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Round the World

Karlsruhe and Surrounding Area 2008


TM, PC and PV


Three men in an integrated transport system

5 to 9 June
It is a truth universally acknowledged that two single men in
possession of a wedge of euros must be in want of a well-trousered
travelling companion.  And so it is that the Aldershot Two, who
customarily travel in tandem, are pleased as punch to be
propositioned on their forthcoming foray into Europe. PV’s shorts
however, leave a little to be desired.  So delighted are they, PV is
solicited to inform the choice of destination. A noted transport
specialist and Deutschophile, he does not disappoint in the counsel
of Karlsruhe in Baden-Wurttemberg, home of the world’s first
integrated transport system.


Thursday – getting there

The early morning chill subdues any exuberance as the three
travellers meet at Aldershot Station.  The warmth of the Waterloo bound 
7.04 gradually thaws the expectancy and idle chatter
hones in on previous Continental trips.  The tube south from
Waterloo is empty and somewhat eerie.  Would that the tube north
from Kennington could be so; an alternative route is desperately
needed.  Kings Cross is a chaotic mass of unresponsive humanity and
the freshness and space of the refurbished St. Pancras concourse are welcome.

HT dissociates himself, desperate for a faggit. TM, custodian of
coats and coffee at the city spivs champagne bar, is bemused by the
waiters and chilled champers awaiting the first hooray henry of the
day.  PV moves off, intent on mega-pixelating his latest experiences
and captures the plaque of Butterley Company 1867.  He has
subsequently denied any clandestine texting.  Eurostar procedures
come and go as usual, but the holding area and services seem a
little meagre compared with the forsaken Waterloo.

Cologne greets the tourists with driving drizzle.  A barrel of
Gilden kolsch in the nearby Zum Dominikaner (An den Dominikaner 2-4
) has long been on the agenda.  PV stalls at the threshold peering
into the gloom in search of a barrel.  A siren voice from inside
promises what the boys want and the three enter with trepidation,
fearsome of that dreaded gassed gulp. A barrel is fetched from the
stockroom.  The session starts in need of a character or abundant
anaesthetic to disguise the pace.  The larger than life Christina,
behind the bar, is certainly a character and the kolsch arrives in
quick succession. As each disappears, the tilt of the barrel
increases as does the smile on each face anticipating the free drink
at the end of a barrel.  The new barrel reaffirms the pleasure of
really crisp kolsch.  When probed on her pedigree, Christina breaks
effortlessly into a low evocative chant suggestive of her Red Indian
provenance.  HT pleads with her to stop, citing too much rain
already and the local’s chuckle when the joke is translated.  The
three travellers reluctantly depart for the next hourly train with
an enduring internal glow.

Karlsruhe greets the tourists with heavy rain.  The three set off on
foot for the nearby hotel and come across the number one model
shop.  A two-week summer closure, starting this day, is announced in
the window.  The shop’s website has made no mention.  Tantalisingly,
there is a wee wagon flaunting itself provocatively in the window
and the three stride off in silence.  The hotel exceeds
expectation.  A shrill shout of ‘You little beaut’ affirms 
HT’s appreciation of the smoking balcony.  Beds are chosen, bodies
fragranced and the three depart for nearest recommended bar, Wirsthaus 
Wolfbrau (Am Werderplatz 51). A little drained by the long
day, they settle easily on the soubriquet of Wolfie’s but struggle
to recall the sitcom with this character in.  A tour of the beer
card includes a 0.1L taster of a dark and potent witch’sbrew in a
delightful little glass.  PV’s eyebrows twitch, hiseyes twinkle at
the waitress, and Maz’s first present is bagged. Fricadello mit
pommes is wonderbar.  The three boys head happily homeward towards
the zoo.

Friday – just the ticket

HT and TM breakfast early on continental cardboard.  HT, searching
for appetising seconds, is surprised by some fried fancies.  After a
faggit, he returns upstairs and alerts the still horizontal PV to
the unexpected scope for scoffing.  Donning his underpants swifter
than Superman and, with plate in hand, PV elbows his way through the
fasted throng, all the while gathering up grease galore, intent on
saving the foreigners from an early grave.

HT and TM finally manage to get coffee at the station when they
realise it is KAffee.   The caffeine stiffens the sinews and they
move to tackle the automatic ticket machine.  Thwarted, HT joins the
queue for the help desk and the helpers thoughtfully direct him to
the ticket office.  Here in the stagnant queue, the air is clammy
and annoying children gleefully gambol here and there.  TM goes
walkabout and realises the staff at the help desk have been
rotated.  When his turn comes, he points to the ticket automat and
shrugs his shoulders in a beseeching way.  Apparently help is
promised and a few minutes later a young man appears nervously
clutching a short straw.  After some time familiarising himself with
the automat, the official’s advice is to drive the train and take
along a 5 person regioXplus ticket.  HT is very relieved to be
relieved.  PV arrives and, with the locomotive passing his
inspection, the three set out for Baden-Baden.

A few miles from the train station, Baden-Baden lies amid low
brooding hills.  The three tourists alight from the bus at the
central intersection and wander the circular square to get their
bearings.  The town seems somewhat sleepy as though the good
burghers are extras in a fairy tale without any ending. Wandering
through the scenes, the tourists naturally find themselves at the
Tourist Information Centre.  The building has an elevated cold stone
colonnaded walkway along one side and this is faced with faded
murals looking onto well tended gardens.  The artwork brings the
three to reflection for a moment, but with the muses placated,
thoughts soon descend to a lower level.  The Munchen Gasthaus
Lowenbrau (Gernsbacherstrasse 9) is located amid winding cobbled
streets.  Passing through the local luminaries lounging in the
raised beer garden, the travellers encamp inside and watch the
waitresses fixing their Bavarian dress.  The beer card is drunk in
the company of a dapper bar-fly taking in the local papers,
gratis.  ‘What!’ he exclaims, ‘You travel around Europe visiting
breweries?  I have never heard of such a thing.’  The tourists feel
it is time to be elsewhere, as this local wit would surely have
interminable stories to tell, much like the author.  The Amadeus
Hausbrau (Leopoldplatz), seen initially when getting off the bus,
now seems to have a little more life.  The bar opens out onto an elevated 
street veranda allowing patrons to sit and watch the good 
life go by.  Perched on stools out front, the three drink in the
barmaid and the beer she dispenses.  As is usual in the more monied
towns of Europe, small dogs are eating better than elderly
mistresses indulging in local remedies.

The return bus is packed with screeching schoolchildren who beguile
PV in that special way.  His demeanour mellows on the train ride to
Rastatt but the respite is short lived.  Halfway to furthest
brewery, braced against the rain, the three decide to ransack the
rucksack in search of opening times. Crestfallen, they retrace their
steps.  The concrete bunker at the edge of land to the rear of the
Franz brewery, not given a thought on first pass, is now welcomed.
With Franz having no tap, it is now appreciated as an opportunity to
sample the local beer.  Faced with hesitant foreigners, the waitress
summarily assesses requirements and forcefully deposits bottles and
glasses on the Formica table top. The beer turns out to be more
inviting than the weather outside and further sustenance is
ordered.   Finally, with opening times checked, a dismal and grey
Rastatt is abandoned in search of more convivial surroundings that are open.

Christophe-Brau (Alois-Deglar-Strasse 3), just beyond downtown
Gaggenau, is approached in hope but gives every appearance of being
shut.  The front door unexpectedly gives and the three choose a
particular empty table.   The owner, a neophyte dominatrix, appears
and, taking charge of the situation, dictates what beers should be
tried.  Peckish, PV decides to sample Spargel Suppe and TM opts for
the Wurst Salad.   The Suppe arrives and is delicious but the Wurst
is yet to come; a mountain of minced spam set amid wilted greenery
soon arrives.   Further beers attenuate the strident voice for a
while but soon Rastatt calls anew.  The soft chatter of devoted 
day-trippers, on an express train returning from the local 
Mercedes-Benz factory, 
is comforting.

Achtung – German Joke Alert

PV, commenting on TM’s stance in front of the time-table on Rastatt
station, says, wait for it, “Oh, he’s fahrkarting about as usual”.
Achtung - This joke is not sanctioned by the German tourist board
and is not to be reproduced in public.

Back in Rastatt it is raining even harder.  With dripping noses, the
three settle for the nearest brewery tap, Hofbrauhaus Hatz
(Poststrasse 12). The good burghers of Rastatt are elsewhere.
Despite the weather outside and the lack of diversion inside, the
accessibility of the Dunkel pleases PV. An amiable hour and more
than one drink disappear.  Eventually two groups come in and voices
occasionally drown out the sound of rain on the windows.  Not for
the first or last time, the waitress seems a little sad to see the
three go.

With the appetite for ale barely diminished, the tourists abandon
Rastatt for the nightlife of Karlsruhe.  The two larger breweries to
the east of the city provide the evening’s focus.  Vogelbrau
(Kappellenstrasse 46-50) is buzzing but the beer is found
uninspiring and undeserving of further effort.  Perhaps the day’s
tribulations have had a more profound effect than imagined.  A short
walk leads to a convenient tram and then the Disneyesque Hoepfner
Burghof (Haid-und-Neu-Strasse 18).  The hotel recalls the White
Witch’s castle and the adjacent extensive beer garden is sprinkled
with Christmas tree lights.  The travellers are shown to the special
room where boisterous behaviour is banned.  There is an accompanying
matron service.  The delicate tastes of various beers are teased out
amid an accommodating quiet.  An association between wheat beer and
vanillin is proposed but eventually rejected.  With the zeal of the
true explorer PV is determined to visit the full list including
those not appealing to the other two.  However, he does find himself
overfaced with one dark concoction and coins the term ‘Frankish’
denoting the need for a well-known Frank to dispose of the sickly
sweet swallow.  Supremely happy with their meaningless musings, the
boys are whisked door to door by the last tram.

Saturday - Pforzheim and beyond

10 am finds the three tourists at the station, KAffee and regioXplus
ticket in hand, with the fabled Brauhaus Adler to drool over.
Mulacker, via Pforzheim, has three bloated bladders hopefully
scanning the platform signage. Unfortunately there is no relief on
the horizon.  PV sidles into the café’s normally locked toilet past
an emerging customer.  As he reappears he is publicly challenged but
wisely asks for a KAffee and escapes further shame.   Gratefully,
the two others order KAffee and go through the motions.  Arriving in
the one horse dorp of Wiernsheim, a reverential entrance into
Brauhaus Adler (Marktplatz 29) goes unnoticed.  The sepulchral
silence is shattered by the clumsy handling of a newspaper at the
far end of the room.  The landlord is not conversant in German or
English.  He is extremely jolly in Greek and very proud of the Greek
gods and goddesses languishing above the bar.  Two of the three
listed beers are tried as the Woiza has been seen off during the
previous night’s football match.  The pedestrian beers complement
the food, Spam or battered pig.  Long poignant farewells from the
effusive landlady precede the return journey to Pforzheim via a 
well-loved toilet.

Bravely setting out for the furthest listed brewery the three
descend the main shopping street at a jaunty angle.  All is glass,
concrete and paving slab with no vestige of a former Germany.  The
descent continues.  Eventually the angle lessens and, with a leaning
gait, the three negotiate the flat ground toward the Ketterer
brewery (Jahnstrasse 10).  HT gets ahead and as the other two near
the brewery, HT is coming in the opposite direction looking a little
confused.  The ausschank opens at 5 pm on a Saturday; it is now 3
pm.  Nothing for it but to burst into the mayhem that is
Hopfenschingel (Weiherstrasse 13) on a weekend afternoon.  The
square-sided glass box looks out on a small plaza at the lower end
of town and the three enter past two females intently chewing the
cud.  Inside there is a complete absence of life.  Sounds drifting
down from upstairs turn out to be musak to have bottled up by.  The
upper storey offers up a full choice of table while a barmaid is
sought.  A journey round the beer card is completed without
distraction.  During one summons of the waitress, HT manages to buy
a miniature souvenir.  All this is too much for PV who has to text
home with the good news.  Apparently life is more engaging elsewhere
in Pforzheim as the two ladies are still updating each other as the
three depart.

This leaves the third of the triumvirate of Pforzheim breweries, the
Bayerisches Brauhaus Ratskeller (Marktplatz 1).  Eventually its
location is discovered in a modern concrete development built around
a slab filled square surrounding the obligatory fountain.  HT and TM
enter and are taken aback by a shrill ‘Mein Gott’ issuing from a
formally attired waiter sat amid starched white tablecloths. The
waiter concedes that beer can come without food.  He clears the
cutlery from a table and dismissively gestures the two to sit down.
As the two are considering the beer menu, PV enters and the ends of
the tablecloths gently caress his bare knees.  His face confesses a
decidedly uncomfortable feeling but of course he cannot leave
without visitor card and beer ABV’s.  Surprisingly, beer is
available from the barrel and the waiter offers to phone the brewer
to get the beer strengths.  The cut of the shorts obviously counts
and PV has wisely chosen the early Africa Korps style.  With the
details of the beer gleaned, the three slip out surreptitiously
though immediate reflection admits that the beer is quite palatable.

Five o’clock and Ketterers Braustuble beckons.  The dark wooden
doors are loosed and the beer tap door handles are eagerly grasped.
The good burghers of Pforzheim have found a different option.  Again
the three have a room to themselves and their own waitress, Iris.
Beers are ordered while PV struggles with predictive texting.  Maz
gives up waiting and suddenly her voice is reverberating around 
half-timbered magnolia walls.  Thoughts of home encourage PV to express
an interest in one of the glasses.  With slow German and expressive
fingers, HT attempts to buy the glass but is firmly rebuffed.
Silent for a few seconds, he comes to life with a cunning plan
etched on his smiling face.  Iris says nothing, but perhaps she
senses, almost instinctively, the lengths to which HT is prepared to
go, especially when he genuflects with hands clasped on his heart.
She acquiesces gracefully and Ray’s present is pocketed.

Opposite the station, the Schlosskeller (Bahnhofplatz 3) is crammed
with locals captivated by the football.  In the hubbub,
pronunciation isn’t good and a coughee arrives in the form of a low
alcohol cola. The beer isn’t to die for and the next train to
Karlsruhe seems a good option.

The focus tonight is Europlatz, a cosmopolitan centre of fast food
and drink outlets after dusk.  Badisch Brauhaus (Stephanienstrasse 38-40), 
a large hotel-brewery complex, is the first watering hole.
A dimly lit, lively sports bar from the entrance, acclimatising eyes
begin to notice the smaller side rooms and beer-garden catering for
many diners.  Unfortunately the beers are in keeping with the
surroundings, warm and insipid.  Suddenly, there is a commotion
nearby as, one by one, amused young revellers drop out of sight.
Investigation reveals a short metal slide into a bottomless black
hole (steady KO).  There is no inclination to go any further.
Shortly, flushed with success, the same punters return for another
go, and another go and another go and …the three leave.

Next up is the Bierakademie (Douglasstrasse 10) the only normal pub
visited and where the attitude is captured by haphazardly strewn
empty pizza boxes.  Dim lighting and limited space give an intimate
feeling orchestrated by two barmen, the brusque Uli (named after 
Hoeness, remembered by some) and his more urbane sidekick.
PV and HT are immediately at home.  TM, far from anally retentive,
takes to the streets.  An hour later, PV is chatting up a small dark
beauty in glasses, softly seducing her with words of past
pleasures.  HT is drooling lopsidedly over a little red kicker.
After some searching questions from PV, fielded with cultivated
disdain by Uli, the three depart for the Kebab shop and stained

Sunday – cultural day in Heidelberg
06.30 and the door creaks behind PV on his way to bag a full English
breakfast.  The door creaks again a few minutes later.  Breakfast is
at 07.30 on Sundays.

Arriving in Heidelberg station, PV visits the information bureau for
a local transport map.  When the three meet outside the station, PV
introduces a new friend that he has to chaperone – a tourist
tracking device.  Unconvinced of the benefit of his altruism, PV
sets off to find the S-bahn to the far end of the old town.  A
female American student suggests a bus to the University followed by
a walk.  The three return to the station. They seek out a railway
official and demand, in perfect English, to know the correct
platform.  Well versed in rudeness, the official nonchalantly grunts
and motions toward the barriers without raising his eyes from his
paper.  With a while to wait, the travellers soak up the sun and air
at the end of the platform before the S-bahn trundles them beneath
the city.

The three come up from the underworld into glorious sunshine.
Translucent skies and pleasure boats drifting past the tree-covered
slopes dotted with many a magical schloss set the photographer’s
finger twitching. In a frenzied five minutes, from bridge and bank,
landscapes are framed and shutters click.  Then that old itch at the
back of the throat creeps up anew.  A few strides bring a long glass
fronted building housing numerous flimsy, old wooden water-craft.  A
few more steps bring the Kulturebrauerei (Layergasse 6).  Along a
narrow incline, a sculpted medieval knight, threateningly
brandishing a sword from on high, pretends to offer protection to
the drinker.  At the heart of Kulture is a cavernous room, where
eyes are drawn up through a soulful space to the magnificently
frescoed ceiling.   With shafts of light dancing here and there over
darkly stained wood, lunch and lubrication are ordered amid much
deliberation.  PV and HT pander to their predilections for sensible
and sausage respectively.  TM opts for the random finger approach
with calamitous consequences.  The latter’s choice promises liver in
many guises but fails to conjure up the dusky skinned beauty with
lumps of white fat swirling amid uncongealed blood.  PV poses
knowledgeable questions about beer strengths.  The answers are
precise and plausible but accompanied by a shrug of the waiter’s
shoulders.  The full compliment of beers receives appreciative nods
all round but the quest for the holy grail of a 5-star beer must go

On the way out, PV pops into the brewery hotel reception for a
brochure and business card.   The waiter is caught red-handed,
googleing up the ABV of the beers, and sheepishly admits the
deceit.  Cobbled streets and quaint market squares lead to the
entrance to the Bergbahn, a funicular railway up the Konigstuhl. It
comprises two funicular railways, with the modern Molkenkurbahn
covering the lower section of 489 m of track rising 173 m with a
gradient varying between 25-43%.  The Konigstuhlbahn covers the
upper section and is the oldest electric funicular railway in
Germany, installed in June 1907.  1020 m of track is covered, rising
260 m over gradients between 22-41 %.

This wealth of information fails to distract TM.  He is seen in the
queue, hopping from foot to foot, desperately wondering whether the
ride is a good idea.  The summit offers a truly awesome (for TM and
Americans) view across the valley.  Then the mist rolls in and the
thunder rumbles.  Someone suggests the walk down through the forest
might be interesting and amid much muttering, the three set off line
astern.  Within fifty metres the sky darkens alarmingly and the
rains come.  PV reverses up the hill in need of the toilet; he would
see the others at the bottom.  The other two continue.  Raindrops
increase in size and vehemence and TM repeatedly asks if they should
go back.  Exasperated with the continual stop start, HT cries
out ‘For f… sake, make up your f…… mind.’  From then the descent
along the muddy tracks goes surprisingly well given that the Boy
Scout is no longer part of the party.  Mountain bikers are seen
struggling uphill, over rut and rock, toward the bar at the top; Oh
to be part of the Wednesday cycling scene of Heidelberg!  
Baden-Powell is waiting at the first station and leads 
the troop to the next beer stop.

The Vetterer outlet, Alt-Heidelberger Brauhaus (Steingasse 9) is a
welcome sight, set in a narrow cobbled street lined with tourists
aimlessly windows shopping or seated around pavement tables.  
Well-worn dark wood and waitresses bustling between benches 
engender an authentic old atmosphere.  
The three settle back, pleased to be warm and with beer.
The ‘Frisch’ is notable in its likeness to the
beloved Kolsch.  Groups of tourists come and go, the atmosphere
constantly changing.  One buxom barmaid is quizzed on the location
of the third Heidelberg brewery but it is not open to the public.
Although told to keep an wary eye open on the walk to the main
square, no brewery outlet is seen.  The indicated ten-minute wait at
the bus stop, in front of an adult book store, passes quickly.  The
bus does not.  After thirty long minutes, a considerate passing
woman advises that no buses would leave the square that day.  A bus
could be caught up the hill and around a couple of corners.
Muttering breathlessly like Dick Dastardly’s dog, they hurry up the
incline.  The bus arrives almost immediately and is quickly full to
the seams.  The temperature rapidly rises and the three focus
enviously on the cans of lager being drunk by young passengers.  At
the station, HT leaps off desperate for a faggit.  TM captures the
large metallic horse across the road. Unnoticed, PV returns his
travelling companion to the tourist office.  Interest is expressed
as to where PV has been.  ‘To a brewery’, he responds. ‘And why did
you come to Heidelberg?’ ‘To drink the beer.’  The disapproving
looks move PV to give the burghers both barrels on the inadequacies
of the local bus service, tourism in Heidelberg, and ………..

The orderly retreat from Heidelberg is thrown into disarray when the
train fails to appear.  Consternation in the masses grows in
proportion to length of the delay.  Forty minutes later, passengers
are shoehorned into a local stopping train.  Standing amid German
frustration and foul air, TM broaches the possibility of stopping
off halfway at Bruchsal to sample a couple of small breweries.  PV,
troubled by the heat, suggests that TM should, for once in his life,
make a decision.  And so it is decided to visit Bruchsal.  Well,
that is for as long as it takes for a thought to register and then
the decision is countermanded.  The draw of the douche is just too
strong.  It is probably a wise move given past experience of
outlying breweries.

The two breweries to the west of Karlsruhe are this evening’s
agenda.  When set down in suburban wastelands adjacent to freeways
radiating in all directions, skills fashioned by many cultural trips
instantly come to the fore.  Seizing the map, PV immediately
identifies the curly-wurly road they should be heading for.  Within
a trice the three are atop a sweeping flyover and heading toward the
Moninger brewery (Zeppelinstrasse 17).   The elevation offers a wide
panorama and PV points out the flag, sporting a large M, flapping in
the distance.  HT, for once knowing where he is bound, strides out
as if chased by a craving crocodile.  Seeking an entrance the three
circle round the back of the brewery tap.  Here, they walk into an
Hawaiian night, complete with extensive sand pit and deck chairs,
plant strewn bar, barmaids in grass skirts and fairy lights
twinkling in the gathering gloom.  
Eschewing brightly coloured c o c k tails, the three opt for brewery
beers though HT does request a paper parasol.  Perhaps attempting to
capture the holiday mood, HT lays on the ground with his mouth under
the tap of a gigantic barrel.
There is no noticeable reaction from the locals but
presumably it confirms the image of the English abroad.  However,
before long the south seas bubble is burst and the tourists are
retracing their steps across Curly Wurly Way.  They make for the
faint lights and sounds emanating from a sizeable area of open
land.   As they wander down the track, the black form of a building
gradually materialises followed by barrels, beer cases and a brewing
copper.  This is Kuhler Krug (Wilhelm-Baur Strasse 3A).  Inside they
are drawn into the celebrations of German football fans revelling in
the success of their team against Poland.  The atmosphere is
redolent of a Pontins’ bar in the high season.  An obliging waiter
takes the time to guide the three through almost unfathomable rules
about buying combinations of drinks.  The three nod knowingly and
drink whatever is placed in front of them.  The witching hour
arrives, as do both the homeward trams.  It has been a very
rewarding day for the four tourists.

Monday – HT in charge

In reward for his continuing forbearance, the day’s itinerary is
gifted to HT.  PV’s morning is already allocated to an extremely
miniature railway enthusiast though somewhat alarmingly the man
isn’t answering his phone.  Perhaps there is a model convention
happening somewhere else at this time; recall Karlsruhe’s major
outlet being shut.  PV sets off somewhat downhearted.  It later
transpires that Mr. Miniature is so affable that PV feels obliged to
buy a wagon that he already owns.

HT and TM set about the tourist thing.  They are drawn to the palace
and sculptured gardens at the centre of the spider’s web of the
city’s thoroughfares.  The outer perimeter is a circular colonnaded
shingle walkway.  An occasional bicycle, leisurely propelled over
squirming stones by an unconcerned female, conjures up fondly
remembered art.  A short time amongst the greenery is surprisingly
relaxing; but enough is enough.  On the way back, HT spots a statue
in front of the police station some way off.  He heads off to
investigate, only to see the shapely figure adjust her belt and
holster.  Veering away he periodically steals nervous backward
glances.  Back on the mean streets, a KAffee break allows him to
hide behind a foot high knickerbocker glory.  Time to take in the
public art.  The first is a rough foot-high sculpture of a naked
paunchy person from the rear.  For some it evokes visions of early
morning, though PV cannot see the likeness.  Next was the city’s
central attraction, the Pyramid.  Mildly intriguing from a distance,
its charm is diminished up close being set amid market refuse and
bearded locals basking on the kerbside.  And then in the distance is
a captivating piece of performance art, ‘Figure seeking beer’.  The
effort to catch up with PV, opposite a listed bar, leads to a
predictable outcome.  TM agrees to meet them at 12.30 and wanders
off in search of a few more memories. The remaining two enter the
cool surroundings of Hoepfner’s up market, city centre outlet, the
Kaiserhof (Karl-Friedrich-Strasse 12) to be greeted by tables set
with starched linen cloths ready for the ladies who lunch. Not
intimidated by his shorts PV orders a refreshing Maibok while HT
settles for the less strong but equally refreshing Krausen. The
smart young waiter is totally unfazed and there is no indication
that their presence is unwelcome.

The three meet again on the road to Litfass (Kreuzstrasse 10), but
no conversion here. Passing straight inside someone is heard to
say ‘Why the hell would I travel all this way to listen to a
homosexual folk singer?’  The performer, clad in pastel colours,
continues to croon to the customers in the beer garden out front.
The beer card is put to the test without the distraction of any
foreign opinion.  Lunch is postponed but someone orders a tasty box
of breakfasts, an easy mistake to make.

Again the integrated transport is called upon and soon the three
emerge at Durlach, a small town on the outskirts of Karlsruhe.
Though old and quaint in adverts, there is scant evidence around the
station.  Following a few twists and turns the three arrive at the
local Vogel Hausbrau (Amalienbadstrasse 16).  It is a modern square
glass-sided building.  The good burghers of Durlach have decided to
eat before the three arrive.  Food and drink are ordered amid a
flock of football flags.  A few minutes later the manager
courteously introduces himself in a familiar accent.  He describes
the bar’s facilities with easy charm but gradually detaches himself
when someone suggests his brogue is American.  Who’d believe it, an
Irishman abroad.  In the course of a few more beers, PV acquires a
new friend when attempting to find how to get to Malsch.
Pronouncing it Maulsch, evinces blank looks.  Suddenly the young
waiter is ecstatic, realising that it is MAL-sch.  He drags PV into
a small anteroom to show him the spot and both emerge smiling.

The train ride to MAL-sch is notable only for a local steam train’s
graveyard momentarily glimpsed en route.  Oh, and the blisteringly
sunny weather.  The Alter Bahnhof brewery (Bahnhofstrasse 2) is in
the old station buildings and offers commuters a perk to their
trade.  Seated under parasols, the three tourists set about
replenishing body fluids in the time-honoured fashion.  PV appears
particularly gratified with all the good things in life coalescing
at one place.

HT and TM are blissfully relaxed as the train speeds back to
Karlsruhe.  PV cannot afford this luxury.  With determination etched
on his face, he fights to recall the position of the sidelined Class
50 engines (2-10-0’s) relative to the onrushing train.  With camera
finger poised he awaits his prey.  And then, accompanied by an
orgasmic grunt, the rusting locomotives are history.  Has an
acceptable likeness been captured?  Expectantly, the image is
brought to the screen.  In luxurious contentment, PV settles back.

With the happy memories of the first evening still warm, HT opts for
a return to Wolfie’s.  The good burghers of Karlsruhe are of a
similar mind.  Hundreds were packed into the bars and eating houses
on the small square.  The police were there in force, of course, to
watch the football on screens arrayed in windows for those sitting
outside.  The three settle at a table near the entrance and order
beers.  The fever of the supporters rises and falls with the
fortunes of the Netherlands.  HT is in good form, downing glass
after glass with gusto.  He ups the rate when two young 
pistol-packing police women pass through the bar and 
flash their assets in his direction. 
Standing applause rings round the bar at the end of
the match; Holland has beaten Italy 3-0.  The smell of Spargel
omelette, 3 Euros, is very tempting but democracy demands a local
kebab. When the time comes, the neighbourhood food outlets are
either shut or unappealing, but any concern is only fleeting.  With
day ticket in hand, the three saunter to the nearest main road and
lurch onto the integrated transport system. Within minutes they are
salivating over Turkish delights.  And minutes later, they are
wandering toward the hotel with supper to fuel their dreams.

This is the night that team GB take on the Hotel in a game of 
Jeux Sans Frontieres.  With a confidence born of alcohol, team GB
decide to play all their jokers.  However they cannot complete game
one to open the door. Appealing to the Intercom judge, they are told
in a flat, clipped tone to ‘Insert the key in the door’.  ‘Yes we’ve
done that’, comes the reply with mild irritation.  ‘Pull the door
open’, is the next instruction.  ‘We’ve done that’, said with mounting 
‘You do not do this correctly’.  ‘Yes we …….. did!’  Team
GB are disqualified.  The door has won and magnanimously opens up.
Team GB are unsure as to whether the judge has judiciously pushed a
release button or they have been pushing all the time instead of
pulling.  Dazed and confused, team GB take to their beds to recover
for future challenges.

Tuesday – back to Blighty

The journey home is uneventful for the mere mortal but not so for
the Deutsche Bahn devotee.  The ICE train from Karlsruhe to Mannheim
is assembled back to front.  ‘Gott in Himmel’. The three join the
rear carriage to find their seats are in the front carriage.  The
portly German guard smiles when PV points out the miscarriage and
invites the three into First Class.  The guard moves on and a
whistled melody is heard sounding suspiciously like ‘Things ain’t
what they used to be’.

Created on 02/10/2009 05:56 PM by drinking
Updated on 02/12/2009 09:00 PM by drinking
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