Chapter 3 – The Reeperbahn

The following evening we moved to the Hamburg YHA, and were separated into girls and boys rooms. We showered, shaved and met up in the foyer, ready for a night out in the famous red-light district, the Reeperbahn.

“Curfew is at 2am. If you miss it, you can’t get back in until 6am”, they told us as at reception as we handed in our room keys for the night.

This seemed a little early to be back, but since we were still knackered from a big couple of nights we just nodded, I fastened the clip on my faux fox fur jacket, and we headed out into the crisp January night.

As we dined on schnitzel, and drank red wine, we still planned to back for 2am.

Noel was telling me how excited he was about going to Berlin tomorrow, how we were going to do this great walking tour, and how it was probably good we were going to get a good night’s sleep. I was quietly wondering why my period hadn’t come yet. Surely it was due today? I didn’t say anything to Noel. It would come tomorrow.

As we wandered the meandering streets lined with bars, strip clubs, flashing lights, and hundreds of people, we still planned to be back for 2am.

We tried a few places, knocking back bacardis and beers, looking for Hot Germans. We found a bar playing fun music, which had lots of people dancing. Noel said that he hoped they’d play “99 Balloons”.

As we ordered shots of tequila, which they served with cinnamon and orange, we still planned to be back by 2am.

We chatted to the barman, and then some locals. They played “99 Balloons”. We whooped and hit the dancefloor.

We were starting to think we might not be back for 2am.

When we decided to take the herbal ecstasy I had in my coat pocket, just for kicks, thinking it probably wouldn’t do anything, and ordered another shot of tequila, we neglected to notice the time was 1.45am. When we actually checked our watches it was 2.30am. Bugger!

Well, obviously fate had clearly decided for us. Til dawn then!

I wanted to go to the Kaiser Keller as I knew it was where The Beatles had played when they were in Hamburg. I thought it might be a cool rock band venue, and we’d have a chance of finding some Hot Germans. We somehow found our way there, paid our €5, and walked right inside before either of us bothered to look around us.

Heavy industrial dance music pounded, as we began to notice the place was thronging with Goths, theatrically dressed in corsets, fish nets, top hats and Dracula cloaks. Shit.

The reality – that we were going to be out until dawn – began to sink in, along with a sense of fatigue, and foreboding – the latter probably due to the prevalence of Goths, and hardcore beats. We realised we were going to need some real drugs, and maybe the dancing white faced, black lipped revellers all around us could be the solution. However, neither of us had enough cash on us.

Noel offered to head back out onto the street and find a cashpoint, if I would do the legwork, and with my “kleine bisschen Deutsch” find a new black-clad friend who might have the goods we needed.

And so Noel left me all alone in a sea of Goths. The music pumped. I searched the faces, only to feel more alone, and a little afraid. I tried chatting to a couple of guys who looked slightly less Goth, and a bit more rock, but they couldn’t help us. I began to wonder if anyone in here was even on drugs. Maybe they just dressed like this, and gathered together to dance until they reached frenzy point and sacrificed the drunken Australian. The music seemed to get louder, and even more industrial.

Noel returned about half an hour later to find me in the corner, hiding under the staircase on a stack of chairs.

“What are you doing under here?”

““Thank God you’re back! It’s too scary. I think we should go somewhere else”.

The next place I remember being was a little bar, down a small side street, where Noel thought the bar tender was hot. I remember he gave us shots. I remember I lit the wrong end of a cigarette, and danced on a table. I remember going to the toilet, and noticing that the stock room was unlocked and ajar, bottles of beer begging me to take them, I put as many as I could in the pockets of my fox fur.

It is at this point I now realise I had become a rarely seen creature – Evil Me. Pockets lined with beer bottles, she returned to the bar, where Noel was chatting up the barman. She whispered loudly, “I just fucking stole loads of beer”, which I’m told the barman heard, but I don’t remember. I don’t know what time it was by this point, Evil Me may have danced on some more tables, and she definitely had more shots.

The only other thing I remember about that night was leaving the bar, and as my evil self reached for the door, one of the beer bottles fell on the floor and smashed.

“Fuck! Shhhank you and goodgenight!”

We got into a cab, and apparently when we reached the hostel we had no money to pay for it. Evil Me said something awful. I have no clue how we resolved that situation, or why I would have ever said anything that terrible. I can only absolve myself with the knowledge that it was Evil Me, not real me, and the sentence didn’t even make sense.

2 hours after arriving back at the hostel, at 9am, Noel went out to reception. “You’d better go get your girlfriend,” they said, “She’s causing a disturbance.”

He came into the girls’ room and to find me passed out, fully dressed in my fox fur coat, my sparkly earrings, and the fake diamond bling ring Noel had given me for Christmas. (We were planning to use to pretend we were engaged and get free shit when we got to Eastern Europe.) There was a little puddle of vomit on the floor. He cleaned it up, and tried to wake me.

“Fuck off cunt!” Said Evil Me, and punched him in the face with my bling ring.

He packed up my bag, and got everything ready to go, and then tried to wake me again. This time I rose, and he dragged me to the train station, which took us to a bus station, where we were getting a bus to Berlin. It wasn’t until I had napped on the bus, and awoke to feel calm and sane that I realised Evil Me was finally gone.

Maybe those fake pills worked after all.

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 12:33 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Chapter 2 – Stansted to … Hamburg?

4 hours later, and we weren’t in Berlin. We were at Stansted fucking airport.

Easyjet, or rather “Easycunts”, had managed to delay our flight from Edinburgh to London by an hour an a half, and so we had missed our connecting flight to Berlin. Stranded at the airport, we found ourselves weighing up our options. Stay overnight at Stansted, and get the 6am flight to Berlin? Or fly to Hamburg tonight, and try and get a bus? Visions of The Beatles, tearing up the Reeperbahn in the 60’s flitted into my imagination.

“Let’s go to Hamburg.” I suggested, and faced with an entire night loitering around the airport, Noel was easily persuaded.

And so a couple of hours later we were on a Ryanair plane to Hamburg, being served by Juan and some lady whose name was Magdazagapatta. Or at least it was something which closely resembled that, and was just as unpronounceable. We troubled our attendants for a couple of baby bottles of red wine, and tried to relax. But Juan had other ideas. He was compelled to jump onto the intercom every five minutes, and with a deeply impenetrable accent proceed to try and sell what were either duty free products, or “juicy seed frolicks”, it was pretty hard to really know for sure. But he was certainly persistant.

“Ladies and genteraman, Ryanairahas arangia of produss for youato purchases…”

“No Juan! No!” Noel cried in his petulant child voice. But Juan was not to be dissuaded and continued with his indecipherable sales pitch. So, we just settled in and got the lovely Magdazagapatta to bring us another two bottles of red.

By the time we arrived in Hamburg it was nearly midnight. Too late for a bus to Berlin, apparently. But we found a little Pension easily enough, where in very bad German I asked the little man at the desk for the one thing, above all others, we were desiring.

“Biere unt bratwurst, ja?”

“Ah ja!” He replied.

I expected him to pull out a little map, and draw a route for us. But he simply emerged from behind the desk, and gestured for us to follow him out onto the street. Ah, I thought. He is going to point the way for us. But he kept walking. And like the Pied Piper, waved for us to trot along behind him, down the road, across the square, round the corner, and down a narrow, dimly lit side street.

“Mickey Mouse.” He said, and pointed to the door of a dark, rustic, and slightly dishevelled looking bar, with a neon sign above the door, which sure enough said Mickey Mouse.

Hungry, thirsty and grateful, we thanked our intrepid guide, and bravely entered the smoky establishment. We were greeted by the sight of an old traditional bar, with booths, bric a brac, and a slightly weathered barmaid, who thankfully had a little English, and amusingly enormous glam metal hair. The only other patrons were huddled around a table in the corner, settled in for a long night of drinking and smoking. There was a young labourer type in a white sleeveless t-shirt, an older wrinkled gentlemen who appeared to have been slightly pickled by years of drinking, and another senior gent with a big white beard, and a close resemblance to a latter day Sean Connery.

Noel and I jumped in a booth next door, and ordered our beer and sausages. The sausages might have been cold, and we might have been in entirely the wrong city, but we were in Germany, and our first objectives had been achieved. So what was next?

“Hot Germans.” Noel said excitedly, through a mouthful of sausage. “We have to find some hot Germans”.

“Definitely!” I concurred. “Since we’re in Hamburg, maybe we should stay an extra night, and check out the red light district. It’s supposed to be pretty crazy.”

I could see Noel calculating that one day more in Hamburg, was one day less in Berlin.

“We’ll still have 2 nights in Berlin. And it would be really cool to see Hamburg.” I argued, temptingly.

Noel wasn’t entirely won over by the delights of Hamburg, until our local table-neighbours invited us over to join them, and we brokenly conversed through our Jon Bon barmaid, learned some handy German phrases, and drank copious amounts of weisse-biere.

“What is German for ‘you’re lovely’?” I asked the young labourer, who had taken a liking to me. I was pretty sure he had understood me.

“Shon hertzlich.” He told me, writing it down on a napkin, along with his phone number.

At about 5am, we stumbled back to our little pension and fell into bed.

I could tell that Noel was deciding that staying in Hamburg for an extra night might just be fun.

Published in: on October 29, 2009 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Chapter 1 – Edinburgh

Sensible, organised, level headed people will tell you that the night before a big trip the best thing to do is to spend the evening packing, and checking everything is in order, before getting an early night. It is not get shitfaced and shag a random Welshman. Despite vain attempts and occasional illusions to the contrary, I am not a sensible person.

Noel and I had been planning our Central European odyssey for months. It was a light amidst the tunnel of Edinburgh winter; a time of perpetual darkness, of waiting for buses to appear out of the mist, and long cold walks along gothic cobbled-stoned streets. It was also at the end of a long decadent road of Christmas overkill.

The fact was, I was sequestered in mid-winter Edinburgh with as delightful a group of alcoholics and hedonists as you were ever likely to meet. It was one of those once in a lifetime mixes of people. We all had stamina, imagination, livers of steel, and part time jobs we didn’t care about. Usually a bender has to come to an abrupt end. Someone has to work, or the intoxicants run out. But this time it seemed we had the money, we had the contacts, we had the time, and we had the desire. In short, it was “game on”.

Over Christmas and New Years we practically mastered the art of decadence. Helena was Danish, worked at a gourmet food store, and was obsessed with being the hostess. When we gathered around the table on Christmas Eve, at the flat she and Noel shared in Broughton Rd, the dinner she prepared closely resembled a Royal State banquet. The dining table was covered with plate after plate of roast turkey, cured ham, honeyed carrots, roasted potatoes, stewed cabbage, peas with mint, buttered green beans, and marinated onions. It was really a shame that by the time it was finally ready, the 10 of us were too inebriated to really appreciate it.

But we plowed on ahead, eating as much as we could, drank more red, had a few lines. I leaned out the window to have a cigarette at one point, and the candles on the Christmas tree lit my coat on fire. I didn’t even realise until I was in the next room, and I could smell burning.

Once I had extinguished myself, we were full to the eyeballs, and buzzing appropriately, we hit the town, and didn’t return until dawn on Christmas morning. We gathered together to distribute presents, trying to capture a little of the family Christmas spirit we were all missing, as it unfolded somewhere else in the World.

Meanwhile, little by little the warm feelings of wasted were wearing off, and the cold ache of reality was beginning to descend. By the time the last presents were opened I was curled up in a corner of the sofa, tears borne of dawning pain rolling down my face.

Admittedly, coming down on Christmas morning felt a bit wrong. Probably not as wrong as passing out at 11am, sleeping for the rest of the day, and hearing Jess slip over in the hall and get knocked unconscious. Someone called an ambulance. She was concussed, they said, but she was fine. I rolled over and went back to sleep.

New Years was pretty much a repeat, except we wore fancier clothes,  didn’t bother with the food, there weren’t any presents, and we didn’t need to call an ambulance. Oh, and it kept going for 3 days.

So by the fifth of January we were ready for a change of scene. Back in November, in a moment of (probably drunken) madness, I suggested to Noel that we take a trip around central Europe – in the middle of winter. Brilliant plan, he agreed. Berlin, Prague, skiing in the Slovakian mountains, and Salzburg. He would then go onto Italy, and then home to Australia. I would go to London. Easy.

I had already packed my big suitcase with wheels, and come to meet Noel at his work; a posh, silver service, Scottish restaurant in New Town. He liked it because he got to serve rich men, who tipped him lots, and who often had with them dubious mail-order brides, or barely post-pubescent girls, who were being plied with expensive liquor in the hope that while the girls stroked their egos in public, upon return to the hotel suite there may be some more nefarious stroking done it return. Noel loved the scandal. It made the stories he would tell in the pub much more entertaining.

Noel also found, like most of us do, that working in hospitality is also good if you like drinking, and drugs. Because so does everyone else. I don’t know if it’s the lifestyle, or the working hours, or the social temperament of people who have to serve assholes all day with a smile, but a quick after work drink can often turn into a two day bender, where somehow in the middle you manage to pull off a double shift. So by the time I arrived after service that evening, the staff were all gathered in the lounge, plowing their way through several bottles of wine. Which turned into several more.

I was chatting to this delightfully cute Welshman called Peter, wondering why, in all my long months here in Edinburgh I had never met him before. Why until this point, my romantic exploits had been constrained to an ill-fated fling with Toby, one of our gang, that luckily our friendship had managed to survive? And ever since I had been reserving myself for someone special. Maybe someone like Peter, I thought. Peter, with his scruffy blonde hair, and his cute regional accent. Peter, who was obviously flirting with me, and making me seriously reconsider my oath of chastity.

Now, it should be said, I was no angel. At 26 I had already racked up my fair share of bed post notches, and I had some stories that if I was drunk enough I might tell you, and then immediately regret the next morning. Much like many of the experiences themselves. But I liked to think I was maturing, changing my ways – and nursing the most colossal broken heart of my life. So while Noel, and Helena were dabbling in whatever sexual delights the small Edinburgh population could provide them, I was determined to be a lady. No more one night stands, or trashy sexual behaviour. I wanted love, and I figured that anything else just wasn’t worth the diseases.

Seven months earlier I had left Melbourne – and what I thought was my great love – behind me. We had foolishly hooked up two months before I was due to leave, and because we had a time limit, we never bothered to show our negative sides, or address any issues which may have caused a longer relationship to founder. We just had a great time together, and by the time I left him at the airport we were both convinced it was love. My great love. The one.

The one who, after a month of silence, had smashed my heart to smithereens via email back in September. The one who I was going to see for the first time since our tragic parting, in London, on the other side of upcoming trip. The one who I still believed would realise he still loved me when he saw me, and we would be together forever.

And if that was the case, I figured I didn’t have long left as a carefree single girl. In fact, I would surely look back in regret if I didn’t take full advantage of the chance to have one last fling with a random Welshman. At least that’s how I justified it to myself as I ran down the stairs at 2am to ask Noel or Helena if they had a condom. That’s how I justified it to myself when I had sex with him again in the morning, without one.

But time for post coital bliss or remorse was fleeting, as early the next morning Noel came tearing into the room, a whirlwind of expletives, tongue clucking and his trademark extravagant hand gestures. He threw clothes from the floor into a backpack, and then proceeded to break into a louder chorus of expletives while he searched his hung over brain for what else he could require.

“Fuck, shit, cunt. Nurofen. Cunt, shit, bollocks. Passport.”

Peter surreptitiously started to put his pants on. I reassured myself that I had taken the last pill in my packet yesterday, and I would be fine.

“Fuck, Fuck. Toiletries, socks. Cunt. Gloves, woolly hat, scarf.”

I mean, he looked clean. He didn’t look like the kind of guy who slept around too much. Except he just did.


Into a taxi; case, backpack, me, Noel and Peter. We dropped our Welsh interloper off with a perfunctory number exchange. I knew deep down I would never use it. Then it was straight to the airport to catch our plane to Stansted, to swap for a plane to Berlin; Noel’s no.1 destination. Four hours and we would be in Germany, drinking beer and eating sausages. Come on.

Published in: on October 23, 2009 at 4:21 pm  Leave a Comment  
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