Friday, 13 May 2016

Germany tour part two; Cologne-Jena

Following the day off in Cologne we needed to get to the train station for an early train to Jena. Jena is a university city almost in the middle of Germany. During the gig in Cologne it became clear that I'd have to work on my pronunciation of Jena as after my performance a couple of audience members were telling me how much I would enjoy Vienna.

The first leg of the journey was a two hour trip to Mainz. The train arrived and on we got, I charged purposefully along the carriage, chose a pair of seats and deposited my suitcase in the overhead rack. At this point Connie noticed and pointed out to me that the seats we reserved, as it seemed all the surrounding ones were. Before we could move the aisle was full of travellers, all examining the reservation notices. Now it would appear that the standard etiquette on German trains when encountering this situation is to be neither rude enough to cause others to move, nor step aside and give way, but instead to remain standing where you are and look at each other. So we were stuck standing next to some seats that we had not reserved, me with a guitar on my back and large suitcase in the luggage rack above me and Connie with her rucksack on her back. The train was moving, we were on our way to our next destination and not exactly in discomfort so we waited in a bemused but happy way to see what happened next. After a while we perched ourselves on the seats. What happened next is that a group of what I can only describe as horrid football wankers, crates of beer in hand, came crushing along the carriage pushing aside all in their way. Old ladies and business men were swept away until they reached their reserved seats. Which were, of course, the seats we were sitting in. The lead wanker shouts at Connie that she's in his seat, she explains that she will be happy to move once it's within the realms of possibility. He tells her "you can move if you want to!" and I lean around the person standing between me and him and suggest he might like to calm down. Another old lady was sent spinning away and this gentleman angrily made his frustrations known; it was clear he wouldn't be waiting for anyone to clear the way. Taking her chance Connie slipped past and then this guy sat in her (or to be more accurate, his) chair, making it even more difficult for me to get my suitcase down. I retrieved it, and made my way down the aisle. Happily the next carriage happened to be the dining car, and we asked if we could sit in there. Certainly we were told, as long as we buy a drink. The dining car was beautiful; quiet and uncrowded, the seats were comfortable and the lady serving us was lovely. We travelled along the Rhine with the river right alongside the train, passing through stunning valleys and attractive little towns and villages. The rainy weather that had been with us since our arrival in Europe had now abated and it was a truly glorious day.

At Mainz we had a five minute transfer which was something we had been nervous about, however it was simply a matter of stepping of the first train and walking across the platform to the next one which was sat there waiting. No reservations on the seats this time so we sat down and had a pleasant three hour journey. One more change at Erfurt at then the final leg to Jena Paradies. On this journey we had our one and only delay of the whole tour; the train sitting at a signal for ten minutes which made us late arriving in Jena. Axel, owner of Brandmarken and organiser of the gig there, was waiting at the station to drive us Radio OKJ for an interview he had organised. 

The interview with Katja went well; her English is very good and she asked some interesting questions. 

Axel dropped us off at a hostel he had arranged for the evening and explained how to find Brandmarken. After a rest and a shower we made our way to the venue and discovered that it was a fantastic bar/restaurant with a shoe shop attached. Axel, his wife Manuela and the rest of the team there were all brilliant and treated us very well. The venue was rammed for the gig and I struggled to finish playing; they kept asking for more! I had assumed the crowd would be regulars at Brandmarken but it turned out that the majority were making their first visit. After my performance I chatted to a lot of them and tried to find out what had attracted them to come to the gig, something that really interests me when I'm playing somewhere new, especially a country I've never visited before. However it turns out nearly everyone had been invited by a friend, husband or wife and I never got to meet any of the people who did the inviting. So I'll guess I'll never know! Another wonderful gig with more names on the mailing list, CDs sold and generous contributions to the hat. 

Only a flying visit as we were off to Dresden the next day, and in future it would be good to explore Jena a little more as it looked to be a very beautiful place. 

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