Quaint ramblings and occasional reflections of a journeying Aussie musician...

06 September 2006

On Tour - Hamburg

Wednesday 24th May - Hamburg

The venue was in average city type area in the shadow of a giant white telecommunications tower, so once I got past this, an overcast day found me wandring long wide streets bordering on a huge park. Quite contrary to central London, the whole thing had that large spread out feel, perhaps a little reminiscent of Fort Lauderdale (uggh!), and the American vibe would definitely continue with the place I was headed.
Most people I know, when recounting their travels of the continent, speak of endlessly beautiful churches and nice meals and beers set on a gorgeous landscape of rolling green fields, snowcapped alps or hot Mediterranean beaches - the cutesy trappings of the Old World, saturated (sometimes beyond comprehension for us New Worlders) in culture and history....
Screw that man! I'm a touring rock (folky klezmer) star muso, dammit, I got no time for that crap! Nope, after nine nights of sleeping on a bus, playing gigs, drinking myself stupid and living off a scattered array of meat and cheese and egg and chocolate, I'm just wandering the streets in a daze, alone, in that daily window between falling out of the bus and the soundcheck, happy to drop in on whatever I come across while heading for one particular desintation - the Reeperbahn.
Wander the winding lanes of Soho after midnight, floating amongst the flotsam and jetsam of the creatures of the dark, and you'll find a myriad of gay bars and sex shops and toy and video stores and brothels, their colourful circus proudly open for business in the wee small hours, but ne'er to be seen by the garish light of day. No such hidden mentality exists in central Hamburg.
I get to a major intersection, and notice on my left a large cylindrical cluster of trees, at the centre top of which I could just make out the scalp of a stone head. Large human representations aren't something we get much of back home, so I figured that was worth a look on the way back. But for now....
I turn to the right and there it is, the Reeperbahn, in all it's full smutty glory. It must stretch on for a couple of kilometres, four grand lanes. As I strolled down this American style boulevard, lined both sides with massive video stores and live sex shows and cinemas and parlours and such, I was reminded of something someone had said on the bus earlier, about the US military presence after the war and what they'd brought with them. Doors were wide open, and it's Wednesday afternoon.
I was amazed by the sheer unashamed size and length of it. Anything you're looking for, whatever you want, in any combination you want, it's there. Descending the hill, my bodgy tourist map pointed me towards a grittle of side streets on a rise to the left where I would find my second destination - Helenastrasse.
Took a little while but I found it - one short straight street, lined either side with glowing red windows and the madams on their stools. At either end the street was gated with large red iron walls, labeled with a sign forbidding entry to those under 18 and, as is generally known, women. Apparently if you're female and you enter, the prostitutes come out and attack you in the street. There was talk of us all going down and disgusing Soph as a man, but needless to say it never eventuated. She didn't miss much - once again, it's the middle of a weekday, and besides a couple of manufactured saucy glares, it's pretty quiet.
It's time to head back to the gig, and as I wend my way back towards the top of the Reeperbahn, I pass the obligatory rough looking bars with the squads of headshaven blokes with big jackets, sitting in doorways. The red light district in Amsterdam seemed to have some sort of old-world charm - this place was just edgy. Any kind of novelty had completely worn off by now.
Returning to the major intersection, I decided to investigate this mysterious grove of trees which seemed to grow taller and larger as I approached it. While occupying a prominent raised location, there seemed no front entrance to the street, and yet the space inside was obviously quite sizeable, with presumably some large stone statue in the middle. Entering the trees, I found myself clambering up an embankment for quite a way until I got to low circular stone wall.
I looked up and there he was, head bowed, almost staring at me, clenched fists one atop the other meeting at his torso, holding a giant sword with it's tip at his feet, like something straight out of Gotham City. Encircling the statue I found the entrance stairway at the back, and at its base a plaque - Count von Bismarck.
An eerieness pervaded the entire site - closer inspection revealed square stone reliefs of incredibly muscular young men, loinclothed, in various Classical poses (I would later find this sort of thing in a park in Bremen). The place didn't seem to get too many visitors, and consequently a worrying number of spraypainted swastikas (accompanied with what looked like local chapter numbers) were littered throughout...
The gig wasn't much to speak of, the last official date of the tour. On this, the second last night of the trip, our bus driver, ex-army, who up until now had been generally well received amongst the band, dropped a comment openly displaying his opinions of the orientation of our openly gay accordion player. Right there, in the dressing room. I couldn't believe it....love that shit....
Most of the band took hotel rooms for the night except for a couple of us who stayed on the bus to save the money, but as midnight turned I legged it from there to the lobby for some birthday drinks - the guys were really nice about it, they'd bought me an inflatable keyboard for a present and signed a card and everything.
After there we strolled back down the hill, found a Turkish restaurant, and kicked back with a hukkah for about an hour. Never having (or since) smoked a cigarette, I thought it'd make me sick, but instead it gave me this all over body rush that had me stomping my feet on the ground and laughing non-stop for about five minutes. It was nice as well just to chill with these guys, shoot the breeze for a bit, perhaps get to know a little my temporary work colleagues....

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