. – Nikos Kazantzakis
When I studied in Athens, we had traveled to Crete several times, but always stayed in Heraklion and Chania. Last summer, we finally returned to Crete, and spent 3 weeks to slowly re-explore the hidden gems that I had wanted to show to Kerstin for so long.
We drove around for about 1500 km from Chania to Itanos, and stopped in many small villages on the Lasithi Plateau. We’ve learnt about the layers and layers of Cretan history in Matala, Spinalonga and Frangokastello, while exploring several archaeological sites. We swam in crystal clear waters in the lesser-known Kato Zakros, hiked through breathtaking gorges, down to freezing cold caves, and up to the scorching hot mountains. We fell asleep on white sandy beaches, learnt about the slow-paced lifestyle from the amazingly welcoming Cretans. We watched many majestic sunsets, feasted on the freshest local catches of the day, slept like princesses in awesome guest houses, drank way too much raki, Greek coffee and fresh orange juices. We philosophized under the shining stars, lived, laughed and loved…
8. Happy is the man, I thought, who, before dying, has the good fortune to sail the Aegean sea. – Nikos Kazantzakis
I first heard of the Greek island of Santorini in a class about Aegean Prehistoric Archaeology. Our professor explained in detail about the Minoan volcanic eruption of Thera. And in 2010, I finally got to visit the archaeological site of Akrotiri.
It was only then that we found out how famous Santorini Island actually is. Back then, our dream was to get married on this stunning Cycladic island. Since this plan didn’t work out, we ended up celebrating our 15 years of love and 2 years’ wedding anniversary in Greece’s most beautiful island last summer.
9. There is no sincerer lover than the love of food. – Georges Bernard Shaw
When it comes to food, there is no better place in Europe than Strasbourg. Combining French quality and German quantity, this city in Eastern France is a paradise for gourmets. Since 2013, we visit Strasbourg at least once a year for a gastronomic adventure; usually in December to visit the Christkindelsmärik known for being the oldest Christmas Market in Europe.
But last September we couldn’t wait anymore… So after a two hours drive, Strasbourg welcomed us in its food paradise under a perfect Indian summer sky.
10. A wise traveller never despises his own country. – Carlo Goldini
Listening to the sound of rustling leaves, and watching them slowly fall to the ground is a kind of meditation. Luckily, we don’t need to travel far to see autumn foliage, since our hometown lies in the middle of the Mullerthal region, which offers beautiful hiking trails along spectacular rock formations.
11. I’m never afraid […] But I think the view is better from here. – Tove Jannson
There are many ways to overcome acrophobia. Ever since we visited the Castelo dos Mouros in Sintra, I choose to surmount my fear of heights by facing it as often as I can. Last month, I read about the 100-meter high Geierlay suspension bridge in Germany, and decided to make a road trip to Hünsruck just to cross that bridge.
As true castle lovers, we later stopped at Eltz Castle and Cochem Castle, both offering fantastic panorama views that made my knees turn numb again.
12. In winter, I plot and plan. In spring I move. – Henry Rollins
When December started, we were still wearing our light autumn clothes and shoes, the heat was not even really turned up at home, and suddenly it began snowing! Somehow, we missed the turning point between Fall and Winter. That’s probably because 2017 is the first year that we’re staying home for the Christmas Holidays, and… being busy planning our upcoming trips.
In 2018, we’ll explore Berlin and its universities and art schools with our niece and nephew, travel to Peru and Bolivia for a whole month, and return to Barcelona. Discovering Northern Italy, roaming through Germany, spending a romantic weekend in Prague, and road tripping the French Riviera are also on our bucket list for 2018. Let’s see where our last minute decisions will take us!
How was your 2017? And what’s in store for 2018?
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