Don't Forget About Berlin

Berlin Germany is one place that many people know about but tend to forget about when trying to plan a vacation. Planning a vacation can be very time consuming and difficult and certain places can tend to leave people's minds when they plan.Berlin is one of those places that can tend to be left off the list because many people don't know what is in Berlin. They simply don't realize what Berlin has to offer. Berlin has food, shops, attractions and history what more could you want on your vacation?

First off the trip has to include a visit to the East Side Gallery. This gallery is actually a piece of the Berlin Wall it is now used as a large art gallery. This gallery hold over one hundred pieces of art and is free to the public. This section of the wall once divided east Berlin and west Berlin, but is now the largest open gallery in world. If you enjoy museums then perhaps Museum Island is a good stop for you, this island holds five incredible museums and a cathedral. It is truly a site being right on the river and is a treasure that Berlin visitors usually miss out on.

If you would like to pay tribute to Holocaust victims Berlin is the place to come. They have the most impressive and moving memorials to the Holocaust victims. The site is over 4 acres and over 2,000 pillars. And underneath the ground is the name of every known Holocaust victim. Remember when visiting while this is an attraction it is also a memorial. The Memorial Church in Berlin is also another historic site. This church was damaged by many air raids in World War II. This is what caused it to lose its' tower, now this church stands as a memorial to World War II.

The last place that you must see in Berlin is a gate, but not just any gate, this gate serves as a symbol to the "new" Germany. The Brandenburg Gate once stood dividing east Berlin and west Berlin in the Cold War. When the wall came down the gate remained standing as symbol to the past, present and future. The gate itself is free to see, and is a highly recommended stop. Technically this gate was not a part of the Berlin Wall but definitely held great value to the wall and its' purpose.

Berlin Germany may be forgotten by many tourists when planning trips, however, this is a mistake. Berlin has so much to offer visitors it's hard to see why anyone would want to pass it up. Heritage, art, and history this city really does have it all, and this is only a taste of what this place has to offer. Berlin may seem like it would be an expensive trip and for many travelers it will be however, these few must sees that you just learned about are all free and open to the public. Meaning that to see these great monuments you only need to be in the great city of Berlin.

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Sea Turtles in Costa Rica

Sea turtles are found in all the oceans (except the Arctic Ocean) worldwide. There are essentially seven species of these animals. Of these seven (viz. leatherback, olive ridley, flat back, hawksbill, loggerhead, kemps ridley and green turtle), the leatherback variety is found in Costa Rica. However, since the species of the leatherback are on swift decline, they have been declared as an endangered species on this planet.

When Edward R. Mercer, one of the largest real estate developers, made Costa Rica his home, he pledged to stop the illegal poaching of the sea turtles as well as ensure the safety of the crucial nesting beaches where the turtles return year after year.

The leather back sea turtle is the largest and the heaviest of the sea turtles with the scientific name, Dermochelys coriacea. It draws its name from the leathery skin that envelops it. The leather back variety lacks the hard shells present in the other turtles. So, in order to compensate for it, the leatherback bears a mosaic of bony plates.

The leather back species has a life span of about seventy years on an average. They are found close to the sources of food and have a distinctive feature of exclusively feeding upon the jelly fish most of the time. Deep divers of Costa Rica, the female leatherback turtles return to the protected nesting beaches every year between October and March to lay 100-150 eggs on an average at the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. The biggest threat to the endangered sea turtle species is a wide range of factors starting from loss of critical nesting beaches, predation by humans and over fishing for the purpose of turtle eggs and meat.

The main reason for the capture of the leather back sea turtle in Costa Rica is basically for its eggs and high price for functioning as the aphrodisiacs. When Edward R. Mercer, one of the largest real estate developers, made Costa Rica his home, he pledged to stop the illegal poaching of these endangered animals as well as ensure the safety of the crucial nesting beaches where they return year after year. The entire island was strictly cordoned off by the guards; they were guided to the new nesting beaches in protected national parks.

This ensured that population of sea turtles which has decreased to dangerous levels started rising again and now sea turtles are no longer endangered.

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Destination Attractions - Tips for Travel to Germany

Anybody who is planning a vacation in Europe considers visiting Germany. There is so much that Germany offers in each city that it is important to know about it in advance before going there.

Two famous locations in the Baden-Wurttemberg region are Baden-Baden and the Brenner's Park Hotel and Spa. Baden-Baden which is located north of the Black Forest is a great summer destination as it has various spas, hiking trails, a huge promenade, spectacular springs and pastel houses. The Brenner's Park Hotel and Spa offers you luxury comforts including a spa treatment. The Bodensee and Lake Constance are located in this region.

The Alpine Road or Deutsche Alpenstrasse presents a very beautiful scenic view. It stretches along the Bavarian Alps. The route offers a good view of the ancient and impressive towns, castles and villages. Germany's highest mountain Zugspitse and Lake Konignesse are also found here. A part of The Romantic Road called Romantische Strasse is in Bavaria too. A very beautiful city Bamburg is also located nearby which was at one time the Holy Roman Empire's capital.

Munich which can also be called the financial capital of Germany has got a very deep history and many museums. The Alte Pinakothek has got a very good collection of Renaissance art from the 14th to the 18th centuries including 'Virgin and Child' by Da Vinci, 'Crowning with Thorns' by Titian and artwork by Hals, Durer, Ruben and Memling. The admission fee is 4 dollars. Then there is the Deutsches Museum which is the world's most comprehensive technical and scientific museum. You can find lots of interesting, interactive displays and films. Besides museums, Munich has lots of world-class restaurants and drinking joints. In fact, it is very famous for its Oktoberfest, a sixteen-day beer festival every October. This festival is world famous for its fun, high spirits and attracts millions of tourists every year to Munich.

Berlin is the capital city of Germany located between central and north-east. It also has several museums like the famous Science Museum, the Dahlem and the Bode Museum that holds historical relevance pertaining to the Berlin Wall. One section of the Berlin Wall still remains which is the Brandenburg Gate. Berlin is also famous for its world famous orchestra known as The Berlin Philharmonic which attracts music lovers.

There are many more places to visit in Germany including the Cologne Cathedral, Frankfurt, Rhineland, Saxony, Dresden and Hannover.

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Spanish Schools - What is Education in Spain Like?

Obviously, if you have children and you wish to move to Spain, then the schooling of your children will be your most important priority.

In fact, the overall welfare of your children will probably be the deciding factor as to whether any move to Spain is actually possible and their educational needs may define where you live. Certainly it is true to say that the happiness of your children in Spain will be critical to the success of your relocation. If children are unhappy then this can place tremendous stress upon the adults within a family - to the point at which it can strain a previously good working relationship.

Fortunately, education in Spain is good, albeit that (like the UK) considerable care is required if you are to obtain the best possible results. Of course, the big difference in Spain for a child is that they will be taught in Spanish (and sometimes in a regional dialect, such as Valenciano). As few North European children speak Spanish, it makes their entry into the Spanish schools system sensitive and it can mean that it takes a while for your child to settle. That said, it is extraordinary how fast children pick up a new language and I have only ever known one child unable to learn Spanish.

Of course, timing has a huge part to play when it comes to placing a child into normal (not international) Spanish schools. Without doubt, the younger a child the easier it is for them to assimilate Spanish and to therefore get to grips with education in Spain and the academic work itself. A far greater problem is faced by older children and experience has shown that there is an age at which children find it, to all intents and purposes, impossible to both learn a new language and deal with the demands of increasingly complicated academic work. In essence, the danger time for moving a child into Spanish schools (if they speak no Spanish) is when they are around 12 - 13 years old. Earlier than that and most children will easily learn the language and be able to catch up with the academic work. Older, and it will become difficult (to impossible), for them to keep up with their peers - and not to be able to do so will be demoralising and damaging during a vulnerable time of their lives.

Education in Spain for children is compulsory from the ages of 6 to 16, with primary education lasting 6 years - followed by four years of compulsory secondary education at the end of which a Certificate of Education is received. State Spanish schools are free and normally school uniform is not worn. However, the purchase of school books is the responsibility of parents and can be quite costly (around 300 Euros per child per year). After the age of 16, children can continue with their education in Spain and go to vocational institutes or study for the academically demanding (and highly regarded) Bachillerato. The latter takes two years and is needed should a child wish to attend university.

State schools tend to be as variable as in the UK and much depends upon the precise intake area. It is therefore always wise to check very carefully the reputation of what may become your local Spanish school. Of course, there are private Spanish schools which can often be a very wise choice. These can provide a superb education in Spain within environments that are controlled, safe and that have high aspirations for their students. They provide terrific value for money compared to the cost of their UK (for example) counterparts and, if you can afford it, are well worth using for your children. Fees (2008) vary considerably but can be around 350 euros per month (10 months).

Equally, Spain has a scattering of international schools which provide, in English, a British curriculum. Oddly enough, these Spanish schools frequently have a high proportion of Spanish children, as the wealthy Spanish have a strong urge to ensure that their children are completely fluent in Spanish. They are particularly pertinant if you wish to move to Spain and your children are over the age of 12. As a parent with two children, I have been very impressed by the standard of education in Spain - and my son now is attending university having passed the Bachillerato. This has been a tremendous success (he started Spanish schooling when he was 13) and proof that the existing system of education in Spain works for foreigners!

Nick Snelling is the published author of three books on Spain including 'How to Move Safely to Spain' He also maintains an authoritative Blog on Spanish culture, life in Spain and moving to Spain - which you can see on

How to Find Cheap and Tasty Restaurants in Madrid

Are you visiting Madrid on a tight budget? The Spanish capital has literally countless options for those of you who don't want to break the bank but still want to eat well, and I'm talking real restaurants where you can sit down at a table, get served and enjoy your meal without no rush.

Many of the restaurants in Madrid serves great food. For, like, pocket change. The most important thing to remember when going out for a meal is to stay away from restaurants who are located nearby big tourist attractions. If they only cater to tourists they do not need to deliver great quality meals on a consistent basis, why bother? There will always come new tourists, and as long as they have a prime location the food is likely to be expensive in price, and below-average in taste. The best tip in order to get an inexpensive and tasteful meal is to notice if there's any locals eating in the restaurant. If there's plenty of Spanish people enjoying the food it's likely to be a good choice.

Museo del Jamon is an example of a good restaurant in Madrid, yes, the name is «Museo», but there is no curators, no headsets, no gift shop. Just ham. Everywhere. Yep, no shortage of ham here. Ham in every way, shape or form, hanging from the ceiling (kind of like an art exhibition), together with about another billion options in small portions (called raciones), best accompanied by round after round of beer. Here you should expect to expand your stomach (your mind, not so much) and get your fill of Spain's number one delicacy for very little money indeed.

The restaurant is present at two places in Madrid:

Carrera de San Jerónimo, 6
Metro Sol (L1, L2, L3)
Tel. 91 521 0346

Calle Mayor, 7
Metro Sol (L1, L2, L3)
Tel. 91 531 4550

Dirt Cheap Madrid [] show you how to have an inexpensive vacation in the Spanish capital. Visit to get more tips on cheap restaurants in Madrid.

Why Get a Custom Business Card

When opening a business, there is one critical thing to be purchased. Business cards. These allow someone to stand out in a crowd, as well as be easily contacted at a later date. The more attractive and well organized a business card, the more likely the client is actually to take a card and ultimately call back.

The Custom cards should include:
  • The businesses custom logo
  • Easy to read font, indicating:
  • The business name
  • Possible subtitle (this will inform the customer exactly what the business does)
  • Contact name
  • Physical Business Address (or just city if there is no actual business location)
  • Phone number
  • Email Address
  • Website
Custom business cards can also come in many formats. Some are double sided, some are very colorful, some are simple, and the list goes on. A business card should be a representation of the firm, as this is what the customer will be taking with them. However, the design of the card should in no way shadow the actual contact information. This should be the focal point of the card.

There are also many different qualities of business cards. There is thicker cardstock paper, embossed print, etc. A lot of these are not necessary, but as this is a very important part of selling a business, it wouldn't do to have cheap looking cards.

Logos should also be something to consider. There are graphic designers who work in depth with making logos. However, this can be a costly service. If the business is profitable, or there is already a budget set aside for this, a professional logo is never a bad idea. If the firm is just starting out, or if the budget is very tight, there are websites that have sets of pre-designed business cards. These tend to have very generic patterns, and there is always the risk of one business having an almost identical card as another business.

There are often plenty of small firms that do various printing jobs. This option may be more costly. Again, it is a worthy investment (after doing extensive research on the company) if there is a budget for it. Otherwise much more cost-effective solutions can be found online. As previously mentioned, there are many websites online that help businesses find cheap and effective business cards. These are ordered straight from the site, and can be delivered right to the business.

The last, and most important thing to remember when getting custom business cards, is to ensure that all of the information is correct, and quickly read. Without this, clients are very unlikely, or unable, to contact the business.

So, when starting up a business, or just giving your existing business a bit of a facelift or rebranding, an effective and custom business card should be essential.

ICustom Boxes is the leading brand in the designing, production, and printing of customizable packaging services and solutions, since 2010. At iCustomBoxes, we deliver businesses and consumers with customized printed packaging solutions.

How to Successfully Move to Spain and Stay

At first sight the title of my book may seem a little odd? Well you might think it's easy to move to Spain; just book a flight, and find somewhere to stay; the rest will sort itself out. "We just need to get there" and start to enjoy the new life in the Sun Right?

Wrong. Sorry but a lot of us that escape in search of the "Dream", find it all goes wrong and they struggle like crazy to get everything in place, but in the end they return back home, with lost dreams, big debts, and having to start all over again.

It doesn't have to be like that if you plan a ahead...

Did you know that every year more than 191,000 Britons emigrated but in the same year 105,000 returned having failed to make their dream work?

That's 86,000 lost dreams, an awful lot of sadness indeed. Worse still it has caused each and every one of them, not only a great deal of heartache, but there are also the financial costs involved.

Coming home involves getting a job, finding a home and so on. Possibly you will have sold the car, and bought another in Spain. Inevitably you will have to sell that and start all over again.

This book aims to give you a few straight facts; albeit in a light hearted writing style, so that you can make a few plans ahead of your move, and truly make it a one way trip, and achieve the dream of a new life in Spain forever!

So, why do some people fail to survive abroad?

Often the reason is down to family level. It is a very simple decision if you live alone. If you have a partner then it is absolutely essential that you talk through everything very thoroughly.

In my many years of hosting Spanish Property Exhibitions in The United Kingdom, I met numerous couples that attended purely with the intention of "selling" the whole idea of the Spanish Dream to their respective partner. They hoped that by seeing the beautiful photographs of the lovely Villas. Happy couples sipping wine outside the traditional tapas bars, or relaxing on the long sandy beach in Guardamar on a lovely sunny December afternoon would do the trick. Unfortunately life is not quite that simple.

Don't try selling the dream to your partner...

Hey, when you went on your last holiday to Spain, I'll bet it was perfect? What you are now contemplating is not going to be a holiday; it is truly going to be something you both have to live, everyday maybe for the rest of your lives. You can't persuade anybody, least of all your beloved partner to have the same dream as yourself. You may be lucky and truly both have the same dream. It is essential right now that you completely and absolutely have the same dream. If not of course there are alternatives to a complete move. Subject to your finances it may well be possible to compromise, and split your time between The UK and Spain. With the flight costs being reasonable these days, this is a distinct possibility for many of us.

If we step back say to the 1990's for a moment, at that time many of us just wanted to sell our property in the UK, and with the pot of cash from that, it may well have been enough to purchase a satisfactory Spanish Villa, and still retain enough of that "pot" to invest in the Bank, and "live happily ever after off the interest and pensions received.

Property Prices are no longer at 1990 prices of course, and this scenario is not often possible any longer. Spanish Property Prices have leapt ahead faster than any other EC Country if you look back 20 Years, so by the time you make your property purchase in Spain, the "pot" may well be looking a little shaky.

Splitting your time between UK & Spain?

Both you and your partner must be completely honest with each other right now before you spend a single Euro. If you have even a 10% doubt about making it in Spain at this time, then that doubt will surely fester once you make the move, and things might just slide from there on.

What's the way around this?

Clearly if you have doubts, then you can still go ahead and enjoy the dream, but with little "Home Breaks" built in. Maybe it will be that one of you will want to hop back to visit the Grandchildren? So build this into your plan now. After all it is pretty cheap to go back, you are not moving to Australia are you! This simple escape clause in your "agreement" can well make the difference between success and failure. Talk it through at great length.

This is possibly the most frequent cause of people "going back home", so don't skip over these issues. If you are still in doubt, take another holiday in Spain, but this time make certain you stay in a property that will be similar in cost to the type of property that you will be able to afford if you decide to move. That way it is almost like a dress rehearsal. You can taste "living in the real Spain" not insulated from reality in a five star hotel, with waiters offering you your every whim!

When you move you will have to go shopping for Groceries; decorate the spare room with real paint and get hot and dirty too!

We once did just that in the middle of August in temperatures exceeding 36c inside. Being too hot to wear "overalls" or pretty much anything at all, (well apart from the essential coverings of course) we ended up with more emulsion paint on ourselves than the walls, and vowed to leave all future decorating jobs until the winter!

Splitting Countries

If costs are a little strained, you might well be able to "trade down" your UK property, and use the profits form the sale to purchase your Spanish Property. Another popular way to afford a home in both countries is to Rent out part of your UK property, but keep an "apartment" (or create one) for your home visits. Often the rental achieved can mean that your home "apartment" comes "free", that is to say, the tenanted part of your property covers all of the property costs including your portion.

Another option if you have family in the UK is to consider extending their property in some way. Our own example was to extend our daughters property by building a Garage Conversion. This provides us with a low cost, but comfortable home stay property with its own facilities, whilst adding value to the property at the same time.

If you can try to "think outside the box" you might surprise yourselves just how creative you can be.

It's always better to have a home base if you have any lingering doubts.

Even though in reality you may only use the "home base" quite infrequently, the simple fact that it is there for you if you should need it, and will almost certainly solve any of those nagging emotional or homesickness thoughts that you or your partner might have. You can then feel ready to face the new life in Spain with confidence, in the sound knowledge that there is a bolthole back home should the need arise at anytime.

Where in Spain will you live?

Countless times I am told that the Spanish dream property is something like this... In the Country, with lovely views, near the beach, large gardens, quiet location away from it all. How practical is this? You are both planning to move to Spain for the rest of your lives, so pause for a moment and ask yourselves, How much would that dream cost? Given a quick internet search, I can tell you now that it would not be a cheap option. Lovely views do not come cheap, especially if you want that view near the beach.

Let's take a look at each of these options in more detail...

Buying inland is normally cheaper than coastal, but you still have to go grocery shopping.

How far is it to the nearest Supermarket?

What if you want an evening out?

How far is it to the Restaurants and Bars?

Remember in Spain, the drinking laws are quite strict, and now comply with EC directives. In effect this means that even a small glass of Lager will place you over the limit, and liable to arrest, a fine and a possible driving ban. If you like a small end of evening tipple then it is best that you have a local bar, from which you can easily walk home.

What about a Finca?

Some 10 years ago, that was our dream too. A lovely finca which really is a Spanish Farmhouse, or smallholding, tucked away in the countryside.

In reality it often involves a long winding single track road leading up to the Finca, so imagine getting home, and as I am sure we have all done at times, realise that we have forgotten to get some essential items for dinner that night. Yes we have to trail right back along that winding single track road again. Pretty soon you will hate that road intensely.

It's one thing getting away from the tourist hustle and bustle, but think carefully before you buy something in the middle of nowhere, with no local services.

Another downside to consider when "getting away from it all" is of course it is going to take you that extra journey when you decide to hop back home for a week. Having done this now for the past seven years, I can assure you it is quite important to have easy access to Motorways and subsequently The Nearest Airport.

Expectation and the Reality

Watching one of the numerous "Place in the Sun" television shows, might give the impression that everything is just so perfect. In reality you will still have to stand in queues to Pay Bills, visit banks, builders, even the tax office perhaps? You cannot escape from the reality of life completely. Yes of course you can put behind you your past mistakes, but you have to make that extra effort not to make those same mistakes again in your new Country.

Finding the perfect home in Spain.

The fact is that you might not find the ideal home first time for two reasons. Firstly it is quite different to finding the ideal home in your home town in the UK, as you will already know the good areas that you would like to move to. This is of course not obvious on a short visit to Spain. It is good advice to rent short term, but you should remember that every penny spent on renting is working to reduce your final capital available to you when you buy in Spain.

If you find a property that "ticks most of the boxes" for you, and you buy it at the lowest possible price, then you will be in a good position to sell on and move up the property ladder just as most of us are doing now (realise it or not) in The UK. Thus retaining your capital, and quite likely even making a profit in the process.

Property Prices in Spain

Over the past 20 years, property prices have in Spain increased faster than all other European Countries. Rumours are awash that the bubble in Spain has finally burst. My research, backed up with facts, does show that in some areas, particularly that of Valencia they have indeed fallen some 10%. In all other areas of Spain including The Costa Blanca and The Costa Del Sol they are still rising at 8% per annum. What has changed is the supply and demand situation, and understandably this has caused builders and Estate Agents big financial headaches in terms of Cash Flow. That said the stronger Companies, are riding through this, and already there are signs that demand is returning. This lack of demand is thought to have been started by the upsurge of Eastern European Countries like Bulgaria & Turkey offering competition. Gradually though the old favourite Spain is winning through once again.

And Finally...

If you have thought things through carefully, it may well be time to "make it all happen for you" and start the ball rolling. Moving to Spain full time, or on a split time basis, is not the one way decision it used to be. So many flights everyday, mean that you can always afford to "hop" and get the best of both worlds, so why wait any longer.

Have a Happy new Life

This article was written by me and is purely a personal point of view, and I cannot be held liable for any actions that might be taken by readers. It may be copied or distributed by any means providing it is not changed and includes all links.

Inching Towards Iceland

Blue Lagoon Reykjavik Iceland
When we hear vacation, usually people see tropical islands with white sand beaches; not many automatically think of Iceland. This incredible land mass of volcanoes, lava fields, mountains, glaciers, and charming little towns is not your average destination, but if you want a vacation that will be remembered forever this one must go on your list.

Have you seen movies such as Tomb Raider, Die Another Day, and Batman Begins? Well if you didn't know some of those scenes are shot in Iceland. In beautiful Skaftafell National Park. This park looks like it is stolen straight out of a comic book, where fire and water always fight, while thick greens of birch woods and black desert surround the entrances. There are waterfalls which flow over black basalt cliffs; cruise ship size glaciers take over the horizon; and lagoons which take travelers inside ice caves they can explore. Guided tours through glaciers and ice caves depart daily and finish off with hot bowls of soup and other warm food to create sublime experiences.

If the cold is not something that particularly calls to your heart, Iceland's uncommon mixture of geography works in your favor. Because of Iceland's volcanic activities, a lot of geysers appear; scattered all over the county. These geysers create hot springs and natural thermal pools, and watching one erupt with a hot stream going feet into the air is like no other experience. The most popular of these springs is the Blue Lagoon. The water temperature here reaches between 98F and 103F. But that isn't all this Blue Lagoon has to offer. Many say that the water is magical. Due to the rich amount of silica and minerals in the water, it has been known to help, and in some cases cure skin diseases, such as eczema and psoriasis. There is also a spa and a restaurant located on the banks of the lagoon.

At night, after a day of hiking and jumping into hot springs, one can see the beauty that is the Aurora Borealis, or more commonly known as the Northern Lights. They often occur because of the latitude of Iceland, and the increase of solar activity up north rather than at lower latitudes. During the late fall and winter months is the best time to experience these, for the solar activity levels rise during these months, and the lights appear to be brighter and more common than during spring and summer.

Not only is the geography of this country captivating but its wildlife will take your breath away as well. During the months, May and September, whales migrate from down south back up north to begin hunting. Most whales stay close to the Arctic Circle, thus making Iceland one of the best places to see these magnificent mammals. Whale watching tours depart daily and make for great photo sessions, to show friends and family.

From basalt cliffs and ice caves to hot springs and whale watching Iceland has it all. The underrated vacation destination has much to offer and more memories to be made.

Germany Travel Tip - Flower Island In Mainau

All those who like to be enchanted by a colorful flora should not miss the opportunity to visit the island Mainau, in the Lake Constance, Baden-Württemberg. The season starts traditionally at the end of March in the indoor palm house, which displays an outstanding collection of orchids. This is also the time when tulips, narcissi and hyacinths start to blossom at the so called spring-alley. As the year moves on roses, rhododendrons, palms and bananas, only to name a few, will show their outstanding beauty, adding to the sub-tropical flair of Mainau. September-October is the time for the yearly dahlia show and it never gets boring on this Island. If you travel with kids they will enjoy the fun and variety in the "Kinderland", a uniquely created park with a water world, petting zoo, pony riding, a railroad and a dwarf-village. Hospitality is high on the agenda on Mainau and everybody is invited to join in the fun.
Flower sculptures at MainauGarden gnomes in Germany
Thinking about Lake Constance, the first thing that pops into ones mind is the Flower Island Mainau. It is a part of the district Litzelstetten-Mainau, Konstanz in Baden-Württemberg and in ownership of the aristocratic family Bernadotte of Swedish origins. Mainau is the third-largest Island in Lake Constance and is 1,100 meters long and at one point 610 meters wide. Because of the mild Lake Constance climate an exotic tropical and sub-tropical fauna prospered here with palm trees and other Mediterranean plants. Grand duke Friedrich I started the park with the Arboretum north-west of the Island, where he planted 500 different species of broad-leaved trees and conifers, with some of them being very exotic and valuable. Simply huge are some of the giant redwood trees (Sequoiadendron giganteum), whose seeds came from California in 1853 and were planted by Friedrich I on the Island Mainau in 1864. Therefore they are some of the oldest of its kind in Europe.

The aristocratic family Bernadotte still plays an important role in all the floral display and islands activities. The family manor was built after the plans of Johann Caspar Bagnato (Giovanni Gaspare Bagnato). The construction, under the supervision of Bagnato, started in 1739 and was completed 7 years later. The Baroque manor has 3 wings and include a court, the Ehrenhof and a terrace garden. The manor is still the residence of the Bernadette family and you will see the flag on top of the roof when the family is present. The private rooms are in the north wing, left from the court and are not accessible to the public.
Late March to the end of October is the time when Mainau stands up to its reputation to be the Flower Island. Until the middle of May tulips, narcissi and hyacinths will dominate the gardens and make it a colorful experience for all visitors. During the same time viola, forget-me-not and primrose add to the color. The spring-alley leads to the rose-garden, which was also created by Friedrich I. The Italian style garden is strictly geometric in its form, with pergola, sculptures and fountains. During summer around 500 varieties of roses bewitch ones senses in this garden. On the whole of the island you will discover around 30,000 pedicle of 1.200 different species. A Baroque stairway leads to the manor terrace which will give you a great view and your next point of interest might be the Mediterranean terraces, with palms, agave, cactuses and bougainvillea. From here, you have a panoramic view of Lake Constance and the Alps. The south of the island is home to the dahlias and September and October is the time to be there. Around 20,000 shrubs of 250 different species are home in the south garden and shine endlessly in their beautiful colors.

Mainau is also home to a butterfly house, with around 1,000 square meters the largest in Germany. It is open all year round and visitors will walk around in a truly tropical climate, accommodating the fauna and around 80 different species of butterflies. Depending on the season 700-1,000 butterflies can be admired by the visitors. Most of these species are originated in South America and some breed naturally on the premises. But still the butterfly house receives every week 400 pupae from breeder from Costa Rica, England and the Netherlands with a yearly budget of € 20,000.

The Kinderland is said to be one of the most beautiful kids playground in the Lake Constance region and it is time for your kids to confirm that statement. Between the ages of 1-4 the dwarf village is definitely the place for fun and discovery. Then there is the water world, petting zoo, pony riding, a railroad and the newest addition in 2009 is the theme park Blumis Uferwelt. It is aimed to the children's urge to move and offers plenty of safe space to climb, hide, look and listen. A children's friendly restaurant is located here and offers a special menu for kids.

The island has many restaurants and cafes and maybe you like to try a barbecued sausage. At a perfect spot, the restored historical manor wall, you can enjoy this nice snack. Sausages come in a wide variety and you can choose between red barbecued sausages, Mainau-sausages, spiral formed onion-sausages and chili-, beef - or poultry sausages. Another highlight of this dining experience are the 3 meters long and 1,6 meters wide tables. In the middle of each table you will always see plants in full bloom and even trees will grow through the tables. One more reason to come and enjoy Flower Island Mainau, again and again.

This is an example of what you can do in Mainau while traveling in Germany. If you want learn more about Mainau we compiled a more comprehensive Mainau travel guide in collaboration with local residents that provides unique travel insider tips which you can use during you Germany vacation.

This article has been written by Monika Petra. She likes to write Germany related travel articles on Live Like a German - a site for exploring Germany, to learn more about its culture / language, and to find great Germany vacation rentals or holiday apartments when going on a Germany vacation.

10 Things to Do in Piraeus, Greece

Piraeus is a historical city in Greece close to Athens. It is visited by many tourists who either want to enjoy a ferry ride or embark on a cruise ship or hydrofoil to an island. It is easy to go there from Athens either by cab or metro.

Here are ten things you can do in Piraeus:


Here in the Saronic Gulf you can see the Flying Dolphins and beautiful yachts in the huge marina. You will find many shops, restaurants and taverns from where you can do boat watching too.


This is a naval and nautical museum that displays ancient and modern Greek ships, ship models, paintings, maps, flags and all sorts of ship equipments. You will also find some things from Aristotle Onassis's yacht and a section of the wall built by Themistocles.


This museum has artifacts from such ancient times dated as far back as the 4th century BC. You will find grave markers, a huge funeral monument and bronze statues of Artemis, Apollo and Athena. You will also find displays from the Roman and Classical periods as well as old treasures and the wreck of an ancient theater.


This hill offers a magnificent view of the sea and the Greek houses. You will find many restaurants, ice-cream parlors, cafeterias and bars. There are clubs too.


The Karaiskaki Stadium is the home arena of the famous Olympiakos soccer team; it was decorated in 2004 for the Olympics. Another Olympics venue nearby is the Peace and Friendship Stadium, which hosts many international competitions.


You can watch all kinds of ships, boats and yachts from all over the world in Piraeus.


The Veakeio Outdoor Theater and the Municipal Theater of Piraeus built in the 1880s hosts many dance performances, concerts and plays and lectures.


There are many shopping streets in Piraeus for purchasing antiques and other things. Every Sunday morning, a huge flea market is held near the Hippodameian Square.

9. EAT and DRINK

You will find lots of fish taverns, restaurants and bars in Piraeus for Greek food. For appetizers, you can have Greek salad, grilled octopus, a variety of olives, sardines, moussaka, eggplant dish, gyro etc. For dessert you can have Baklava, ouzo to drink and mezedes for snacks.


If you want to go to an island form Piraeus, you can take a ferry or to reach it faster, you can opt for a hydrofoil Dolphin. You can take a cruise of the Mediterranean. You must have a booking in advance.

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The Ten Most Popular Iceland Attractions

1. Gullfoss Waterfall is the most famous of Iceland's mythic waterfalls and will be the first Icleandic attraction that any native will usher you towards. The falls cascade a 105 feet into a stunning canyon. Mist rises up from the base, and on clear, pleasant days the sun casts beautiful arcs of rainbows across the breadth of the falls.

Reykjavik Iceland City
2. No visit to Iceland is complete without a day in the capital city of Reykjavik, the nation's cultural hub. Here you can spend a day exploring the city's many museums, have dinner at the famous landmark, The Pearl, and spend the evening drinking at one of Reykjavik's stylish bars or dancing at one of its hopping night clubs.

3. Thingvellir National Park, located about 40 minutes west of Reykjavik, is Iceland's oldest national park. It is a protected area of historical significance that has a stunning 52-square mile lake and great hiking trails throughout lava fields.

4. The Great Geysir (from which the word "geyser" originates) is the world's largest geyser and is easily accessible by bus in Reykjavik. The Great Geysir was formed in the 1300s; though now it only erupts on special (engineered) occasions, the nearby Strokkur erupts every 30 minutes for those who wish to snap some photos.

5. The Blue Lagoon, located about 15 minutes from the Keflavík International Airport,is a long-time favorite of visitors to Iceland, especially those who wish to test the notion that bathing in algae, silica and mineral salts is restorative for health. The lagoon is located in the middle of a moss-covered field of lava and draws its seawater from 2,000 meters below the surface. Entire families can bathe together here in the tranquil, peaceful water.

6. Iceland is the most active part of the Aurora Oval in the southern hemisphere, which means that anytime there is a clear sky, Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, can be see lighting the sky with its vibrant and brilliant colors and shapes. Iceland is generally well-placed Northern Lights viewings, but bus tours are also offered for those who wish to "chase" these lights and see them in their varying splendor.

7. In Medieval Europe, Mount Hekla, was considered an entrance to hell and was feared by the locals. But now visitors flock eagerly to this volcanic mountain which stands 4,892 feet high and erupted most recently in February 2000. The volcano towers over the lowlands, and its unusual, flat, ridged peak is often shrouded in a bank of clouds, explaining the volcano's name, "Hekla," or "hooded one."

8. Kverkfjöll Ice Caves, located just north of Vatnajökull, are one of the world's largest and strangest geothermal areas. Here, you can witness a hot river flowing under glacial ice! The hot water evaporates in the enclosed space and leaves beautiful patterns on the cave walls. Visitors can also hike from the glacier to the hot springs located at the nearby Hveradalur.

9. Another area of Iceland in which visitors can witness the startling interplay of hot and cold is the Vatnajokull Glacier, which is known for its volcanic activity. Vatnajokull is Europe's largest glacier and covers about 8% of the country.

10. Another waterfall that had to make this list is Skógafoss on the Skoga River, which is a favorite amongst locals and visitors because of its classic rectangular shape and its immense height of 60 meters. Skógafoss is easy to access and is usually flooded with visitors, who can hike up a path from the base of the falls to reach the very top.

Planning vacation to Iceland? Visit this Iceland travel guide for more information.

Building a House in Costa Rica

It can be a daunting task to build up a house in Costa Rica. This job requires the working knowledge and not tourist, knowledge of (construction) Spanish or someone who can always be with you to translate. Another important thing required for this purpose is patience, time, daily visits to work sites, building code knowledge, communication skills and once again a lot of patience. The first thing to be decided should be where to live in Costa Rica.

One of the most important people in this business is Ed Mercer. He started real estate business in this country and made amazing eco friendly homes. He realized the dreams of many who had seen a dream to possess a beautiful house in the lap of nature. This business proved to be very profitable and Ed Mercer succeeds in creating a one-stop-shop organization which made selling and buying of the real estate very easy. Though Ed Mercer was not a resident of this country but his love towards this place is beyond words. This person with his business skills and humanitarian spirits won the hearts of the Costa Rican and he was soon popularly known as Mr. Costa Rica. His principles of spending the earned money on the development of the place you live in and promising less and delivering more appealed to a large number of people. He being a very impressive public speaker became an inspiration for many young and upcoming businessmen. Not only that his noble deeds to save the precious wildlife landed him to the prestigious Hall of Fame where he was honored. Today Ed is an active member of Greenpeace, national Geographic and the World Wildlife Fund. Ed Mercer is a regular contributor to The Performance Magazine with Bill Cosby and Arnold Schwarzenegger. A philanthropic millionaire, Ed has actively been associated with the organizations like Feed the Child, Missing Child, Crippled Child, Scarlet Straight, Suicide hotlines and battered housewives. Ed being very humble still considers him only a student of business.

Many countries have stiff building codes that must be adhered to by the contractor but in Costa Rica it is not so and even if the code is there is little or no enforcement. Choosing a home builder who builds to the standard you want is critical. This also includes the quality of the building materials. You should make sure that the builder you pot for is cold stone fluent in your language and is also 100% fluent in construction and building Spanish. Another thing to be considered is that if your builder is not a Tico, he should be in the country legally and should have a Permanent Residency. Giving a general idea, a very good price for a simple home is around US$ 270 per sq. meter to US$323 per sq. meter. A simple house would be basically a one-story, rectangular structure with straight walls and a simple roof line built with block, concrete and stucco. Some people refer to this type of design as a 'Tico house'. On the other hand you should be able to build just about anything you want regardless of how complex and complete for between US$ 540 per sq. meter to US$645 per sq. meter. If you are building a simple block and concrete house and you are paying between US$40 per sq. foot and US$45 per sq. foot you're probably paying quite a bit too much. And if you are building anything from US$65 per sq. foot you are probably building a mini Taj Mahal.

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