AVT: 4h (Tot. 41h, 45 min)
ADT: 260 km (Tot. 3,265 km)
"If you have a sock crisis let me know."
"You'll sock it to me?"
- John, Ken, John
Yes, tour diversions.
One of the most interesting things about being on the road is that you sometimes wind up in unexpected places. You have an hour here or an afternoon there and you decide to see a thing or visit a site. They're rare, but tour diversions can add a lot of flavour to the bizarre routine we have out here.
But man, those flavours aren't always sweet.
Sometimes you find yourself at Signal Iduna Park in Dortmund, standing pitch-side on Borussia Dortmund’s home turf. Sometimes you find yourself at Blankenstein Castle. Sometimes you find yourself in a Viennese café drinking coffee. Sometimes you find yourself at the table of our friend Sietska in Friesland, sipping Mongolian vodka.
Sometimes you find yourself on the grounds of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
I don’t want to get into a whole history lesson on this. You can imagine how that might be an awkward thing to talk about over here. All of that was different people in a different time, and I respect that the memorial at Bergen-Belsen exists and is as reverent as it is. If you don’t know the story, the camp was opened as a prisoner of war camp during World War 2 and was eventually a full blown concentration camp. Bad things happened there and you really can feel it in the air when you walk around the place.
The grounds of Bergen-Belsen are very peaceful now. The rows of barracks are gone, but the mass graves remain. There are small stones placed on signs and ledges by the thousands – tokens of memory that I’m told were left mostly by Jewish visitors. It’s just heavy. I don’t know any better way to describe it. I don’t go to historical sites and just look around. I really don’t. I try hard to feel things. I try hard to imagine things as they were. How they looked. How they sounded. How they smelled. At Bergen-Belsen I wondered whose footsteps I was walking in. Even driving on the narrow highway to the camp I found myself transported to the 1940s. I could hear trains. See soldiers marching.
History does weird things to me.
There is also a museum on the site where you can read the story and see photos and artifacts. They don’t sugar-coat it. It’s the real story in all of its ugliness and it’s not for the weak of heart. But it’s also an important story that must be told, so, again, I respect that the memorial exists, and while I can’t really say I’m happy to have visited, I’m certainly glad I visited. I need to thank Sarah and my bandmates for indulging me. We do the history stuff for my benefit, mostly. I’m not sure any of them were too keen to side trip to a site like that and I appreciate them doing it.
And now for something completely different.
Sunday night in Hamburg, Germany. It’s hard to know what to expect in a circumstance like that. We were booked at a really cool little club called Cascadas. We arrived in the afternoon to set up and do a sound check. All of that was fine. Then we feasted on the most delicious Vietnamese food as recommended by our hosts, Tina and Jenny. We’re staying at our friend Andreas’s place once again, so after dinner we went back to our billet to relax for a bit and get ready.
The show turned into kind of an all-request gig for our German fans. The crowd was small but mighty and we got a chance to dust off some older songs that we haven’t played in a long time. Yeah, there was some rust, but it was fun and the travelling fans got to hear some different stuff than we’ve been playing so far. All in all it was a good way to spend … well, the first part of a Sunday night.
Which brings us to the second tour diversion of the day.
We’ve been on the road for 12 days now without a break. It’s fine, but we haven’t been able to let the proverbial hair down, and someone suggested we do so last night. I don’t know the direct sequence of events or who said what. What I do know is that at a certain point Sarah got in the van and drove away, leaving the three lads with our friends Angie and Nici and Jenny from Cascadas. We were going into the city.
A short walk and two subway stops later we were standing on The Reeperbahn.
Would we ever see home again?
I’ve told you about The Reeperbahn before. Sex clubs, kink shops, seedy bars, drifters, grifters, etc. Anything can happen on The Reeperbahn if you’re not careful, so we made a point of being careful. We walked for a bit and then Jenny led us into a bar that was just bouncing. Inside we found a guy with an acoustic guitar playing radio hits of the past 20 years for a crowd of raucous Liverpudlians. We commenced singing and dancing (Party Boy Deni quickly became friends with the Englishers) and had a great time.
We stayed maybe an hour at the club watching Deni fist-bump everybody. My job was basically to scan the crowd for signs of his toque to make sure he was still with us. At one point he shouted, “I feel like running!” and I braced for a midnight chase down The Reeperbahn. Fortunately the rabbit didn’t bolt on us. Instead we left the bar and wandered across a small square to another little bar where a few guys were talking and drinking. Party Boy quickly made friends with them too and we had a laugh speaking our lousy Deutsch in response to their lousy English.
Later I walked back across the square to sample some street pizza. The Liverpudlians came along and there was a joyous reunion. Pizza pounded, we strolled down The Reeperbahn to Cowboy und Indianer, scene of much memory and the venue for our show tonight, and were forced to make a decision: go further into the dark side or consider ourselves lucky and go home.
Alas, a cab was called.
But The Reeperbahn awaits us again tonight.
Will Party Boy burst forth again?
Will we be whisked into the whirlwind?
Or will this thin veneer of responsibility be enough to protect us from the temptations of the underworld?
I guess you’ll have to tune in tomorrow to find out ….
*Live photo by Dani Smile.