Writing: June 18, on board ICE 555 / 855 from Hannover Hbf to Berlin Hbf.
Oh, welcome to the very easy part of the tour, travel‐wise. Train travel in Germany is so easy—especially when you travel the ICE trains in first‐class all the time (less people; less need to reserve) and daily distances are not that big.
I started the day late; Hotel Alpha Garni, where I spent the night in Hamburg, is brilliantly located—very close to the main train station but still in a very quiet spot. I had a pretty good night sleep; opening my eyes in the morning, knowing that there really is no reason to rush today, was a pretty strong motivation (or: excuse) to stay in bed and stretch.
The evening before, I was told that Hamburg features a pretty neat walk. There actually is a huge lake right at the city centre, with designated walking and cycling trails around it. Not a cloud in the sky, I decided to walk it and find a random spot along the way for breakfast.
The views are, indeed, very nice. Hamburg is a beautiful city.
The John F. Kennedy bridge crosses the huge lake, providing people with the possibility to circle around a body of water without spending over 3 hours. On the map, it looks as if the lake is split into two; the “smaller” part is the one closer to the main train station, and is the one I walked by.
Hunger struck and, lo and behold, on the horizon I see a nice‐looking restaurant overlooking the water (see the last picture above). The restaurant’s name was Alex, and it appears to be very popular amongst locals and tourists alike. They offer a brilliant patio overlooking charming views of the lake and the trees surrounding it. I decided to go there for breakfast—even without knowing what they were offering!—just to be able to sit on that patio in a shaded area and watch the water.
Breakfast buffet, it turns out; not bad at all, however. Certainly not of the “breakfast buffet” style so popular in North America, offering greasy mass‐made dishes for $6.99 (plus applicable taxes, thank you); as a matter of fact, from my short experience in Europe, it seems that even breakfast buffets are not taken lightly here. In all places offering breakfast that I been to so far, I was very happy with the selection and the food’s quality—something I really can’t say about hotels in North America (in general; there are some exceptions of course).
Sitting there in the shade after a nice walk, watching the water and the surroundings, has been a very relaxing. Batteries were recharged; time to go back to the hotel now, check out and take the train to Hannover—not before taking some pictures around the touristic areas at the city centre.
The two cute receptionists at the hotel apparently took my departure very hard as they tried (and managed) to convince me to hang out with them for a while. Sure, trains leave towards Hannover every 20–30 minutes… oh, Lord, do I like these short‐distance train travels or what?!
By the way, around 80 million people live in Germany; that I already knew, but what I didn’t know is that different regions have their own dialects and accents. For example, people in Hamburg don’t call their city “Hamburg”. The call it “Hamburgkh”; to pronounce the “gkh” part, imagine that you’re driving your car on the highway, at around 85–90 km/h, and suddenly encountering a metal object on the road. It’s now stuck to your wheel and you’re dragging it with you, sending fireworks all over the place. Can you imagine the sound? good. That’s your “gkh”.
Finally, at around 1:00pm, I made my way to the train station. Searching for the platform from which I was going to depart, I became a little anxious once I noticed that previous trains towards Hannover have been delayed for over two (!) hours. Thoughts of seeking bus routes started popping into my head; fortunately my train arrived right on time.
Ass parked on the comfy seat—check.
Last look at the train’s LCD screen showing the destination and intermediate stops—you know, just to be sure—check.
So easy, I tell you.
The name of the city Hannover is mispronounced by most English speakers. In North America, most people pronounce it as “Hanno‐ver” (emphasis on Hann); in German, it is pronounced “Haan‐oh‐vah” (emphasis on the “oh”). An hour or so by train from Hamburg, this city is still located in what’s considered “north” in Germany. It is not as picturesque as Hamburg but it certainly has its charm.
I didn’t get to see much of the city, unfortunately. Just as soon as I arrived in Hannover’s train station, a sense of loneliness took over me, along with some tiredness. I’m pretty sure I know what triggered that (won’t go into details here; some records are sealed), but still, even when the reason is known, it doesn’t mean it’s not authentic. I really felt lonely, tired and in desperate need for some thinking time; therefore, as soon as I arrived at my hotel, I simply stayed there for a few hours instead of walking around.
My hotel, Hotel Loccumer Hof, located three minutes walk from the train station, was fantastic. I couldn’t believe I got what I did for the price I paid. Of the top hotels I stayed in during this tour, no question about it. Great decoration, high‐tech room, very spacious, fantastic shower and one of the most comfortable beds my back ever had the pleasure to come in touch with.
Finished June 16’s blog entry and went for a nap. You know, sometimes it helps, not just for tiredness.
So I thought maybe I should leave early and get to the venue; if anything can wipe out that sense of loneliness, it must be the concert.
The instructions I had to get to the venue was to take tram number 6 or 16 (either one) all the way to the end—the Messe/Oct. station, a short two minutes walk from the venue. Would you believe it if I told you that it took me 30 minutes (!), once in the train station, to find the tram? Surprising? I know. By now, I thought I have become quite accustomed to train stations in general (and those in Germany in particular).
Well, I was wrong. Apparently, in some cities, the S‐Bahn (which is, essentially, a collective name for all subway trains in major German cities) is also called a “tram”. Naturally, then, I was searching for S‐Bahn lines 6 and 16. Found S‐Bahn number 6 but its route didn’t make any sense to me at all as it appeared to go in quite the opposite direction to the one I needed.
WTF. Confused, started retracing my steps through this immense central station. Half an hour later, I realized that, in Hannover, the tram system is different from the S‐Bahn system—the tram terminal is about 200m away from the central station, it’s underground and signs there are very unforgivingly misleading due to construction work taking place all over.
I was relieved when I finally found it, and boarded it with much joy in my heart.
30 minutes ride all the way to the tram line’s end, and I arrived at the Expo area—a short two minutes walk from the TUI arena.
The TUI Arena (Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TUI_Arena) (strangely enough, not yet named “O₂ something”) is located at the south‐eastern edge of Hannover. It is primarily used as an ice hockey arena, and can seat up to 14,000 people when arranged for musical performances.
Outside the arena, there’s a tremendously spacious area for hanging out before the concert. That area, along with the TUI arena and all other establishments in the immediate area, are all a part of Expo 2000.
Also outside the arena, there’s a bar and a kiosk for purchasing drinkable and edible goods for absurd prices; I felt a sudden craving for caffeine so I got myself some cappuccino as well as a bottle of water, to serve me during the concert.
The coffee was OK; the bottle of water was a mistake. After getting my ticket and heading for the entry, I was greeted by a cute ticket collector who, once seen the coffee and water in my hands, mumbled something to me. In German, of course.
Now, you see, just as any sentence in French sounds romantic and sexy, any sentence in German sounds like a command. I kid you not; even “you are beautiful” in German sounds like some sort of an instruction. Whenever spoken to in German, I feel an unexplained urge to stand still and salute.
I couldn’t make sense of anything she said, but I was striving to abide to whatever command it was that she was barking at me.
– “English, please”, I said.
She seemed lost, and pointed at her colleague standing about one metre away, mumbling the word “English” to him while diverting her finger so it now pointed at me. I felt like a monkey in a cage just anxious to be fed already, not knowing who’s gonna end up throwing the peanuts.
He, too, couldn’t speak English to save his life. Then, she came up with a brilliant idea.
– “(Pointing at the bottle) Dis… (now pointing at the garbage can) To Dis”.
Clearer than that, nobody could ever be.
– “Can I at least finish it before entering?”, I asked. Surprisingly, she perfectly understood what I was asking, and even answered!
– “Yes, but… here, OK?” (she already tagged my ticket and didn’t want me to go out of her sight. Not because I was handsome, of course, but because otherwise I wouldn’t be let in by anybody else.
I gulped the water within about 10 seconds. I told you; being spoken to in German, makes me want to obey things and obey them well. Fascinating.
Rather crowded inside, with lots of food / drink stands offering German fast food. Wieners, pretzels, you name it. All sorts of strange substances with strange toppings. And, of course, lots and lots of beer.
Getting familiarized with the venue, I went to check out my seat.
Front row seat 4. That’s four seats from the very left of the left‐hand block closest to the stage (see right‐hand picture above). Hardly an enjoyable seat, where a tower of speakers faces you directly, tormenting your ears. It was so far to the side that I was actually seeing Guy Fletcher from an almost right angle.
As the caffeine‐level in my body started to drop, so did my eye‐lids and that’s how I spent the time waiting for the concert to start—with my eyes closed, thinking about… well, never mind. Just thinking. At 8:00pm sharp, Mark and the band appeared on the stage.
Watching a concert for two hours from the very end of the front row is not the greatest experience one could hope for. Sore ears due to high frequencies molesting my eardrums, sore neck due to it being positioned looking 60° to the right for approximately two hours… physically, that concert was a torment, really unpleasant.
Some venues’ structure allow for good, at least comfortable view from the front rows; if you ever happen to attend a concert at the TUI arena, and you’re seated all the way to the side, my suggestion is that you exchange your ticket if you can. Mind you, there was actually another block of seats to the left (unless my memory really betrays me; you can’t see it in the picture above because it’s a block with 3–4 seats in each row, very close to the edge).
Still, though, it could be worse. I still vividly recall the Ryman Auditorium concert in 2008—purchasing my ticket late in the game (as I didn’t know in advance whether I’ll be able to make it), had me purchase the second worst seat in the house—up in the sky, all the way to the right, at a point in which I couldn’t see the face of any band member.
ANYWAY. Other than a torn eardrum and a sore neck, we also had some good music going on. Exactly the same setlist as the night before in Hamburg—I can’t seem to recall when it was last when the band played exactly the same setlist two nights in a row.
Nothing of particular and outstanding interest happened, really. The show was very similar to that of the night before in Hamburg, now featuring a slightly calmer audience. So, other than a few solos being improvised (as they always are; What It Is and Sailing to Philadelphia appear to be the songs that Mark likes “working on” the most these days. Just a feeling I’m getting), the rest was pretty similar to the previous concert…
… Except for So Far Away that, with each concert, becomes closer and closer to being a serious hard‐rock extravaganza. Same goes for Telegraph Road as I suspect Mark (or whoever it is who carries the task of adjusting the sound coming up of Mark’s guitars, such as overdrive, delay etc) set the Pensa to emit a sound that is slightly more “overdriven” than usual.
As usual in Germany (so far), most of the audience in the front rows went walking towards the stage as Telegraph Road ended and remained standing until the end of the concert.
During the “cheers” section before the encore, Mark almost spilled beer on me. Luckily I remained dry and alcohol‐free. Next time I’ll bring an umbrella with me, just in case.
The concert ended at 10:20pm. Took 30 minutes (!) to leave the venue. Apparently, Ze Germans are very organized and efficient when it comes to public transit but when it comes to evacuating venues—oh no. Move your asses, people! I want to sleep.
A short walk back to the tram and back to the hotel 30–40 minutes later.
I was going to do some trip planning and blogging as I got back to the hotel but something, instead, made me take my laptop to the hotel’s bar and do nothing useful other than browsing the net while sipping tea. Isabel, a natural blonde (so she claimed) working at the bar, turned out to be very talkative and shared her entire life story with me. Yes, she was that bored after everybody else left and all that remained at the hotel’s bar was a weird‐looking guy with a laptop.
Signing off this post from my bed at Motel One in Berlin, a couple of hours after the end of the Berlin show. Yes, I’m a bit behind. Yes, I’m very tired.
Another thing that’s starting to worry me… my right ankle. I’ve been doing way too much walking recently and my right ankle is starting to act up now. Not quite what I need now; lets all hope for the best.