Writing: June 19, sitting in the lobby of Motel One—Bellevue in Berlin. Check‐out time is one hour away, then a short ride to Leipzig.
The fabulous hotel room in Hannover provided for one of the best night sleeps I had in a while. The benefit of having rapid transit from city to city (I have no words to describe Germany’s public transit system, other than “exquisite”), as well as a tour scheduled so daily distances are short, is that there really is no rush to get anywhere.
Of course, such easy mornings should not be taken lightly as, before long, it will all be over and serious train rides will take over once again. Therefore, I used each and every moment to relax, plan ahead, and just enjoy the silence.
I recall the day before being a bit on the “off” side with certain things making me feel a bit odd… lonely, that is. Lessons have been learnt so (hopefully) such dips are unlikely to happen. Lets all hope for the best.
The hotel I was staying at was very close to the main train station. Checked out and off I went to the station to grab some breakfast and coffee before taking the ICE train to Berlin. There’s a coffee shop with a terrace right there at the train station; ordering a sandwich and a coffee, I was sent to the very far side of the counter to grab my drink. A lady was working on drinks there, she seemed sort of upset.
You know, that kind of “upset” face one gets after performing the same actions again and again for quite a while with no challenge whatsoever. Striking up a conversation was the last thing on my mind. And then she asked me if I wanted a tablet.
– “?????”, my face said (I remained silent).
– “Do you want a tablet?” she repeated, holding a small tray.
– “Oh, you mean a tray.”
– “A what?”, she asked, surprised.
– “In North America we call this a tray.”
Now I wouldn’t even have told you about this incidence as, on its surface, it doesn’t seem very interesting. But something weird did happen; of the things that my detail‐oriented, mind‐reading brain finds great interest in.
The upset tone of her face has turned, in an instant, into a lovely smile.
– “Why, where are you from?”
– “Ohhhh, Canada!”
What’s interesting in this, you’re asking? Well, I will tell you. What’s interesting in it is the fact that myself correcting her English to say “tray” instead of “tablet” (even though, I believe, a “tablet” is a proper substitute for “tray” in some places) seemed to completely overturn this lady’s mood.
This is to demonstrate that you can never predict with 100% probability what it is that turns people’s mind from a state of utter despair into a state of bliss. You can get close to 100% the more you know the person; when dealing with strangers, it’s pretty much a gamble.
The direct and unambiguous consequence of that is, that when dealing with an individual who is a complete stranger to you, a “pleasing” approach is basically the most fruitless approach you can take—first, because you really can’t know how your actions are going to be interpreted by the other side, and second—because you are bound, with such approach, to trigger an internal conflict within your self, between what you had just said (or done) and your core values.
I believe it was Zieg Ziglar who once stated that “a person cannot consistently behave in a manner that is contradictory to his core values”—few statements are as true as that one; combine it with the above and you got yourself in a rather lousy position dealing with an individual that you really just intended to please.
A smart redhead used to tell me that “not every conflict stems from a conflict of interests”. Moral of the story: first, be loyal to your own core values because, without that, no approach can “hold water” for too long. If your core values don’t “work” with the other individual (a potential business partner; a barista; a seller; a buyer; a lover), skewing reality to fit things into “working mode” is always an inferior approach to simply give it up and move on.
ANYWAY. That’s enough Interpersonal Skills 101 for one day. Yes, I thought about all of that while having a small sandwich and coffee.
At around 12:00pm, I boarded the ICE train en route to Berlin. Previous trains en route to Berlin appeared to have suffered major delays; the train I boarded was actually a train that was supposed to be in Hannover two hours earlier.
A nice, easy ride in first‐class towards Berlin. About 30 minutes prior to the train’s scheduled arrival time, we suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere (not even cellular reception there) for approximately an hour, while the announcer periodically announced something in German. People didn’t seem too pleased with whatever it is he had to say. Finally, an hour later than scheduled, I left the train in Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
It was still early afternoon. A short system check in my body revealed the fact that I was, indeed, hungry so I decided to stick around the train station and see what’s what and what is there to eat.
Berlin’s central station is big; trams, subways, trains and buses use this station as a hub. Travelling through Germany, you are very likely to find yourself here at some point. Brilliantly designed as a train‐station as well as a mall, there are lots of things to eat and drink here. But what attracted my eye wasn’t necessarily the food.
It was the people. More exactly—it was the sight of literally hundreds of people sitting pretty much everywhere, staring at big LCD screens that were pretty much everywhere as well. Germany’s national team was playing against Serbia’s as part of FIFA’s World Cup. Looking at the scoreboard on the screen, I initially thought that I need new eyeglasses: Serbia 1—Germany 0, and we’re past half time already.
People there didn’t seem too pleased about it. For a minute I thought about conducting a short experiment in human behaviour by cheering for the Serbians, you know, just for fun; then I decided that it might not be the brightest idea since sliced bread. “Man, 32, lynched to death by angry German mob after cheering for the wrong football team” stroke me as a very likely newspaper headline for the morning after.
I took some pictures showing people watching the game. They were everywhere: in the station, outside the station…
A few bites to eat, and suddenly my BlackBerry crapped out. Rebooting it a few times didn’t help, as it appeared that whenever I’m trying to access one of my inbox messages—the machine would simply stop responding. Each reboot takes (for some reason) about 5–6 minutes, so I decided to wander around the train station while troubleshooting it; get some sun, maybe watch the game for a bit.
At the end I realized that BlackBerry’s Facebook application was the source of the problem. Good. Another achievement. Uninstalled it and now I could GPS‐navigate to my hotel, Motel One‐Bellevue, in a neighbourhood of Berlin called Bellevue—a short, 1.5km walk from the train station.
The walk towards the hotel doesn’t present the best sights in the world. Basically walk along the railway route, which runs above ground level on top of walls filled with really ugly graffiti. At some point, I passed by a bizarre‐looking individual who appeared to be bleeding, holding a towel soaked in blood in his hands, and someone who appeared to be his mother standing next to him mumbling things in German that I can only hope didn’t translate to “and now, what do we do with the body?”.
Finally, arrived at the hotel and checked in. Fabulous place. I liked it a lot. Not as grandiose as the hotel I stayed in in Hannover, but hey, for €59 this place is absolutely great. Motel One—Bellevue; remember it if you’re planning on a trip to Berlin.
I knew nothing about Berlin, but friends of mine who have been there before claim that it’s of the better cities to spend time in while in Europe. Still, I decided to spend most of the time in my room as I had a few bookings left to do. I wasn’t entirely sure whether I’m going to be sharing hotel rooms in Germany with other people; now that things became clearer, I did some bookings and now everything is booked and organized until mid‐July, except for Budapest (damn Priceline… didn’t accept my bid for a 5‐star hotel. I guess $55 is not enough).
Was time to leave the hotel and take the S‐Bahn towards the venue. Left a bit early as I decided to stop at the central train station (which is on the S3 route towards the O₂ World) for a bite. Another sandwich at a train station and, folks, I’m getting sick and tired of sandwiches. I am going to celebrate my sanity by actually eating in a restaurant today.
Back at the S‐Bahn: as the train passed Berlin Ostbahnhof (Berlin’s east train station), the O₂ World could easily be seen through the window—it is huge. One station later and I departed the train; it’s a short 5 minutes walk from the S‐Bahn station to the O₂ World. Very convenient. Oh, Ze Germans. Everything’s so efficient here.
The O₂ World (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O2_World) is a multi‐purpose arena that was opened in 2008. O₂, the telecomm company, purchased the naming rights shortly after and named the arena “O₂ World”, as part of their evident strategy to take over all arenas in Europe and attach “O₂” to their names. Ice hockey and basketball games are popular in this arena; for music concerts, this arena can seat up to 17,000 (!) humans.
Metallica was the first musical act to perform here back in 2008 (if you’re in the mood for some serious laugh followed by serious stomach‐ache, search YouTube for Metallica’s cover of Brothers in Arms); Lady Gaga, who happens to be Guy Fletcher’s favourite singer, also performed here.
(No, I’m not serious. I’m pretty sure Guy dislikes Lady Gaga almost as much as I do)
Picked‐up my ticket from the box office and got inside. It was already around 7:00pm or so.
While the venue is indeed very impressive from the exterior as well as the interior, there is something very disturbing there. It may sound a bit petty but I find it hard to understand why would anyone design a multi‐story facility as huge as this one, with escalators going only up and only one flight of stairs through which you can go down one level. As I entered the venue and wanted to go for a drink, I was basically stuck at the upper floor for about 20 minutes trying to find my way down. I accidentally assumed that there must be more than one flight of stairs back down. WRONG. I actually walked around this entire venue—that’s about 10 minutes walk, mind you—until I found those damn stairs.
Now, of course there are elevators there. Plenty of them. Each elevator was guarded by an individual whose sole purpose was to prevent people from using it. I asked one lady staff member if it’s possible to use the elevator as my feet are killing me already—she gave me such a resounding “no” that really, really pissed me off. You know, that heart‐felt “no” accompanied with a full neck tilt left to right and then left again, along a facial expression implying “I’d rather see you dead than taking this precious elevator down”.
Finally, I found those damn stairs and went straight to my seat, five minutes (!) before the concert’s scheduled start time. At 8:00pm, maybe a few minutes past, the lights went down on the O₂ World and more than ten thousand throats cheered as the best musicians in the world took the stage.
While I didn’t really enjoy the Hannover concert (it appeared to be way too similar to Hamburg’s one. Perhaps even a bit too mechanic. I don’t know, it’s one of those things that you just feel while being completely unable to point your finger at), the Berlin experience was better in my mind. Exactly the same setlist as Hannover’s (that’s three in a row now in Germany) but there seemed to be a more… how to call it… “uplifting” atmosphere in the air. Perhaps it was the audience; perhaps it was just me; who knows.
Maybe it was because the band members didn’t have to drive / fly anywhere today (they’re staying in Berlin), and maybe not, but the did seem more alert and less distracted. Especially Mark, who appeared joyful and smiled often. Beautiful participating audience: not as loud as Paris’ audience (roughly the same number of attendees as at the Bercy)—still cheery enough to please everybody and quiet enough to not piss anybody off.
Perhaps this audience would be louder had Germany’s soccer team not been humiliated earlier that day…
I realized something is different when Done with Bonaparte started playing. Looking at the guitars I could see that the song was now performed using the C key. The original (CD) version of this song is performed using the B♭ key, while most performances of this song during this tour were at the D key. Go figure. Anyway, Mark had to work his vocal cords much less thanks to that.
Marbletown was the show’s peak, as (almost) usual. I suggest you seek some recording of this show as Mike McGoldrick worked quite a different sequence with his flute during the Marble‐jam. It was beautiful.
Beautifully‐aggressive outro solo for Telegraph Road, followed by (as usual) a standing audience all throughout the encore. Nobody was even close to spill beer on me, thank goodness, during the cheers. I remained dry.
Audience’s satisfaction with the show was quite evident throughout the show and after it was all over. Indeed that was a good show, certainly above average. Well done.
Show was over at 10:20pm, took another 20 minutes to exit the venue.
Few minutes walk to the train station, 20 minutes or so in an S‐Bahn car filled with drunk teenagers and I’m back at Bellevue.
Spent about an hour at the wonderful lobby of my hotel, over a tasty sandwich and tea to finish a good day.
Signing off this post from my hotel room in Leipzig. Beautiful outside; will go for a walk and grab something to eat. IN A RESTAURANT, RATHER THAN IN A SANDWICH STAND.