Thurs 24th May
7.30 pm Chris arrived at our house and I am all packed up and we are ready to rock.
Our stay at the Manchester Airport South, actually west, Premier Inn, starts with us getting an upgrade to a twin room at no addition to the £15 it is costing us each. The room is spacious and each twin bed is in fact a double. Chris has brought a flask filled not with coffee but iced gin! So we drink up and go to bed in good time for waking at 4. It is very hot.
|“In the wee wee hours” (Springsteen), I wonder what happened to the nice shot I took when the room was tidy!
Fri 25th May
Wake at 4. Up and out promptly. Park in T3 Meet and Greet. Check in and we sail through Security having paid £3 each for the Priority Lane. This is well worth it as it gives us time to shop and have breakfast in Costa. Chris has a bacon bap and yoghurt and I have a croissant and yoghurt and coffee of course.
The flight is smooth and quick with only a half full plane and we are in Duesseldorf about 9.30. The luggage arrives correctly and we take the Skytrain to the airport train station. A short wait with some Bruce fans for the double decker train to Koeln. We end up in first as it’s very full chatting to Mrs. Bruce fan whilst Mr. is in a different carriage (because the train is so full). She tells us about their trip to Everest base camp. I don’t want to go there at all, ever, it sounds completely horrid. We arrive in Koeln and the hotel is a stone’s throw from both the station and the cathedral. The Hotel Excelsior Ernst is no. 1 on Trip Advisor and it is 5 star. Very helpful, verging on obsequious attention is paid to us. Only later do I realise the chap is touting for a tip, too late, and we never see him again. The room is huge, has embossed writing paper and a washbasin each! The mini bar is completely free and is replenished every day. So we sample some Bitburger to check it’s ok!
We unpack and then straight out to find lunch which is sitting outside a resto near the Rhein.
After perusing the expensive menu we opt for the daily schnitzel bargain which comes with chips and salad and more beer. C has a wheat beer and I have another pils.
It’s hot, about 25C as we walk along the Rhein to the next big bridge and the cable car. Very pleasant, lots of cyclists on what look like huge heavy bikes.
As the cable car moves off, C reminds me that she might have vertigo. At this juncture we are swinging up over the Rhein and about to cross the motorway! I am told to talk but not expect an answer! Despite the photo showing a relaxed traveller what you can’t see is the hands gripping onto the seat in sheer terror! Fortunately it’s a short trip with good views of the Dom.
We walk through a nice park and along the side of the river, some of which is dirty grubby. Then back across the railway bridge which has thousands of padlocks for love along the fence separating the footpath from the tracks. At the end of the path is a plaque to say 1000 Roma and Sinti
left here in 1940.
Then we wander around the Altstadt, stop for another coffee which is not great. Through a shopping street where I buy a pork pie hat to keep a bit more sun off my ears. Luckily I don’t have to try to ask for it!
Back to the hotel for crisps, Koelsch beer.
Whilst Chris relaxes in a cool bath, a girl comes and asks if we want the beds turning down. I ask her to bring lighter weight duvets which she does.
Lovely shower and then out again to Heumarkt to find no. 6 resto on Trip Advisor. After walking round twice we get directions from a taxi driver. The Brauerei Zur Mauzmuehle is old fashioned and cool inside. You step in through a revolving door wondering when you will be let out. Chris has lots of Koelsch and woodcutter’s pork with fried spuds and sauerkraut and I have asparagus omelette with salad. It is asparagus season so lots of asparagus on the menus. Happy diners. Then I take C on a long walk to the gay area, some of which is trendy. We are aiming for a bar called Bastard and I am expecting it to be really tacky but it’s down a little ginnel and is lovely and quiet and leafy and dark. C has more beer and I have white wine. We walk back with Google maps but the Dom is such a good landmark day or night.
Our room has a doorbell. I love that there are electric sockets next to the washbasin!
It’s nearly midnight. Time for bed.
|On the plane
|Our own washbasins!
|Chris: “Why did I say I wanted to do this?!”
|“OMG, we’re actually going to go over the motorway!!”
|Padlocks of lurve
|Archaeological dig of Jewish synagogue to become museum
|Picture above an old pub
|Boy on corner
|Pork and sauerkraut
|In the gay area
|Also in gay area
|Not Chris, obviously!
|Angels in dark, thankfully you can’t see the car they are attached to.
Sat 26th May
Wake at 9 and straight to breakfast. This is a sumptuous feast – lots of fish, meats, cheeses, breads and little pots of butter, mayo, cheese, beetroot and intriguing things. I have 3 types of muesli and yoghurt followed by thinly sliced beef and salami and cheese with rolls. Then a croissant. All washed down with proper coffee, espresso for me and cappuccino for C. She eats salmon, herring, cheese and salad.
Out to the U Bahn and after a bit of pfaffing we work out our ticket and platform. Head off for Bensberg about half an hour away.
The man at the hotel had thought we would struggle to find the outdoor pool but Google maps helps us to be self reliant.
The pool is in the ‘burbs on the edge of the forest. It’s open air and 50m long. Chris does 32 lengths i.e. a mile and I do 5 i.e. 250m which is a lot for me as am not very good at swimming. It’s quite blowy which makes big waves. It’s very hot in the sun on the grass and I don’t realise it until later but just this short exposure to the sun burns me. Thank goodness for Factor 50.
We wander back to the town for a cheese and tomato toastie and then back to the forest for a woodland walk on no. 13 path. We see a very big bird of prey. I am wanting a Biergarten and have seen huts marked on the map at the start of the walk. These turn out to be what look like wooden bus shelters and not inns. We take a “wrong” turn which spits us out at a “Friends of Nature
” inn so in luck after all. Chris has a big beer and me a coffee.
Back via a lake to the station. We leave the train at Neumarkt and arrive back at the hotel at 7. Our luck is in as Philip Jump, one of the Badlands
Fan Club brothers, is in reception dishing out tickets. He invites us to the bar but we have other plans plus there is mad Bruce fan hanging around and both of us would rather not have anything to do with her.
We go and shower and drink the minibar then out to eat. We’ve picked a bar but the whole central area of Koeln is packed full of people and fairly hideous. We end up in Brauhaus Sion sharing a table with a nice couple. Whilst we down several Koelsch we watch the gangs in their matching t shirts erupting into spontaneous singing. There are lots and lots of hen nights where they all have the same shirts and the brides to be carry what look like usherettes’ trays.
Chris has pork with onion gravy and fried spuds and coleslaw and I have beef roulade with mashed spuds and red cabbage. Our neighbours say goodbye and wish us a “schoenes Pfingsten”. I’ve never been wished a lovely Whitsun before!
Then we go to the riverside for ice cream, very yummy and watch the disco boat on the river. So many people it’s like being at a rock concert without the music.
Back to hotel.
|Not posing at all.
|Not a Biergarten
|Bahnhof at night
|And Dom also
|Friends of Nature Biergarten, lovely
|Big big logs.
Sun 27th May
This is Bruce day.
We have a very big breakfast. Muesli, raspberries, huge loganberries, yoghurt, cold meats, bread rolls and pastries. Unable to move. We go to the river to buy our boat tickets and then continue to walk off the breakfast by heading up to Neumarkt. We enter the Kaethe Kollwitz collection
via a shopping centre which is closed because it’s Sunday and go up the tradespeople’s staircase to the 4th floor. Have to ring the doorbell to be let in. The boy and girl are surprised we have come this way. The exhibition is very good and hardly anyone else there. Calm and cool. Pictures very emotional. We leave via a glass lift.
Back to the river for an ice cream then a long time in the queue for the boat. It’s full and incredibly hot. I feel I’m burning even with factor 50 and through my shirt. We go up the river, down the river and back up again. Bit too hot and full for huge fun as we didn’t get a seat even after the queue so we sit on the lifeboat. I don’t mention that I can’t see enough lifeboats for the huge quantity of people on board. Some Springsteen fans are sitting near us. Today is the day to wear the Springsteen shirt, I’m saving mine up so it’s at least clean and not sweaty for a whole 5 mins.
Into town to the Peter’s Brauhaus for lunch, we get a seat today as failed last night when it was so mad and busy. C has sliced leg of pork with sauerkraut and mashed spud. I have boiled spud with veg in cheese sauce gratin. Very filling. C starts on the beer!
Back via the Dom where the Goths or possibly the fetish festival as well are hanging out. I can’t tell anymore! I did manage to spot some queers on our travels. I read the other day that people can tell immediately if someone is gay by the shape of their face. This sounds like sheer nonsense to me.
We prepare for the evening, Born to Run shirt on but The Rising baseball cap insufficient against the sun’s rays. I ring home and am entertained by Carol’s story of the biggest spider in the whole world. At 6 we go to reception and wait 5 mins for the Badlands people and then we set off anyway as they have clearly gone. We pfaff a bit in the station with the ticket machine because the VRS ticket office and machine are shut and are the same colour as the DB machine so we go to the info desk and it’s great, our Bruce tickets include free travel and indeed say VRS on them, but in the small print in a lot of other terms and conditions in German so I hadn’t seen this. We finally get going. At Neumarkt we change trains and are directed to a special train. We sit and chat to some German Bruce first timers. T shirt makers in Germany are having a boom time generally and so some have used the gig to demonstrate their affiliation. A group of 4 baby dykes are all saying they are Mrs. Bruce Springsteen. What will Patti have to say about that? Given that Mrs. Bruce Springsteen seems to have other priorities than fulfilling her membership of the E Street Band then perhaps she doesn’t mind at all…
Everyone gets in line in a most orderly fashion and we give our empty plastic bottles to a collector who will get money back on them. Eventually we find somewhere they will let us on the pitch. Security staff seem a trifle grumpy. I team up with a fellow beer buyer to get our beer, there is a €1 deposit on plastic glasses. We find a spot near the mixing hut but it’s not good for seeing the stage and only just ok for the screens.
Bruce comes on before 8 which is v. good for him. The audience makes a lot of noise! Then we have a 29 song set
. Lots from the BitUSA album. About half time C gets more beer and we move back for a better view of screens. Less smoky here too. The Red Cross come past with a stretcher and snapping on the latex gloves. As well as being good value for money, Bruce made me laugh and made me cry. After some albums which didn’t quite cut the mustard, he’s back on track and talking to me again.
After a brilliant night we get some more beer although the serving boy is rude and stupid. Back on the train. Into the Bierkeller next to the hotel. I make another bar boy friend which seems to be the only way to get served!
Back to room to drink the mini bar!
Official gig photos
Working on the Highway on YouTube
Wrecking Ball on YouTube
The River on YouTube
Awake at 9 after just about enough sleep. As today is a bank holiday there are no free newspapers. Lovely breakfast. I have bowl of fresh berries, cold cuts, roll, croissant. Back to pack and then check out. Leave bags at reception while we go to the cathedral and climb the south tower. It’s only 100m of climbing but up a narrow spiral stone staircase which is 2 way. Some people are v. annoying. We reach a central chamber above the belfry. The bells as we pass are chiming and so loud I was frightened and reminded of the Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers. We rest and then it’s up an open stair. This bit makes me feel slightly sick! C keeps on going, after the cable car she is being brave. Finally it narrows and we are up as high as it goes so we walk round the outside which is strongly fenced in on all sides and top. Hideous amounts of graffiti. Then down. The first part down to the central chamber is all down a really narrow spiral and some prats are unable to interpret the no entry sign at the bottom which means it is 1-way.
Back to hotel to collect bags. The doorman is grumpy with us now that we are no longer guests. Grrr.
Off to station for ticket to Duesseldorf and fail to get coffee from 2 cafes outside so we get some inside. C also gets a Jamaican drink. Train is quick only half an hour.
At Duesseldorf we put our bags in a locker and buy a tube ticket. Travel to the riverside although at first it looks like we are in the middle of nowhere but actually we just walk along a short way to the riverside. Then we find a place to eat in the Altstadt called Maredo. We both have self serve salad which is excellent but the Schnitzel and chips just not great. The Altbier is good! Just as well.
Then along the riverside and back into the town to a lake with lots of birds and their young. Ducks, geese, swans. Sit quietly for a while away from the hubbub.
Back to river for ice cream for C and coffee. V hot in sun and I feel a bit too tired and hot with so many people. Back to tube. Back to station. Pick up bags. Off to airport, just 5 mins on train. Then on Skytrain to terminal C after quick look at A where no mention of flight.
Check in, Wander round. Do controls and then shopping. At last, as all shops have been shut for 2 days.
Flight is on time and very smooth. Only 20 passengers on plane, lovely.