Thursday, August 26, 2010


Fussen is a small town about 2.5 hours south-west of Munich city by train, it's the start/end point of the 350 km romatic road in Germany. The most famous castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, are located near the town. Travellers by rail change onto buses No. 73 or 78 at Füssen railway station to Hohenschwangau bus stop. I booked a room at Hotel Konig Ludwig in Schwangau, luckily enough, I got on a bus that didn't go to the castles as most of the buses did and 10 minutes later the bus stopped in front of the hotel already.

After checking in, the concierge told me it's better to walk about 10 minutes to the tourist information office in Schwangau Rathaus and then take a bus from there to the castles as not many buses stop at Hotel Konig Luwdig. I went in the tourist info office to get some pamphlets and the staff told me it's about 15 minutes by foot to the castles. Fifteen minutes later, I was still on the road that seemed to have no end and the Neuschwanstein on the hill seemed to be staying away from me at the same distance, it took me about 40 minutes to get to the ticket center! If what the staff told me about the distance was right than I must be a slow walker.

To visit the castles, one has to purchase the tour at the ticket center and arrive at the castle's turnstile at the time that is printed on the ticket. Tours are available in English and German or with an Audio guide. I purchased English tour for both castles, it was a great tour in Hohenschwangau, but I found it too crowded in the Neuschwanstein. It was so crowded that some people couldn't find their way to get in the Throne Hall when our guide started her introduction. So here is the advice: get an audio guide tour for Neuschwanstein. The tours last only 30 minutes, only 7 rooms are opened for the public in Neuschwanstein, and no photos are allowed in both castles. On the path to Marienbrücke (Mary's Bridge), you can get a great bird's eye view of the Hohenschwangau. The bridge itself is as famous as the castles as it provides a great view of the Neuschwanstein. However, to get a postcard-view of the castle, one has to cross the bridge and somewhere in the steep terrain is where the dreamy catstle pictures are taken.

It was around 20:30 when I got back to the ticket center and it was empty down there, no cars no people, I was the only one walking on the road. It was until I heard cheers from a bar at the corner of the tourist information office in Schwangau Rathaus then I realized it was the semi-final football game, Germany V.S Spain. I couldn't find a table available in the bar so I ran back to my hotel bar and ordered a small cup of beer, watching the game with everybody. Basically, my tolerance for alcohol is zero, by the time I finished my beer my eyes were all red like I was crying and the game ended with the result that Germany lost its chance to get the world champion by 1 point. Everyone in the room was disappointed and an old man looked at my red eyes trying to comfort me, he said: "oh well, it happens. Anyway, it was a good game, so don't be sad". I nodded and pretended to wipe off a tear from my eye.

2010 world cup this was the video broadcasted all the time in Germany.

I was wondering why most of the guests in the hotel were elders with walking sticks. During my stay, they even had a prosthesis conference held in the hotel and the hotel looked more like a high-end rehabilitation center then a hotel to me. From the Fussen official website I realized that  the town itself is a recognized hydrotherapy spa and "Where health is tradition" is one of the slogans in Fussen. The nature of the town is incredibly beautiful and the biking trails are well designed so the riders can enjoy the nature without worrying about having a close encounter with automobiles.

The bold €6.90 on the board of a Chinese restaurant attracted my attention when I was wandering around Fussen town. It's very difficult to refuse a Chinese lunch buffet for only €6.90, so I went in and the boss spoke fluent Mandarin made me believe that it would be an authentic Chinese delicacy. "Try our spicy & sour soup" said the boss, while I was enoying my food. I am not a soup person, so I smiled and nodded and kept eating my food. A moment later, she went by and said the same thing to me again, "they are so proud of their spicy & sour soup, it must be good" I thought, so I got a cup and gave it a try. I tasted it and had to try very hard not to scream out loud "man this place needs to hire a better chef, the soup is terrible, yuck!" It tasted sweet and sour instead of spicy and sour, actually it's so sweet and sour that I believed someone must had tip over the sugar and vinegar bottle. A few minutes later the boss went by to check on me (she really was persistant in having their guests try the spicy and sour soup) and she bursted out laughing, "that's not the spicy & sour soup, that's sour sauce for salad" she said. I was so embarrassed, even the "foreigners" at the other tables were giggling, I must be one of the few Taiwanese who could not tell the difference between spicy & sour soup and sour sauce. I finally never did try the soup, but their food was good nevertheless.

View Fussen in a larger map

Useful info:
You can search train timetables of Munich/Füssen as well as bus timetables in Füssen via DB Bahn website.  Print-out train timetables are available at the DB Bahn station lounge in Munich.

You can get a discount when purchasing the tour of the castles or the boat cruise in Forggensee with a hotel check-in certificate.  

A boat cruise on Forggensee is possible. There are long cruises (2 hours, €11),  3 boats depart from Fussen Bootshafen at 10:00, 12:30 and 15:00 daily; and short cruises (55 min, 8), 6 boats depart from Fussen Bootshafen at 10:30, 11:30, 13:00, 14:20, 15:30 and 16:30 daily. More infomation at

Hohenschwangau official website:
Neuschwanstein official website:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


My journey in Munich actually started in the Munich Franz Josef Strauss Airport. I was transitting via Munich to Dubrovnik, and the connecting time was 10 hours later! I went through every duty free shop in terminal 2, including the Private, a sex toy shop. "It can't be, a sex toy shop in the international airport?", I thought, looking at the sexy lingerie and the cute version of dildos displayed in the window. I walked in the shop and a big flat screen TV was broadcasting pornography; DVD, role playing costumes, condoms and dildos molded from the famous porn stars, sizes for all were exhibited blatantly. I felt the heat on my face when I encountered the smiling staff's eyes. It's a new way to boost energy efficently after hours lingering among the duty free shops, dont' miss it!

I participated in a free walking tour organized by the Sandeman's new europe. Our guide, Travis,  not only had he shown the group the tourist attractions in the city center but also told their histories and tales. it was an informative and pleasant 3.5 hour tour. Walking in the historical sites in the center of the city, you got to admire how precise the Germans are; the city went throught World War I and II, and still it looks just like the way it was back in the old days. Knowing Munich would be a hot zone in the war, Germans took tons of pictures from every corner of the city before the war which helped the restoration of the city.

The BMW Museum is the ultimate attainment of beauty and high-tech. The museum presents the milestones of automobile making through the decades with exceptional lighting and projections. The architecture itself is an extravaganza complimenting the cars. You don't have to be a millionaire to touch these beauties but you wish you were one after a tour in the museum.

Englischer Garten is one of the world's largest urban public parks. Standing on the gravel trail that extends to both sides and dispears in the dense forest, I was indecisive of which direction to go. It was a hot sunny day and blisters on my feet demanded a cool sedation, so I went along the creek toward up stream. It was a big open space, people laid on the grass next the creek, with tops off, enjoying the suntan. I sat by the river bank and soaked my feet in the icy cool water enjoying the sun like everyone else. Then I saw a man stripped off completely in front of me, I looked away, and on the left, 3 naked men were spinning their kids around and everyone seemed cool about it. It then made sense to me, that's why the symbol/acronym of naturism was adpoted from German FKK (Frei Körper Kultur, free body culture).

I wanted to go to the Kaltenberger Ritterturnier Knights Tournament but my timing was not right. If you are there at the right time in July take a look.

Useful info:
If you are getting and leaving Munich via the Munich Airport plus you are staying in Munich over 24 hours, the Bayern-Ticket is the ticket you should purchase. The ticket is valid throughout the entire MVV network, plus the whole of Bavaria, on regional trains. It is available from all the ticket machines in the airport or via the internet or one of the automatic ticket machines at the DB Bahn station.

Muenchen tourist office:
Public transportation:
Munich Wikitravel:
Virtual tour:
Toytown--Germany's English speaking crowd:

Thursday, August 19, 2010


Plitvice Lakes National Park was on my must see list when planning the trip in Croatia, and it seemed the bus commute between Zagreb and Zadar was the only way to get to the park, so I gave up the Episcopal Complex of the Euphrasian Basilica in the historic centre of Poreč and headed to the capital of Croatia, Zagreb. While waiting for a bus to Zagreb at the Plitvice lakes bus stop, I met a couple who were also going to Zagreb and the girl was half Taiwanese from her mother's side even though she couldn't speak Mandarin. Before any bus came, a minivan stopped at the bus stop and a woman asked if we would like to share the van with them, 3 Australians, to Zagreb, so we hopped in the van and enjoyed the nice company and beautiful scenery on the road to Zagreb.

The city is devided into the upper and lower towns; churches and historical buildings are located on the hilly park of the city whereas art museums and greenery parks are scattering in the lower town. The buzzing Trg Josipa Jelacica and the adjacent Dolac fruit and vegetable market are great starting points for a walking tour as they are located on the 'border' between the upper and lower towns. The colorful tiled roof of St Mark's Church makes it stand out from the surrounding buildings. Did the same architect design the roof of the St Stephan's Cathedral in Vienna as well, I wondered. Despite the emblem of Zagreb on the roof, somehow the color tiled roof church looked 'German-ish' to me.

"Zagreb doesn't do many markets, but those that it does do, it does well." The Dolac fruit and vegetable market (06:00-15:00; daily) sells freshly picked vegetables, flowers and fruits from all over Croatia and the antiques market (09:00-14:00; Sunday) on Britanski Trg is a treasure island for collectors. Hrelic (07:00-15:00; Sunday) is the biggest flea market I have ever seen so far. The market is located in Sajam Jakusevac, about 20 minutes away by bus (No. 295) from the city center. From hundreds of meters away, I could see goods laid out on the ground on both sides of the road, it's only when the bus had come to a full stop that I realized how big the market was. Almost half of the market was second hand cars and car parts. I saw CDs, underwear, kitchenwear, anything you can name, even a pig roast, all this in an area that looked like a big garbage dump or gravel pit. A man was having fun with his untopped umbrella, "it's perfect for anyone who wants to get a beautiful suntan in the summer", he said with broken English. That was the highlight of the market for me, charming.

Summer means fun in Croatia. I spent one night in the Park Ribnjak watching people fire dancing with the music; another night sitting in the rain watching Opereta Gala at Scena Gradec. Teenagers with great profiles, shirt off practicing flips while a little boy watched and trying to imitate them. The city is not only fun but has a lot of energy in summer, no wonder it is listed as one of the coolest places to go.

Useful info:
Zagreb has a well-developed and efficient public transport system that consists of trams, buses and trains. The tram network is an ideal transportation in the center of the city (routes and timetable in Croatian) while the local bus system covers the area outside the city center. The price of a single-ticket valid for 1.5 hours is 10 Kuna; a day ticket (dnevna karta) valid for both tram and bus until 4 am the next morning, is available for 25 Kuna at most kiosks. Buy a ticket and punch it in the little orange machine once you enter to validate.

Zagreb card grants you unlimited travel on public transport in Zagreb, discounts at virtually all of the city’s museums, reduced prices at many restaurants, shops, and service providers (discount details). The card is valid for 72 or 24 hours (90kuna or 60kuna) from the date and time entered on the card and is not transferable.

Zagreb tourist board:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Plitvice Lakes National Park

There are two entrances in the park, the main entrance on Plitvička Jezera and the secondary entrance at Velika Poljana. Buses from Zagreb stop at the main entrance that accomadates souvenir shops, resaurants, etc. Buses from Zadar stop at a wooden bus shelter and a skywalk that leads into the forest where 3 hotels and the secondary entrance of the park is located.

The path from the secondary entrance leads to the largest lake, KoZjak Lake,  and forms a boundary between the upper and lower lakes. The upper lakes are seperated by dolomite barriers, surrounded by dense forests and interlinked by several gushing waterfalls. The lowers lakes were formed by cavities created by the water of the upper lakes. Most of the water comes from the Bijela and Crna rivers and pool in the Proscansko Lake. There are 16 lakes in the park, all connected by well designed wooden walkways and trails.

View Plitvice Lakes National Park in a larger map

Useful info
Bus timetable:
To get in: seach timetable with autobusni kolodvor, the station of the Plitvice Lakes National Park is Plitvička Jezera. Another searchable timetable is Liburnija Zadar, if you are departing from Zadar (Croatian only). There are discrepancies from two search engines, it is highly recommended to re-confirm the bus schedules with the bus stations. To get out: If the bus is not full, it will take on more people. Bus schedules are posted at information stations near both entrances to the park.

Ticket: if you are staying in one of the hotels in the park, buy a one day ticket and have your hotel stamp on it that will give you unlimited access to the park and all transportation in the park during your stay.

There are many routes in the park (maps) and all are well-marked. You can choose one that fits your schedule and an easy way to see all the lakes and waterfalls is to take a shuttle bus to Okrugljak Lake at the top (St4) and then walk down (red line). Take a boat at P2 to P3 (green line) and then red line to St1. Take a shuttle bus back to St2 where the hotels are located. (Google map above)

Plitvice Lakes National Park official website:

Monday, August 16, 2010


I thought my hotel was located in the old town of Zadar which is about 20 min walking distance, 1.6km, from the main bus station. After 15 minutes walking on the sidewalk with cars driving by fast from both directions, I still couldn't see a sign that looked old enough to me. It was a view you would see in any modern city: big roads with lots of cars, high-end boutique shops, tall buildings with opaque picture windows, etc. I couldn't help wonder did I choose the wrong direction again? I stopped in a photo shop to ask for the direction to my hotel and she looked at me like I was a lunatic. "You should take a bus, No. 5, and of course you could always walk if you insist, but it would take at least 30 minutes" she said. A trip in Croatia made me realized that my sense of direction was not as good as I thought it was, so I bought a ticket from her and got on the bus not knowing of which stop to get off. It was my lucky day, I got off the bus by instinct and there it was, Hotel Donat, situated on the grounds of the Falkensteiner Hotels & Resorts Borik, nestled in a large park with pine trees and a pebble beach next to the Adriatic sea.

I got only two days to come out with an itinerary and to get all my hotel bookings done before I could send my application for the Croatia visa (read here), so I picked my hotels by scanning through the prices, internet critics and their locations on the google map. I didn't pay attention to  the details of my bookings so when I was told that 3 buffet meals and drinks from the pool bar were included in the room rate (euro$ 81), I was happy even after I finally realized that the hotel was 4 km away from the old town, 6 km from the main bus station. It was a beautiful sunny day and Zadar was my last chance to dip in the Adriatic ocean, I spent the whole afternoon getting suntan while drinking refreshing cool drinks from the pool bar.

The compact old town of Zadar is overshadowed by the surrounding modern architecture. Even in the old town what attracts people the most is the world famous high tech designs, the sea organ and sun salutation, and clubs/bars run by UB40's producer Nick Colgan and drummer James Brown. When St Donat's church (one of the best preserved pre-Romanesque buildings in the world) is no longer in use for religious ceremonies together with the Roman Forum next to it becomes a theme background of an outdoor cafe shop, it is the Venetian lion on the town gate that tells the fading histories of the city while cars drive through it.

Useful info:
Take bus No. 2 or 4 from the main bus station to the old town of Zadar. A bus ticket in one direction costs 8 kuna while a two way ticket costs 13 kuna. Two way tickets are only available for purchase at Kiosks.
Local bus routes:
Intercity bus routes:
Searchable timetable (Craotain only):

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sibenik & Krka National Park

Saying goodbye to Trogir, I went north to visit the Krka National Park. Located in Šibenik-Knin county, central Dalmatia, it is just about 15 kilometers away from the city of Sibenik. There are 7 daily buses that commute between Sibenik and Skradin via Lozovac (2010 timetable, intercity line, ŠIBENIK - SLAPOVI KRKE - SKRADIN). Departing from Sibenik bus station, the bus drops you outside Skradin's old town. You can pay the park admission fee at either Lozovac or Skradin entrance; the price includes a bus (from Lozovac entrance) or boat (from Skradin entrance) ride to Skradinski Buk where the walking trail starts.

I wanted to take a boat ride to Skradinski buk so I bought a ticket to Skradin. Somehow the idea that Lozovac entrance was further than Skradin stuck in my mind (maybe because Lozovac is located at the upstream of the national park?) so when I saw the first parking space of the Krka national park and all the "touristy looking" people seemed to be all getting off the bus at this stop, I was confident that I must have arrived at the Skradin entrance. I bought a ticket and was ready for the boat ride even though I couldn't see a boat. I asked the staff where could I take the boat and she told me the shuttle bus would take me there. The shuttle bus stopped in front of an information/ticket booth and the staff came out selling tickets for the boat excursion, I was totally confused, the boat ride should be included in the admission no? It wasn't until I saw the boat docking by the river bank at the other information booth at the other end of the trail that I realized I got off the bus too early and I took the Lozovac entrance instead of Skradin.

The Skradinski Buk is the longest and the loveliest waterfall on the Krka river. Wooden trails built on water take you deep into the flourishing forest making a close contact with waterfalls possible. In fact, at the bottom of the Skradinski Buk you can swim in the icey cold water with the most magnificent waterfalls in the area as background. I saw a man climb up the cliff and dove into the water; girls in bikini posed for photoshoots; babies happily tapped water in fathers arms on shore; seagulls waited by the falls for fish; a snake submerged into the water luring fish to take the bait.., it was paradise for everyone.

It takes about 2 hours to circumnavigate the Skradinski Buk (if you only stay on land) and that's just a small propotion that the Krka National Park has to offer. A boat excursion to Visovac Island, Roski slap, the Krka monastery and the Early Croatian fortresses of Trosenj and Necven is also availabe with extra price 50-130kn based on the journey you pick. Details refer to the google map and the official Krka National Park website below.

View Krka National Park in a larger map

Sibenik is often overlooked by tourists and served as a pitstop enroute to the Krka National Park. Churches and monasteries, stone houses and mansions, all are ornamented by portals and heraldic crests, Sibenik is one of the 7 UNESCO Heritage sites in Croatia and the highlight, Cathedral of St James, was constructed entirely of stone and is reputed to be the world's largest church built completely of stone without brick or wood supports. Well, after exploring the city of Dubrovnik, Split and Trogir, Sibenik seemed a bit plain at first glance. I got back to Sibenik from Lozovac and waited under eaves of the public library to open for internet access (opened at 18:00; 10kn for 2 hours) while pouring rain hit. An hour later, the rain stopped, I walked out of the library and it seemed that the historical city came back to life with the touch of golden rays from the sky, like a miracle. Jugglers and a mini circus were busy entertaining the crowds whereas a ballet was staged in between the town hall and the cathedral of St James. It was the trademark of Sibenik, International Children's Festival, that has been held during the last week of June and the first week of July annually for the past 40 years. I bought a popcorn and sat on the stone road with crowds enjoying a "mosquito movie*" in Hrvatska, even though I didn't understand what they were saying in the movie, I laughed like a kid.

Useful info
Sibenik buses timetable:
Krka National Park:
Sibenik time: 
Explore Sibenik :
Grad Sibenik:
Tourist board:

* In Taiwan, a mosquito movie is a humourous term for an outdoor projection at special occasions like a local temple ceremony where people tend to get bitten.