Ever since the official countdown to our summer vacation was running, and every time someone was asking me whereto we'll be heading this year, I was almost hesitating to answer that question and giving away that we're going to Slovenia. Because almost nobody I know has ever been there, and all the people we know do either go further down to Croatia or stay further up in Italy. That kind of reminded me of the beautiful story from Emily Kingsley „Welcome to Holland", where everybody is busy making plans to travel to Italy ... (in case you don't know this story, do yourself a favor and read it!) ... and we end up in Slovenia. ;-)
So the fact that nobody we know has ever been down there, made us really doubt my father-in-law's wish to explore something totally new this year. My thought process was that if nobody has ever been down there, it can't be any good. In fact, I had lowered all my expectations, and I was just looking forward to some quality time with all my family and to recharge my batteries. Nothing more.
The minute we got there, I was quite positively surprised and immediately in love. Since the Slovenian Riviera is only 46 km long, it's very close to Italy and Croatia. Hence the immense Italian influence and appearance. We thought we're in Italy, only the people spoke a different language.
All my worries went up in smoke. I would even say that I can't say anything bad about the whole trip. Well maybe if our kids would have been younger, they might have preferred a long sandy beach. Slovenia doesn't have many beaches, and the one's they have are covered in concrete. But I really enjoyed that we only had to take the elevator down from our nice hotel, and we were already at our private hotel beach, just a few meters away from the water. If you have a family member in a wheelchair or somebody who has trouble walking, our hotel would be just about perfect for you. Everything is easily accessible within minutes.
Our kids absolutely loved the small pebbly hotel bay and the piers for easy access into the water. Nicolas spent all day at our pebbly coastline trying to catch crabs or fishes. Juliana joined him, but not for the love of fishing, but for her big passion of climbing rocks and exploring. She has been doing that ever since she can walk. Of course she finished every day with new bruises and bloody wounds, but it was all worth it for her. An icecream pretty much comforts everything anyway. With the kids exploring the sea and shore life all day long, I had so much time to just relax and read read read. I also have to admit, this year I hardly didn't take any photos at all. The ones you'll find below are a mix of my big camera and my iPhone. When you're a professional photographer, sometimes you just wanna keep the camera in your bag and soak it all in with your five senses and your heart.
I hope I can inspire you to explore something new too, if you haven't been in Slovenia. Have a great summer everyone, I'll be back for sure in September.
The area we stayed in between Portorož and Piran is extremely biker-friendly and has an extra lane for bikers along the shoreline. So we rented bikes a couple of times from the hotel and biked to Portorož. These yummy „Black Wild Salmon Burgers" were a big incentive for me to move out of my lazy comfort zone on the beach and to hop onto the bike, haha! Although I've interrupted my Paleo program (which BTW really helps with my food allergies and rashes) during that stay in Slovenia, I couldn't be more thrilled about all the glutenfree, lactosefree, vegan and/or paleo eating opportunities that are rising everywhere. People who are challenged in the food department are really really grateful for that.
We had one rainy and cold day which made us drive up to the capital city of Slovenia: Ljubljana which reminded us very much of Austria (especially their neat Kaffeehäuser), but also to Prague (only without all the tourists) where we have been just six weeks ago. Ljubljana is definitely worth a trip. At one time it rained so hard that we were forced to do some major shopping, haha! On our way back to the hotel we did another stop at the huge shopping malls that are only ten minutes away from the old town.
Nicolas enjoyed all the street art in the city.
To my great horror I realized on vacation that the pokémon go craze had also gripped my husband. First I got totally mad when I saw him staring onto his phone while the rest of us enjoyed the beautiful scenery and all things pretty walking the ancient streets. But my husband always knows how to get me and to calm me down. So in all his smartness he answered: „I'm not playing pokémon go, this thing is just an excellent tour guide. So did you know that we have just passed the Batana museum and that the cathedral St. Euphemia is further up this way?" Ha, he got me! ;-)
Ten years ago our charity group 46PLUS Down-Syndrom Stuttgart e. V. had the wonderful opportunity of a photo shoot at the Stuttgart Ballet for our wall calendar with celebrities and kids with a little extra. We couldn't have been more blessed with the two models: the outstanding and internationally renowned ballet dancer Jason Reilly and our adorable eleven-year-old Sophie who had been taking ballet lessons ever since the early age of 4. Sophie and Jason immediately hit it off. There lies some magic on the 47th chromosome that breaks the ice instantly with the people they encounter and like. The two of them had so much fun, and Sophie enchanted the whole team on set with her enthusiasm, joyfulness and radiating warmth. She insisted that the music of Sleeping Beauty is played loud and then she danced with her prince through the room as if there was no tomorrow. Sophie's mom Sylvia had tears in her eyes and was overjoyed. Overjoyed that nobody in the room saw Sophie as a child with down syndrome, but as a beautiful girl who loves to dance ballet and to have fun.
After our shoot we took two polaroids (one of our established traditions) and had Jason sign them for Sophie. We were all smitten by this handsome, incredibly nice and super talented young man who truly has a heart of gold. Sophie liked him so much that she spontaneously invited him to have BBQ with her and her family (which is another beautiful tradition at Sylvia's and Sophie's - I have so many fond memories of tons of yummy „Hot Dogs" over the last decade in their beloved backyard), and Jason didn't wait a second to accept the invitation and said it would be his great pleasure to come. The rest of us was speechless and quite impressed, because heck yes who in the world wouldn't want to have BBQ with this wonderful guy, the Soloist of the Stuttgart Ballet!? But who in the world would dare to ask him out for that? ;-)
As always, life got busy, winter came .... but Sophie had never forgotten about her invitation. Fast forward ten years in July 2016, as luck would have it, Sophie's parents met Jason on another occasion and they reminisced about the wonderful shoot and then remembered the outstanding BBQ invitation. This time they didn't wait too long and immediately made plans for coffee and BBQ. What a great afternoon. Jason came with his gorgeous girlfriend Anna Osadcenko, and Sophie was completely over the moon and in heaven.
There is magic in the 47th chromosome. It's absolutely impossible to resist our kids with a little extra once they spread their charme. They enchant you. They win you over. It's pure love. Unconditional love. No strings attached. Something rare to find in our world. I get often asked what I love the most about photographing our kids with a little extra. Beyond a million other things (that would make another long blog post) it is that they break the ice with other people and put everyone immediately at ease. When we do our celebrity calendars, they manage to instantly break the ice and I get the most authentic and pure smile from the celebrity you wouldn't get under normal circumstances. Seriously I thought about a million times. If I would ever have to photograph a „difficult" person, I would take an assistant with down syndrome with me, and I would get the best and most genuine results. No kidding! ;-)
Wishing you guys a wonderful and happy summer, lots of BBQs, days in the pool or at the beach, yummy cocktails with colorful straws and lots of sunshine ... and I hope to see you back here refreshed and reenergized in September. School's out tomorrow so I might not get a chance to blog before we leave on vacation. See you soon! xoxoxo
Last week I had coffee with one of my wonderful clients (now friend ;-) who is also self-employed ... and we talked about the challenges and rewards of being an entrepreneur and how a typical day of working from home looks like. When I told her that I get up quite early in the morning before the rest of the family awakens to enjoy some peace and quiet time, but first thing check on all my social media and texts ... she looked at me almost in disbelief and said „That's how you start your day?"
That morning I learned that the way you start your morning sets the tone for the rest of your day. When we wake up we are still in kind of a vulnerable state. So when we enter the loud and noisy world of social media and scroll through the soundless but loud chatter of Facebook absorbing the word and images of other people's lives or we look at the news with the latest tragic headlines or we read an e-mail that might upset us, we inevitably give ourself the message that the world outside of us and the lives of others is more important than our inner world. She said it's like if you'd have a young child that comes up to you and wants to snuggle with you and tell you something in the morning, and you keep pushing her aside so that you can read your smartphone.
And then she told me about her morning rituals and how this book has changed her life. Of course, I immediately had to get my hands on it ... I will read it on our vacation, then hopefully follow through on it and implement all the six habits into my life, and later tell you about it. ;-)
The quotes below are out of that book. More Valerie lovin' coming at the end of summer, so please stay tuned! Have a happy Monday (evening) and a great start into this week with people who give you good energy!
It's been the third year that these sweet girls came all the way from Hamburg to celebrate their special friendship with a photo shoot with me ... and I couldn't be any happier. I can't find words to sum up their unique bond, it's one of the greatest gifts in life. They are girlfriends, best friends, soulmates and confidants. They always enlighten, inspire, and empower each other, and they go through thick and thin. They value each other, they equally give and take, they openly share their vulnerability and they have the most beautiful „band aids" to fix any problem. And when one of them celebrates her birthday, they go out of their way to the moon and back to make sure it will be their best day ever. These girls just have it all ... a beautiful friendship is something you can't buy. It's worth a million dollar, and yet it doesn't cost anything ... it comes straight from the heart.
Please enjoy a few images of these three sunshines .... Here's to all our girlfriends! xoxo