The Poms are weak as piss, the French are queer
The Germans are wankers but they make good beer
But don't you ever say we're weak
Or you'll learn all about our convict streak!
Classic stuff from the "suburban punk".
Its pertinent on several counts; Dave Warner also happens to be the name of a future Australian Test Cricket opening batsman who will one day play against England, who are currently going around against our current crop of heroes in The Ashes; the Tour de France is back in France and in my travelogue here I'm about to leave France and invade Germany. The German segment is a compilation of a couple of different sorties, one of which would have interrupted the flow of the Switzerland-France narrative.
After the others got off at Rennes I went onto Paris, then jumped onto the Frankfurt train. Didn't get a lot of sleep on the train but I was in a groove and headed to Munich. In Munich they had an overflow hostel called The Tent. Basically an enormous refugee camp affair where I paid a couple of marks for a sleeping space and the use of bathroom facilities. Being on my own I got a crew together to hit the Hofbrauhaus, an historical beer house made famous for an attempted revolution by Hitler and his scumbag bootmen back in 1923. Or so the tour guides would tell you. Nothing of the sort. That beer hall had been mainly destroyed back in 1939 during an attempt to assassinate Hitler. The Hofbrauhaus had been used by Hitler's henchmen to dream up their schemes and to draw up the rules of the Nazi Party. So much for history.
The one litre steins were brought around by a crew of solidly built ladies, some of whom could manage six of the things in each hand. The very model of muscly beer efficiency.
These beer halls are very much tourist drawcards and it seemed as though every tour group in Europe was in there from the safe and sound hotel coach tourists to the out of control Antipodean camping tour punters. Mix this in with the North American college fraternity and it was pretty messy. One of the tour groups was rewarding its punters with badges if they could manage four steins.
"Soft cocks!" I observed.
Laurie from Minnesota observed the mix of people she had joined up with back at The Tent and was startled by the almost professional manner employed by a couple of the lads in her group. A solid looking Australian seemed to be enjoying himself and she was both puzzled and amused by the interraction with one of the tour groups. They seemed to be mostly Australians and New Zealanders judging by their alternate shouts of,
which was followed by raucous cheering and downing of large quantities of beer. Then she heard the Australian guy in her group say,
"Excuse me, what did you just say?"
I didn't know whether it was the language she was questioning, the meaning or whether she was just plain dozey.
"I said that they're soft cocks. Weak as piss. Wouldn't survive eating a granny smith apple. Soft cocks." I decided that was enough embellishment.
"Well, they're getting awards for drinking just four glasses of beer. Admittedly they are large glasses but still, all up its only four litres. That mob of Top Deckers will probably earn two medals each. They've obviously been in training and look in top form. The Contikis however might struggle. I reckon there might be a few vegetarians amongst them. Probably worse, some of them look as though they read books which don't have pictures. The kind which you can't fit in the back pocket of your jeans when you get up to go to the dunny."
"Sorry, I don't really understand what you're saying." she was looking confused so I kept at it,
"Okay. See that mob over there with the crazy ginger nut doing the chicken dance? They're from Top Deck if that t-shirt isn't lying. That mob of woofs over there? The ones sitting politely at their tables? They're Contikis. See that brunette with the large chest? That's a Contiki t-shirt she's wearing. The Top Deck ones are mad alcoholics, the Contiki ones are mere apprentices."
Glad I had that straightened out. I signalled Brun Hilda for another stein.
"How do you know them?" Laurie seemed fascinated by these tour groups.
"I went with Contiki to Scandinavia, The USSR and Poland. " I then explained how we'd met up in Helsinki with a Top Deck group who were on the last legs of an Asia-Europe overland trip.
The Top Deck mob were full on pissheads, every single one of them and keen for sport drinking. In our lot there were about half a dozen of us could hold our own with them but we were simply outnumbered. The majority of our crew either didn't participate or put up the white flag early on. After a couple of hours us brave half a dozen were captured and held hostage by the TD'ers.
"So just think of Top Deck as 'Animal House on Wheels' and Contiki as 'Happy Days'. They go on other sorties to Pamplona, for the Running of the Bulls, New Year's in Edinburgh and for some reason Easter in Amserdam. They go from the bus to bars and back to the campsite and sleep through the sightseeing bits. Ask them about Paris and they'll tell you a brand of beer. Ask them about Rome and they'll talk about the disco in the campsite. They wouldn't know where the Mona Lisa is or what to look for in the Basilica. They're only interested in drinking their way around Europe." Hmmm. Seemed as though I was describing a more alcoholic version of myself.
Laurie seemed happy with the analogy. I went around, scoping out both groups seeing if I recognised anyone. Nope. Then I went for a longer walk, checking out the whole place, imagining SS conspirators planning their madness in an atmosphere of murderous self-righteousness. A chilling thought. I was thinking that they could have been stopped, right there, if enough people had come through the doors and said "hold on you nutters, you ain't doing that". Well, that was most likely bullshit but they could have done something to break down the process. I'd previously been through one of the concentration camps, Matthausen and it had made me angry. There was always the thought 'someone could have done something'. Not a pleasant mood for what I'd planned as a nice little diversion. I went back to my table, shaking my head just as another round of the "Aussie-Kiwi" chant was finishing up. For fuck's sake, don't these fuckers know what was going on here back in the Twenties? One of the Finnish guys walked over to where I was seated. I must have looked really pissed off because he was hesitant about approaching me. All he wanted to know was did I want another stein? Yeah, sure. He handed one to me and I attacked it with full force. Didn't take long to finish it off, I was both angry and thirsty it seemed. Then Laurie came over and showed me a metal trinket. I ws curious,
"Your medal. That was your fourth stein." She pinned it on my shirt. This was getting fucking ridiculous. As she did this I stood up, looked at the row of steins on the table and then started making sense of it. We were getting gee gaws for drinking four litres of beer. Those Nazi bastards got them for murdering people. I preferred the beer one. I then checked out who else was wearing them. A number of the Contikis and most of the TD contingent were sporting them by now, laughing at each other and starting to take the piss out of the whole thing by trying to lob the medals into each others' steins. Yeah, I much preferred the beer one.
"You gotta medal didja mate? That's tops, eh. Ya not stoppin' are ya? That'd be piss-weak!"
It was one of the TD'ers who'd decided to check out our table of Big Tent refugees.
But don't you ever say we're weak
Or you'll learn all about our convict streak.
"Nah mate. Just catching my breath before I take on the Nazis." Old mate's blurry eyes brightened a little, he sparked up;
"Yeah, that's right innit mate. Hitler used to drink here didn't he?. Wish he were here now. I'd fucken deck the cunt."
I had to laugh, "So would I mate. So would I."
I joined in with the rest of the table, knocked off another stein and by then was ready for the troop tram back to the reffo tent. The tent was a sprawling mass of refugees. Most of the lights were out yet the darkness only seemed to amplify the drunken stumblings of the returning beer hall invaders. I crashed out, adding my snores to those of the steined masses.
The following morning I eschewed the fruhstuck and headed straight for Mickey D's. I needed his junk breakfast. I then went to the station and checked out the Landshut trains. I'd previously remembered that I was sort of due to meet Colleen and Anne in Landshut, but wasn't really that keen on the idea. I wasn't that happy around these parts. I moped about, caught the train and walked to the hostel. Landshut is a quiet place an hour or so outside of Munich and that sort of quiet just happened to be a good tonic for me. I basically ignored everyone else and buried my head in Ulysses, tossed that aside for the thousandth time and hooked into an anthology of scribblings by Myles na Gopaleen. Geez he was a funny bugger. His real name was Brian O'Nuallain (Brian Nolan), but he mainly wrote under the name of Flann O'Brien. I'd read some Flann O'Brien stuff at uni and dug his weirdness. "The Third Policeman" was a real brain burner but I found it amusing. Basically it I thought it was a narrative the author was conducting with himself about penitence and the neverending reality of where we all end up. I still prefer to see it as a book where people turned into bicycles. Anyway I read through his anthology, consisting of columns he wrote in the Irish Times. It was an absolute cracker. I reckoned he shat all over Jimmy Joyce.
It was getting on tea time when I realised I hadn't seen the two girls. I went and asked the hostel oberfuhrer if he'd had any word from a couple of American girls looking for me and he said "nein" and went back to loosening the tread on his tank. Obviously he was planning a desert campaign. I lobbed into a local cafe and launched into some shcweinflesch. If the Germans do two things well, its dead pig and beer, no make it three things. Can't forget their ability to crank up a world war every now and then. It was a quiet night so back at the hostel I read a bit more of Myles and crashed out early. The morning brought with it a new plan. I decided to head south down to Romanshorn. It was near a lake and I felt like a swim. One other thing about Germany is that th their trains are good. But geez its easy to get bored. I spent a day down in Romanshorn, went for a swim and headed up to Berchtesgarden. I made it up to the Eagles Nest and had a beer up there checking out the scenery, what Hitler and his cronies looked at. It was impressive, but would have been more impressive if someone had dumped a million tons of bombs on it when Hitler was on vacation there back in the Thirties. However, the beer was nice.
From Berchtesgaden I wended my back up through Germany and hit on a town called Kassel. Basically what I was doing was getting to railway stations, tossing a coin and that would decide where I'd end up. Hence I got to Kassel one afternoon during an art festival. There was this weird sculpture in the main park, it sort of looked like a bunch of those tank obstacles and I was drawing it in my diary when a young lady walked up and interviewed me. She was astounded that I wqs from Australia and asked if I'd come especially for the art festival. I told her the truth and she started asking more questions about what I thought about art. I told her I'd seen a fair bit in Europe (I've left the art out of my story as I'm crap at writing about it), from the Renaisasnce stuff, the Dutch masters, some modern stuff, the Louvre, Florence (David), the Hermitage in Leningrad, etc etc. I crapped on a bit about the artist's eye, she took one last shot of me and told me she'd push her interveiw in some local magazine. Whoa! Therbs the media star! That was pretty weird. I headed off to the hostel, found the shower and while I was washing away my artistic dirt I also found that the showers were unisex. Two young frauleins came in, togged off and started showering right next to me. Fair enough. I didn't make my observations overly obvious but I did get a good eyeful of ripe German bumps. This is where I should lead into a three-in-a-bed-romp piece of porn writing, but I won't. It didn't happen. I talked them into going to a local bar for a few settlers after we'd eaten our rations and threw a few compliments their way, talked about the art exhibition and my new found media celebrity but they didn't budge. Nothing, zilch, barely a laugh. Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned the war or told them about Colonel Hogan's escapades. I was rueing my luck when the art critic chick lobbed in the bar. She gave me a winning smile and came and joined us. After a brief round of introductions and an order of drinks all round we settled into a discussion about art. The critic/writer girl gave me a couple of funny looks which I put down to sexual curiosity. The two shower girls explained something to Kat (the writer) and said "choos" as they walded out the door. Kat looked at me and said,
"You shower with those girls." I nodded, replying
"Yeah, but they weren't dirty at all."
"They are witt each other. In love." Ah hah! That was the answer.
"Too bad, they were kinda cute. Could have been fun." My eyes were like big question marks as I looked at Kat. But not as cute as you."
"You are staying at hostel, yes?" She already knew the answer but I played along.
"Unfortunately yes." Where was this leading? Then she threw in a dipping, curving delivery,
"So what did you think of the art?" What the fuck's going on here?
"Not much really. I didn't see a lot as I didn't want to pay the entrance fee."
We chatted on for a while and she started to warm up, getting closer, doing that touching flirty stuff so I responded in kind. Didn't take long for the first kiss, quick and sharp. The second was slower, softer and more passionate. It was similar to the final one at her place the next morning as I said goodbye. We hadn't discussed a lot of art, just created our own. As well as feeling lucky I was glad I didn't have to wash the sheets. As I walked down the road the animated version of Therbs was going "Yabba dabba doo!" and running up and down lamp posts. I eventually reigned him in enough to get myself back to the hostel to retrieve my gear.
A little while later I was at the station doing my coin toss thing and ended up on a train to Wurzburg. The next day it was Saarbrucken. I was just riding trains and looking at towns for the hell of it. It became a routine where I'd hit a town, check out the main centre, look at the tourist pamphlets to find anything interesting then book into the local youth hostel. The next day, find another town and do much the same. I broke the cycle in Saarbrucken when I checked my RV schedule and found I ws due to meet up with Doug in a couple of days in Koln. I gave up on the coin tossing and went to Koblenz. Its beautifully situated at the confluence of the Moselle and Rhine rivers. I checked into the hostel and went exploring. It was well worth it. Despite being a tourist haunt there was enough old school charm about it and the two rivers added some great watery backdrops. I had a couple of beers at a local bar, watching some Euro soccer, totally digging a holiday vibe.
When I walked out of the hostel down past the river I noticed a shit hot looking ferry heading to Koln. It accepted my Eurail pass so that was me, on a river cruise for the day. The river cut through some picture perfect landscapes with old castles strategically placed here and there, guarding against invasions and acting as road houses for toll collectors. I had to neck a bottle of Moselle to get into the occasion. Seated nearby were a man and his Downes syndrome son, out on a special excursion for the kid. The father noticed the small kangaroo stitched onto my pack and politely enquired where I was from. So I told him and gave him a description of Sydney. His son's eyes lit up when he heard me talking about a weird place such as Australia and he asked me about kangaroos. I told the truth for a change, explaining that they were common enough in the country but never seen in the city. The boy was keen on knowing more so I kept up, answering his questions. His dad was fluent enough in English and seemed to translate the Q & A session quite well. Fortunately for his son I'd been dealing with dozey ratsackers for the past few months and was thus well practiced in the art of communicating with intellectually disabled children. It was a fine afternoon and I felt well happy when we reached Koln. Would I remain as happy once I launched into another series of mishaps with Doug? I'd soon find out.