Discovering the world with relentless curiosity

Category: Destinations

Neuschwanstein Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle (“New Swan Castle”) is one of the most beautiful and famous castles in Germany. It is also the most visited castle in Europe. Our guide, Stacey began her…

Neuschwanstein-Castle

Neuschwanstein Castle (“New Swan Castle”) is one of the most beautiful and famous castles in Germany. It is also the most visited castle in Europe. Our guide, Stacey began her tour by intriguing us with the creator of the castle. His name was King Ludwig II of Bavaria, also known as the “Fairytale King”. Ludwig (as I will call him) was a character shrouded with mystery. He once told his governors,

“I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others”

and it is this mysterious element that fascinated me (leading me to research more about him even after the tour).

Neuschwanstein-Castle

 

Neuschwanstein-Castle

Ludwig was crowned king at the age of 18 years old when his father Maximilian II suddenly passed away. Throughout his childhood Ludwig remained very sheltered and protected. His parents Maximilian II and Marie of Prussia were almost non-existent attending to royal duties in and out of Munich. Ludwig spent a lot of time alone which festered his day dreaming. Ludwig being a growing boy searched for a role model and found one in Richard Wagner, a world – renowned composer.

It was predicted from the start that Ludwig would not make a very good king, however he prevailed wanting very much to give the throne to his only brother Otto. However the unfortunate struck, Otto was declared mentally unfit to rule and Ludwig had to continue his reign. After some time, Ludwig found his refuge in places of solitude. He retreated from the public and stayed in Hohenschwangau Castle most of the time.

He turned to day dreaming once again, but this time with the royal treasury at hand, Ludwig was able to turn his dreams into reality. In 1869, the foundations of Neuschwanstein Castle were laid. 18 years later in 1887, after the mysterious death of Ludwig in 1886, the castle was completed. Although Ludwig wanted the castle as a refuge and requested that the castle be torn down when he dies, the government decided to open the castle to the public due to the enormous debt he had piled up from his extravagant building plans.

The famous German castle overlooks the picturesque Hohenschwangau valley and is located only a short distance from the popular tourist town, Fussen. It was built in Richard Wagner’s honour and many rooms in the castle’s interior were inspired by Wagner’s poetic characters. The castle was designed by a theatre set designer instead of an architect making it look like a scene from a theatre instead of real life. Indeed, this castle has appeared in a few movies but more notably, it bore inspiration for castles you see in Disney Land. The famous 20th century icon, Walt Disney saw, replicated and created his own in USA.

Staggering figures associate with this romantic sight; since the time it was opened, over 50 million people have visited the Neuschwanstein Castle. About 1.3 million people visit annually, with up to 6,000 per day in the summer. It has been told that the foundations holding this castle are starting to wear down due to the immense numbers frolicking it… nonetheless, if it crumbles (perhaps not in my lifetime) – here are pictures to tell.

Neuschwanstein-CastleNeuschwanstein-CastleNeuschwanstein-CastleNeuschwanstein-CastleNeuschwanstein-Castle

No Comments on Neuschwanstein Castle

This Is Dachau

To honour the dead and warn the living A statue erected to remind us all that history is not contained to geographical borders, nationalities or cultures – instead it is…

Dachau (16)

To honour the dead and warn the living

A statue erected to remind us all that history is not contained to geographical borders, nationalities or cultures – instead it is prominent life lessons for humanity that we will choose to make positive and peaceful decisions instead of destructive ones. The statue above is of a common prisoner, with his head held high, hands in pocket and one leg in an at ease motion. During his time in prison, he is not allowed to lift his head up to face a guard, put his hands into his uniforms’ pocket and must always stand in attention. If he is caught doing them, punishment will be acquitted.

The gates with the words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ (‘Work Sets You Free’) were kept ajar as a sign that this once grim and forbidden fortress is now open. Its secrets uncovered, its victims honoured and its stories now live to tell. Dachau was the very first Nazi concentration camp set up as a hub to capture political prisoners who fought against its regimes. It later enlarged detaining criminals and Jews. People who entered the camp never knew whether they will ever come out – frightfully so, many didn’t make it out. Jews were thrown in by the hundreds and thousands – without reason, without even the right for trial and possible freedom. This was the difference between a concentration camp and a prison – Dachau was hell on earth for many innocent men, especially those of Jewish descent. It was reported that over 200,000 people went through the camp and 43,000 lost their lives to the ruthless torture and extreme work environments.

Dachau (2)Dachau (13)

Detainees went through a strict system upon entering the camp. The mocking and torture would begin even before they enter the camp grounds. It was required of the public to spit, mock and discriminate the people entering the camp as they walked from the train to the camp gates. Anyone in the public who resisted would be treated the same as those whose fate lie in the hands of the SS guards.

Prisoners were stripped of their dignity, respect and possessions as they entered the first hall leading to the shower room. Their possessions were confiscated from them, even mere entities like photographs of loved ones or identification documents. From that moment on, they were only known by numbers. Guards would lead them to the communal shower room where they were forced to strip down losing their dignity, then their hair shaven before being shoved to the ground where they will frantically grab any piece of uniform from the heap on the floor.

Dachau (3)Dachau (4)Dachau (7)Dachau (8)Dachau (9)

Punishment was erratic and many times without reason, or instigated by SS guards. Prisoners were hung from a metal bar for hours losing all strength in the limbs, then whipped and mocked at. Other prisoners suffered canning by 2 guards simultaneously on both sides while counting one to twenty-five in German. Non-German speaking prisoners will suffer twice or thrice the punishment simply because they can’t count proficiently in German. Still other prisoners suffered the fate of being a guinea pig to the mad medical doctors who tried all kinds of experiments on prisoners for military developments during WW2. Whatever the punishment was, it baffles me how inhumane people can become, their conscience seared, their souls swallowed up by a seeming beast.

Dachau (11)Dachau (12)Dachau (15)

Walking down the silent expanse of torn down barracks, we entered the crematorium where thousands of lives passed on and delivered to the fire. Pictures show that at one point the camp ran out of coal, thus bodies could not be cremated; instead they were piled on top of each other like meat at the butchers, rotting away. The feeling walking into the crematorium and passing through the gas chambers is too awful for words – there is an immense sense of doom and although the building is quite sizable, I felt extremely trapped with a sudden surge of claustrophobia. No one – no one should ever have to go through this…

No Comments on This Is Dachau

Food In Munich

There’s somewhat a laid-back attitude with the people here in Munich. Beer halls, taverns, restaurants, cafes and streets are always filled with masses. A popular tradition in Munich is of…

There’s somewhat a laid-back attitude with the people here in Munich. Beer halls, taverns, restaurants, cafes and streets are always filled with masses. A popular tradition in Munich is of course beer drinking, we opted to taste a different Bavarian speciality instead – the food of course!

What we most readily associate Germany (food wise) with is of course the sausage. They call it wursts here. Sausages are usually served on a bed of sauerkraut, which is essentially boiled and pickled cabbage. Sausages here are amazing – the texture, taste and how its properly served. And despite not being entirely a meat lover – I’m dazzled by the sheer passion for meat of all sizes, cuts and taste as I walk through the local food market.

Munich-Germany (38)Munich-Germany (37)

We dived into a typical Bavarian platter at a famous beer hall. This time is of pork knuckle, sausages (again), pan-fried duck, dumpling and sauerkraut. Hearty, fatty, warm and delicious – needless to say we walked back to our hostel in absolute satisfaction.

Munich-Germany (2)Munich-Germany (3)

No Comments on Food In Munich

Hello Munich!

After two days of feeling under the weather, we flew from London to Munich in hope for a fresh view of another part of Europe. We spent our last two…

Munich-Germany (7)

After two days of feeling under the weather, we flew from London to Munich in hope for a fresh view of another part of Europe. We spent our last two days in London with Adlee and Owen in their cosy home near Ealing Broadway. We were treated like king and queen with superbly delicious meals served every evening and a super-sized guest room to hibernate in!

Touching down in Munich meant ‘serious backpacking’ all the way… until we leave lovely Europe at the end of January. It was also our first real challenge as Munich had most of their signs, instructions, directions, in German! To our surprise we were given a warm welcome and given specific directions to get to our hostel by an absolute stranger who saw the question marks in our eyes.

Munich is the most expensive city in Germany, but it is also the place to experience the sights, sounds and tastes of traditional Germany. This city apparently is the heart and soul of Bavaria. The city carries with it 800 years of history tucked in the every side alley, cobblestone, signpost and window. Stories of love, vengeance, bloodshed, victory and the like fill the air. Munich’s history is a long, important one – it was the central hub of the rise of the Nazi power. Adolf Hitler, a person renown for his dictatorship and heartless acts is not something that people in Munich keep a hush on. Apparently it is encouraged to talk about it so that history does not repeat itself and lessons could be learnt from generations of suffering.

Not only is Munich filled gruesome history, it is also a city of victory as the city saw its surroundings crumble into rubble during WW2, however today walking into the city, you can only see buildings restored to its former glory, having taken years of meticulous reconstruction.

Munich-Germany (12)Munich-Germany (6)Munich-Germany (4)

No Comments on Hello Munich!

Travel Tips In Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a fantastic city for tourism, rich in history with castles and museums dotted all over the city. However, for budget travelers, it can be an expensive city, with…

Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a fantastic city for tourism, rich in history with castles and museums dotted all over the city. However, for budget travelers, it can be an expensive city, with entry fees to all those places adding up quickly. So after 7 days of exploring the city by foot, here are some recommendations:

Affordable accommodation

  • Caledonian Backpackers on Queensferry Street – The building is just off Princes Street where the buzz happens. Free (and great) breakfast from 6am – 12noon. Free wifi and internet access. Super cheap bar. Mini beanbag cinema with an endless list of movies. Hot showers, comfy beds, generally clean. And the wall murals are great for pics.
  • Budget Backpackers on Grassmarket – There are over 700 pubs just along Grassmarket if you’re into pub crawling. Grassmarket used to be a trading place and a place for execution way back. Creeps for those whose imagination goes wild! The facilities are a lot newer, room prices are cheaper however everything else is on a paid-to-go basis. Breakfast is at 2 pounds, internet access 1 pound for ½ hour, baggage storage 1 pound per locker…

Food, Glorious Food

  • Maggie Dickson on Grassmarket – they serve really good chilli con carne, great for a hearty hot lunch. They offer discounts for students at 7.95 pounds for 2 mains.
  • The Last Drop on Grassmarket apparently serves mouth watering haggis (haag-geese) but the line was always too long for the wait, so we skipped it. Try it If you’re around and let us know if it’s really that good. Haggis is the traditional dish of Scotland, it is hot peppered minced meat served with a gazillion other spices. Usually served with Neeps and Tatties (mashed potatoes and turnips).
  • Rose Street is a street filled with pubs and restaurants. Go there if you have exhausted all places for food. From Mexican to Japanese to (obviously) Scottish food!

Things to do

  • Free walk tour by SandemansThe New Europe tours are designed for any kind of travelers for a first-hand introduction of specific cities in Europe. It is fun, engaging and educational – best of all it’s free. It’s quite impossible to download the entire history of a city but this tour dissects years of history into sizeable bits for all. Tour guides work on a tips only basis, which means we get to rate our tour guide and tip what we think he/she deserves.
  • National Museum of Scotland is a great place for knowledge thirsty folks. There are 5 floors to explore and you should visit the remains of the first cloned sheep, “Dolly” stuffed and encased in a glass box on a rotating plate. Admission is free.
  • Edinburgh Castle – The castle at Edinburgh perches on volcanic rock and dominates the city skyline. During the medieval period the castle at Edinburgh became the chief royal castle. State records and crown jewels were housed there. The room leading into the crown jewels is very impressive (take particular notice on the ‘Stone of Destiny’) and do a google search to find out its amazing ‘adventure’. Tip: Book online!
  • Climbing Arthur’s Seat or surrounding hills. The view from the large volcanic hill in the center of Edinburgh is a wonder on its own. Situated inside Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat takes approximately 1 hour to climb. Since it way icy and slippery we opted to climb other surrounding hills, but if you’re in Edinburgh in summer, spring or autumn – make sure you climb it!

EdinburghEdinburghEdinburghEdinburgh

The over rated places…

  • Tours to Loch Ness is way over rated, whilst the scenery there is beautiful, you literally spend 6-7 hours on the bus to and from Edinburgh. Loch Ness, (Loch in Scotland means Lake) is a pristine and quiet expanse of water with the famous legend of “Nessie” the Loch Ness Monster surrounding it.
  • John Knox House – Unimpressive and very much over-rated. John Knox only stayed in the house for a period of time and only a percentage of what tourists see are authentic fittings from the original structure. Admission fee is 3.50 pounds.

EdinburghEdinburgh

No Comments on Travel Tips In Edinburgh

Welcoming 2010 In Edinburgh

Welcome to 2010 in Edinburgh (“Air-deen-brrrrrr”)! If you didn’t know Edinburgh is one of the best cities to count down and celebrate the new years – parallel to places like…

Edinburgh_fireworks

Welcome to 2010 in Edinburgh (“Air-deen-brrrrrr”)! If you didn’t know Edinburgh is one of the best cities to count down and celebrate the new years – parallel to places like Times Square-New York, Hyde Park-London, Sydney Harbour Bridge-Australia and the likes. Incidentally the Scottish capital of Edinburgh put on one amazing show, with festivities that start almost as soon as the Christmas turkey is off the bone. The city wide party is called Hogmanay (“hog-muh-nay”).

Despite the cold, tickets are sold for an outdoor street party on Princes Street (the street dividing the new and old town). Thousands of revelers fill the streets as they party, elbow through the mad crowd and finally countdown to an awesome fireworks display at over Edinburgh Castle. Instead of fighting our way through the crowd, we headed out only at 1030pm to scale the famous Carlton Hill where it’s said to have the best views of the city below. Little did we know that fireworks were to go off on Carlton Hill as well!Edinburgh

We were awe-struck by the colourful rainbows on the black silhouette skies as tonnes of fireworks burst into the air.

No Comments on Welcoming 2010 In Edinburgh

Dream Come True

(Guest Post by Terence Ooi)  As a boy growing up, soccer pretty much consumed my life. I had many dreams and a visit to Old Trafford was on top of…

(Guest Post by Terence Ooi) 

As a boy growing up, soccer pretty much consumed my life. I had many dreams and a visit to Old Trafford was on top of the list. Those of you who know me, I’m a huge MU fan, though my enthusiasm today, cannot be compared to what it was years ago. I was probably a real fanatic then.

I even once contemplated and said aloud – “I just want to be the gardener at Old Trafford”. How silly and impetuous!
This dream once died, revived, died and…revived. It did seemed too faraway, or probably not possible. Well, just a couple days short of the New Year – I walked, toured and visited the Theater of Dreams. It was beyond a dream come true. It was my Disneyland. What I’ve seen only on magazines and pictures, was now reality right in front of me. Our tour guide mentioned countless of facts about United, and I nod to most of them in agreement to what I’ve read or known. Stretford End, the players dugout, their changing room, their friendly banter and the treble – were all sung and “glorified”. We even had a mock walking out from the dug out to the pitch, with cheers and singing (all recorded) from the fans. It’s still pretty vivid in my memory – never imagined my wife would have tagged along too. But she did say – “she enjoyed it!”

Old Trafford 047Old Trafford 055Old Trafford 064Old Trafford 075Old Trafford 088Old Trafford 109Old Trafford 118Old Trafford 133

No Comments on Dream Come True

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search