Sleepy observations

This is a story about something that happened last summer, at a time when I was running on a lot less sleep than usual:
It was the evening of a day I had spent running lots of errands, trying hard to not get lost on the way and to avoid bare-faced strangers who were looking for conversation. I was standing at an unfamiliar train station, blankly watching the strip of evening sky between an ugly building and the station roof change colors. I barely paid attention to the podcast I was listening to, partly because I didn’t have my coat and it was getting chilly, partly because I was thinking about whether I’d make my next appointment – with Berlin public transport being so unreliable, especially during the evening rush hour. While I was standing there, lost in thought, a train approached the platform. After a glance at the information board to confirm that it wasn’t the one I had to take, my gaze found the train windows that were passing by me at a decreasing speed until I could make out individual passengers. When I realized that they were all wearing masks, I was genuinely shocked. The thought that this train full of incognito criminals would soon open its doors and thus remove the barrier between us worried me. Only then did I remember that we were in a pandemic and that wearing a mask on public transport is mandated, which meant that all those apparent criminals were everyday heroes. As I continued to gaze at the windows that were now slowly gaining speed as they passed by me, manymanymasksI was shocked at how exhausted I must have been at that moment and decided to get some much-needed rest after that last appointment. I should definitely stop making fun of the duck’s numerous Christmas market and cookie daydreams after this embarrassing incident that, hopefully, didn’t show in the tiny bare section of my tired face because, yes, I had forgotten that I was wearing a mask myself. I would have been one of the criminals.


-Bibim Bowl- #our2020inabowl #spicyspicyfood #weaktastebudsclub #lookingforwardto2021 #TBT

Bibim Bowl2020 is almost over. A lot has happened this year and, at the same time, not much; the duck and I went through our laziest period (no shame!) and also through our most stressful this year. This photo of a Bibim Bowl we ate at HOLY FLAT! earlier this year sums up our 2020 pretty well. I believe that this was the only time the duck and I properly ate out this year; I did eat outside (in the cold) more than I would have liked to, but ingesting my own cold barely edible concoctions doesn’t count as eating out. The Bibim Bowl definitely tasted better than what the duck and I had gotten used to throughout the year and we did get to catch up with someone who actually had been consistently busy this year. But still, subjectively speaking, this definitely wasn’t the best food the duck and I have ever eaten. After the first bite, I did regret not having gotten something else, because this bowl was a bit too spicy for my weak taste buds. Also, the duck and I had been eating lots of quinoa with vegetables and tofu in the weeks leading up to this bowl, which probably took away from our tofu and rice appreciation. It didn’t taste bad, though, and the spiciness gave us plenty of chat breaks. All in all, this was a weird meal in a weird year, but the chat was good, and the food would probably have been good, as well, if I weren’t so weak. 3/5 ducks for a meal that weirdly summed up our weird 2020: Not too bad, but nothing super special (apart from the world and our taste buds being on fire).

Do you also have a meal that sums up your 2020? The duck and I ate weirder and MUCH worse for sure this year, but none of our homemade food is as photogenic as this pretty Bibim Bowl (which we still recommend if you ever happen to stop by HOLY FLAT!, are stronger than the duck and me and haven’t eaten lots of tofu beforehand).

Have a happy, healthy, and successful 2021!

The duck and I (and our weak taste-buds)


Wolkenhain: Climbing Clouds

Earlier this year, when it was still super warm out, the duck and I realized that spending even more time at home than usual almost made us cross the incredibly-lazy-but-still-acceptable line into too-lazy-to-get-anything-done territory. This is why we decided to meet one of our favorite Berlin people for a little outdoor stroll through nature in the city (fresh air, safe distance, good plan). The duck and I had had Kienbergpark gather imaginary dust on our virtual to-see list for a while already when MP had suggested checking it out since she, an actual Berliner, had not known about it until recently. We agreed to go in the early evening since we both had prior engagements during the day (the duck’s only prior engagement was with our ancient, trusty laptop and Netflix), which added an amazing backdrop to our exploration of Wolkenhain, an impressive cloud-shaped observation tower overlooking Marzahn-Hellersdorf and the park and gardens it towers above.

Wearing a white T-shirt while climbing a grassy hill overtaken by shrubbery (and oh so many bugs!) in the middle of summer was the only bad decision I had made that day. And not being able to use the shower right as I got home definitely added to the memorability of our tiny outside adventure (maybe it’s time the duck and I start living alone).
If you’re ever in Berlin and are looking for a nice afternoon activity the duck and I recommend checking out Wolkenhain and maybe even adding on a stroll through Gärten der Welt (Gardens of the World) and Kienbergpark, both activities that will definitely stay on our to-do-in-Berlin-list until we can ceremonially cross them out (after having taken lots of photos, of course). As for the duck and me, we have many adventures planned, big and small, for when it’s safer to travel again.
Do you have any places that have been on your to-see-list for far too long? Do you have gigantic, unaffordable post-pandemic travel plans like the duck and I do (far beyond gardens and parks in Berlin)? Let’s all take a nap and collectively dream of traveling!

Train musicians

Some time ago I wrote about how entertaining the duck and I think train conversations are. There is one occurrence, however, that we find even more entertaining: train musicians and other passengers’ reactions to them. Before moving to Berlin the duck and I had hardly ever experienced any train musicians. In fact, our understanding of music on trains was teenagers listening to it over their phones’ speakers to show everyone how gangster they are. This does happen in Berlin, as well, but real musicians are a much cooler phenomenon. We’ve listened to singers with their acoustic guitars give a little train performance on a Saturday afternoon; we’ve experienced a full-on brass concert with a shrill polka backing track on a Thursday evening; we’ve been overwhelmed by soccer fans who brought the stadium they missed so much onto the train by listening to a mix of techno and Schlager music out of their powerful speakers and drunkenly singing along, which was a complete contrast to that time we got to listen to a pleasant acoustic guitar solo after what had felt like a long pandemic-caused train music break. Just as diverse as the music are the passengers’ reactions: Some sigh, some turn up the volume of the music they’re listening to over their headphones, some toss a few coins into a hat sitting in front of the performer, some seem to get off early to avoid the noise, and others confront particularly noisy music providers and try to out-yell them when they demand that they spare their fellow passengers and take their stadium and drunkenness elsewhere. music note duckThe duck and I are quiet observers. Sometimes, if the music is too loud and obtrusive, we silently agree with the annoyed passengers, and sometimes we turn off our podcasts or put our phone or book down in order to listen completely to all that talent and bravery around us. Most of the times we find ourselves remembering trains in Tokyo, where even when you use headphones you have to make sure that you are the only one who can hear the beat of the music you’re listening to.

Bin ich ein Berliner?

‘Am I a Berliner?’ is not a question the duck and I ever ask ourselves, because the simple answer is ‘no’. We have neither lived in this iconic city long enough to declare ourselves true people of Berlin (and there might even be a rule that you need to be born and grow up in Berlin to ever be considered a true Berliner), nor are we jelly donuts. We also didn’t know that jelly donuts aren’t even called Berliner here (as they are in other parts of Germany) until several months into our Berlin (non-)adventure. They are called Pfannkuchen, ‘pancakes’. And this is just one of the many things that we didn’t know about before moving here. In fact, the duck and I still get confused on a regular basis when we hear yet another unknown word, or one that has a completely different meaning outside of Berlin.

Duck with confusing donut

Take the jelly donut, for example. Depending on who (and where) you ask, you might even be told that its rightful name is Kreppel, or is it Krapfen? Wait, are Krapfen filled? And didn’t I hear someone call them Faschingsküchle, ‘carnival cakes’, or is that another kind of pastry? If you are looking for answers to those questions, you will probably not find them here. Sorry. The duck and I have another question, though: Continue reading


Mates on a train

Last weekend the duck and I took a tram for the first time in over a month. We knew that the Berlin public transport experience would change due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the relative emptiness and calmness we got to experience throughout our ride was still shocking. See, in Tokyo the duck and my main worry was figuring out how to increase our chances of landing a seat; in Berlin we do enjoy seated travel, but we appreciate a relatively steady noise level that allows us to read or get some studying done even more. If we sit around groups of people who know each other (mates, if you will), or someone who has a long debate over the phone, it can be hard to concentrate on a book or new vocabulary. Often those conversations are so lively and loud that we can’t help but listen in and thus broaden our understanding of the human condition (ha! That’s what we’ll call being unintentionally nosy from now on). After a year of witnessing Berlin public transport discussions, most of them interesting, some uncomfortable, the duck and I feel like we know the people of this city.
While we do enjoy the occasional caught conversation, we still prefer being somewhat productive during our commutes. This is why, once we have to take trains more often again, we will continue to look for seats near book-reading or headphone-music-listening solo travelers rather than mates on a train (we tried; we failed; we’re too lazy to change the title).
Now that face masks are mandatory on public mask ducktransport (I never expected to see masked riders in Berlin), the duck and I have found a new thing to look out for to avoid all those exciting train discourses: people who sport makeshift masks! It seems to us that those folded bandana/former t-shirt/no-sew masks have a tendency to muffle speech more than the store-bought single-use or sewed varieties. Where do you think scarves fall on the muffled-speech-through-mask spectrum?
We’ll go back to folding some more ugly, uneven no-sew masks for our muffled-sound-collection now. Please stay safe and considerate (and hopefully somewhat cheerful despite the uncertainty), everyone!


Twilight Walk

During these chaotic times the lazy people among us who like to spend lots of time inside, especially now that the dreaded allergy season has arrived once again, can finally feel like they have been preparing for this all along. The duck and I sure do. However, now that we know that we actually should not go outside too much we suddenly crave feeling actual sunlight that is not filtered through our bedroom window on our faces. First, let me outline the current legal situation in Berlin: social distancing is encouraged, restaurants and non-essential stores are closed, as are places that encourage close contact, like playgrounds and gyms. Going for walks is permitted, though, if you keep an adequate distance to others. In the past few weeks the duck and I left the house exclusively to (try to) get some groceries. Last week, however, there was a moment when we knew that we needed some fresh air if we wanted to keep our sanity. There is a little park-like area near our home that we supposed wouldn’t be too crowded in the evening. And we were right – we only crossed paths with a handful of people and most everyone was seriously trying to keep their distance.
Because we love the hours in which the warm afternoon sunlight explodes into numerous pretty colors, the duck and I just had to take our camera. And, because the park was so empty, we decided that it would be safe to stop from time to time to take a few snaps when no-one was around.
Here is a selection of some of those photos that made us remember that, even in a crisis, the world keeps on moving, the sun rises and sets… and the evil pollen will soon try to rule over us once again!Berlin end of winter walk 6This, I think, is our favorite photo from this long overdue walk. We took it at around the midpoint of our route when we thought the light was the prettiest. The duck and I loved how, throughout our little walk, we could actually see how time progressed. We hope that this also shows in our photographs: Continue reading


*Grilled Tofu with Herbs and Peanuts* #vietnamesevegetariankitchen #TBT #yummyinourtummy #lostintranslation

Yummy Vietnamese foodLast summer a friend the duck and I hadn’t seen in ages paid Berlin a short visit. She was staying at a hostel in Mitte, so we decided to look for a place to have lunch at nearby. We found a Vegetarian Vietnamese restaurant called Chay Viet that looked promising. After studying the menu for a very long time, the duck and I decided to go with a dish called bun xa ot. At least I think that’s what we had. The description ‘rice noodles with seasonal salad, special Vietnamese herbs and grilled tasty marinated tofu with lemongrass and chili, served with fried onions and peanuts’ seems to fit. The name, however, according to Google translate, is a bit curious: ‘Chili slurry’ 😕
It was tasty, though. The huge portion gave us lots of time to properly catch up with our friend. Seriously, I think it took the duck and me about two hours to finish it! Even if we really ate chili slurry, we’d rate this 4 out of 5 peanuts. We had to deduct a peanut because there was a moment when we genuinely worried that we would not make it home because we were so full. Still, even though the duck and I know nothing about authentic Vietnamese food, we recommend checking out this place, especially if you’re looking to have a long catch-up session with a friend 😀

Well, this surely was some time ago. But, because the duck and I are social distancing, like every sensible person in Germany, there will probably be some more posts from the past on here. Since we had this lunch experience three seasons ago, the only thing we actually do remember about the food is that we generally enjoyed it. We would probably enjoy it even more, in retrospect, if someone could clear up the translation confusion for us (seriously, comment or send us an e-mail if you know what this is all about or would like to speculate with us – I guess it means broth or something? But I don’t know) 😛

The Berlin public transport experience

… is one of the city’s most popular attractions! For as little as €2.90 you can see for yourself what all the hype is about!
If you live in Berlin chances are that you heavily rely on public transport. The public transport network here is pretty good. In fact, it’s quite similar to that in Tokyo in that there usually are several connections that get you from one place to another, though some might be substantially more convenient than others. There are not many locations within city limits that you cannot reach by bus, tram, subway or train and a brisk walk of usually less than ten minutes – on a day without outages or cancellations, that is. Sure, you might have to change several times – the duck and I sure do – but that just means more opportunities to acquaint yourself with the Berlin-exclusive public transport etiquette (that definitely needs some getting used to, especially if you come straight from Tokyo). When two years ago we would walk around with our phone on permanent silent mode (because we were constantly taking trains and not disturbing your fellow passengers is rule #1 in Tokyo), now there are hardly any days that the duck and I do not get to witness some heated interpersonal drama on the train. Sounds seem to multiply here. I still vividly remember an instance when, in Tokyo, I sat opposite a Japanese businessman whose phone started to buzz. He quietly answered it (which in itself is not a typical reaction by Japanese train etiquette standards), hand in front of his mouth, telling the caller that he is on the train while he hectically bowed in all directions to apologize for the disruption. Because that was such an unusual occurrence he had a big curious audience. Compare that to a train ride the duck and I had two weeks ago where the standard noise level of casual conversations was drowned out by a person who had a Skype chat with their toddler who was watching TV rather than talking to them, all of that with the speakers at max volume! I turned up the volume on my ear-phones, ignoring the warning that pops up whenever you exceed the ‘safe levels’, and still couldn’t understand half of what was said on the podcast I was listening to.

Podcast duck

That’s Berlin public transport for you. Throw in the regular delays and cancellations (my favorite reason by far is wire theft, though the wire problem that initiated the duck and my Ikea odyssey last year was pretty interesting, as well) and the occasional wet seat and you have the ‘Berlin train experience’. The best part of it, at least if you ask the duck and me, is that the BVG (the main public transport company of Berlin) gladly embrace their reputation, as you can tell by some of their humorous commercials.
But all that isn’t really what this post was supposed to be about. Before getting lost in this long exposition, the duck and I actually wanted to share our latest discovery on a Berlin bus that made it truly fancy in our eyes (and I think that after reading about the image that Berlin public transport has you can understand why we were so excited): Continue reading

Grocery shopping in Germany

It is still winter. It is still too cold for the duck and my liking. It is the perfect time to write more about the one outside activity the duck and I enjoy all year round. The last time we dedicated a blog post to our adventures in grocery shopping, the duck and I were living in Tokyo. We had set off on our first grocery trip full of hopes and aspirations. We returned with a bag filled with confusion, sensory overload, and a little bit of food. Don’t get me wrong, we loved going grocery shopping in Tokyo. It felt like an adventure until our last days in this exciting city (the sunglasses and imaginary leather jackets we were going to use as our regular grocery shopping outfit once we’d figured out every aspect of it never left our wardrobe). Now we live in Berlin, which, surprisingly, is not at all like Tokyo. When it comes to grocery shopping here, I’m much more optimistic. Now that the duck and I have been educated about the burning ambition of the common pantry moth, not much could stop us on our quest to grocery shopping mastery.
Berlin grocery duck
Just look at the duck’s exploits! Those who have read about our grocery shopping adventures in Japan might already suspect how much we love buying our food in German supermarkets and grocery stores (and sometimes even drugstores). Gosh, we love grocery shopping so much that we could probably write a post about it every week for a year and never run out of topics. This is why the duck and I decided to limit ourselves to writing a comparison (in many, many words) between our experiences grocery shopping in Tokyo and in Berlin:

Continue reading