Writing: at the terrace of Maritim Hotel, an amazing hotel I somehow Priceline’d for a rate too low to be serious. 12:18am and I just finished an interesting chat with someone. None of your business.
Waking up at room 35, an ugly, dusty, horrendously‐desperate hotel room in City Hotel Mannheim, the first thing I did upon regaining consciousness was to attempt to determine what the hell was it that woke me up. The response came very shortly after, in the form of a sche‐bang type of noise from outside. They’re constructing again, for sweet f**k’s sake.
It’s not that falling asleep was easy, don’t get me wrong. Poorly ventilated room, and I woke up multiple times during the night because it was just too hot to bear.
Altogether a very poor sleeping experience for your truly. I guess good‐night sleep costs a bit more than €55 a night. I shall wait for the online feedback form from booking.com to unleash my tongue at that poor facility. Wait and see; the last laugh, baby, is mine.
The next train was scheduled to leave Mannheim towards Stuttgart on 10:30am, a short 40 minutes ride.
Writing: still at the terrace, just one table to the back. One (or more) of the four guys sitting at the table next to mine has / have just decided to enhance the atmosphere with some questionable bodily aroma and I could hardly breathe. Something like that might have started World War I.
… Where was I? Oh. OK, so I arrived at the train station at around 10:00am planning on a short breakfast. Train’s delayed by 15 minutes—good. Reserved a train from Rome to Milan (apparently those require reservations; thanks Daria for not letting me know. Wink wink) and miraculously found this coffee place called Coffee Fellows. Seems to be a chain that sells espresso products and interesting bagels; more importantly—a very clear English menu right on the wall. Pleasant.
A lox bagel and great cappuccino and I was ready to start the day. Up to the platform and I caught the train right on time—arriving at Stuttgart before noon.
The city of Stuttgart (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stuttgart) is the capital of Baden‐Württemberg in southern Germany. Its metro area is home for more than 5 million people which makes it the third largest metro area in Germany.
The first thing I noticed once I stepped out of Stuttgart Hauptbahnhof was that, if judging by the city centre area, this is one fine looking city. Looking around, you see houses on hills’ slopes basically within a few minutes walk, not more. Needless to say I was impressed, as I did not at all expect this; my previous knowledge of Stuttgart was limited to knowing that it has a moderately‐successful soccer team, as well as being the home for a few famous car companies.
The weather was fantastic—clear blue sky which, combined with the hills covered by red‐roofed houses and trees of all sorts, presented a view that was hard to remain ambivalent to. Which reminds me… I will have to get rid of some of my wardrobe soon as most of the shirts I brought are long‐sleeve and I can already feel summer hitting a bit too hard for me. Something tells me that, once in Italy and in Spain in mid‐July, my long‐sleeve shirts will be as useful as ashtrays in motorcycles.
I predict a short shopping spree in Amsterdam. Jeroen, may I rent some shelf‐space at your place to store some shirts I don’t need anymore?
My hotel, Maritim Hotel Stuttgart, was located about one kilometre away from the main train station. I decided to walk it as my ankle appeared to not hurt as much anymore; walking through the streets of Stuttgart—mostly office buildings—I approached the hotel area and noticed a large garden right behind where the hotel was located. Some graffiti on the walls gave me the sense that this is going to be yet another hotel booking fail; but then I took the turn towards the hotel…
What a pleasant place. Great setting, fantastic location close to everything and man is it quiet in here. As I have made so many hotel bookings recently, I couldn’t quite remember how it was that I got this hotel. No way I would have paid full price for such a nice hotel (great rooms!) in a city as expensive as Stuttgart. A short discussion with the receptionist revealed that I booked that hotel using Priceline. So far, all hotels booked through Priceline were 4–5 stars—and I mean, true 4–5 stars—fantastic hotels in prices way too low to be real.
Got set‐up in my room, a quick shower to freshen up and I went back to the city centre to explore it for a bit, and maybe sit down a write a little. A short meal at Block House (a German chain specializing in nothing but offering adequate food for reasonable prices) and I went to check out Königstraße, one of the more famous streets in Stuttgart’s city centre.
Königstraße, a walkway (cars not allowed here) just facing Stuttgart’s main train station, makes for a lovely walk in sunny days. There are shops, restaurants, pharmacies, cafe’s, food stands… and, of course, quite a bit of tourists. Apparently, this is a good starting point for exploring Stuttgart.
The main train station also borders with a big park, Rosensteinpark, which looked lovely from a distance but unfortunately I didn’t have the brains to go there. Instead, I decided to sit for coffee in a tourist‐friendly cafe boasting a terrace right on Königstraße.
During most of that time, I was engaged in a rather disturbing online chat that sort‐of clouded my enjoyment of it all; I guess sometimes it’s better to simply not reply when someone’s paging you, regardless of how important that person is to you. Well, lesson well learned. 6:20pm, time to go back to the hotel and on to the venue.
The Hanns‐Martin‐Schleyer‐Halle (better known by the shorter name of Schleyerhalle) is located about 6km (!) away from the city centre. Getting there took an awful lot of time and I’m thankful to my brain for engaging in Miriam Mode otherwise I would have missed the beginning of the concert. The walk from my hotel to the nearest S‐Bahn station was about 500m, a bit more than the 50m suggested by the hotel’s receptionist; from there it’s three stations to Neckarpark—a huge park containing numerous sporting fields, stadiums and arenas; from that station, another 20 minutes (!) walk to the venue.
The Schleyerhalle is named after Hanns Martin Schleyer, a business man who was kidnapped by the RAF (Red Army Faction) in 1977 and murdered about a month later as the German government didn’t comply with the kidnappers’ demands. Another thing that I was surprised to find out was that Mr. Schleyer used to be an activist in the Nazi party, and also served as an SS officer. Reading about him in Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanns_Martin_Schleyer) I couldn’t really understand what it is about a Nazi activist that would justify having an arena named after him. Am I missing something in his story?
The hall is adjacent to the Porsche Arena and the Mercedes‐Benz Arena, together creating quite the massive sporting complex. Standing at the entrance to the venue, I really couldn’t find any sign saying “Schleyerhalle” so I thought perhaps the venue has been renamed to “Porsche Arena”, as it appeared to be the name of the building everybody was entering.
The views from the terrace just outside the venue’s doors are lovely (see pictures above) and demonstrate what Stuttgart’s terrain is all about. This is one city in Germany I am likely to return to for a more in‐depth visit.
markknopfler.com ticket collection was easy and worry‐free; a pleasant surprise was to find out that markknopfler.com ticket owners had their own entrance, adjacent to the box office—essentially bypassing a 10‐minutes line‐up due to bodily security checks. Entered the door and found myself swimming in a river of people; extremely crowded inside, and poor ventilation didn’t make the experience all too pleasant.
Hungry, I decided to go for two (!) pretzels and a cup of water. That’s €7.50 for you. By complete chance, I found a table‐side spot to stand by and eat while the entire country of Germany appeared to flow into the venue; I followed about 15 minutes before the concert started.
Lady Ticketluck, who had been assigned with the task of providing me with the best seat in the house, was a bit in an off mood today. I guess I did something to upset her; instead of having a reasonable argument with me, she decided to keep quiet and get back at me where it hurts most—a third‐row ticket, a bit off the centre. Thanks, Lady Ticketluck; no cuddling tonight.
The concert started a few minutes past 8:00pm.
The first thing that was very hard to avoid noticing was that Mark and Guy were dressed in new shirts. Now that’s big news very worth making note of. I think this is the first time this tour that Mark did not wear a black T‐shirt, and Guy’s shirt was extremely, extremely red.
Whoever came up with the RGB system for representing colors, probably had Guy’s shirt as the benchmark for “red”.
No familiar faces whatsoever at the front two rows, which leads me to believe that those rows were reserved for VIP’s or, in general, people much worthier than I am for the purpose of enjoying a full band view in Stuttgart. It was very interesting, however, to realize that the best seat in the house—front row, dead centre, had no ass sitting on it.
No setlist surprises and I suspect that The Fish and the Bird took a leave of absence, perhaps to attempt breeding (good luck with that). Get Lucky filled‐in for the two animals. Marbletown was as great as it was a few nights ago with a great finale taking place, worthy of a standing ovation.
What struck me most (other than the new shirts, that is) was the audience. Not quite the most reserved audience in Germany. Cheers were very loud and, looking around, I saw more than a handful of people dancing in their chairs. At the second row, right in front of me, a guy who I assume was at his early 40’s was dancing and prancing in his chair, imitating guitar movements with his hands (he must have mentally used some very interesting tuning configuration) and crying like a lonesome wolf after each and every song. He completely lost his temper after Sultans of Swing.
Extravagant Telegraph Road finale and people from the front rows (myself included) rushed on their way to the front, stepping on chairs and on each other. We all spent the encore attached to the stage. Well, that happened before of course, but something in the atmosphere was different. The audience was sort of a blend between Germans and 1970’s hippies. The happiness on people’s faces was priceless; it was a good show.
During the encore, the guy standing right in front of me, attached to the stage, suddenly started moving his body in random directions. It started during So Far Away and by the time Piper to the End was playing, he completely lost any sense of direction, to the point that myself, and other people surrounding him, looked at each other with baffled look upon their faces and kept our distance. I was able to capture one of his rapid movements… to give you an idea what I’m talking about.
I was very close to lose a tooth or two due to a reverse head‐butt. Luckily his skull stopped about an inch from my mouth.
Concert ended at 10:20pm with a spectacular cheer.
Walking back to the S‐Bahn at night… that’s 20 minutes walking plus 20 minutes waiting for the next train to arrive. I was back at the Maritim Hotel before midnight, and started writing this post.
Signing‐off this post while sitting on the lawn adjacent to Park Cafe, a “beer garden” close to the venue. Will wrap things up now, maybe catch a short early dinner prior to the show.