Surprising Serious Sam.

Thanks to the Pope and a couple of thousand years of oppression, a bank holiday was declared on Thursday the 1st  of November. Something about all the saints rising up? Putting our bibles to one side, there was only one thing for it: a city break! Firms will often award their workers with a Brücketag meaning you get the Friday off as well making it a relaxed three-day week followed by a cheeky five nights of weekend.

Captain’s Blog: Stardate 09.11.2012.

If you read last week’s post you’ll know that Hallowe’en wasn’t even celebrated in Munich this year. They genuinely banned it. They essentially had had enough. They could ban it all they want in Bavaria but they couldn’t stop us doing what people of all nationalities do that like to party: simply migrate further North (whether it be from London to Leeds, Juba to Khartoum, or Sana’a to Riyadh – to name but a few examples). Taking advantage of this foolish Catholic generosity, I travelled together with my Jewish friend (Semitic Simon) to join my Protestant brothers in arms in the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg. Our objectives were clear: 1) to surprise Serious Sam by rocking up to his work thus severley reducing the gravity of his personality & 2) to soak up the atmosphere by penetrating the heart of the city’s vibrant nightlife. This would be a four day operation, encompassing over 3000km of sheer voyage. The surprise was made all the more hilarious by the fact that Sam was convinced that Si was arriving on Friday and leaving on Sunday. (What an idiot – he believed us!). Little did he know that not only was I coming from Munich (big news) but also Euan was making the trip from Wolfie as well (also news). Euan’s plan was to arrive on Friday and to leave on Saturday. Obviously that didn’t happen. Due to various persuasive friends he ended up staying Saturday night too.

Wednesday 31st October
Let us start from the beginning. Once again back in the comfort of Prince Charming’s luxury Ford Fiesta we left an empty office at around 1700hrs. We departed Munich in October and arrived in November and it honestly did feel like it had taken us a month to get to the North, even to get out of Bavaria was a task as everyone had the same idea; visiting friends and family. After what is normally an hour long journey to Ingolstadt we ended up taking around three. We passed the time by chatting to our carsharer, a jovial Italian man called Fabio (obviously) from South Tyrol who spoke perfect German but with a strong Italian accent. Having built up a bit of hunger it didn’t take us long to decided it was time for a solemn Burger King before Nuremberg, as we sat there we attempted to digest not only the traffic situation but also the saturated fatty acids we had just gobbled down. After around eleven hours on the road we eventually ended up in Hamburg at around 4am. Having subsequently checked into the Generator Hostel, I proceeded to my chamber of choice, I found Simon, who had arrived a few hours prior to me, asleep at his station and spread-eagled on my bed. Bed Number 7! Too tired to kick up my usual fuss (what would have been the point, anyway?), I clambered reluctantly up to the top bunk where I promtly fell into a deep sleep.

“You sound like you’re from Landungsbrücke”

Thursday 1st November
We awoke bright and early on Thursday morning after only a few pitiful hours of sleep but credits where credit’s due the beds were comfy indeed.  There were some friendly girls in the dorm who we impressed with our plans to surprise Sam at work, we added them to a long list of people who were in on Germany’s best kept secret. Conversation swiftly over, we opted for a continental pastry and were on our way to the Hafen City. After a few minutes of walking our city boy instincts kicked in and we got ourselves day tickets which entitled us to use some of the many transport services on offer. The most useful of which is the U-Bahn. Before we knew it we were en route to Sam’s place of work; only one of the most well-respected advertising agencies in Germany and one of the most successful in Europe. Their modern office looks over the state of the art Hafen City and has a fantastic view even from the ground floor, it is not a stretch to imagine that the panorama gets better and better as you venture further up the building into the suave meeting rooms.  We have to remember that Sam works in advertising and he assures us that some members of the “Creative Team” even come in wearing snap-backs and jeans (for our older readers these are the baseball caps with the flat peak, instead of a curved one and is comparable to the modern flat cap). That all said, Sam did indeed look like he was having a somewhat “Casual Thursday”.

“What are you guys doing here? And how the hell do you know where I work?”

We didn’t travel across Europe’s largest country empty handed, we came bearing gifts of course. And we brought arguably the most flavoursome beer in the world: Augustiner Helles*. Because, you know, we’re good mates like that. The plan was to plonk both bottles on his desk, but this plan went about as far as the reception because we were denied upstairs access. Instead we explained our story to the sectretary. We filled her in on the details, reciting perfectly how I had left Munich in October and arrived in Hamburg in November travelling over 800km in an overwhelming 12hours and cutting Germany right down the middle in order to be here. She then rang Sam, explaining that there was a package that he needed to collect from reception. (In case you don’t follow: There wasn’t really a package…she just said that to trick him into coming down to the reception!) I know, sneaky Germans.

Needless to say he was definitely surprised to the max, although managed to contain his excitement over a coffee in their cosy cafeteria. Myself and Simon then had roughly an hour to kill as Sam unfortunately had to get back behind the wheel of the German economy. We then decided a trip to the Rathaus was in order and we went up in the lift and read about the destruction of Hamburg in WWII. Afterwards we checked out the Miniatur Wunderland which houses a collection of complex train networks and is one of the things you have to do when in Hamburg.

Some people loving it, others also present.

After a leisurely lunch at one of Sam’s trendy local jaunts, myself and Simon got the list of “things we wanted to see in Hamburg” out. In an attempt to ascertain whether there would still be tickets available for the legendary König der Löwen (Lion King), we went to some of the different box offices located along the sea wall just a stroll down from Hafen City. If you then look over the harbour you can see the Theater am Hafen which boasts a huge picture of Mufasa’s mug on it. This spectacular theatre is only accessible by boat and each musical has its own transport vessel, decorated differently according to the production it associates with. Unfortunately, they were sold out for Thursday and the weekend but there were two tickets going for the Friday evening. It was pretty much fully booked because it was half term (or Herbstferien) throughout the Bundesrepublik. We were sort of tempted by the idea until she explained these were balcony seats and costed 120€. EACH. I winced at Simon and he winced back at me after which he grumbled something in Northern which I couldn’t quite make out but which I took to mean: “My dear fellow, I think we shall have to decline”.

The rest of the day was spent taking a bus tour around the town. Where we saw the world’s biggest shoe shop and learnt other interesting facts. Amongst other facts we picked up along the way were that at  Hamburg (2300) boasts double the amount of bridges as Venice (480) AND Amsterdam (600). Pretty cool, eh? Once Sam was done with work we met at one of his favourite Turkish restaurants where we had a typically delicious kebab, we expect no less now, since we are all fully qualified connoisseurs of kebabs. When evening turned to night, we found ourselves in a karaoke bar on the Reeperbahn and ended partying with some lads from Birmingham whose accents made CharChar sound like a sophisticated Southerner. The night was going fairly well until the end when everything just went simply mental. Having perhaps slightly raised the roof al little with my rendition of Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver, I returned to my beer and the audience waited to see if the next act could fill my boots. Then out of nowhere appeared what must have been the landlady, brandishing an armful of plates. During the following Robbie Villiams song she proceeded to smash a plate in time with the beat of the music. As if this wasn’t strange enough, I turned round to find one of the barmaids waving around a bottle of lighter fluid around and proceeding to squeeze copious amounts of it along the length of the bar before promtly setting it alight (taking the song We Are Young perhaps a little bit too literally).

Friday 2nd November
We awoke to the smell of burning and immdeiately we knew zee Germans were up to something. As I peered over the edge of my bed, bleary-eyed and cloudy headed, I noticed the Nurembabes were ferociously preparing breakfast. Unlike any normal people attempting to have a normal breakfast, we remembered they were very German indeed and had of course planned this event weeks ago. We realised they were refering to as a “Sandvich-maschine” which sounds like some form of equipment to torture cheese & ham was actually what civilised English people might call a “toastie maker”. Unsure as to whether we should form some sort of Allied Sandwich Force in order to attempt to liberate said Sandwiches from their certain firey death, we ended up engaging in a quick chat with the perpatrators who turned out to be rather harmless students from Bavaria.

Sam is a lucky man and has a snug apartment just a five minute stroll (or stumble) to the Reeperbahn. As Friday drew close, we were all up for a first proper night out so Sam organised a pre-drinks (which with Hindsight was perhaps a tactical error) and invited Kirstie (perhaps also an error). Whilst in Edeke trying to gather supplies for the messy weekend ahead, a slightly panicky Simon was trying to coordinate Euan’s arrival. “I don’t know what to do!” Having managed to just about calm him down and I explained that I would take care of Sam whilst suggesting that Simon disappear into one of the aisles (prefereably a kosher one) thus continuing his covert coordination. We stocked up on the essentials, careful not to buy anything which could do us any good. With a bag of frozen chicken wings, a crate of beer, a bottle of vodka and some weird pizzas split evenly between us, we found ourselves back at the flat. Half an hour later and we got our first knock on the door, and in walked none other than Euan “Golden” Graham. Man by day, Wolfie by night. Sam was again well and truly surprised and started to convince himself that Adi was on his way, having created an Inception-style alter-ego and visiting a pretend girlfriend in Hong Kong. Needless to say this was wishful thinking, not only was the girlfriend a real one and at the time Adam was indeed almost “Taken” in Paris before catching an Air France flight to the Far East. Some real life guests included Dan who had travelled from where he calls “sweaty Chemnitz” and brought along a friend who now lives in Hamburg. When they knocked on the door, we remembered that they weren’t aware of Euan’s prescence either!  So we arranged for Euan to jump out of a cupboard (which he did actually fit into) as they entered Sam’s room. The evening started off with many many Mexicanas (Vodka, tomato juice and tabasco in a shot for 0.5€ = deal). Some of our members were slightly worse for wear as we joked about doing an Otley Run style outing. Later on in the evening, the combination of surprise, good value vodka, cheap wine and beer took full effect on poor Sam and he was not in a good way. Simon proceeded to evacuate him from the Creeperbahn.

Saturday 3rd November
All fairly hungover we decided to do what any Brits would have done: head straight to the Irish pub. After an unconvincing game of football between Manchester United and Arsenal we knew it was time to head off. I think Man U must’ve won because Simon wasn’t depressed for the rest of the weekend. We decided it would be a good idea to join one of Hamburg’s famous boat tours despite the miserable weather. We refused to let a bit of rain dampen our spirits. We hit the Glühwein relatively hard and Sam ordered an extra shot of Amaretto to really kick the evening off. Euan was trudging around with his bag and contemplating listening to Lonely by Akon on his way back to Wolfsburg (which is a real place by the way – I saw it on a sign). After a few drinks at a pub near the Fischmarkt we had managed to persuade him to stay! Then began Saturday night. Of course we were out on the Reeperbahn once again, although this time drinking fewer Mexicanas. We went to an interesting club which really opened our eyes into the different ways dollar bills could be used. Fanstastic innovation. When we’d had enough of the frankly overpriced drinks we headed over for a last drink in the HSV Fan Quarter located just off Herbertstraße. Simon was proudly grinning and displaying his newly purchased St. Pauli scarf in the HSV fan quarter. (St. Pauli being the rival team in the city). Thankfully we noticed this before we went into one of their famously rowdy bars. Once Sam reminded him where he was, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone take off a scarf quicker in my life.

Sunday 4th November
The weekend in general was made all the more smelly by Sam’s refusal to shower and Euan’s propensity to supply our local atmosphere with a constant stream of farts. Despite the lingering wake of these smelly men,  enjoyment of our weekend increased by approximately 3.4% due to H&M’s current billboard campaign featuring the ludicrously luscious Lana Del Ray. We sometimes found ourselves stopped in amazement at the sheer and jaw-dropping beauty of that sparkling woman. It is safe to say we all have a soft spot for her.

On the one hand it’s an unbelievably sketchy city seething with serpents, riddled with rascals and crawling with creeps, but on the other hand it is full of green spaces and is technically Germany’s most liveable city. Despite it raining every single day without fail, we really enjoyed our time in Hamburg and it was great not only to see another part of Germany but also to catch up with good friends. Hamburg is certainly an interesting city but I have to say I was happy to find myself looking forward to being back home in Munich. Definitely no regrets that I am here in Bayern – I must have settled in now because I really did feel at home as we cruised down the usually stifling Frankfurter Ring late on Sunday night. On behalf of Simon and Euan and myself, I would like to extend a massive thanks to Sam for putting up with us at such short notice and we look forward to our next official group trip to Berlin in December.

Source: Interview with Ben (Bavarian) October 2012.

NB: Sam’s very own account of what exactly occurred during Oktoberfest all the way up until Hamburg.

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