this is the archive for the ‘in germany’ category:


this year’s annual october pilgrimage to bielefeld was probably our 10th or 11th visit to the city. between postcards and rubberstamping, the city that doesn’t exist has slowly become the second city we know best in the whole germany. although i like traveling and discovering new places as much as any fellow wanderluster, there’s also a comforting allure in familiar places, that allows us to dig a little deeper under the surface, discovering a bit more of its essence… or its deliciousness!

this time, we made a new local friend who took us to try kastenpickert, a local speciality.

pickert is a potato cake or pancake from westphalia, fried and served with jam or a savory side. there are different versions throughout the region, but the one we tried looked a bit like french toast made out of cake. there’s nothing about cake or french toast that i don’t like, so predictably, it was really good.

i picked sanddorn (sea buckthorn) jam because i love its tangy taste and it’s such a rare sight for us in the south tip of europe.

in the end, 3 slices might have been a bit of an ambitious goal for a mid-afternoon snack… but it was worth it for the company and the opportunity of unlocking a bit more of the bielefeld puzzle. :)

the guinness record strategist

so here’s something i’d never imagine would happen: i helped plan a guinness world record route through the berlin u-bahn!

backtrack to 2014, our last year in berlin. i’d been toying with the idea of having a go at visiting all the ubahn stations in one day, inspired in our friend’s matt race of the shanghai metro. matt, of course, had all the experience of building an interactive map of the metro there. me, on the other hand, had some time on my hands and my monthly pass. so i made a plan that sounded doable and posted about it on a british tube-enthusiasts forum asking for advice. and then one day, adham replied… and things got serious.

adham is one of the most motivated people i’ve ever met — ever. he’s single-minded in his obsession of racing the metro systems of the world, and this has earned him 3 guinness records for cruising a city’s metro network in the least amount of time, using only public transportation. he had had his eyes set on berlin for a while, so one day in september, we met, went over the plans, refined the route, and gave it a go.

turns out, i was great at planning, but crap at actually doing the thing… which surprised no one, and was fine with me. adham though, much more enthusiastic and serious about it, patiently beared with my attempt and then gave it a go at full speed the next day. he broke the previous record by a short bit, after a harrowing last few minutes in which the train inexplicably stopped before the station, dragging itself and our nerves on its way. but it was glorious!

the guinness people weren’t very sympathetic though, and demanded (for the first time in the history of these records) a full video record of the whole 7-hour endeavour… on top of photos, witness statements, independent time trackers and meticulous timetables.

well, that was a bummer, i thought. but did that stop adham? of course not! fast forward to a few months ago, when he laced his shoelaces again and, after rewriting the route, spent the day redoing the whole thing, this time with a camera strapped to himself. the result was a remarkable 6:53:24 lap — a good bit short of our first attempt! hurray!

this happened more or less when we were in finland earlier this year, and i wasn’t paying much attention to the proceedings. so imagine my surprise when we randomly noticed this news bit on the berlin metro last august, completely by accident:

“oh look, that’s adham, he did it!!”, said paulo. and then “oh, and he mentions you!!”

whoa! we were so caught by surprise that i made paulo ride the metro a few more stops back and forth just so we could catch the news clip again. :D and because we were going to london after berlin, we caught up with adham for the tales of this adventure. we chatted for a while at a starbucks, and adham showed us the record which he had brought along, which was pretty cool.

hurray! congratulations adham!

as unlikely as it was, i’m glad this happened and that i went along with it. i feel that sometimes the best adventures are the ones where we go off through uncertain paths and dare to explore beyond your comfort zone. and hurray for public transportation as well — it’s still one of the things i miss the most from berlin.

ps – adham’s latest adventure on the london buses.

isetta stamps!

i found about these completely by accident, while on a postcrossing meetup in germany last year… and i adore them! :D


had i known these existed sooner, i would have sent all my postcards with them!!

walking on history, VIII: maulbronn’s monastery


hesse and kepler stepped on these same stones on their way to class on maulbronn’s monastery (which used to be home to a seminary). it’s a striking place — from the vaulted ceilings to the tombstones that lay on the cloister’s floors.

previously on this series.

the new year’s get-together

organising a new year’s get-together for friends was on the new 101 list, and 2016 was the year it got done! new years are usually a bit of a dread for us… by the time the end of the year rolls around, we’re still recovering from the xmas family extravaganza, and craving peace and quiet. so this year, we poked a few friends spread around europe and decided to find a quiet place where we could all stay for a few days. we found a cozy airbnb in a tiny town in south germany which seemed perfect for our needs (somewhere central in europe, quiet, near cheap airports, dogs allowed)… so we put on our winter jackets, loaded the suitcases with board games, and off we went!

turns out, we lucked out big time! lienzingen is a charming little place, the kind that you imagine from brothers grimm’s fairy tales. it’s full of half-timbered houses hundreds of years old, carefully restored with love and german precision. we stayed in one of them, and boy, was it pretty!


the weather was chilly but mostly dry, with soft rime on trees and even a bit of snow on the last days. together we chatted, cooked, played games, explored a unesco monastery, cuddled dogs, munched on warm laugenwecken, stoked the fireplace and discovered the local maultaschen.

it was the perfect start to the new year: low-key, unrushed and in great company. here’s hoping it’ll become a new tradition! :)