Wednesday 19 September 2007

Sleepless in Hamburg

It was my own fault really for going along with it. I went up to Hamburg last weekend to see my son Bernard who is now living there. He couldn't put us up, so Claudia decided we'd do something crazy and book into 'Die Kogge Rock n Roll Hotel'. It's a fine funky place, and very reasonably priced, but I knew it was not going to be a quiet place for getting a night's sleep and boy was I right. What can you expect of a hotel where you can check in any time up to 6AM?
Our room was pleasant: each room has its own theme and we had the romantic room with floral decorations and lots of pink kitch. The odd thing, though, was that the double bed was built like two crates nailed together - there was a wooden beam dividing the two sides.
Having arrived late on Friday night, we met up with Bernard for something to eat and then Claudia decided to go back to the hotel as she was tired. Bernard and I then headed off down along the 'Reeperbahn' - a true den of iniquity: drunks and prostitutes line the street with its rows of sex shops. On the side streets, crowds spill out from loud pubs along the way. Bernard, determined to in some way darken my lily white soul, even took me down a barricaded street that women are not allowed to walk down; it was a street full of prostitutes in shop windows. As we were walking down, one woman had opened her window and, in an argument with some guy on the street who had offended her, threw the contents of a glass she was holding at him. 'What happened?' Bernard asked me. 'She threw her glass of white wine at him,' I said. Bernard urged us to walk quicker. 'I hear they keep their pee in glasses to throw at people who annoy them,' he said. Charming.
I got back from the pub crawl with Bern at 3.30am and reckoned I was tired enough to sleep regardless of noise. Die Kogge was absolutely heaving and the volume of the music was such that I couldn't figure how it could even be legal with neighbours presumably coping with this week in and week out. I barely slept a couple of hours. The music blared until 5am, and then people came up laughing and joking in the corridor as they went to bed.
Hamburg is a wonderful and thriving place, and there is plenty to see and enjoy. Claudia and I went for a long walk along the harbour, and also through the elegant Elbetunnel. But somehow Hamburg feels like a place where you pace yourself for nightfall.
Saturday night, a group of us met for a meal and this eventually became just Bernard and I having a few quiet drinks in an Irish pub. I was back at the hotel at 1.30am and again the place was in full swing. I was awake reading a book at 3.30 because I was woken by the music which had been pumped up louder. Never again. Bernard bravely phoned at 8.30 Sunday morning for us to meet at the famous Hamburg fish market, a place thronging with people down by the harbour. It starts at 6am in the morning and ends by 9.30. Many people drink through the night and then have their breakfast there, and I certainly saw lots of people drinking. In fact, I saw more public drinking and drunkenness there than I have ever seen anywhere. And I'm not talking about some old guys staggering around - we had breakfast at a wharf café and two elderly couples sat at the next table. They ordered three beers. It was 11am.
I look forward to going back to Hamburg again. I'll be there to direct a radio play of mine being produced by a friend - but that's another story, and another blog. And I won't be staying at Die Kogge.

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