How to visit Austria: Introducing Vienna – the most civilised city. Ever!

One of the best types of sausages in Austria – A most wonderful hotdog. In Vienna!

My! My!

I’m doing rather well!

So far this year, I’ve been to Amsterdam, I’ve been to Zaandam, I went skiing in the Czech Republic, and I’ve just got back from Vienna.

In Austria!

You know the one!

The hills are alive with music n’ all that….!

Visiting Vienna is quite delightful!

I’ve been to Austria before of course, and I’ll be telling you soon enough all about it!

Myself on the balcony of our room at the 25 Hours Hotels, Vienna!

This time however, the reason that I decided to choose Vienna was to celebrate the “0” birthday of my husbandThe Music Producer.

I wanted somewhere “nice.”

And I wanted somewhere connected to music.

Voila!

Austria!

Let’s get a little bit of history.

AUSTRIA

A horse & carriage in Vienna!

Austria, otherwise known as Österreich, is a federal republic, and a country of just over 8.7 million people.

It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Most of Austria is highly mountainous in the Alps with its highest point 3,798 m or 12,461 ft! In fact, only 32% of the country is below 500 m or 1,640 ft!

Most people speak a local Bavarian dialect of German as their native language, although Austrian German is the actual official language of Austria!

In fact, the last time I went to Austria about 10 years ago (cough! cough!) we went hiking for a week in the Austrian Alps.

Austria, Hungary and Slovakia are so closely connected that you can easily travel between them!
p.s. Not by the alpine lift obviously!

And it was all rather pleasant until we went mushroom-picking in the forest.

The guide was explaining where we were going, and the safety of identifying edible mushrooms.

Now I speak and understand German.

In fact, I’ve done a few TV / radio programmes and spoke quite successfully (I think), in the Germanic tone expected.

But I couldn’t for the life of me understand a single word he said!

I couldn’t for the life of me, understand a single word he said!

I was standing in the middle of our mushroom-picking crowd, so I moved to the front.

No can do!

I stood literally eyeball to eyeball with the fellow, in order to enhance my hearing.

Nope!

Nothing!

Nada!

I was quite distressed.

I was quite distressed.

And my husband wasn’t with us.

So I turned to my son who was five (5) years old at the time, to see if the guide was speaking utter nonsense, or if it was just me.

It was just me!

My toddler had to translate things so that we wouldn’t get poisoned, and die!!

Ooops!

I needed to know what we doing, so that we wouldn’t get poisoned with mushrooms, and die!!

Back to the history!

The origins of modern-day Austria date back to the time of the Habsburg dynasty, when the vast majority of the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, Austria retained its position as one of the great powers of Europe. However, after the fall of Napoleon, German Prussia emerged as the leader of the Germanic-speaking countries with the Austrian Empire reformed into Austria-Hungary, thus excluding Austria from the then new German Empire.

Sadly, it was the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria on June 28th, 1914, and the troubles thereafter, that ultimately led Europe into World War I!

Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, 1914 – whose death brought the onset of WWI.

After the collapse of the Habsburg (Austro-Hungarian) Empire in 1918 at the end of World War I, Austria attempted a union with Germany which, by the Treaty of Saint Germain and the Treaty of Versailles of 1919, forbade both the union and the continued use of the name “German-Austria” – Deutschösterreich. Until Adolf Hitler invaded and annexed Austria in 1938.

As a result, the Republic of Austria ceased to exist as an independent state, and officially became a legalised part of Germany, until 1955!

If you’re worried, don’t be.

Present day Austria is a lovely country, and the locals are hilarious!

Present day Austria is a lovely country known for it’s human rights policy, democracy, skiing, hiking, music, classical ballroom dancing, art and culture.

Austria has a very high standard of living, and is one of the richest countries in the world!

In fact, even Germans flock to Austria because of it’s wealth of opportunity!

And many of them go to Vienna!

WHY GO TO VIENNA?

The majestic sight of St. Peter’s Church, probably the oldest church in Vienna!
Photograph ©Frank Böster

OhMiGosh!

Where do I start?

Vienna is an imperial beauty!

It’s the capital of Austria and the cultural. economic, and political centre of Austria.

With a population of just 1.8 million, Vienna is the second (2nd) largest German-speaking city in the world, after Berlin!

Vienna is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. In fact, Prague, Slovakia, and Budapest, are but a few cheap hours away!

And just in case you have a couple more days to spare, this is what I wrote about them:

Myself as lovely as Prague!

PRAGUE:

BUDAPEST:

BRATISLAVA:

Look how wide and green Vienna is!

Vienna is not only the capital of Austria, but also the city in Europe with the highest ration of green space, woods, grasslands, parks, and gardens which make up almost 50% of the city, beating even my most beloved city of Berlin!

Vienna also has the most frequently photographed monument in the city – the golden statue of Johann Strauss, has the circus fairground of Parter, the beautiful Schönbrunn Palace Gardens, the Vienna Woods, vineyards, farmlands, and the wetlands of the legendary Danube River!

A genius such as Ludwig van Beethoven.

Vienna has a history to be jealous of, going further back than roughly 15B.C!

A precious heritage, charming traditions, imperial architecture, museums, art collections, works of art, the world’s first psycho-analyst – Sigmund Freud, the home of musical geniuses such as Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Brahms and Mahler, as well as the era of the Habsburgs who reigned for more than six (6) centuries!

Vienna is rich in baroque, historicism, art nouveau, as well as a nod to a world-class cultural complex and a future-oriented design of 60,000 square meters of space for a highly creative cultural scene in the Museums Quartier where we stayed, and in fact, all of the city!

Vienna is a city of beauty.

What not to like?

Wow!

Myself outside one of the Habsburgs palaces in the Museums Quartier, Vienna!
Photograph ©Frank Böster

I’ve got lots to say about Vienna, so I’ll tell you all about it next week. If you really can’t wait, there are loads of pictures and funny quips on Twitter!

Book your hotel here!

HOW TO VISIT AUSTRIA: INTRODUCING VIENNA – THE MOST CIVILISED CITY. EVER!

How to visit Austria: Introducing Vienna – the most civilised city. Ever!

This article is part – sponsored by the Vienna Tourist Board and I received a press discount from the 25 Hours Hotels, but all opinions and the charming traditions that I experienced, are my very own! Thanks so much!

In April & May, I’ll be visiting Croatia, Sweden & Finland!

From 07.03.17 – 09.03.17, our friends – the British musical and comedy duo – Carrington Brown – will be performing Germany’s premiere of Carrington-Brown feat. The Swonderful Orchestra: Comedy meets Classics at Tipi!

I’ll be there. Will you?

If you’re not in Berlin in March, I really can’t help you!

How to visit Austria: Introducing Vienna – the most civilised city. Ever!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

How to visit Austria: Introducing Vienna – the most civilised city. Ever!

Have you ever been to Austria? Is Vienna a civilised city? Share & let me know below! 

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

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How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

As you know, a few weeks ago, I went to Holland.

And of course, I didn’t just go to Holland, but I decided to visit Amsterdam!

Visiting Amsterdam is awesome!

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager - "The Tall Young Gentleman"
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager – “The Tall Young Gentleman”

And I admit. I was a little nervous taking a teenager to that city famous for it’s redlight districts and all that it entails…!

But it all worked out well in the end, and we had a great time together.

Phew!

Take a photo of me. No meeeee!
Take a photo of me.
No meeeee!

Now, to be frank, I hate being out of the loop, and I generally prefer to be in the centre of things, and that usually includes staying in the Old Town, or the trendier part of town!

So it was a surprise to myself, that this time around, I booked a place that was more family-friendly, and one of the things that made it easier to even think about bringing a child. To Amsterdam!

Book your hotel here!

Zaanse houses in Zaandam!
Zaanse houses in Zaandam!

A place called Zaandam.

Zaandam?!

Is that a spin-off of Amsterdam or something?

No!

Are you sure?

Yes!

Sure-Sure?

Sigh!

WHY GO TO ZAANDAM?

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills! Don't these houses look cute?
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
Don’t these houses look cute?

Zaandam is pretty cute!

It’s a city in the northern part of Holland.

It’s located on the Zaan, close to the North Sea Canal.

And it’s a hop and a skip from Amsterdam!

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

Zaandam has a population of around 72,597 and is extremely famous for a place called Zaanse Schans.

Zaan what?

Zaanse Schans?

What’s that, when it’s at home?

The Zaanse Schans is a unique part of the Netherlands! @Bart Homburg
The Zaanse Schans is a unique part of the Netherlands!
@Bart Homburg

Well, the Zaanse Schans is a unique part of the Netherlands, filled with wooden houses, mills, barns and workshops. It’s also an inspiration of Monet who painted 25 works of art, one of the most popular Dutch attractions of the Netherlands, and an anchor point of the European Route of Industrial Heritage (ERIH)!

It was the anchor of the Dutch Golden Age and a region known for its food industry and combined innovational skills. From windmills to steam engines, to entire factories and to the preserved industrial heritage of contemporary Holland. The Zaanse Schans was always an important working class industrial town producing linseed oil, paint, snuff, mustard, and paper. And also a living museum platform that shows visitors what it was like living in 18th and 19th century Holland.

Clogs made in Holland.
Clogs made in Holland.

At the Zaanse Schans you can stroll past the Bakery Museum and enjoy the smell of fresh bread, or take a look at the warehouse where clogs are made. You can pop into the cheese factory, the pewter foundry, or go into the various traditional windmills.

You can also do what the Dutch do, and go on the cycle trail of Monet, eat waffles and pancakes, browse through the crafts and handiwork, eat cheese, or simply go sailing.

The Zaanse Schans has a marvellous collection of well-preserved houses, and historic windmills!
The Zaanse Schans has a marvellous collection of well-preserved houses, and historic windmills!

The Zaanse Schans also has a marvellous collection of well-preserved houses, characteristic private residences, museums, and historic windmills!

The type of windmill of yore!

TAKE ME THERE?

Take me to Holland!
Take me to Holland!

As you know, I’m a great believer in train travel, so as is the norm, I booked seats on the ever-popular Deutsche Bahn train going to Amsterdam.

Our journey from Berlin took just 8.5 hours with a stop-over and 6.5 hours, without! But of course, you can just as easily fly into Amsterdam Airport Schiphol which from most European countries, takes less than 2 hours, and is a destination flown by many major airlines around the world.

How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!
How to visit Amsterdam in two days. With a teenager!

If you’re on a tight budget then many bus-coach companies such as Eurolines, or MeinFernbus FlixBus also land in Amsterdam. But do be aware that the Amsterdam Bus station is in Amsterdam Sloterdijk, and although 5 minutes away by train, is still going to cost you €3.20 (+chip card) to get to Amsterdam-Centraal, as it’s in the suburban area! Also, if you arrive at 03:00 then you have a bit of a wait, as the last train leaves at 01:22, and the first one leaves at 05:41!

And the shops at the train station are closed!

There are buses aplenty in Holland!
There are buses aplenty in Holland!

There is a bus that will take you into the city, but unless you have “business” in the wee hours of the morning, you won’t be able to check in anywhere. Hence, as soon as I got into Amsterdam at about 06:00, I found a nice hotel and had a cup of tea until it became light and decent enough for me to check into my hotel at the time!

Anyway, whichever way you arrive, you need to make your way to Amsterdam-Centraal.

Any which way, make your way to Amsterdam-Centraal train station!
Any which way, make your way to Amsterdam-Centraal train station!

Zaandam: The train runs twice an hour, is 2 stops away from Amsterdam, and takes just 13 -14 minutes, and costs €2.70 for a single ticket.

Zaandijk Zaanse Schans: The train runs twice an hour, is 4 stops away from Amsterdam, and takes just 18 -20 minutes, and costs €3.10 for a single ticket.

For more information about public transport in Amsterdam, or anywhere in Holland, check out the Dutch Railway website!

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills! @I amsterdam - Cris Toala Olivares
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
@I amsterdam – Cris Toala Olivares

Not in the winter it isn’t!

But in the summer, plan well.

Outside of Amsterdam proper, it’s really popular attracting 1.4 million visitors per year.

But then again, not really!

I mean, if you’re in Amsterdam for the weekend, you’re hardly likely to go off somewhere else, when a weekend is hardly sufficient in the first place!

Most people who go to Zaandam have either been to Amsterdam before, so it’s not an issue, have children with them, or have a few more days to spare!

Book your hotel here!

WHAT IS ZAANDAM LIKE?

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills! "The Tall Young Gentleman looking cold & wet!
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
“The Tall Young Gentleman looking cold & wet!

I was only there for literally a night and a day, but Zaandam definitely made an impression on me.

Zaandam is a place of historical interest, where people go about their normal everyday business even though there were Dutch houses everywhere. If you were to go to Pennsylvania in the US, it would be a bit like that. But normal!

Using items from an Open-Air Museum, makes the Zaanse Schans more up to the point, and realistic!
Using items from an Open-Air Museum, makes the Zaanse Schans more up to the point, and realistic!

The Zaanse Schans is charming and fun and the type of place very eager to welcome tourists and entertain you. With seven (7) houses turned into seven (7) museums: The Weavers House, the Cooperage, the Jisper House, Zaan Time Museum, Albert Heijn Museumshop, Bakery Museum. And loads of windmills. You just can’t go wrong!

I DON’T SPEAK DUTCH.

Don't worry if you don't speak Dutch. You'll do just fine in English!
Don’t worry if you don’t speak Dutch. You’ll do just fine in English!

Not. A. Problem.

Everyone pretty much speaks English in Holland!

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

Ha! Ha! Not unless you want to!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Holland isn't your cheap destination, so if your budget is really low, you're going to have to plan tightly, and look for things which are free!
Holland isn’t your cheap destination, so if your budget is really low, you’re going to have to plan tightly, and look for things which are free!

I’ll be honest with you. Amsterdam isn’t cheap.

I can’t give you any details but for the more budget conscious traveller, there are plenty of hostels and other moderately priced accommodation to be had. Book ahead to get good prices.

Book your hotel here!

I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING A BIT DIFFERENT. ANY IDEAS?

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

Absolutely!

I had my child in tow, so I was looking for something a little bit more charming than your average hotel.

And I found it!

I was surfing on the internet (as you do), when I saw a picture of a weird-looking house.

I wanted to know more, so I booked it!

We stayed at a rather unique 4 star hotel called the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam!

The rather unique 4 star Inntel Hotel Amsterdam Zaandam!
The rather unique 4 star Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam!

The hotel has an impressive facade which has a sort of stacking feature so that it looks like a house made out of Lego!

The Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam is a building with a lot of character, and surprisingly, it was not the only one. There were more such houses in the Zaan region!

How many times have you thought, ooooh this house looks lovely? Oh, and this one. And this one! I bet never!

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam. Because windmills! @Mike Bink
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam.
Because windmills!
@Mike Bink

It was such a pleasure on a cold, windy, freezing, rainy morning to wander around from one interesting building to another. And because windmills!

The Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam is one of a kind and offers the best of tradition with modern-day comfort. The hotel’s green façade of traditional Zaan houses is a real eye-catcher, and the interiors of the hotel rooms reflect the rich history, traditional products, the pioneers of local craft industries, and the families who made the area world famous!

Yep! You probably won’t find this anywhere else!

The Taste Deluxe room at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam!
The Taste Deluxe room at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam!

We booked the Taste Deluxe Room with impressive colourful photographs on the wall. It also had a flat screen TV, a huge wardrobe large enough for a teenager to get into for fun…

But don’t do that, as we found it enormously difficult to open, in order to get him out again…!

There was a table, some fancy designer furniture, and lots of plug outlets.

A tin box of proper tea bags at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam!
A tin box of proper tea bags at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam!

There was a small fridge, a tin box of proper tea bags (oh yes!), milk, sugar and coffee.

The bathroom was huge with a bath tub and shower part that had a glass panel that didn’t really do the job, as you either had to keep your back to the wall, otherwise, there would be water everywhere.

And there was water. Everywhere!

The bathroom was huge at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, but there was water everywhere!
The bathroom was huge at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, but there was water everywhere!

We, of course, had an en-suite bathroom with bath gels and shampoo which I liked enormously, and at the end of a long day was awfully welcoming, plenty of fluffy towels, and free WiFi!

The Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam also had a sauna, spa centre, and swimming pool which was packed with adults, and judging by the screams of laughter, having a merry old time!

It looked pretty nice though, as we had a sneak peek!

The lobby at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, was pretty nice!
The lobby at the Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, was pretty nice!

The lobby was really nice with comfy leather sofas, crisp daily newspapers and glossy magazines. There was also a sort of waterfall outside, and a river. And the view was pretty amazing!

Breakfast wasn’t included, so we decided to have dinner at the hotel instead.

It was delightful.

We had the hotels’ 3 course à la carte dinner for just €29.50 each (not including drinks). I’ll tell you all about that next week!

Staying at the rather unique 4 star Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, was fun!
Staying at the rather unique 4 star Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam, was fun!

The Inntel Hotels Amsterdam Zaandam can be booked from €126.00 per night, which for two (2) people would be €63.00 a pop, and an absolute Amsterdam bargain!

Book your hotel here!

Delightful!

WHAT ABOUT TRANSPORT POSSIBILITIES?

Walking, cycling, or horse-riding, is much appreciated in Zaandam! @Bart Homburg
Walking, cycling, or horse-riding, is much appreciated in Zaandam!
@Bart Homburg

Zaandam is pretty small so everywhere is walkable.

You could also cycle, take the bus, the train, or go horse-riding!

If you’re in Amsterdam proper, don’t forget to buy a public transport OV-chip card. Tickets can be got from ticket machines at the Centraal Station, or besides some of the tram stops. They can even be bought in the tram, the bus, and from newspaper shops! Once you enter the tram or bus, you scan your card. And on leaving, you scan the card again. It’s a little like an Oyster card in London.

However, just like in Berlin, there are no barriers, and we all want to keep it that way, so please buy your ticket!

ANYTHING ELSE?

A coffee shop doesn't sell coffee!
A coffee shop doesn’t sell coffee!

A coffee shop doesn’t sell coffee!

Don’t be caught out. If you’re looking for a cup of tea, you need to go to a cafe!

MY VERDICT:

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills! @Mike Bink
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
@Mike Bink

I really liked Zaandam.

It’s different.

It’s got art and culture and has a vibrant history.

For many international visitors, Zaandam isn’t a destination that immediately comes to mind, but if you’re in Amsterdam and looking for somewhere different, or going to Northern Holland! Do yourself a favour and drop in for a day or two.

WOULD I COME AGAIN?

How to visit Amsterdam: Weighing my options introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
How to visit Amsterdam: Weighing my options introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

Absolutely!

Zaandam is intriguing and I can’t wait to visit again.

Let’s do it!

HOW TO VISIT AMSTERDAM: INTRODUCING ZAANDAM – A DUTCH TRADITIONAL TOWN WITH WINDMILLS!

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

This article is not sponsored and all opinions and the wonderful windmills and funny-looking Dutch houses that we happily saw, are my very own!

It’s almost February!

If you’re a blogger or just like travelling, and you’re in town, then come and meet us at the Berlin Travel Massive February MeetUp on February 9th.

The 67th Berlin International Film Festival, otherwise known as the Berlinale, will take place from 09.02.17 – 19.02.17

Strictly Stand Up – The English Comedy Night will take place at the Quatsch comedy Club on 15.02.17. Save the Date!

If you’re not in Berlin in February, you’re going to miss out!

February is going to be unmistakable!

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
©I Amsterdam

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam - a Dutch traditional town with windmills!
How to visit Amsterdam: Introducing Zaandam – a Dutch traditional town with windmills!

What do you think about going to Zaandam? Have you ever seen a windmill? Have your say!

See you in Berlin.

If you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com

If you like this post, please Share it! Tweet it! Or like it!

Taiwan: Food to eat and a place to lay your head: A first-time experience – Part I

Taiwan: Food to eat and a place to lay your head: A first-time experience - Part I
Taiwan: Food to eat and a place to lay your head: A first-time experience – Part I

So last week, I wrote all about why I went to Taiwan, and as I previously told you, one of the main reasons that I did so was because quite frankly, nobody knows where it is!

I’m going to change all that!

If you missed my post last week, not to worry, here it is:

If you ever want to search various destinations all over the world, all you need to do is to go to the countries that I have recently travelled to tab on top of this page or go to the link here!

16 brilliant reasons why you should visit Taiwan!
16 brilliant reasons why you should visit Taiwan!

I really like Taiwan.

I might even return sooner than you think…!

I went to Taiwan for the first time and truth be told, there’s not a lot of information out there. In fact, I went searching for British bloggers living there, and ended up with just one fellow, from whom I heard of Taiwan in the first place, but sadly, he recently  deleted his blog, and now there are none!

As a result, it’s left to me to take over the baton!

Oh, by the way, I went to Taipei!

TAIPEI

Taipei, otherwise known as Taipei City
Taipei, otherwise known as Taipei City

Taipei, otherwise known as Taipei City, is the capital city and a special municipality of Taiwan.

It’s 25 km (16 miles) southwest of the northern port city Keelung and located on the Taipei Basin. Taipei has been the capital of the Taiwan, otherwise known as, the Republic of China (ROC), since 1949!

Taipei has a population of about 2.7 million people and is and one of the major hubs of the Chinese-speaking world!

It’s considered to be a global city and is part of a major high-tech industrial region in conjunction with Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Singapore.

Taipei is a bustling city with a unique cultural landscape & jelly-like bubble tea!
Taipei is a bustling city with a unique cultural landscape & jelly-like bubble tea!

And let me tell you, I found Taipei to be a bustling city with a unique cultural landscape, splendid creativity, designs and aesthetics, coupled with hidden lanes and exotic alleyways. A city with local markets of varying character offering handicrafts, clothing, tattoos, music, entertainment, people-watching opportunities, and food!

Smashing!

HOW DO I GET THERE?

How do I get to Taiwan?
How do I get to Taiwan?

As you know, the only reason why Taiwan even came up in the first instance, was because I was in the Philippines, and thus in the region! And you know me, if an opportunity strikes up, I’m bound to choose it, and it did!

If you’re coming from Europe or the Americas, then of course you’ll be flying. Since I was already in the Philippines, I decided to fly from Manila after the TBEX jollifications, and then fly back to Manila again, before returning to Germany.

I flew with EVA Air!
I flew with EVA Air!

I flew with EVA Air!

I had heard good things about the airline especially about it’s Hello Kitty jet airlines, and I wasn’t disappointed!

The flight took just 2 hours and 20 minutes and cost a mere $102.37, making it a little over $50 USD each way!

A pretty decent airline meal on EVA Air. If only I hadn't had diarhhea, picked up in the Philippines...!
A pretty decent airline meal on EVA Air. If only I hadn’t had diarrhea, picked up in the Philippines…!

We were even given a full meal of rice and pork, some fruit, dessert, and a box of orange juice! I wasn’t feeling well, and I had the trots, so I nibbled at the rice and veg, and drank the juice!

My flight left at 04:00 and arrived at 06:20! I’m not a lover of wandering around strange cities in the early hours, so I booked a hotel car! It might be pricier than a conventional taxi but when you’re arriving in the early hours, you still need to get money out, get a sim card, or whatever, but you don’t feel the pressure of the clock ticking, when you’ve already paid a fixed fee! However, do tell your hotel that you would prefer a non-smoking driver.

Tell your hotel if you prefer a non-smoking taxi driver!
Tell your hotel if you prefer a non-smoking taxi driver!

My taxi smelt like a chimney, and didn’t make the illness that I had picked up in Manila, any better….!

IS IT GOING TO BE CROWDED?

Me being a tourist in trendy Ximending 16 brilliant reasons why you should visit Taiwan!
Me being a tourist in trendy Ximending
16 brilliant reasons why you should visit Taiwan!

Not really!

It’s not China you know!

Truth be told, I was there at the tail-end of their typhoon season, and you could pick out the Westerners who were visiting. In fact, you could hear them…!

Everywhere was pretty OK except for the markets.

They were packed!

With everybody! And so after about an hour, I felt it was more than enough, as I didn’t have the energy for it, and I left!

WHAT IS TAIWAN LIKE?

Making new friends in Taiwan!
Making new friends in Taiwan!

It’s nice!

I was there for five (5) days and had to use two (2) of them to recover as I was starting a new job once I got back…! However, Taiwan definitely made an impression on me.

I knew that Taiwan would be modern but I wasn’t expecting it be squeaky clean! Not in the way that Singapore is bland clean, but surprisingly, it could give many Western cities a run for it’s money.

It isn’t as cheap-as-chips Thailand, but neither is it let’s-sell-our-children-cos-we-can’t-afford-it Korea or Japan!

Signs and instructions were in both English and Chinese, pretty much everywhere!
Signs and instructions were in both English and Chinese, pretty much everywhere!

Signs and instructions were in both English and Chinese. The trains were easy to navigate and use, and were cheap, costing just NT$20 (Taiwanese dollars) or €0.60 cents per short hop journey!

The trains weren’t crammed or packed, and the floors were clean. I used my finger, and checked lol! There were plants and mobile-phone chargers everywhere, and even boxes for you to take a free umbrella!

If that isn’t service, I really don’t know what is!

Making new friends with the locals in Taiwan!
Making new friends with the locals in Taiwan!

The people were great. Nobody stared at a darker-skinned visitor (me!) in fact, it was quite the opposite. Everybody was helpful and cheerful, some high-school kids came with me to the Taipei 101 building, and one local shop-keeper actually ran after me ‘cos I was walking in the wrong direction!

Taipei is sort of Chinese, but it isn’t.

Everyone went about minding their own business either reading, fiddling on their phone, listening to music, or eating!
Everyone went about minding their own business either reading, fiddling on their phone, listening to music, or eating!

It’s a country eager to welcome tourists, and there were heaps of them from neighbouring Japan and other Asian nations.  Having said that, it’s also quieter than expected, which I equally noticed in Manila. There was no honking of cars, or the shouting of tradesmen and pedlars, in fact, everyone went about minding their own business either reading, fiddling on their phone, listening to music, or eating!

I DON’T SPEAK CHINESE.

If you can speak a little Chinese (of any kind), it certainly helps!
If you can speak a little Chinese (of any kind), it certainly helps!

If you can speak a little Chinese (of any kind), it certainly  helps!

But if you can’t, don’t panic! If you can speak English, people tend to be able to understand you, even if they can’t respond back. My fail-safe was my iPhone iTranslate app. It came out very useful, if people couldn’t understand what I was referring to.

And if you’re really lost for words, go to the nearest train station which has an information window. They’re able, and happy to help.

AM I GOING TO LIVE IN A HUT?

Taiwan might be from a developing nation, but as one of the Four Asian Tigers, you're definitely not going to be living in a cave!
Taiwan might be from a developing nation, but as one of the Four Asian Tigers, you’re definitely not going to be living in a cave!

Of course not!

Taiwan might be from a developing country referred to as the Republic of China (ROC), but as one of the Four Asian Tigers, you’re definitely not going to be living in a cave!

I’M ON A BUDGET. WHAT SHOULD I DO?

A kitchenette is necessary if you're on a budget, so that you can have.....noodles!
A kitchenette is necessary if you’re on a budget, so that you can have…..noodles!

Hostels are not well-known in Taiwan, but there are plenty of cheap hotels to be had.

I can’t give you any details, but catering to the more budget conscious traveller is certainly available. But remember, you’re not going to find anything going for under €20.00! If you’re really stuck on a low budget, you’re either going to have to fly to Bangkok or travel to Lithuania instead!

I’M LOOKING FOR A BIT MORE LUXURY, IS THERE SOMETHING FOR ME?

Introducing amba Hotels & Resorts, in Taiwan!
Introducing amba Hotels & Resorts, in Taiwan!

Hell yeah!

I stayed at a rather intriguing 4-star art design hipster-style boutique hotel called amba Hotels & Resorts.

In fact, I stayed at two of them!

The first one was called amba Taipei Ximending!

amba Taipei Ximending, in Taiwan!
amba Taipei Ximending, in Taiwan!

Amba Taipei Ximending is Taiwan’s first homegrown international-standard art design boutique hotel, created by some of Taiwan’s hottest architects, artists, music stylists, and mixologists! The hotel has a sleek, artistic, industrial-steel, loft-style look. It’s located in the young, trendy Ximending location, and is slap-bang in the middle of the Asian hipster shopping and cool entertainment district!

If you’re young or like happening vibes being in the centre of everything, you’ll love it.

In fact, not only is the Ximending district a bit like London’s Trafalgar Square, it’s also the movie-film district, and indeed, there was the Taipei Golden Horse film festival actually taking place on the ground floor of the hotel building!

The amba Taipei Ximending hotel is within walking distance of Taiwan's youth culture!
The amba Taipei Ximending hotel is within walking distance of Taiwan’s youth culture!

The amba Taipei Ximending is within walking distance of Taiwan’s youth cultures, combining cultural heritage, with an emerging design and lifestyle scene.

Merely steps away were atmospheric streets and alleys, curbside restaurants, hawker carts and bubble tea stalls, department stores on the pedestrianized Wuchang Street offering Western designer brands, and night markets. In fact, I almost fell on top of a British guy who was conducting some sort of street theatre performance!

The local Taiwanese kids seemed to be impressed!

This is where the cool kids hang out in the Music Lounge of the amba Taipei Ximending Hotel!
This is where the cool kids hang out in the Music Lounge of the amba Taipei Ximending Hotel!

The amba Taipei Ximending Hotel had 160 contemporary rooms and I was put in the Loft Room, which was pretty marvellous.

My loft was huge and consisted of two sofas, a large king-sized bed, a trunk (the type which my grandmother used to have to store clothes) in the middle of the room, an open closet, a writing table, a large-screen TV, a huge American-style sink section, free coffee, free Taiwanese tea, free daily bottled water, a kettle, a mini-fridge, a separate toilet, a separate rain-forest type power shower, fluffy towels, lots of power outlets (thank goodness), and free high-speed WiFi!

I was put in the Loft Room, which was pretty marvellous.
I was put in the Loft Room, which was pretty marvellous.

Included were amba-inscribed flip-flops (which were yours to keep), and a wonderful selection of ginger bath toiletries.

I usually bring my own shampoo and conditioner for my hair, but for the first time ever, I could use theirs, and feel the difference!

Marvellous stuff!

Breakfast at the amba Taipei Ximending Hotel!
Breakfast at the amba Taipei Ximending Hotel!

Breakfast was also included, on the 5th floor, in a loft-like space that had pop-culture album sleeves on bookshelves, as well as marvel comic memorabilia, and stuff like Harry Potter, & Star Wars dolls! And not to be outdone, there were loads of box games and manga books that customers could read.

Teenage heaven!

Cost: from NT$3,500 or €105.00 per night. For two people that’s easily €52.50, a pop!

Glitz & glamour of the amba art-design-boutique-hotel brand!
Glitz & glamour of the amba art-design-boutique-hotel brand!

After two nights I transferred to the second hotel.

This hotel was called amba Taipei Songshan!

Welcome to the amba Taipei Songshan Hotel, in Taiwan!
Welcome to the amba Taipei Songshan Hotel, in Taiwan!

The amba Taipei Songshan hotel, is an urban oasis in eastern Taipei. In comparison to amba Taipei Ximending, this 189 roomed hotel was situated in the financial districts of Xinyi, Songshan, and Nangang, with direct access via a private walkway bridge, to the Songshan underground and mainline train station!

The amba Taipei Songshan Hotel is smart, sharp, and has an affluent look.
The amba Taipei Songshan Hotel is smart, sharp, and has an affluent look.

In fact, access was so easy and accessible that I soon became a pro. at navigating my way from one sort of train to the next!

I would say that the amba Taipei Songshan hotel is smart, sharper, and has a more affluent look than that of the amba Taipei Ximending. It’s more professional and sleek with fabulous panoramic views of both the Taipei 101 building and the Keelung River.

You know how much I love river destinations in Taiwan, and everywhere else!
You know how much I love river destinations in Taiwan, and everywhere else!

You know how I love river destinations!

I was given one of the extra large rooms.

Yep! My room was gorgeous and can be described as urban living with a twist!

Look at how huge my room was & look at the view. Gorgeous!
Look at how huge my room was & look at the view.
Gorgeous!

The window was floor to ceiling huge, with a stunning view of the Taipei 101 skyscraper! It consisted of a large king-sized bed, a divan with huge comfy cushions which I enjoyed very much, an open closet, a writing table and chair, a wireless bluetooth vintage speaker, a large-screen TV, a huge American-style sink section, free coffee, free Taiwanese tea, free daily bottled water, a kettle, a Nespresso machine, a mini-fridge, a separate toilet, a separate rain-forest type power shower, fluffy towels, lots of power outlets, wooden floors (yes!) and free high-speed WiFi!

My amba-inscribed flip-flops. I don't usually wear flip-flops, but I kept the larger ones as I have huge feet!
My amba-inscribed flip-flops.
I don’t usually wear flip-flops, but I kept the larger ones as I have huge feet!

It included amba-inscribed flip-flops (which were yours to keep), a wonderful selection of ginger bath toiletries, and a free shuttle service to the Taipei 101 and the trendsetting Xinyi shopping and business district, which I should have taken, but didn’t!

I opted to walk to the Taipei 101, went through all the backyard nooks and crannies, and systematically got lost!

I went through all the backyard nooks and crannies, & systematically got lost!
I went through all the backyard nooks and crannies, & systematically got lost!

It took me 3 hours to find my way back again, but I didn’t mind too much as I saw a different part of Taipei, and also chatted to some of the locals while doing so.

I was exhausted when I finally reached the Taipei 101 building though, but it was worth it in the end!

Damper Baby at Tapei 101 - one of the tallest buildings in the world!
Damper Baby at Taipei 101 – one of the tallest buildings in the world!

In both hotels, a generous buffet breakfast of Chinese, Korean, and Continental origin, was included.

Note! Watch out for the sliced duck eggs. I was excited to try them and happily popped them into my mouth. Until I heard this crunch!

Can you see the duck egg? Eeek!
Can you see the duck egg? Eeek!

The shells were still on them! Eeek!

Cost: from NT$4,000 or €120.00 per night. For two people that’s easily €60.00, a pop!

Book your hotel here!

Note! Don’t forget the 15.5% service charge and tax, added to the bill. That really hurt. Ouch!

That’s it for now. Part II coming up next week!

That's it for now. Part II on Taiwan, coming up next week!
That’s it for now. Part II on Taiwan, coming up next week!

This article is not sponsored and even though I received a part-complimentary stay at amba Taipei Ximending and amba Taipei Songshan, all opinions and the trendy bubble tea experience that I had, are my very own!

Next week I’ll be writing Part II of what I did in Taiwan, and then returning to the Philippines again later!

I’ll be joining the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Germany, to celebrate Christmas on December 12th! I know! I’ve totally made it!!

In December/January, I’ll be going to Holland.

The British Shorts Film Festival will take place from 12th – 18th January, 2017

Berlin Fashion Week will take place from 17th –  20th January, 2017.

At the end of January, I’ll be skiing in the Czech Republic.

Save the Date!

November is going to be wintry!

Watch this space!

Note! I never travel without insurance as you never know what might happen.

I learnt my lesson in Spain. And obviously, in countries like Qatar, where technically the risk is higher, I can’t imagine going that far beyond, WITHOUT INSURANCE. No siree! You can get yours here, at World Nomads!

Please note that there are now affiliate links (for the very first time) connected to this post. Please consider using the links, because every time some sort of accommodation or travel insurance is booked via my links I get a little percentage, but at no extra cost to yourself!

A win-win for all!

Thanks a million!

Taiwan: Food to eat and a place to lay your head: A first-time experience - Part I
Taiwan: Food to eat and a place to lay your head: A first-time experience – Part I

What do you think of my first experience in Taiwan. Would you choose the more trendy amba Taipei Ximending or would you choose the smart, sharper amba Taipei Songshan? Let me know!

See you in Berlin.

If you like this post or if you have any questions send me a tweet, talk to me on Facebook, find me on Linkedin, make a comment below, look for me on Google+ or send me an Email: victoria@thebritishberliner.com