Writing: at my hotel room in Maritim Hotel Stuttgart. Priceline did it again, can’t believe I scored this 5‐star hotel for so cheap.
I was happy to find out that the cloud of cigarette smoke at the hallway of my Oberhausen hotel had disappeared by the morning. I was bearing no sentiment towards that desperate hotel room located in the desperate city of Oberhausen, so I decided to leave as early as possible in the morning.
Checked out and walked to Oberhausen Hauptbahnhof, about five minutes walk away. Even the Hauptbahnhof there looks sad, as if it’s sorry that you came and sorry to see you go. The train I was going to take appeared to be about 15 minutes late so I spent the time over (can you guess?) a rather tasteless sandwich and a cappuccino that left much to be desired.
It was one of those mornings that I was happy to board the train—not necessarily due to my destination being so attractive (I knew nothing about Mannheim), but mostly due to my source city virtually just asking me to go away.
It’s about two hours train ride from Oberhausen to Mannheim, during which I was trying to correct my right ankle’s misdemeanour by transmitting positive energy to it. “Heal, damn it, heal!”. It didn’t. Still a bit painful to walk around the wagon or to the cafeteria. Screw it; I’ll just sit.
Arrived at Mannheim some time around noon. The weather was hot and I was wearing jeans and a long‐sleeve shirt; possibly the only human insane enough to do so in Mannheim. My hotel, City Hotel Mannheim, was located a short 200–300m walk from the train station—a few words of love to my right ankle and we made it.
Well, Mannheim itself is not, by any means, a depressing city; the opposite is true. What was depressing, though, was my hotel. It was worse than Oberhausen’s; one of those “hotels” that you start scratching yourself shortly after entering. Very dusty laminate wood floors, a desk at the corner—so old I’m pretty sure one of my distant ancestors brought it with him from Egypt to Israel 5,000 years ago or so (and somehow made it to Germany); a sad chair and shower big enough to fit a severely obese 13 years old boy.
But hey… what’s that noise? It sounded as if someone was drilling for oil right below my room. Well, I was close enough: someone was drilling, though I suspect oil wasn’t the target.
Tired from not having a good night sleep the last before, I tried to get some sleep on the sad bed furnished with linens and a mattress that—I’m willing to bet my entire investment portfolio—survived at least one war. Didn’t work, and I didn’t need to use too much wit to find out that the drilling noise might have something to do with it. I was too tired to even speak with the receptionist and ask for a transfer to a room away from the driller quality‐assurance factory, so I attempted the insane idea of sleeping with my noise‐cancelling headphones.
Didn’t work. Tip for my unfortunate future wife: I sleep on my side, and you’ll have to occupy the left‐hand side of the bed unless you’d like to snore at my back.
Unhappy, I sprang out of bed and decided to do some travel planning. Julio Bricio to the rescue, helping me plan Spain travel as I’m planning for the Daria‐less part of Italy. Thanks Julio!
Hunger struck shortly and I was bound to scour the area for some food.
The city of Mannheim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mannheim), as I mentioned above, is by no means an ugly city. The Hauptbahnhof is located right at the city centre, and from there it’s a very short walk to the main street—Kaiserring—loaded with restaurants, shops and whatever it is that you may want to buy and / or eat. Plenty of terraces—even Burger King has a terrace here.
Burger King having a terrace… could you even imagine it? “Hey pal, how about we go spend some time at Burger King’s terrace and enjoy the breeze and the view”—I can never imagine a phrase like that ever produced by any mouth.
It was Mannheim where Karl Drais built the first two‐wheeled draisine, in 1817. I have no clue what a draisine is or who the fuck Karl Drais was—I am just trying to appear smart by quoting Wikipedia.
On my way to the city centre, I came across the lovely area of the Wasserturm (water tower). Apparently that is Mannheim’s landmark. It is a beautiful structure found at the middle of a beautiful garden.
People were sitting on the benches surrounding the fountain. That is, except for one bench that was occupied by a couple making out (horizontally) with such passion that I thought Vivid are filming some X‐rated movie on site. Well, I’m all for it… if that won’t fight Europe’s aging population problem, then what will?
Doing some research over the Internet, I was planning to go to an Italian restaurant named Ristorante Da Gianni, but couldn’t find it. While looking for it though, I realized something strange—the city’s streets actually follow a grid pattern. An address in Mannheim looks like this: “R17 14” (coincidentally, that’s the address of the restaurant I couldn’t find), where “R17” denotes the block and “14” denotes the house number within the block. Just verified it with Wikipedia and it appears that Mannheim very unique in Europe in that respect.
After failing to find Da Gianni (despite the easy addressing scheme), I decided to pop in for a visit in an Italian restaurant I encountered on my way there. I was too stupid to jot down its name—if someone from Mannheim reads this, please comment and furnish us with this essential information, thank you. It is located right by a restaurant named Coa (weird; I remember the name of the restaurant next to the one I actually ate in, but not the place that I ate in), at the intersection of Friedrichsring and Freidrichsplatz (I guess that Friedrichs guy has done something worth remembering him for). At first, I was a bit overwhelmed with the concept—you take a card, go to certain “stations” and order the food you want while loading your card with the purchases you made—and you pay at the end.
Update, June 27, 1:17am: the place’s name is “Vapiano”. Thanks Sebastian for commenting and providing us with the name!
But the reason I’m telling you about this place is that, factoring in the price, you are unlikely to find such a great price / quality ratio all too often, let alone in such a touristic area. The quality? fantastic. They make the pasta right in front of you, along with the sauce and everything. The pasta I got—really simple, just spaghetti with tomato sauce, garlic and chilli—was heavenly and for €5 this clearly is a bargain. A bruschetta to start with tiramisu (a bit too wet at the bottom, but still definitely enjoyable) and cappuccino to end—a full meal of great Italian food for just about €13.
Now if only I could dig out that place’s name…
Anyway, back to the craphole I had to call “my hotel room”, and I decided to go to the venue—the SAP Arena—a short tram ride from the tram station within spit distance from my “hotel”.
The SAP Arena (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SAP_Arena) is a sports arena (how many of those did we have so far in Europe?) used mostly for ice‐hockey and handball. It seats up to 15,000 people—that’s very big for you.
As I stepped out of the tram and approached the venue, I noticed herds of people just walking about, sipping beer, chatting, enjoying the sun. Too noisy for me. But hey, hey… what’s that? Oh, look what I found. A field!
Short calculation of potential enjoyment—along with millions of people who their language I don’t speak and their drinks I abhor, versus by myself in the vast green just a short walk away—and you can imagine what I picked. I slowly marched along a narrow track that crosses the field; with each step, the noise and mayhem faded away until I found myself pretty distant from it all.
30 minutes of true rejuvenation amongst piles of grass and groundsels; savoured every moment with passion too intense to be legal, and I started marching back towards the venue. Show time approached and there appeared to be quite a line‐up at the entrances. After 10 minutes of waiting in line, I was bodily‐inspected by a furious‐looking lady whose job was to ensure I’m not entering with any drinks (so I can buy drinks inside for inflated prices) or knives (what kind of a society have we become?) and was admitted to the venue. Grabbed some water to escort me through the show and went inside to take some photos for you.
Not the smallest venue, can you tell?
Feelin’ Good was playing just as I was on my way to my seat—front row, dead centre. Approaching, I couldn’t find the empty seat that was so passionately awaiting my ass to kiss, until someone there looked at me, got up and left the scene feeling rather depressed that I showed up. Sorry buddy, better luck next time.
Whoever has been following this blog so far must be tired already reading similar things about the concerts—sorry that I have nothing out of the ordinary to report. The setlist (identical to the one played in Oberhausen the night before) has long been perfected by this band that it almost seems as if there’s no challenge left for them to pursue. Not quite the way I would perceive an album promotion tour but—I’m not the one conducting a world tour so who am I to speak. Whatever the band decides to play is their choice and I respect that.
The difference between this show and the one before it really amounts to such small details that, unless you’re a musician with quite the ear for details, you are not very likely to notice anyway. By now I already found the particular “parts” of the show which are of the greatest interest to me as they present the chance for infinite possibilities for beautiful improvisations. Coincidentally, these are not just the most interesting parts but also are the best played parts and it’s up to those parts to make or kill a concert.
I would assign Marbletown’s jam‐session as the highlight of the concert; extremely pleasant, yet a bit less than the one played in Oberhausen (? or was it Köln? check for the one for which I mentioned I gave a very hearty standing ovation). Again the momentum passed beautifully from John to Mike, the only different was the ending which arrived a bit too fast in my opinion. The audience, though, loved it to pieces, hence the massive roar at the almost sold‐out venue (a few seats remained naked at the very edges of the venue).
While I think that Marbletown is most often the peak of the show, it is usually Telegraph Road which appears to be performed at the utmost “bombastic” way, possibly due to the fact that it ends the show and leads to the encore. Mannheim’s Telegraph Road performance was as thrilling as usual, sending the audience standing and the front‐rows to the stage. At the dead centre, I (as usual) did not rush anywhere and was pretty content with people being stuck to the stage before me. Be my guests, folks; whatever floats your boat.
An arena filled with standing audience, beautiful encore and the show ended at 10:20pm, as usual.
Climbing up the stairs on my way out, a bunch of people were already watching the thousands of LCD screens strategically positioned right at the edge of the stairwells. Germany was leading; a win means that Germany makes it to the next level. I got the news about the win while in the tram on my way back to the city centre—well, “got the news” in the form of dozens of crazy fans blowing into those Vuvuzela’s and yelling at the streets. Germany qualified for the next level—well, not quite a surprise. They do have an excellent team.
Congratulations to the German readers for qualifying to the next round. The French ones—oh well… ummm… errrrrrr…… what can I say… ah.
Back at the city centre, I was hungry I decided to hunt for food. Everything turned out to be closed except for McDonald’s… so, really what could I do.
HUNDREDS of people went roaming the streets, celebrating. So much happiness, amazing.
Back to my hotel to consume that hamburger and I went to sleep.
Signing off this post at 6:30pm, June 24. Time to head out to tonight’s concert.