2 Days in Usedom


On the way to Stolpe: time to meditation, slow walk and discovery of the nature

If you will ask me what is my first impression about two very busy days on the Island of Usedom, my answer is: quiet, too quiet. In fact, it is the first place at sea I ever been too where tourists are so quiet. And I was right. A friend of mine from Berlin told me that each time when she wants to relax, she goes to Usedom. Many Berliners are doing the same, as the island is considered as the favourite and cheapest sea destinations for the citizens of the capital city. As everywhere in Germany, there are different prices for different budgets and everyone will be happy to find a good place to stay or to eat. All will finally meet at the beach – where they need to pay a little bit for the chairs, but sitting on the sand is for free.

My first destination was the city of Usedom. From the train station of Heringdorf – the village of the Hering, nowadays the address for many elegant villas – I took a bus to the city. The bus stop is located at the train station and the buses are regular. My first cultural shock by arrival was the German spoken by the driver. At the first sight, it sounded as Polish, Slovakian or any other language except German. As I was explained later, I was exposed to the sound of the Pommersche dialect, but till the end of my trip, it reminded a very foreign language to me.

The life in Usedom city

My first stop was at the Usedom city. I booked a stay there without being aware that it is nothing exciting to see there. If you are looking for nothing else than eating and resting and eventually walking or hiking – bikes can be rented from many centers on the island – it is the right place to go. There are several restaurants and biergartens and even some supermarkets but all of them are closed after 8pm. When I returned from a long 4+km walk to the Stolpe castle it was past 8 and was very hungry but did not find anything decent so I  had to go to sleep hungry and the first thing in the morning to run to the beach area – almost one hour away. 

The walk in the nature – except some minutes when I was afraid that I storm will ignite and I was not in the mood for such an extreme experience – was one of the best in years and somehow: quiet landscape, borderless green lines and horses. Stolpe looked almost empty, even though it was mid-July, the usual high season for Berliners and other German tourists with houses in the area. The castle, recently renovated, is hosting various painting classes, classical concerts and lectures. I have no idea how many people are running to such events, but probably it have to be a public somewhere. 

The next day, hungry and tired after the long walk and the rush of the travel the day before, I left Usedom city without regrets, looking for more entertainment and for the real life of the island.

In the village of the Hering

I returned to Heringsdorf, that can be translated as the ‘village of the Hering’, a reminder of the fishermen’s background of most urban areas on Usedom. It looks typical as a seaside location for the middle-class. together with Ahlbeck and Bansin, it is part of the 3 ‘Kaiserbaeder’, sharing a common architecture, specific for such localities. The only source of revenue for the area is tourism and there are a lot of opportunities for a variety of budgets: big and elegant hotels with exclusive spas, restaurants, jewellery and outlet shops, but also parks for children, small restaurants and bars. I booked a tour by minicar that brought me around the three localities while listening (in German) to a recorded presentation of the area, with history, details about architecture and the daily life.

The place was visited by many personalities, especially from the literary world, and their presence is reminded with commemorative marks. Tourism developed in the 19th century and developed mostly in the direction of health and wellness, with a sanatorium and many treatment places that are still used today. The Russian writer Maxim Gorki and his family was here in 1922, and a book store in Heringsdorf bears his name. During the Cold War, Usedom was the favourite destination of many members of the communist and Soviet elite stationed in the DDR. Nowadays, it is called ‘Berlin Badewanne’ as it is the closest and the most affordable sea destination from Berlin and often I hear about friends going there for the weekend. It is not cheap, but affordable, especially if you book your stay weeks or even months in advance, as always in Germany. 

I liked the quiet ambiance – not that quiet as in Usedom, but pretty silent compared to the usual busy life of a beach area. You can walk and see Poland on the other side of the sea and there it is possible to book a sea trip for a couple of hours to visit Poland too – Wolin and Swinoujscie. Most street names and restaurant menus are also written in Polish, but most tourists I’ve seen on the street were speaking German.


Ahlbeck beach during the high season. Fine sand and clear sky, what else can you wish? Many more C. degrees.

What I was unpleasantly surprised was the low temperature, including for the water. The hottest temperature goes around 25C so don’t be afraid to get sunburned. Don’t expect nothing extreme or out of normal while in Usedom: enjoy your time, go to a spa and a massage, take a trip around, have a good meal (fish is the predominant dish of many restaurants) and come back to Berlin after 2 days.  

More pictures from Usedom can be seen on my Pinterest board: http://pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/usedom-germany/ 

Do you want to read more about travel destinations in Germany? Support my project on Indiegogo: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/100-places-to-see-in-germany


What to do in Perlis, Malaysia

Perlis is considered the smallest state in Malaysia. It is situated at the Northern part of the West coast of Peninsular Malaysia. On the North, it is situated close to Satun and Songkhla provinces in Thailand. The administrative capital is Kangar while Arau is the royal capital. Kuala Perlis is the main port and ferry terminal.

The tourist experts in the region are recommending 10 locations where the visitors will be have a pleasant surprise:

1. Gua Kelam or the Cave of Darkness has very interesting limestone formations, such as fossils, flowstones. straws, gour pools. Some cave dwelling bats enjoy their stay there too so be careful to do not bother them too much.

2. Ladang Anggur is also called the Grape Garden where several types of grapes – such as Black Opal, Loose Perlette or Black Queen – can be found and eventually tasted.

3. Harumanis mango is a special variety of mango, appreciated for the fragrant, sweet and thick succulent flesh. A visit at the 65-hectare Bukit Bitang Agriculture Center is recommended especially during the harvest time, in April and June.

4. Kota Kayang Museum tells the story of Perlis through a variety of displays, from archaeological relics to historical artefacts.

5. Gunung Perlis is not only the Northern most point of Peninsular Malaysia, but also one of the main attractions in Perlis State Park. Why not climb to the top of the 733-meter high mountain, an adventure that can be done in 3-5 hours of hike. The visitor will enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of the rainforest. Usually, the journey to the top should be done together with nature guides.

6. Autumn in the tropics will have a different taste after an experience in the Persli State Park. This 5,000-hectare White-Ferutu Forest, the only of this kind in the country, is semi-deciduous – it shed sits leaves during the long dry season. Also called the Pearl of Perlis, it has caves of different sizes and various levels of difficulty.

7. A visit at the Herbs Garden will reveal a lot of wonderful plants and flowers that can be found only in Perlis. On the 12-hectare herbal garden there can be admired over 1,000 plants of local and foreign origin.

8. Kuala Perlis is a coastal maritime town famous for the fresh seafood served permanently: at night or during the day, you can always find a good restaurant where to have unforgettable culinary experiences.

9. Are you looking to keep yourself fit after so much street food tasting? Start by playing woodball, a sport similar to the miniature golf. The standard equipment required to play is made of wooden balls, a mallet and the gate.

10. If you are not too tired, you can continue the exploration of Perlis by night or day, visiting Padang Besar or Wang Kelian market.

Touring across the Balkans

I did a lot of travel earlier in the Balkans, but I still need to see Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo. I love a lot the people and their culture and for a long time I was reading and writing a lot about this part of Europe full of history and intellectual challenges.

Due to the cultural and historical richness, I would always prefer a multi-country trip that can reveal a wider image of the countries and the common mood of the region.

Some ideas about getting some tours around the Balkans could be:

Visit 7 Balkan countries, from Skopje or Sarajevo: Macedonia (Skopje, Tetovo, Bitola, Ohrid/Struga), Albania (Elbasan, Tirana, Shkodra), Montenegro (St. Stefan, Budva, Kotor), Croatia (Dubrovnik), Bosnia Herzegovina (Mostar, Pocitelj, Sarajevo), Serbia (Belgrad, Nis), Kosovo (Pristina, Prizren).

WestBalkan Tour, from Tirana or Sarajevo: Albania (Elbasan, Tirana, Shkodra), Montenegro (St. Stefan, Budva, Kotor), Croatia (Dubrovnik), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar, Pocitelj, Sarajevo).

Tour from Sarajevo or Podgorica: Bosnia and Herzegovina (Mostar, Pocitelj, Sarajevo, Travnik), Croatia (Dubrovnik and 3 islands), Montenegro (St. Stefan, Budva, Kotor).

Macedonia, the Cradle of Culture: Skopje/Ohrid with Tetovo, Bitola, Resen, Struga.

– The Dalmatian Coast in 10 nights: Zagreb, Sarajevo or Podgorica: Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia (Plitvice Lake, islands and national park sightseeting).

Old Yugoslavia Capital cities:  Kosovo (Pristina), Macedonia (Skopje), Serbia (Belgrade), Bosnia and Herzegovina (Sarajevo), Croatia (Zagreb).

All in one: Turkey and Greece Culture, history and holiday vacation: Istanbul, Antalya, Thessaloniki, Halkidiki, Islands.

The tours can be made for big or small groups, with buses or rent-a-car solutions. As usual when it comes to trips, it is very important to know what you want to see and what is your budget. The Balkans are ready to welcome rich or backpack budgets.

Welcome to the largest Ukrainian sports museum

Sports, especially football, is a passionate topic wherever you are. I dare to say that in many Central and East European countries it goes beyond the usual sports competition and represents a strong statement about identity and power. By visiting a soccer museum you may discover not only a slice of the national sports history, but also a lot of interesting information about history, mentalities and culture. Especially for young boys, such a visit may be very tempting, mainly if some special training is included in the visitors’ package.

Donetsk or Donbass area is predominated by mines and miners, but here you can also find one of the newest museums of sports in Ukraine and Europe in general: FC Shakhtar Museum. Inaugurated in 2010 to celebrate the 75 years of the team, it tells the story of the favourite soccer team of the region. It presents the squad’s major trophies as well as player kits, personal awards of renowned players and coaches and metal-cast footprints and palmprints of the club’s iconic footballers.

The museum presents many interactive areas. For instance, the visitor can touch the present-day outfits, walk through a fog screen, enjoy PlayStation games or play some virtual football yourself. In the museum cutting-edge cinema hall, you can take a virtual trip in the history of the matches of the FC Shakhtar. At the end of the trip, you can leave a message in the Guestbook or have a photo taken in the front of the last UEFA Cup in history, won by the Pitmen in 2009.

The next stage is a visit at the Donbass Arena. For one hour, the visitor will visit the behind-the-scenes areas where only the players and other sport officials are allowed to enter: conference room, the dressing room etc. You will get some updated about the latest news in the world of soccer as well as information related to the construction history and stories about legendary players and coaches. If you want more than the basic stadium tour, there are additional possibilities to make your stay pleasant: legend tour, individual tour, birthday tour and, on match days, a special mini-tour behind the curtains.

Besides the museum and the arena, there it is also possible to have a look at the Kirsha training center, where the players of Shakhtar dwell and train. Considered one of Europe’s most advanced training facilities, it is located 20 km. away from Donetsk. Through the tour, the visitor will discover the history of the construction, as well as to participate to training pitches and call in at the first-team squad’s residential building: player’s dressing room, relaxation and rehabilitation areas, theoretical training room and the Italian style-atrium.

Going Indie for: 100 Places to See in Germany

ImageWhat you can do early in the morning when you wake up smelling the summer in Berlin?

You plan some more travels and think about the projects that you always wanted to do.

For instance, since I moved in Germany, I always wanted to see as much as possible from the country in order to understand more about the culture and the history. A couple of hours later I launched on Indiegogo 100 Places to See in Germany (and write about them). It lasts 44 days and I am really determined to get the funding and sponsorships and finish it till the end of the year. And, just in case that will not get the funding, I still want to do it, because it is worth the words and the efforts! Before the project is starting officially, I plan to see at least 2-3 places using my own resources and time!

I count on the support of my readers and followers and friends and future friends! I promise you a good book with many pictures and many surprises for all those taking their time and some money to help me go forward!

See you soon and keep in touch!

Reading travel guides: Louis Vuitton City Guides 2013

I am very happy to discover that I do not know all and I still have so much to learn. Especially when it comes to luxury and fashion, I have the feeling but not the knowledge. My latest revelation is that Louis Vuitton bags were initially aimed to elegant travelers and not exclusively for fashion addicts. Now, there are for both cases, but if I would have think more about the practical qualities of the bags it was almost obvious that there are rather designed to help you during the travel.

Recently, I had the opportunity to check on my own some of their products in a local shop and found many traditional models that are an useful tool for anyone interested in intensive luxury travel. Of course that if you plan to spend some weeks in a hostel somewhere in India, a Louis Vuitton bag is largely inadequate and may attract the attention of presumptive thieves, but otherwise, either for a weekend or for a long vacation in a four to five-star hotel, such a bag is a very attractive accessory.

Louis Vuitton was launched in 1854 in Paris as an official company producing packing products for Napoleon IIIrd. The industrial revolution was on the way and people started to move more often by train or steamships and especially the French high-class needed some special bags. In the 1930s, the company diversified their offer by including many other leather goods as well as simpler weekend bags.

The travel guides are aiming at a high-end audience, interested in shopping, high-end locations, art galleries, museums and luxury adventures. However, despite the good look of the package of guides, the design of each guide is quite simple, without too many images or overloaded with graphics. Some small and comprehensive maps are aimed to offer the basic information and are written in a simple and practical way. The guides, produced by the fashion brand since 1998, are available in French and English, in a fancy blue-and-brown kit. They are quite small and easy to carry. As expected, the best information is included in the Paris guide, while in other cases, one book is dedicated to more cities: Berlin, for instance, have only 100 pages out of 300, where Munich, Salzburg and Vienna are also featured. The newest entry on the list of the 40 guides is San Francisco. Other cities featured are: Athens, Istanbul, Zagreb, Antwerp, Beirut, London, Monaco, Naples, Rome, Milan, Toulouse, Moscow, Odessa, Warsaw, Dublin or Birmingham. Buying them is more than a practical issue, is part of a personal fashion statement.

Adventures on the road: Bankrupt in Norway

If you are not a real traveler, you may not cope with various adventures, it is true, but in some cases, the adventures are obstinately following the traveler. In my case, at least every three travels there may be something going on around my head that add some taste and stress to my travels. I either fall asleep in the airport and miss the flight, or buy a ticket one day later than the date I am supposed to travel.

One of the most ridiculous adventure of mine took place in Norway. And, as Oslo is one of Europe’s most expensive capital cities it has to do with money. Or rather, the lack thereof. 

My trip to Oslo (that I hope to feature in detail a couple of posts later) was planned during a very busy and crazy week. (This is the rude excuse as almost all my weeks are busy and crazy, with or without travel involved) I bought a guide and talked with my friend that I was supposed to meet there and made a reservation for 3 nights and paid by card, but did not care about other details, such as getting some information about the exchange rates and taking some more Euro cash with me, as I usually do. The departure was in a hurry and did not find in my way any trustworthy ATM in Berlin. I left home with 50 Euro in my pocket and it was enough to buy a ticket and a transportation card from the airport. Shortly after, I decided that I want to get some cash as well, and I went to the huge ATM in the airport, interested not only in getting enough money for the basic needs of the trip but also to see how does it function. Don’t ask me why I did not switch to English or right now, I do not even remember if it was the option of a switch to English. All I know is that I tried to get a certain amount once and the demand was refused, I tried one more time, with a different amount, and the refuse continued and following the thirds unsuccessful attempt I realized that my card was blocked. 

Optimistic enough, I took the bus to town and once I arrived in the center, close to my apartment, I tried my luck once again, in a drug store. (In Norway, you may find a lot of ATMs in every corners of the street or in different shops). This time, I tried with a different card and the result was the same. Still smiling, I go to the apartment and check my e-mail trying to organize my time till the meeting with my friend. Maybe on the way I will have more time to try again an ATM. I did it once again and the request was refused. Time to panic a bit, but the pleasure of meeting my friend and having a nice talk at the House of Literature and after at a vegetarian Indian restaurant was too pleasant to think about the money issues. At least, my room was paid in advance, and I had a card for transportation and not too many food-related needs.

However, after another failure to get money the next day, I decided that it is about time to contact my bank(s) – as two different cards were repeatedly unsuccessful. Surprise! In both cases I was told that my cards were blocked because there were repeated attempts to release significant amounts of money. As I would find out later, because I was not aware with the local currencies, I tried for the beginning to get 20,000 Euro from one card, and as I was not having the luxury of such an amount, the bank blocked the accounts. I should congratulate the bank for the initiative, but on the spot, with only 10 Euro left in the pocket and two days ahead, it was not the happiest news and no time at all to think about the highest efficiency of the banking sector in time of crisis. I was angry and unhappy and I needed some money. One hour and one tear later, I made a ‘deal’ with the bank: they will allow me to get some small amounts of money, around 50 Euro the day till I will be back home and I will submit a list of proofs about my adventure in pushing the wrong buttons of the ATMs and requesting huge amounts. 

The rest of my trip was spent in a very humble way: buying water and vegetables, visiting parks and free locations despite the heavy snow. At least, I had the chance to have 2-3 cups of coffee in the country where surprisingly, coffee is highly appreciated. No museums, no sky, only a lot of walking tours and meditation about the misery of being always in a hurry. 

Once returned, it took me another 10 days to finish the papers for the bank and get the green line to use my cards. Beyond those unpleasant episodes, I still love the Norwegian winter and plan to be back one day.

A sunny afternoon in Neuruppin

Brandenburg is frequently branded as a natural oasis and till now I realized that there it is more than a branding slogan. Wherever I’ve been in the last 2 years, when I intensively explored the area around Berlin I was pleasantly surprised by the green areas and the quiet presence of the humans in the middle of it.

As yesterday, the day of Victory for some residents of Neuruppin – theSoviet Army – was a free day – for religious reasons, anyway – I decided that I should explore Neuruppin, a name that I discovered during some presentations at the ITB this year.

It is situated one hour by train from Berlin and looking at the high concentrations of bikes it is a favourite location for campers and bike lovers. Especially in the North of Neuruppin medium and highly experienced bikers can discover the beautiful challenges of running through the canyons, brooks, near lakes and through the thick forest. Walking and Nordic tours are also possible. A regional zoo is welcoming the children in the valley of the river Kunsterspring, where 500 animals are spread across 16 hectares. 

In case that you are a simpleton tourist, as I am, with a camera on the shoulder and the pleasure of walking on the streets, there are quite a lot of things to do for a couple of hours. Seconds away from the train station at the Rheinsberger Tor there is the Information Center offering leaflets and guidance. Here is also the meeting point for various tours in town. In case that you do not want to go with the bus, you can easily walk and in maximum 30 minutes you are already familiar with the town. 

Culturally and historically speaking, Neuruppin is introduced as the birthplace of the poet and writer Theodor Fontane and (my favourite) Prussian architect K.F.Schinkel. It received the quality of town in 1256 and was burnt during the 1787 fire. The construction of new Ruppin – hence the ‘Neuruppin’ – was supported by the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm II whose statue is situated in the big square, close to the shopping and restaurants area. Neuruppin was also an important typography center whose achievements are presented by the small typography museum. 

The shopping fans will not find here too many opportunities to spend their money, but there are many small traditional shops where you can find handmade products for soul, clothing and eating. As I visited everything was closed, except the restaurants, of different kinds and for different budgets. The Italian icecreams parlours looked delicious and so it was also Gerda’s Cupcake where I had a delicious mango chai latte (the cupcakes are however the biggest temptation). 

The most pleasant part of my trip to Neuruppin was when I discovered the promenade around Ruppiner lake, the largest one in Brandenburg, with 14 km length. Ships are coming and going each hour either part of tours around the lake or as transportation between different points around the area. I preferred to walk slowly around the lake, rest on a bank and look at the swans, before and after I went to see the biggest tourist attraction of Neuruppin: the Fontane Therme. A preferred choice by German honeymooners, retired persons and families with children, it has the advantage of being situated minutes away from Resort Mark Brandenburg and offering quite good prices (including compared to Berlin). The building made me think of a Japanese onsen, and inside everything is private, clean and smelling of massage oil. 


The families with children visiting Neuruppin will find not only many interesting looking parks, but also special menus available in most restaurants. It looks as a safe place, with friendly people, even though they may not speak English too often. 

I planned to stay more, but after a couple of tours of the promenade and some documentation around, I decided that it may be enough as long as I was not interested to bike anywhere. My 18 Euro ticket was open so I took the advantage of the first train of the hour and returned back in the city with a lot of sun in my hair and enough energy for the next days, till the next trip. 


More pictures from my trip to Neuruppin: http://pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/neuruppin/

Travel around the world with GuideGecko

Nowadays, the travel guides are becoming more sophisticated and targeted. Regardless of the format, apps or printed, the quality content is always king and will continue to be so. Curious to find out the latest news and opinions about the world of travel writing, I’ve asked the opinion of Daniel Quadt, for GuideGecko. If you have ideas about an outstanding travel guide, go to the site, set up a profile and write your proposal. If your idea is focused and interesting, most likely you will be able to start the work straight away!

 GuideGecko is more than apps

– What differentiates GuideGecko from other guide apps?

First of all, GuideGecko is more than apps. We provide a one-stop shop for travel writers, with all digital publishing formats. That includes apps, but also eBooks and online publishing on our website.

As an author with GuideGecko, you can concentrate on what you really want to do: write articles and provide travel advise.

We provide you with an online system to enter your texts and photos. When you are done, we create and publish your app, eBook, and website. Of course, all of these formats are optional: You can only publish an app if you like, without eBook or website.

Coming back to your question about apps. What differentiates our apps from other travel apps is that all of them are written by genuine travel writers.

There are too many cheap apps out there that source their content from Wikipedia and other, similar sites. Often, the content is not geared towards travellers, and often also lacks in good, opinionated advice.

As a traveller, you don’t want a lengthy discussion of all churches in, say, Cologne. You want advise on which ones you should see, and which ones to skip. Only apps with original travel content will give you this.


– What are the most sought guides for the moment?


It very much depends. In general, we see good sales numbers for specific guides that have a very well defined target audience. So, instead of “Guide #827 on City XYZ”, write “Traveling with Kids to XYZ” or “Kite Surfing in ABC”.

But you also need to be able to reach that target audience. For example, it helps to be active in communities and to have a good Facebook page with interested followers and frequent updates – even better if you already have a related website with a decent number of users.


Are the classical printed guides dead?


They are not dead, but their decline is going to continue. There will be a niche market for printed guidebooks, but why would you want to search in an index or flip between maps and description pages, when all you want is specific information on a certain place?

Technology, such as in apps, can really help here. Looking back, travel information in printed book format is far from optimal. But books have been the only portable solution for a long time.


 Daniel Quadt in Thailand

– What are your plans for the next 6 months?


We will continue to sign up new authors for destinations worldwide.

Geographically, we are strong in Asia and want to strengthen this even further. But we have also expanded to other areas, and already have a good number of guides for America and Europe.

Technically, we have just released a “container app” that includes all our guides as in-app purchases. This will make it easier for users to download more than one guide, and also allows us to cross-promote guides from different authors.

 Go Southeast Asia!

– What would you recommend to someone interested to take a break of travel for 3 months?


Southeast Asia, of course! Pick a starting point and a general route, and then just see how it goes.

I have recently been to the Philippines, and I can really recommend it. The beaches are among the nicest in Southeast Asia.

Bangkok and Singapore are good starting points as well. In 3 months, you can make it all the way from Singapore via Malaysia to Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.

If you want to get off the beaten track, head to Ambon in Indonesia. You can easily spend a few weeks in the area there.

We actually offer free “Backpacker Cheatsheets” guides on http://www.GuideGecko.com. These graphical guides include a suggested itinerary with all highlights as well as options off the beaten track. So, in a  nutshell, I recommend to download a few of these Cheatsheets – and then just go!