Europe 2014 Munich, Germany 18122014 – 20122014

We arrived in Munich after a nice drive. Munich definitely feels much more alive than Frankfurt, there were quite a lot more to see compared to Frankfurt.

We stayed at ibis Munich City West, which was in a quiet part of Munich. However, as there is a U-Bahn station just outside the hotel, it was very convenient to get to where we wanted to go.

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The traditional German beer house is a must. We went to the famous Hofbräuhaus.

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Then it was another Christmas market in Munich.

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The next day, we left Munich and drove to Nuremberg, where we experienced the last, and the best, Christmas market in Germany.

Europe 2014 Romantic Road, Germany 17122014 – 18122014

The next day we had one of the nicest breakfast for this trip, served by a really grumpy woman who was muttering in German throughout. Luckily for us, we did not understand a word!

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We left the B&B, driving for the next few hours to our next destination Fussen. Truthfully, the medieval old town was nice to visit, but it quite actually quite creepy. The overcast weather did not help.

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We headed for Neuschwanstein Castle, which is just a short distance from Fussen. This castle is world famous, and was the inspiration behind the Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle. There is also another castle beside it, the Hohenschwangau Castle. That was the castle we went to first. After buying the tickets for the timing we chose, we took some photos at the base of the castles.

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We then climbed up the hill to visit the Hohenschwangau Castle.

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Unfortunately photography was not allowed inside the castle.

There are 3 ways to get up to Neuschwanstein Castle, by horse ride, by bus or walk. We decided to walk up. It was quite steep and tiring!

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The bridge over the canyon is call the Marie’s Bridge (Marienbrücke) where it provides a vintage point to view the castle. Unfortunately as it was getting to closing time, we decided to skip it.

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Again, photography was not allowed inside the castle until the end of the tour.

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We drove to Fussen to stay the night in City Apart Hotel Fuessen. As it was dark and raining heavily, we spent quite a lot of time driving in circles, trying to find a way to get to the hotel. In the end, we had to park 2 blocks away. After enquiring at the front desk, we found out the road in front of the hotel is closed to traffic after a certain timing. It was inconvenient to drag our luggage from the car to the hotel, and because the hotel has no lifts, we had to drag our luggage up a few floors to our room. However, our room was spacious and comfortable. After a quick wash up, we found a nice German restaurant nearby, Madame Plüsch, to have German food for dinner. The food was quite good!

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The next morning the rain had stopped, after a nice breakfast at the hotel, we decided to go to the Marie’s Bridge to view the castle instead of the planned drive to Munich. This is the advantage of having a free and easy holiday.

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This time we decided to take the bus up as the bus stopped very close to the bridge.

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After alighting from the bus, and walking a short distance, we finally reached the bridge. The view from the bridge justified our decision to drive to the castle again.

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After the bridge, visitors usually walk to the castle. But as we already did the castle, we decided to wait for the bus to take us down the hill.

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We then drove to Munich where we stayed for the next 2 nights.

Europe 2014 Romantic Road, Germany 15122014 – 16122014

The next part of the trip was traveling along the Romantic Road. We had a nice Turkish breakfast at Simit Sarayi, before having a really nice cup of coffee at this place Wackers Kaffee.

What we ate at the Turkish breakfast place:

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Coffee at the cafe:

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Fantastic coffee at this cafe that is full of character. We were walking around Frankfurt after coffee.

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Then we went to collect our car, and we almost did not make it. It seems they will only hold the car reservation for us for only 2 hours, and we collected the car with 15 minutes to spare. Just when we thought we can finally get onto the road, we realised the car they gave us was a manual car, even though we specifically asked for automatic one. In the end, the only automatic car they have is a van. Since we did not want to delay any further, we took the van.

The fastest way traveling along the Romantic Road is to use the Autobahn. There are almost no speed limit on it, and together with the fact that this was the first time I was driving in right hand traffic, i.e. steering wheel is on the left hand side of the car, it was especially stressful initially. Driving at 180km/h and most cars still overtake you is not something that happens often in Singapore.

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The starting point of the Romantic Road is the city Wurzburg. It is a beautiful city, and a wonderful place to start the Romantic Road trip. The first stop when we reach the city was the majestic Marienberg Fortress (German : Festung Marienberg). It is located on the left bank of the Main river in Wurzburg, and on top of a hill, providing a very nice view of the city. The fort itself was very quiet, and because it was winter and on top of a hill, we were freezing.

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Then we drove to our hotel for the night, Mercure Hotel, though we had to make a few turns to find it. It was not a bad place to stay, the staff were friendly, the rooms were clean, tidy though quite small. After checking in and putting down our luggage, we walked across the famous Alte Mainbrücke (Old Bridge) on our way to the Christmas Market.

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There is the bridge in the background as we walked along the river bank.

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We finally reached the Christmas Market of Wurzburg. It feels less commercialised than the one we went to in Frankfurt and was almost as big.

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Dinner was at the Nordsee restaurant, a chain of restaurants that serve really nice seafood. Besides, we were getting sick of the usual sausages that are found almost everywhere in Germany.

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After dinner, it was time to head back to the hotel.

The next time, we had a quick breakfast at a small cafe before heading to the UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Wurzburg Residence. I am not sure why it is called a ‘Residence’ when it is clearly a palace. We reached before they were open, so we spent the time taking photos of its exterior.

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Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photos inside the Residence. However, it was definitely worth the visit. We then went back to the hotel to check out, before proceeding to our next location for a bit of shopping, the Wertheim Village Outlet.

It was not as good as the outlet shopping in Japan, but it was not too bad. Unfortunately, it was winter, and so it was selling mostly winter clothing. We managed to buy some additional winter wear, just in case, that was really cheap. It proved to be the correct decision in the subsequent days of this trip. We had this fantastic burger in one of the restaurant for lunch.

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We then head off to our next location, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. It is a very well-preserved German medieval old town, and was the inspiration behind the village in the 1940 Walt Disney movie Pinocchio. It was almost dark when we reached our stay for the night, Hotel Klingentor Garni. It was a nice bed and breakfast place, just a short walk to the medieval town. We found that the accommodation outside the medieval town tend to be cheaper than those within. The town is surrounded by old walls and towers. We wanted to walk around the walls but was told by the owner of the B&B not to do it after dark. We asked if it is because it was dangerous since there is no light, he said no and mysteriously left it at that. We eventually did walk along the walls for a short distance before we decided to move on to the town.

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The famous shop in this town is the Käthe Wohlfahrt, which sells Christmas decorations and items the whole year round. The shop was brightly lighted, and was filled with every kind of Christmas decorations and toys.

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Then we went to the Christmas market. It was not big and does not feel very commercialised.

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We also tried the town’s food speciality, Schneeballen or Snowball. It tasted quite good.

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Then we decided to head back to the B&B to retire for the night.

Europe 2014 Frankfurt, Germany 13122014 – 15122014

Planned this Europe trip to clear my leave in December 2014. Then unexpectedly, I found another new job, so have to ask for 3 weeks of leave immediately after starting work, which was approved.

The main objective of this trip was to see countries that we never have been to before, see snow, and hopefully, manage to catch the Northern Lights. Not only did we see lots of snow, caught the Northern Lights on two separate nights, we even had a little adventure. All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Flew in to Frankfurt on the 13th December night, and the plan was to rest the next day to prepare for the road trip in Germany. As it was going to be a one week road trip and this is the first time I am doing a left hand drive, I wanted to ensure I have enough rest before starting the road trip. I did not want the previous experience I had in Perth, where I flew in on a red-eye flight, collect the car, then drove for six hours all the while struggling to keep awake.

Frankfurt is primarily a business city, as such, it was functional. It lacked a certain character, a certain charm to it. However, there were still plenty of things to see, and do. We also encountered our first Christmas market, and though it felt very commercialised, we enjoyed it a lot.

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Reflections 2014

Reflections for the year 2014 is very late, in fact, almost 1 1/2 months late. Spending New Year in Europe, followed by trying to adapt to a new job had me postponing this post till now.

The start of the 2014 had me making some mistakes in my job, which contributed to not getting the promotion. It was depressing actually, but I was glad I managed to put that behind me. The rest of the year career wise was pretty smooth sailing. In fact, I was doing a pretty good job managing the new projects that came my way subsequently, and managed to reduce the huge number of escalations previously from that account to zero. As mentioned in my reflections for 2013, I was always looking out for new opportunities, and this came sometime towards the last quarter of the year. It was to an environment that I had always wanted to work in, and with a nice increase in salary too. It is a big organisation, and with such size, it will definitely comes with its own set of challenges. I was sad to leave actually, especially since I had a good boss, and I was doing pretty well with the projects on hand, but there is no way I could reject the increase in salary. For 2015, I just want to perform well in my new job, considering the fact that it is a totally different ball game altogether, an environment that I was never in throughout my career.

On a personal note, I have continued with my exercise regime, and I really enjoyed it. The races that I ran in 2014 are the Sundown Marathon Half Marathon, which I will never do it again since I did not enjoy it at all, the SIA Charity Run 10k, which I enjoyed a lot and managed to get a PB for 10k, the SAFRA Half Marathon, which was not too bad, and the revenge run SCB Singapore Marathon 21k where I definitely performed than the disastrous one in 2013, but still not up to own expectations. I mentioned last year that I want to do a full marathon in 2015, and hopefully this is something that I can achieve. Also, I am seriously considering an overseas race. After that, perhaps it is time to move to triathlons.

I went on numerous work trips to Malaysia and Indonesia, even manage to go for a training trip to Melbourne. For personal trips, I manage to visit Bali where I witnessed one of the best sunset ever, Taipei where I eat, and eat, and eat some more, Germany where I drove a left hand drive van along the Autobahn at 180km/h and experienced many Christmas markets, Denmark where I spent the New Year and was amazed at how much the Danes love firework, and Sweden, catching 2 nights of Northern Lights in Kiruna, Northern Sweden, thrown off a dog sled three times, staying in the famous Ice Hotel, sharing a train cabin overnight with 4 other strangers while it cuts through a snow covered landscape, and discovering the delicious Senapssill or pickled herring. It was definitely a very fulfilling year when it comes to travelling. I hope to continue to do the same in 2015.

Financially, things improved in 2014, there was increase in liquidity, and only one case of investment losing money. I am treating this as a lesson learnt. I wanted to increase my savings by 25% in 2014, which was not achieved, though it was close. I will try to save even more for 2015, but with the expected increase in expenses due to the new car, this will be challenging. But I will try.

I have also started contributing back to the society in little small ways, and I want to continue this in 2015. I have almost stopped reading altogether in 2014, and this needs to be kick started again in 2015. As for the last resolution, I want to ‘de-clutter’, simplify, and learn to find happiness in the smallest of things.

2014 was not a bad year, one of the better year I had in recent memory. As I prepare to embark on another stage in my life in 2015, I shall learn to enjoy the little good things, forget about the unhappy and bad ones, and hope for an even better year.

The Tailor Motivation

After running for a while now, I came to realise that I needed motivation regularly to keep running, be it a new running route, a new running gadget, a new pair of running shoes or even a change in the training schedule. Recently, it came from a very unlikely source – the tailor.

The last time I went to the tailor was back in 2011. Surprisingly, they still have the record of my measurements then. The tailor, who did the measurements then, even added three Chinese characters on the record that said I have spare tire. Brutal, but honest.

I mentioned to the tailor that they will need to re-measure since I have lost some weight, so he did. However, he simply refused to believe the measurements as he said it deviated too much from those on my record. He measured again and again, while referring to my old records again and again. Finally, he was convinced after I told him I have been running.

I know I lost weight, as a matter of fact, I lost 12kg since I started running regularly at the end of 2012 even though I have a lot more to go before my ideal weight, but I did not realise I lost that much till I compared my current measurements with the one back in 2011. It definitely did wonders to my ego, but most importantly, it provided me with another motivation to keep running.

The next time if I have any doubts as to why I am subjecting myself to the pain, the misery, the cramps from running, I just need to think of my tailor.

We Never Appreciate Something Until It’s Gone

There is this saying that is often quoted about how we never appreciate anything until it is gone. I just realised how true this is.

My washing machine broke down recently.

I did not realise how much I have relied on my washing machine in my life. It had become so much part of my life that I have taken it for granted. After each run, just throw the sweaty running gear into the washing machine. Handles the washing of my clothes during the weekend. It was literally one of the tools that kept my house clean.

Now I have to handwash my clothes while waiting for the repairman to repair it. The last time I handwashed my clothes was, what, during my NS days. And repairmen do not work on weekends. Am I suppose to take a day’s leave just so I can get my washing machine repaired?

Now I hope my aircon do not break down next.