|The Breezy Blue Rolls into Taitung|
The most stylish way to roll into Taitung is officially on track. The Breezy Blue, an authentic restoration of a blue train that the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) widely used in the 50s and 60s, made its maiden voyage from Fangliao, Pingtung to Taitung City on October 23.
The TRA retired these types of diesel trains last year when the main railway line that goes around Taiwan was electrified. However, many elderly Taiwanese felt intense nostalgia after this happened, so the TRA decided to restore one of the trains.
Now, elderly riders can relive the good old days on the only train in Taiwan that has windows passengers can open. Younger people can make new memories riding the South Link, a stretch of track that winds through the mountains and has stunning views of the Pacific Ocean. Best of all, the train drives extra slow, giving passengers more time to take everything in.
The train’s slow speed goes well with the train’s décor, which was designed during a time that emphasized quality over quantity. As passengers eat a retro bento box, they can enjoy the classic green vinyl seats, old-school font on the signs and most importantly the natural breeze coming in through the windows.
The train departs once a day from Fangliao Station. All tickets are available through Lion Travel and book up fast. Currently, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the train only has four cars and 120 seats.
The reopening of the Breezy Blue will let visitors ring in the New Year in patent Taitung style. Passengers can start celebrating New Years in Taitung by soaking up the atmosphere and beautiful scenery from the best view on the coast. But most importantly, people can downshift, get in the Taitung mood and set an intention to live a slower and more fulfilling life in the New Year.
|Rev. Ernst Gassner returns to Switzerland
after 60 years of service in Taitung
Taitung has bid farewell to Ernst Gassner, a Catholic priest who served the county for almost 60 years. Locals from around Taitung gathered at the airport on Tuesday to send him off to his native Switzerland where he will retire. Throughout his life in Taiwan, the 85-year-old spearheaded many community projects, ranging from clearing land for rice fields to founding a kindergarten.
“I will never forget Taiwan and the lovely Taitung. This is my home. I will always miss everyone. I will pray for everyone even when I am in Switzerland. May God bless Taiwan and protect every citizen.” Rev. Ernst Gassner said.
After arriving in Taiwan in September 1964, Rev. Ernst Gassner devoted nearly 60 years to Taitung. He focused on localizing preaching and also was committed to social assistance and preschool education. He is versed in many languages including Mandarin, Amis, Bunun and Dawu.
One of Rev. Ernst Gassner’s major accomplishments was creating a credit union to assist ingenious people in Luye in 1967. In 1968, he repaired the embankment in Baohua. In addition, he established Rose Kindergarten in Luye in 1985. In 2003, Rev. Ernst Gassner became an “Honorary County Citizen of Taitung County.” In 2017, he obtained a National Identification Card of the Republic of China and became a Taiwanese citizen. However, because Rev. Ernst Gassner has gotten older and suffers from chronic illness, he decided to return to his hometown in Switzerland for treatment.
Early in the morning on November 16, Taitung airport was flooded with many church members who came to send him off. Some of the church members from Orchid Island had traveled to Taitung the day before to meet Rev. Ernst Gassner for the very last time. A special farewell concert was also held to express gratitude to Rev. Ernst Gassner.
Rev. Ernst Gassner is like a kind father!” a county councilor and church members said. Rev. Ernst Gassner went to Orchid Island to preach and always rode a scooter to the churches around the community. In addition to preaching the gospel, the priest also taught us how to be a kind-hearted person. Locals say they’ll long remember the selfless priest, who brought warmth and comfort to his adopted home.
|More Than Just Surfing|
This year the ocean sports community in Taitung is once again making waves. The Taiwan Open of Surfing, which took place from November 24-28 at Jinzun, Donghe, entered it’s eleventh year and was bigger than ever despite the pandemic.
Even though the Taiwan Open of Surfing only featured domestic competitions due to border restrictions, the event expanded to include the East Wave Festival at the recently reopened Shanyuan Bay from November 20-28.
The East Wave Festival served as a bridge for the public, government agencies and sports enthusiasts to connect with the joy of ocean sports. The festival hosted many different large-scale events such as kitesurfing expos, an oceanside cinema, rides on an indoor surfing simulator and an SUP paddling competition. These events brought parts of the public that normally stay on land onto the beach and into the water.
More importantly, the East Wave Festival demonstrated that the Taitung County Government, schools and the public are committed to ocean safety education. Combined with The Taiwan Open of Surfing, Taitung is taking the first positive steps to reshaping the image of the ocean as a scary and dangerous place.
Through ocean sports and education, people can learn the ocean can be enjoyed in a safe and responsible manner. In a comfortable and relaxed environment, guests of all ages could try out certain water sports of their choosing and get closer to the ocean.
In addition, these events spread awareness about marine environmental issues. Josh Campbell, local artist and co-founder of Taiwanderful Recycling Company, exhibited a surfboard out of recycled trash from trash picked up along the coast of Taitung. Campbell’s creativity brought awareness to the issue of plastic consumption to a wider audience.
The Taiwan Open of Surfing and the East Wave Festival gave visitors an excellent chance to visit Taitung and experience the unique slow lifestyle found on the east coast. But more than that, through expos, competitions and events, visitors got the chance to be more than just spectators and explore all the different activities available to them in the ocean.
|* PLEASE NOTE: Event dates are subject to change or cancel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please also refer to the websites of specific events for more information.|