An account of my 31st birthday weekend in Hamburg. Enjoy!
Saving mode is a soul-stifling state of affairs, but can be just about tolerable throughout a trusty Mancunian Winter. Luckily, this year’s edition lasted all the way into snowy April, rendering cosy nights in more of a physical necessity than a form of financial martyrdom. ‘This is going brilliantly’ I assured myself, ‘I’m well on course. What could possibly derail my uncharacteristically sturdy willpower?’
The hottest World Cup in history, that’s what.
Apart from a potent dose of the squirts, I hadn’t allowed myself any time off work since a break-up riddled Christmas vacation. With no plan in place, I cleared my diary for a week around my birthday at the end of June. I wanted to get away, but where that would be was entirely up for debate, particularly as I had no idea if my new passport would arrive in time. This would require me to have aced the form-filling process first time, something for which my history of clerical prowess offered little hope. My nomadic, Aussie housemate Lia had recently been expelled from the UK (having exhausted her VISA) but was spending the Summer ‘doing Europe’. Together with the third housemate Hakim, we constructed a flimsy plan to meet somewhere on the Continent.
A few days prior to our planned departure, the beloved parcel arrived. This precipitated a frenzied assault on Skyscanner. We didn’t really have any criteria to go off, apart from the fact that it mustn’t be too much of a nightmare for Lia to reach Lithuania afterwards, due to some prior arrangements she had made (see? Nomadic). Germany looked appealing, although we had all enjoyed the obligatory Berlin trip at some point already. Upon looking at the World Cup Fixtures, we noticed that the mighty Deutschland were playing European rivals Sweden on the Saturday night. This was a certain dealbreaker. We couldn’t imagine a more raucous party than the inevitable annihilation of the pretty, soft-centred Swedes. But more on that later.
Hamburg was just the cheapest flight. I didn’t know much about it, but Google said it was the second biggest city, some mates said it had been a laugh and finally there was a link with the Fab Four, which would undoubtedly please Beatlemaniac Lia. We booked the thing, arranged an Air B n B and learnt absolutely no German in the 48 hours we had until take off.
And what a take off it was. The Stag do saw to that. Hakim and I had identified this inevitability in the departure lounge, when we first laid eyes (and ears) on the decibel-flaunting rabble of Yorkshiremen. They kindly instigated a two hour delay, as the entire whopping posse were escorted off the plane one-by-one by policemen armed with machine guns. At least they provided some entertainment. The Stag himself, bedecked in a pink tutu, slurrily assured the aviatic militia that he was in fact ‘not pissed’. They certainly seemed to have sobered up by the time their feet hit the runway.
After that prolonged and mismatched Mexican stand-off, the flight felt especially swift. We seemed to start descending as soon as we’d hit our apex, and barely halfway through my revisiting of D12’s erratic debut album. We were travelling light and hence out of the airport in no time, where Google Maps revealed that our apartment was a little further out of the City Centre than we had realised. Never mind, we thought, hailing down a taxi and directing the driver to our destination, Frickestrasse.
It wasn’t the most relaxing of encounters. A disconcerting combination of Ayrton Senna and Roy Keane, this guy had the need for speed, but not for manners. He silently meandered between lanes with a steely grimace, before finally dropping us off at our suburban apartment block. Having been lambasted for not paying him quickly enough, we stepped outside of the Taxi just in time for the fuckwit to whizz away like a naughty kid on the Dodgems.
We gently regained our composure and attempted to secure entry to the flat. Lia had forwarded us some instructions from the owner, which were haphazard to say the least. In the shadiest Air B n B exchange I’ve yet been involved in, we retrieved the hidden key from a plastic bag hidden in a bush near the entrance. Having made our way up to the correct floor, we had to guess which of the apartments ‘on the right’ he alluded to, thankfully selecting the correct option rather than introducing ourselves to our neighbours by trying to break into their home.
The apartment was what you’d expect from somebody who is comfortable hiding their door keys in foliage. Small and cosy but lacking some fairly essential features (a dustbin), we were nevertheless more than happy. The pair of us freshened up quickly and headed down the road to a local bar that we had spotted on our earlier joyride.
You know that bizarre dichotomy where travellers refuse to venture from a city’s centre, while cursing the fact that they don’t meet any ‘locals’? It was immediately clear that we were not going to have that problem. A thick plume of smoke socked us in the face, just as intrigued but welcoming eyes regarded our arrival. I ordered zwei beers in hopeless, pidgin German, barmily grinning to mask my linguistic ineptitude. The bartender helped me along patiently, which I appreciated and perhaps didn’t expect. We eventually bought a pack of cigarettes, sat down and went about smoking them (inside), as much for novelty as satisfaction. The strength of this tradition and culture was palpable, with ashtrays installed at the urinals for the more impatient and unhygienic gentlemen.
A lanky, staggering barfly quickly caught our attention. Loudly pinballing between the bar, the jukebox and the sparse smattering of locals, she was a clear candidate for first person to join the table. Right on cue, she exchanged failed German pleasantries with Hakim, before realising our Mother Tongue and slipping into it seamlessly. Within 5 minutes Kirsten had offered us a place to stay, bemoaned the ‘death of hippies’, forgotten that she had told us both of these things and then done so all over again in identical fashion. A late middle-aged dreamer, she had lived the kind of life which I wouldn’t have previously identified as particularly German. Stories of Goa and Miami energised her pursed features, and she clearly identified us as kindred spirits, especially when 21-year-old Lia arrived with her swollen backpack.
A huge hug awaited the exhausted wanderer. We hadn’t seen her since her emotional departure a month before, with us barely speaking in that time either. An awkward scenario quickly developed where we didn’t feel that we could properly catch up with Lia without ignoring our hospitable guest. Thankfully Kirsten was not precious about such matters, picking up where she left off, roving around the bar enraptured by the jukebox. This provided some guilty relief, until she decided that she wasn’t happy swaying in isolation to Bob Marley. I took to the dancefloor like a condemned man, ‘Waiting in Vain’ the soundtrack to her slow, desolate clutch. Thankfully, the bell rang. The proprietors had had enough, and so had I. We finished our drinks and made haste.
Our distance from the city centre meant that it was difficult to find much going on at 2am, even on a Friday. Kirsten had advised that we hit the fabled Reeperbahn, assuring us that we could stay there ‘until Monday’, but Lia hadn’t slept for a long time and we had perhaps finally learnt to pick our battles wisely. We wandered down an eerily hushed avenue with our eyes peeled for either a watering hole or a takeaway of any sort. I hadn’t eaten since a miniature packet of Pringles on the aeroplane, and can assure you that this city was a disappointing location for such cravings. The amount of misleading ‘Hamburger’ joints was staggering, our tipsy trio repeatedly being misled by the same, cruel mirage. We eventually found a small bar and sat down for one more pint, before settling for an upmarket Weissbeir carryout and a half-decent sleep, in anticipation for the big Saturday awaiting us.
I was the first to rise. It was a little later than we’d planned, so I set about the task of passive-aggressively getting ready as loudly as possible. Poor Lia was asleep in the living room and so really didn’t stand much of a chance, whereas Hakim was a more stubborn contender. Eventually he succumbed, and within the hour we were ready to roll out to a brunch spot recommended by an app of some variety. Despite the linguistic sense it would have made, Uber was not available. I wandered into the ‘Kiosk’ next door and was provided with a taxi number, which I called with the trepidation of somebody that hasn’t learnt any German since Year 9; a class in which I was often distracted by my form tutor Ms Baret’s alluring bosom. I nailed the exchange, mainly because the operator began speaking to me in English within 3 seconds. With mystifying precision, he explained that the taxi would be anywhere between 7 and 8 minutes. ‘I see a little silhouetto of a cab!’ sang Hakim, 7 and half minutes later. We were on our way.
‘Oma’s Apotheke’ was our destination, a brunch haunt supposedly set in an old pharmacy. As a sucker for any kind of curious, mismatched setting such as this, it piqued my interest straight away. Movie screening in a Warehouse? Sold. Gig in a church? I’ll see you at the front pew. Our route was diverted slightly, meaning that we took in a little of the surrounding district of Sternschanze. It felt to me like the epitome of ragged German cool; slightly dated (late 80s/early 90s), concrete, graffiti-strewn and littered with skateboarders and anti-fascist emblems of the counter-culture. I felt as if I’d walked onto the German set of Clerks. Not a bad start.
We entered the heaving tavern to find Belgium well in control against their hapless Tunisian counterparts. Having squeezed onto a table with a smiling Father and his three boys, we sheepishly consulted the English edition of the menu. Before we could say ‘Currywurst’ our waitress headed over, and simultaneously pole-axed the three of us. The glowing, blonde fraulein indulged every stuttering inadequacy with dopey eye contact and a knowing smile. I wasn’t used to this kind of thing. She’s not flirting, it’s her job! screamed my cynical inner monologue. If you fancy someone and are nice to them, is that the same as flirting? queried my muddled conscience. Ask for her number, what’s the worst that can happen? dared my fearless alter ego. ‘Cheque please. Thank you very much‘, whimpered the sap that I had become.
As we left, a warbling, tearful buffoon was forcibly evicted from the premises. Wrapped in a German flag and wailing at his lot, it made for uncomfortable viewing. Captain Hindsight could observe that perhaps the German public should have paid more attention to this most glaring of signifiers. They still reeked of a champion’s arrogance, and yet lose to Sweden, and out they would go. Not only that, but a literal storm was brewing overhead. Perhaps this wasn’t as clear cut as we had anticipated.
The beers were really flowing quite wonderfully. So were the whiskey sours. We had found a cracking little bar, ‘Goldfish Blat’, which was gorgeous to look at without being too showy about it. It could easily have inhabited the Northern Quarter of Manchester, with its exposed brickwork, pretty crowd and array of hoppy craft ales in garishly labelled bottles. Following a vigorous bout on the Fussball table, we sat down to enjoy the match. A quintet of Mexican girls were sat by the bar, adorned in the forest green of their national jersey. The boldness of their team’s approach had resulted in the shock of the tournament so far, having defeated Gemany in their opening fixture. Still, the girls cheered and celebrated openly, the tolerance of this really contributing to the pleasantness of the atmosphere.
We got chatting to our neighbour one table along, an Italian martial artist called Pasquale. We wondered his opinion on whether we should head over to the FIFA Fan Fest for the Germany match. Promises of a 100 yard screen and a capacity of 50,000 seemed far-fetched, but Pasquale confirmed that it was definitely the place to be so long as we could put up with the rain. To our amusement, Lia and I soon realised that Hakim and Pasquale were basically doppelgangers, albeit with a 15 year age gap. They looked, dressed and acted the same, although a kung-fu exercise between the two of them confirmed that Pasquale’s hands were ever so slightly faster. The three of us were starting to be on our merry way at this point, so perhaps it wasn’t the fairest of assessments from Hakim’s point of view. My saving mindset had been given the weekend off, and I embraced the spending with aplomb, like a doomed tee-totaler succumbing to that first, innocent Shandy. The wheels were in motion.
The Fan Fest was a strange experience from start to finish. We wolfed down an unwanted (but very much required) steak sandwich each, before wandering to the outside of a tent that was loudly blasting the Spice Girls. This was surely the place to be. Our bizarre musical tribalism didn’t last long, as we encountered a colourful stall giving away promotional packs of Fruit Mentos. We each nabbed a pocketful and scarpered into the rain.
Despite our beer jackets, an umbrella was becoming imperative. A recent graduate of Blackpool’s ‘Valhalla’, Lia embarked on an optimistic hunt for a round of ponchos. None were forthcoming, and the atmosphere was not quite what we had hoped for. Cold, soaked and nervous, the crowd barely responded to the aggravating cheerleading of the Master of Ceremonies. A few national treasures were afforded half-decent applause when the line-ups were announced, although the majority had to settle for muted anonymity. Amongst the three of us we decided that whatever happened, we’d roll with it. A German win and the place would be bouncing. A German loss and we would piss ourselves. The whistle went, and on we watched.
The champions looked rattled from minute one. Plenty of possession equated to no real chances, while their galvanised opponents looked dangerous with every attack. Still, in these situations you never believe that the unthinkable can happen. And then it did. A powerful, long-limbed striker (I don’t know his name, and I love football) broke free and somehow lobbed the monolithic figure of Manuel Neuer. A collective gasp escaped the multitude surrounding us – think Michael Jackson debuting the moonwalk at Motown 25 – and then, silence.
I couldn’t help but smirk, glancing at Hakim and Lia like schoolkids in the midst of a hilarious bollocking. Hak wasn’t so cheerful, the rain having washed away his trademark cheeky grin. I made the suggestion to head back to an indoor bar at half time. This place was dead, the supporters had given up and it wasn’t worth the hypothermia. The pair of them bit my hand off, and we shuffled away like the fickle turncoats that we were.
As we arrived back at Goldfish Blat, it became obvious that there was no chance of us reclaiming our previous spot. The second half had kicked off, so we quickly surveyed the square for somewhere with adequate shelter and a beer pump. ‘How about over th…’ ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!’ roared every German ever, scaring us senseless in the split second it took to understand. A quick consultation with the screen confirmed it, gifted wimp Marco Reus had equalised. There was almost a full half left to play. We squeezed our way into the tiniest bar imaginable, and watched intently.
Ironically, the atmosphere in this congested cubby hole far surpassed the Fan Fest. Certainly the momentum had changed, but above all the fans showed how they felt. Screaming at the TV like pissheads at the bookies, I finally felt at home. Unfortunately, they could not break down the tenacious Swedes, and time trickled away. With the entire 5 minutes of extra time passed, a free kick was awarded to Germany, albeit not in a particularly hopeful position. Too close to cross and too angled to shoot, it felt like a fool’s errand. Toni Kroos stepped up. The rest is history.
You cannot underestimate the impact that that moment had on our trip. He way as well have gift wrapped that rocket and sent it to our apartment, via the top corner of course. I grabbed the nearest German, bounced with him in a garland, made him feel uncomfortable and then pestered him for a photo. We made our way out of the bar and triumphantly marched down the road, jubilantly squealing our own camp catchphrase (stolen from ‘Bruno’) in football chant form, ‘Ich don’t Think so Hunny!, Ich don’t think so’. Bemused locals regarded us with curiosity, unsure what we were doing albeit impressed by our commitment. This was a theme that would continue throughout the evening.
Our march to the Reeperbahn was punctuated by sheer civil pandemonium. Horns tooted, wheels screeched, Hamburgers bellowed and ‘DEUTSCHLAND’ reverberated. Perhaps the chaos misled me, but I couldn’t quite believe the size of the strip. A swarming kilometer of multi-floored bars and clubs divided by a huge, overloaded boulevard; the associations with Bowie, Mettallica and the Beatles finally made sense.
We decided to pop into a couple of boozers, all en route to our coveted destination, ‘Moondoo’. Their ‘Saturday Night Wildstyle’ promised us purple velvet sofas and Studio 54 era disco; nothing could realistically have been more appealing. With that more soulful sensibility on the agenda, we found ourselves drawn to some Motown croonings escaping from a venue to our right. We buoyantly accepted our roles (Hakim and I as Marvin and Lia as Tammi), belted out our lovers’ exchange and strutted inside, immune to mockery. The place was phenomenal; small but not tiny, with curious accessories dotted all over the place and vivid lighting flashing to the beat. Every tune had us nodding in approval, and we left with heavy hearts but soaring expectations.
We queued for Moondoo, and were emphatically refused entry. I had worn shorts for the day, and we obviously had been far too busy enjoying ourselves for a 30-Euro-round wardrobe trip. It felt completely antithetic to the alternative culture that Hamburg presented, to discriminate against casual clothing. Fair enough this was a more chic affair, but the jumpsuits and Jheri curls weren’t exactly forthcoming. Crushing as it was, the doormen seemed sympathetic; rules are just rules. I debated making a joke about being kicked out of the ‘moon door’, considered it may be lost in translation, fretted that he may not watch Game of Thrones, realised that it wasn’t funny and finally walked away.
Despite my invincible status as Birthday Boy, I felt guilty for knocking the wind out of everybody’s sails in such a calamitous manner. They both promised me that it made no difference and that we would still have a cracker, but I saw their reassurance as nothing more than kindness. The blows kept on coming. A policeman lampooned me for trying to cross a road when the light was green. There wasn’t a car in sight. A brief explanation of what jaywalking actually meant blew my tiny mind. You learn something new every day, I thought. Germans are nowhere near as efficient as people say.
What unfolded in the following 6 hours was testament to the power of blind faith and evasive inhibitions. They were right, those bloody chums of mine. We paid into another venue having not realised it was playing very bad dancehall. Big, trappy hip-hop beats lured us to room 2, despite a deadpan bartender denying its existence. Compared to the turgid scenes outside, this was heaven. We bounded around like imbeciles, sank some shots, drew some glances and, after about 30 minutes or so, left. And so began Reeperbahn Tapas.<
I couldn’t begin to tell you how many bars we visited. I felt like a conqueror, dominating dancefloors armed with nothing but beer-drenched optimism and my rhythmless bounce. A rock club stands out, an enormous cover of ‘Killing in the Name’ beckoning us from afar. We carried on in this way, smoothly shifting personas; from punks to soulsters to Dads at a wedding, to here-from-the-beginning hip hop heads. The truth is that it wasn’t difficult. We all love music in pretty much every form there is. It was supposed to be tapas after all.
The greatest triumph came when we found ourselves back in the bar, Sommersalon, that we had reluctantly left earlier. This was perhaps not as simple as it sounds, considering that we hadn’t thought to check its name and had subsequently whizzed around the Reeperbahn like a balloon released before the knot is tied. The hours since we had left had done nothing to diminish the atmosphere, and we happily picked up where we had left off. Before we knew it it was 6am, the sun had risen and a face-painted Lia had competed with a bona fide African OG in a ‘drum off’. We never wanted to go home, but decided to retire at peak giddiness. Collectively steaming, we staggered up the stairs of our apartment block, clutching onto the banister for dear life and giggling at our questionable equilibrium. For me, it was rare for such a wild, wallet-exhausting evening to end in such a peaceful fashion. It felt great. Perhaps I really was growing up?
I awoke to my audacious midday alarm, took one look at my phone, just about restrained myself from smashing it to pieces and went back to sleep. England were playing Panama at 2pm and we had hoped to watch it in the city. That was clearly not plausible. With 10 minutes until kick off I rolled out of bed in my duvet cocoon and waddled into the living room. Praise the Lord, the TV was working. The relief that we had democratically decided to chill indoors for a few hours, went some way towards alleviating the hangover. We didn’t feel great, but imagine being in a busy, crowded, loud bar? It was unthinkable. The fact that we had come to this decision without uttering a word to each other on the matter made it even more satisfying.
The performance was possibly one of the strangest I’d ever watched. Imagine a mediocre 6-1 victory. The Love Train wreaked havoc. Robust Premier League lumps flung themselves at the ball like they had been shot out of a cannon. Harry Kane was rock-bottomed twice, scored two penalties and completed his hat trick by having the ball walloped at his arse. We conceded a goal against a side that thought you could take kick off while the opponents were still celebrating. It was a confusing spectacle, but ultimately an uplifting one. We switched off the German analysis, cracked an Erdinger and blasted Vindaloo for the entire disapproving tenement.
Eventually we decided to have a long wander into the city. Despite having spent £200 on booze the night before, this was more motivated by breathing the place in a little, than financial handicaps. It was about a 90 minute walk, and we figured that a jaunt would get our motors up and running again. About half an hour in we were starving, so stopped off at a generic but pleasant looking Italian chain. The food was more satisfying that its quality deserved, but what struck me was the demeanour of the waiter.
The first thing I noticed was that he was a strappingly built, powerful man with big white teeth and flawless skin. Believe it or not, this was not an emotional, hungover man-crush. The reason that it was noteworthy was that I realised that pretty much every German that we had encountered so far had fitted a similar blueprint of health and presentation. Secondly, he was around my age (31 at midnight) if not older, working as a waiter in a bland pizzeria and yet seemed perfectly happy with his situation. He walked and spoke with pride in himself and his work, and had no sign of a hangover, despite the footballing heroics the evening before. In Manchester, this would be unthinkable. Hospitality is dominated by failing artists and addictive personalities, as opposed to people that enjoy their line of work (of course, there are exceptions). Dignity is overrun by shame and desperation, and so this standard of level-headed conversation would just not be available. This is what a rich, judgement-free society feels like, I pondered, cursing the suffocating stigma of my chosen profession.
Our walk continued through bright, expansive parks and refreshing waterways. The scale and opulence of the city centre’s architecture really took me by surprise. I had once again underestimated Hamburg. Disconcertingly, however, I had appeared to overestimate how much would be happening on a Sunday. We checked the smartphones and It felt like a genuine sabbath, pretty much all of the clubs being closed and a great deal of the bars too. We couldn’t even find anywhere to drink and play Ping Pong, that most German of pastimes. It was getting towards night-time by this point, and I was worryingly sober considering the occasion. We decided to play our trump card, once again marching toward the bustling arena of the Reeperbahn.
The transformation from the previous night was not just disappointing, but scary. I don’t know if it had been diluted by the volume of buoyant football fans, or whether we had been wearing our wholesome-goggles, but we had totally overlooked the seediness of the strip. Anorexic prostitutes gyrated on balconies, wagging their finger and beckoning punters. Destructive, studded sex toys dominated the eyeline, as did leopard-print firearms and flashing X’s. Groups of pissed, middle-aged men shuffled along, tumbleweed blowing amongst them. This was the level of smut we perhaps should have expected from a naval town with British stag-do reinforcements. I noticed that skull-and-crossbones were popping up quite regularly. Hamburg was almost revelling in a legacy of high-sea villainy, like Captain Hook, or the Ironborn. While that perhaps may have been more of a playful, tongue-in-cheek motif, the sordid core of the Reeperbahn was a little more rotten than I had realised.
We went for a sit-down meal in a questionable take-away which seemed the best of a terrible bunch. Highlights of this included my accidental coining of the term ‘Wandering Doris’, for a lady of little sexual inhibitions. I had heard the doo-wop rock of ‘Runaround Sue’ earlier, and my brain had mutated the perfunctory phrase into something beautiful. If only this could happen more often, I considered. The second highlight was the kebab. I had never seen anything like it. A preposterously arranged volcano of glistening meat and heart-stopping chilli sauce, with a wicker basket of bread. This was an admin meal for me. I’d have struggled with a sandwich. I dutifully burrowed into the grotesque offal sculpture, having photographed it not to gloat, but as a cautionary tale. I recall trying to distribute the sloppy leftovers in a manner that would give the illusion that I’d eaten more than a tenth of it. No dice, I conceded, just as Lia did too. We walked out smiling and thanked them for our ordeal.
We found a relatively lively bar down one of the side streets, with a service area in the centre of the room and some very Shazamable tracks rolling through the speakers. Having grabbed a beer each, we sat in one of the few booths and started to slowly get back into the groove. The birthday evening was shaping up at last, until one of the other punters flaunted a taboo that we had seen disregarded quite a few times already. There’s no way to say this without sounding childish, but people seemed to be perfectly happy just farting wherever they fancied it. I’m not talking about a subtle little parp, but something so odious that it couldn’t possibly be ignored. Hakim had suffered this indignity one time too many, marching outside in protest, never to return. Lia and I battled on, tolerating some more naff, stag do hi-jinks before joining him.
By this point my birthday had actually arrived, to little fanfare and just how I liked it. We popped back into Sommersalon, and even that was remarkably chilled. It was still a very nice place to drink, but felt more like a quirky, welcoming living room than the illuminated party bunker it was 24 hours earlier. Before too long we came to another unexpected but mutual group decision; let’s just grab a load of nice beers, head back and get some tunes going in the flat. It felt like the classic flogging-a-dead-horse scenario, plus the guys had a flight early the next day and it would be nice to sit, drink and chat rubbish in the comfort of our own flat. Collectively buoyed by relief, we picked up a stellar array of refeshments, hopped in a taxi and made haste.
It was definitely the correct decision. We had the most pleasant few hours just sat there, drinking but not drunk, queuing belter after belter and properly catching up in a way that is difficult when you’re going full throttle. Lia is somebody that Hak and I both adore; it’s a real little-sister relationship, and nights like this one help to cement a friendship that had already come such a long way in a very short space of time. It reached a point where the guys had to go to bed to have any chance of making their flight, terrific sleepers that they both are. We gave each other a big, warm, cheesy hug, said goodnight and collapsed on our mattresses.
Bar a semi-conscious farewell, I woke up 31 years old in an empty flat in a city where I knew nobody. This is different I conceded. Let’s have it. I gave the apartment a quick once over, thankfully noticing that a hob had been accidentally switched on at some point. We hadn’t cooked anything so this was quite frightening really; it could have been on since Friday without us realising. Phew. The lack of bin was a problematic aspect of the clean up. Plastic bags would do. Mess was cleared, beds were made, keys were posted. Off I fucked.
I would be lying if I said that I hadn’t pondered that I might have a shit day on my own, but quickly convinced myself that such situations were good for the soul. The lonely writer in me had anticipated a hazy, Leonard Cohen-esque, wistful dream of a day. It would be filled with deep thought, reflective note-taking and bohemian sojourns. I would occupy the coveted role of mysterious stranger; a smouldering beatnik sipping Hemingway Daiquiris in the poorly lit corner of a refined establishment. I would perch a cigarette on my ear, a nicotine-dragging imposter in a world where true poets can only afford to smoke roll ups, and certainly not menthol ones. Perhaps I’d encounter a race-against-time romantic liaison a la Before Sunrise, my impending flight the only obstacle to my destiny…true love.
The reality was a little less whimsical, mainly due to a despicable hangover and my resulting powder keg of a stomach. I doubted that Allan Ginsberg would have been as prolific with guts like these. Otto’s Mr T Burger was a foolish choice of remedy, but I’d had my eye on the place all weekend and common sense wasn’t going to deprive me of this birthday treat. It delivered. Everything was just a little bit boring with nobody to talk to. If I didn’t have to leave that evening I’d have gone in two footed; introducing myself to groups, drinking, making friends. It felt pointless when I had to leave in two hours. A mysterious stranger I may have been, but sadly nobody cares about that at 4 in the afternoon. I finished my Hamburg experience sat on my phone in an empty bar, typing out notes whilst watching a muted World Cup tussle and listening to Earth, Wind and Fire.
For a stab in the dark, close-your-eyes-and point-somewhere-on-the-map kind of trip, Hamburg blew me away. From the unthinkable hospitality of mad Kirsten to Kroos’ get out of jail free card, from the effortless cool of Sternschanze to the staggering sight of peak Reeperbahn, the highs were obvious. Sunday was an eye-opener in that it has made me question the perception of everything I have ever experienced when I’ve been steaming. Was Saturday really that good, we were in the same place? The answer is simple; who cares? The three of us waddled up those stairs declaring our love for each other, certain that it was the best night of our lives. People seem to think that it’s more important to play it cool these days, and so declarations such as these are unfashionable. I think they’re underrated.