The Carefree Traveller’s Book of ABC ~ B is for Berlin

9 03 2012


B is for Berlin, the capital city of Germany and one city where I will highly recommend anyone who is interested in history to vist. Berlin was a classic tale of 2 cities, separated by the famous Berlin wall built by East Germany in 1961 as a result of the tensions from the Cold War. Even though the Berlin wall has been torned down and Germany reunified, parts of the wall and the famous Charlie Checkpoint still remain. It is difficult to imagine that just a simple wall (it’s not really that high) can divide Berlin into 2 – East and West Germany, each with a unique legal status. If you want to understand more about Germany (at least historically), a visit to Berlin is a must!

To read more on my journey to Berlin, go to

Schwetzingen, Bruchsal & Maulbronn

8 07 2008

Over the last weekend of June, my roommate has kindly invited me to her hometown, Maulbronn.

Our first stop is in Schwetzingen, a small little town in the state of Baden-Württemberg known for its beautiful garden. This town is a 1.5 hrs drive from Frankfurt on the NO SPEED LIMIT German expressway (really shiok!). The garden is really pretty and worth a visit.

After which, we drove another 45 minutes and arrived in Bruchsal, a city in the Baden-Württemberg state. Bruchsal has an interesting palace which I called the “fake” palace. Not that the palace is fake but lots of things you see in there are actually paintings in 3D effect that you though is real (but in fact is a painting). For example, there are nice decorated pillars, which in fact are just walls with 3D drawings on them. Likewise, nice elaborated decoratives on the windows (typical of the baroque period) are also drawn paintings.

From Bruchsal, we drove another 45 minutes and reached my my roommate hometown, Maulbronn, with the famous Maulbronn Abbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I love Maulbronn. It is really a nice small town with beautiful houses (just like those you see in the German fairytale story of Hansel and Gletel). It’s not much visited by tourists so it maintains the “real” German little fairytale town feel.

– Most German expressway do not have speed limit. Some speed limit signs are recommended (but not mandatory)
– Bruchsal’s fake palace is worth a closer look. Everything you see, make sure you walk up close to see if it’s the “real thing” or the “fake” painting
– Maulbronn is really nice. There’s public transport there but apparently it’s not too convenient. So if you are interested to go, rent a car (or it can be a good stopover since it is near to Manheim).

Frankfurt ~ My 2nd home

7 07 2008

Frankfurt, a place that I have called home for a period of time in 2008. I love the beautiful Romer (aka Townhall), Frankfurt Dom, Opera House, the river Mianz and of course eating the famous frankfurter sausage and applewine. All these places are walkable (but if you totally dislike walking, you can take the U-bahn). I know many people who visit Europe will know Frankfurt only for its airport, this is the city that I truely love, the place that will have a special place in my heart. There is really much more to Frankfurt than its airport and I urge anyone to visit this beautiful city.

Tips for Frankfurt:-
– The U-bahn and S-bahn are super convenient and will bring you to all the tourist spots. Ask for the U-bahn and S-bahn maps are the tourist information counter (there’s one at Hauptwache). Unlike many countries, there are no “gates” at the train station in Germany. So what you need to do is just buy the ticket at the ticket machine and then board the train. There’s no one at the train station to check BUT there are conductors that may do a surprise check on the train and if you are caught riding without a ticket, there will be hefty fines!

– A good place to see Frankfurt skyline is to walk across the bridge (there are many but 1 nearer one is near to the Frankfurt Dom) to Sachsenhausen on the Mainz river.

— Must eat the frankfurter sausages. A couple of friends who visited me all said that they love the sausages!

– Drink applewine at Sachsenhausen. Ask for “sour” which is the applewine mixed with sparkling water. In some shops, you can ask to mixed with lemonade for a sweeter taste (but sour is the traditional way of drinking and hence the more traditional shops only serve sour).

– Visit Bornheim which is nice little part of Frankfurt (it’s a residential area but I feel it’s nice).

– If you have more time to spare in Frankfurt and will like to do some nature walk, somewhere north of Frankfurt, there is the Taunus where you can do a hike. You can take U-bahn (which is the subway) to Hohemark station and hike up to Fuchstanz (which means “fox dancing”). At Fuchstanz, there is café so you can have some food there before you hike up again to Feldberg, the top of Taunus where you will be able to see Frankfurt and Königstein castle. Beware the whole hiking journey up and down takes around 6-7 hours!


Side trips from Frankfurt:-

– Germany is a nice country and I will strongly encourage you to see as much of the country as possible. Mainz, a nice medivial town, is only a short train ride from Frankfurt and a good day trip (you can either take the RB train or even the S-bahn which is even cheaper if you have more time). There are also other nice towns/cities for a day trip from from Frankfurt (within 3 hours ride) such as Heidelberg, Cologne, Bonn, Munich, Stuggart, the Blackforest region, etc. Berlin is around 4 hours from Frankfurt. See separate posts that I have written on these cities

– Frankfurt has very good connections to many parts of Europe (it’s a transport hub) so you may want to include Frankfurt as a “gateway” to see other parts of Europe. For example, Paris (, Amsterdam ( and many cities in Switzerland ( are around 3-4 hours ICE train from Frankfurt. Or alternatively, you can fly to other parts of Europe from the Frankfurt airport such as Prague (, Vienna (, London (, etc

– Note that for budget airlines (RyanAir in particular), the “Frankfurt” airport that it uses is not the Frankfurt main airport but rather Frankfurt Hahn which is around 2 hours by bus from Frankfurt (it’s pretty near Luxembourg). There’s a shuttle bus from the Frankfurt Central train station which will take you to Frankfurt Hahn airport.

Bonn – Beethoven’s birthplace

30 06 2008

Talk to anyone about classical music and the first name that people will shout out is Beethoven even though they may not appreciate classical music.

Bonn, the birthplace of Beethoven, is only 1.5 hours drive away from Frankfurt. For music lovers, this is THE PLACE that you must go, cos the whole town centers around Beethoven. Bonn is like the rest of the typical German little towns. So I guess if you are not interested in classical music / Beethoven, there’s really nothing much in place for you (since the town is famous for Beethoven’s house and the museum). I love it though. The museum is fantastic, with many collections of instruments which Beethoven used.

– Bonn can be a good resting stop while you enroute from Frankfurt to say Cologne or Belgium instead of a direct drive.
– Most people cover Bonn with Cologne, famous for the Dom. Cologne is only 1 hour train ride from Bohn.
– Half a day should be more than enough to cover the whole of Bonn

Blackforest ~ Freiburg & Titisee

28 06 2008

Took an ICE train to Freiburg which took less than 2.5 hrs and then a 40 mins RB train to Titisee, famous for its lake in the blackforest
Before returning to Frankfurt, I did a sightseeing of Freiburg, a southern city in the Blackforest region.

Nothing much in Titisee, except for the lake Titisee. I find it a bit touristy, and it has many cuckoo clock stores. However, the blackforest cake here is really nice and is a must-try! The cherries in the cake are made from the blackforest cherries and soaked in wine. It’s the most tasty blackforest cake I ever had (and I can’t seem to find a better one ever since).

Freiburg has much more to offer. As a little town, it has the townhall, the nice German streets, and known as the warmest and sunniest corner of Germany, which makes it a wonderful place to sit around outside in the park and watch people wander by with the blackforest as the back-drop.

– Buying the train ticket to Titisee generally allows you to do a stop at Freidbug for free so you might as well make use of this.
– The blackforest cake is strongly recommended to everyone. Eating blackforest cake in blackforest is a blessing 🙂

Hamburg – Gateway to the World

17 06 2008

Many years back when I was trying to teach my little cousin ABC and when we reached the letter “H”, he immediately said “H” for “Hamburger”!

Hamburger, the food which many kids grow up loving, actually originates from the German city of Hamburg. Hamburg, a northern German city, is well known for its port and often known as the “Gateway to the World”. Hamburg still keeps its tradition of being an open, yet discreet city. Like northern Germans, Hamburg people tend to look rather reserved but once you get to know them, you’ll be surprised by their warmth and friendliness. The Hamburg harbour and its fish market, Reeperbahn (Hamburg’s red light district), the historic warehouse district, Townhall, Michel (the famous church) are among the interesting “attractions” in Hamburg.

– The miniature wonderland in Hamburg is a MUST-SEE! I would say it is the best around the world, with the world’s biggest railway exhibition.
– There’s a lake near the Central train station which showcase a musical fountain with swans swimming in it. Bring lots of bread. The swans will love you 🙂
– Do eat the Hamburger which originates from Hamburg. Of course, being a port city, the Fish and Chips are also really nice.


1 06 2008

The word beer will normally let one relate to October-feast, a famous German festive in Germany, particularly in Bavaria. Munich is the capital of Bavaria. The beautiful old town of Munich, with MarienPlatz, Saint Peter’s which is Munich’s oldest and most venerable parish church, cathedral Frauenkirche, the Viktualienmarket and its special beer garden and of course the most famous Hofbräuhaus (court brewery).

From Munich, a 2 hours scenic train ride brought me to Fussen, a small town in Bavaria, home to the beautiful the Neuschwanstein castle built by the mad king Ludwig II. This castle is more popularly known as the “sleeping beauty castle” as Waltz Disney modeled the castle in its fairy tale. But indeed, the castle has lots of fairytale stories. It’s kind of hard for me to pen down in words its beauty and stories and I will strongly recommend a visit to the castle.

– From Fussen station, there is a bus to connect to the castle. The castle is located at the top of the hill. The bus will stop at the lower castle which is also worth going if you have the time. From the lower castle, there are 3 ways to get to the castle. First, you can choose to walk up to the Neuschwanstein castle which takes around 30 minutes hike to the castle and 45 minutes walk if you want to go to the waterfall and bridge. Alternatively, you can take a horse ride which follows the same path as those hiking up. However, I recommend the third option which is take a bus ride to the waterfall as the hike is quite tedious and the horse ride is quite expensive. At the bus stop on top of the hill, it is only 5 minutes walk to the waterfall and the bridge where you can take in the full view of the castle (the best place for photo). There, it is about 15 minutes walk downhill to the castle itself.


29 05 2008

Since young, whenever people talked about Germany, the first impression that came to my mind is the Berlin wall. Hence, I was really excited to have the opportunity to visit Berlin, the capital of Germany. Starting from the Brandenburg Gate where many advertisements of the branded brands have it as the background, I followed the line of the Berlin wall (or what’s remaining) through the former Nazi Government District to Checkpoint Charlie. It’s kind of interesting to look at the 2 different “notices” at the Checkpoint (1 by the Nazi Government and the other by the Americans). Looking at just the thin and low walls and the checkpoint, my imagination started to roam wild with images of West versus East Germany and how many people risked their lives attempting to flee from the East to the West. Other places that are worth a visit include the Eastside gallery, 1920s Cabaret Mile, Gendarmenmarkt, Museum Island and Lustgarten which is the oldest royal gardens in the heart of the city.

Tips for Berlin:-
– The Berlin wall at the center of the city (near Brandenburg Gate) is just the wall. If you are looking at interesting drawings on the wall, make a trip to the Eastside Gallery in Berlin (just take the U-bahn or S-bahn). It showcases funny pictures on the westside of the wall and just graffiti on the eastside of the wall, showing again how people perceive the west as being the heaven versus the east as otherwise.
– There is free walking in Berlin (yes in English) so if you do not know what to visit or prefer to have a guided tour, you can join that.
– Potsdam, the city of the Kings and Kaisers, is just a short train ride from Berlin. It has many famous palaces including the Sanssouci Castle and is the jewel of the Prussian Empire with beautiful baroque streets. There is many tours going to Potsdam but the cheapest and most conveniently way is to join those conducted by the free walking tour (but you need to pay for it but much cheaper than those run by the travel agency).
– Berlin is famous for curryvurst (ie sausage with curry powder sprinkled on top) so do try it 

Heidelberg and its castle

30 04 2008

Heidelberg, a 2 hrs RE train from Frankfurt, is famous for its castle ruins. I love Heidelberg. The attractions are all in the city which is like a short ride from the central station (less than 10 minutes ride but if you want to walk, it takes around 35 minutes or so). Once you reach the city centre, all attractions are within walking distance. The Neckar river and the old town, the interesting church cum cathedral (both in 1 building), Hercules at the Marktplatz, Madonna at Kornmarkt, the old bridge, the old student prison, etc.

Tips for Heidelberg:
– Take a tram from town up to the castle and then walk down to the town. It’s always easier to go downhill than up.
– By the side of the old bridge, there is a monkey statute. Legend has it that you will get good luck if you touch the monkey’s bronze plate!

Went back to Frankfurt that night as there was a Night Museum event. It was so interesting to visit the museums at night and there were lots of performances and special events such as learning to dance Salsa.

Königstein & Cologne

22 04 2008

We have a training in Königstein, a forest north of Frankfurt (an hour drive). A nice little town with an interesting castle and beautiful forest. We had a nice dinner cum drinks on 16 April night in the hotel and training on 17th.

On Saturday, took an ICE train to Cologne to meet my “Amsterdam friend”. Cologne is a little town by the Rhine river and is famous for the Dom (the famous black colour Cathedral).

Must dos in Cologne:-
– Climb up the Dom (it’s quite a climb but totally worth it once you are up there with the view of the river and the town).
– Eat the curryvurst (ie the sausages with curry powder sprinkle on it)
– Have small change (toilets access cost Euro 50 cents each). No free toilet even at McDonalds.