A daytrip to Taroko Gorge National Park

From Hualien, we arranged a day trip to Taroko National Park, where a river cut a beautiful gorge through the mountains. The first stop on the trip was a view point where the mountains meet the coast just before turning inland into the park. The first stop in the park was the Eternal Spring Shrine, where a flat trail leads all the way to the shrine. At the shrine there is a short but very steep trail up the mountain. We went up for a little bit to get a good view over the valley. The next stop was the Swallow

Vegan burgers at About Animals in Taipei

This great burger shop is located close to the Wanlong MRT station in the Wenshan district of Taipei. About half a dozen asian-fusion burgers are served in healthy whole wheat buns with fries and additional sides. We tried the onion and mushroom burger as well as the fried wasabi burger, here they are. Both burgers were served with fresh tomatoes and lemon slices. They were super yummy, as well as the extra kimchi. The place is very laid-back with just about a handful of tables and a very relaxed cat chills on the gate. The only caveat is that About Animals

Dubrovnik city walls

On the last afternoon, we finally climbed up the city walls of Dubrovnik and enjoyed the views of the city and the surroundings on a 2 hour walk. There are lots of people on the walls but since everybody can only go into one direction, it does not feel too crowded except on the super popular spots like the view point for the main street (Stradun). Here is the picture from the northern part of the walls showing the harbor and Lokrum island in the back. Further up the path, in the north-west corner we climbed up Tvrđava Minčeta, the hightest

Boat trip to Lokrum island

On the second day in Dubrovnic, we took the ferry to Lokrum. The ride takes just about 15 minutes and ferries leave every 30 to 60 minutes. There are rocky swimming spots all over and a few sights in the interior of the island. Due to the heat, we did not make it to the fortress but enjoyed the botanical gardens, the monastery (see below), and the peacocks roaming the entire island. The whole island is a protected area which means that people can not stay overnight and also strictly no smoking. Here is a cute reminder on one of the

In and around Dubrovnik

After Split, we took the ferry directly to Dubrovnik. We arrived in the middle of the day so we dropped our stuff and went one of the numerous swimming spots around the city. There was even a water polo match on and the rocks around were perfect for cliff jumping. On the way to the city, we climbed up to Fort Lovrijenac from which you have a beautiful view of the older city. Up there, we ran for the first (but not the last) time into a Game of Thrones tour group that visits a few of the filming locations in and around

First fall mushrooms

The fall mushroom season seems to be a bit delayed this year due to the very dry summer. Despite a few patches of chanterelles in early August, not much else was ready to be picked and the strolls through the forest were a little disappointing. With the recent rainy days, very slowly the mushrooms are coming out. I found the first patch of bay boletes (Braunkappen) last Sunday. They were still very young and smallish but very firm and untouched by snails and worms. They ended up in a risotto and the next couple of weekends are now planned for further mushroom hunting trips.

One day in Split

From Plitvice Lakes we took the afternoon bus to the coast and arrived in the early evening in Split. We dropped our bags at our place and went out right away to find something to eat. We found Luka’s Ice Cream shop afterwards and were very happy and full. The next day we started with an early city tour, passed Gregory of Nin and climbed St Domnius cathedral tower. The steps up are a bit scary but the views are worth it. By then it got already very hot so we took the next bus to the end of the line

Plitvice Lakes (Plitvička Jezera)

The Plitvice Lakes National Park (Plitvička Jezera) is a beautiful UNESCO protected area with a total of 16 interconnected lakes in Croatia. The water is very clear and from farther away glows from blue to greener colors. Besides the water color, what makes the area spectacular is the difference in altitude of the lakes so that they are laid out as a stair case with beautiful waterfalls between them. The park is divided into two groups of lakes around the largest one, lake Kozjak. The 12 upper lakes (Gornja jezera) are easily accessible with a 2 minute ferry ride. A path

Half a day in Zagreb

We started our one week vacation in Croatia with half a day in Zagreb. That is definitely not enough to see everything, but with an average temperature of 35C in summer, we put the focus on places closer to the water. Early in the morning, the central market was lots of fun and we used the opportunity to stock up on fresh fruit and berries, nuts, and lavender oil for the trip. We did a short walking tour through the old parts of the city passing windy Stone Gate with its candles and old plaques further on to St Mark’s

Smoked tomato soup, ghost peppers, and goat cheese

It was time to use the smoker again since I ran out of hot sauce. I put in a few dried ghost peppers from last summer’s harvest and added a goat cheese, mozzarella, spring onions, and a layer of tomatoes cut in half intended for a tomato soup. Here is everything just before I started the smoker. And after about 45 minutes, the results looked like this. The spring onions came out a bit softened and were very nice for sandwiches. The cheese melted a little bit even though I put it far away from the stove but kept its shape.

Lins Stinky Tofu in Taitung

Coming back to Taitung from Green Island, we had just enough time to stop at Lin’s Smelly Tofu eatery. The tofu comes on either small or large plates (50 or 100 TWD) and we started with sharing a small one. The tofu was delicious, very soft in texture and the fresh basil and garlic sauce rounded up the taste perfectly. So in no time, we ordered more and more until we were full and happy and ready to go back to the train station to go back to Hualien. These were the leftovers: Picture gallery

Abandoned prison on Green Island

Due to its location 30 km west off Taiwan’s main island, someone got the idea to build a huge prison for mainly political prisoners on Green Island. During the time of the White Terror (late 1940s to late 1980s), thousands were imprisoned and sent to serve time in the prison complex on the north side of the island. The high security block above is also abandoned but still closed. Many other prison and administration buildings are still standing around with but have been cleaned of most doors and windows. There is also a new building that hosts an exhibition of the

Zhaori Salt Water Hot Springs

The Zhaori Hot Springs were our favorite spot at night on Green Island. Salt water hot springs are apparently pretty rare, only three different locations are currently known world-wide. During our stay, the outdoor pools were closed due to rough weather but it’s still a great experience to see and especially hear the sea when soaking in a hot pool about 50 meters from the shore. The outdoor pool looked like they suffered a bit lately from the weather. Since they were not part of the hot water circulation, we were not tempted to spend a lot of time there

Green Island: Little Great Wall

The Little Great Wall of Green Island is a short walking trail to the eastern edge of the island. At the end of the walk, you arrive at the most beautiful lookouts of the island facing north and south. The views are stunning in both directions and the volcanic origin of the island is revealed quite well. Here is a picture of the southern view with the Sleeping Beauty and Pekingese Dog rock formations. Picture gallery

Around Green Island in Taiwan

Our first stop after Taipei was a trip to Green Island, a small paradise east of Taitung with great snorkeling spots, rare saltwater hot springs (Zhaori), and a few hiking trails and sights to visit along the 20 km long road around the island. We took the ferry from Taitung, which only takes about 45 minutes nowadays. Even though the waters were not too rough, there is still some truth in the infamous tales about the Vomit Barge. Once we arrived, we were picked up by our hotel and drove the 500 meters to the hotel.  Then, appointments for snorkel trips were made and

Taipei: Elephant Mountain

The walk up the stairs to Elephant Mountain is just a 10 minute walk away from the closest subway station (Xiangshan Station). The ascent does not take longer than 30 minutes, but is one giant stair case and thus pretty steep. There is a little kiosk selling drinks and snacks at the beginning and multiple resting spots with nice views along the way. Here is a first view of the city and Taipei 101. Going further up, there are a couple of outlooks and terraces with great views all over Taipei. Most impressive is still Taipei 101, which was the world’s tallest building

Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine in Taipei

On our first evening in Taipei, we went to the Easy House Vegetarian Cuisine, a popular small chain of vegetarian restaurants around Taiwan. The interior has several Zen elements with lots of wood, flowing water over a black marble wall, and a little stone garden. The menu is quite big and most prominently are many diverse vegetable stews and soups. In October, there were also many specials with pumpkins and different kinds of mushrooms. We went for the option of a set meal with salad, soup, a main course (mostly stews), and dessert. Here is the salad that came out first: Shortly

Balcony harvest 2014

Here is the first harvest from the balcony this year. The tomatoes are the same kinds as of last year’s season – Rutjes (red), yellow date and purple cherry tomatoes. The black jalapenos came from the same plant as last years as it moved into our living room for the winter. New this year are two chili plants – Bhut Jolokai and Trinidad Moruga Scorpion, the two hottest chilis currently known. I am pretty sure they will be too hot for us to enjoy, but I wanted to grow them at least once. Both plants have currently about 10 green

Early season mushroom hunting

Since this year everything is a bit early in nature, we decided to give hunting mushrooms a try on the last weekend in July. We went to my hometown in the middle of Germany for the weekend and my parents organized a get together with some of their friends who own a beautiful ancient forest lodge from the late 1800s in the middle of a remote forest. So we could start looking for mushrooms right off the front porch and it did not take 15 minutes before we found the first porcini waiting for us. From there on, we found

Ormiston Gorge

The final stop on our trip along the West MacDonnell Ranges was Ormiston Gorge. The Gorge is another beautiful gap in the ranges with a permanent water hole big enough for swimming and a nice camp site next to it. It feels a little bit like Ellery Creek but there are fewer people and it has the Ormiston Pound walking track is a round trip that takes you in about 3 hours around the Western elevation along the Ghost Gum Lookout and back through the gorge. The track provides many good viewpoints of the gorge and the Ghost Gum Lookout