Side effects June 27, 2006Posted by BiB in Uncategorized.
Tags: prostitutes, World Cup
Now I am, of course, very happy with all the spin-off revelry that Berlin – and, no doubt, all those other top German hotspots, like Gelsenkirchen – is witness to for the duration of the World Cup. The weather is being good to us. The tourists are here in great numbers (which is probably good for the economy or something. Drone) and the atmosphere is marvellous.
And I like the tourists, really I do, but perhaps Oranienburger Straße and the environs are best avoided for the rest of the championships. The Russian and I were out for a bit of random drinking and footballing on Sunday and by the time the Portugal-Holland five-a-side match was over, we found ourselves wandering ever closer to Oranienburgerstr. in search of entertainment. We had actually hoped to go queer, but where can one get a queer beer in the middle of Berlin? We sheepishly snuck up on Ackerkeller on the off-chance that it might have more than one customer, but it didn’t, and we couldn’t think of a single other option. (Is there one?) So we thought we’d throw in our lot with the tourists and wandered synagogue-wards.
Our first encounter with lost tourists involved a trio of gents from, I think, different corners of the English-speaking world: an Englishman, an Irishman and either an Australian, New Zealander or South African (walked into a bar… No, they didn’t). The non-European of the three was the leader, because he could say Danke schön a million times per utterance without giggling. He was also the best-looking. “Do you speak English?” they asked as one as the Russian and I approached. “Yes,” I replied, trying to change my voice so that we wouldn’t have to have a pretending-to-know-each-other-because-we’re-abroad-and-speak-the-same-language conversation, and, worse, spend the rest of the evening with them (although they were perfectly decent). “Oh, thank god,” the leader enthused, as if he’d just been informed that his attempt at sneaking across a tricky border and he was now back on friendly territory had been successful. (He managed to resist the temptation to embrace me.) “Can you, bitte, tell us, danke, danke, where such-and-such a club is? Danke.” Luckily, I didn’t know it. But the Russian did and so we could discuss in Russian how I’d instruct them to get there. The trio were probably perfectly happy that Russian was German and my foreigner credentials were assured. I kept a tinge of Russian in my English for the explanation, and I could see the trio wondering if I was an Eastern equivalent of Dick van Dyke (except in reverse, I suppose). But I managed to resist the temptation to out myself, accepted a torrent of Dankes with due grace, resisted the über-friendly overtures of the Irish gent, and sent them thundering on their way.
Oranienburgerstr. is a hopelessly touristy place, and we wandered around aimlessly, desperately looking for a single place that might be tolerable. We took detours. We considered new territory. But, sure enough, found ourselves heading back towards the tourist traps ere long. A panting, frantic, chubby gent asked, “Do you speak Eeeeeenglish?” “Yes,” I said, realising there was no need for me to outforeign this gent. “Can you tell me, Señor – OK, he didn’t say that – where is the bar such-and-such?” Neither of us knew it. “Do you know which street it’s on, my good man?” I asked. “Que no, que no.” I struggled to think how this relationship might develop. But his memory was jogged. “Is street with foxy ladies.” “Foxy ladies? Do you mean prostitutes?” “Yes, prostitutes. I am dronk.” As luck would have it, he was about half-a-second’s stagger from Foxy-Lady-Straße, and I sent him on his way like a good boy scout off to find his friends whom he had, mysteriously, been separated from. “Danke schön,” he quipped with panache, and I was happy to have met such good-natured tourists making an effort to integrate whilst here. (All’s well that ends well. Saw him revelling en masse later.)
Anyway, tourists or no tourists, and World Cup or no World Cup, but even on Foxy-Lady-Str., most things were closed (or empty) on a Sunday night. Finally hubbub in the distance heralded hope. With relief almost as great as our first tourists’, we sat down before getting a good shufti at our surroundings. We had mysteriously been transported to Ibiza. We were the only people over the age of 15. Children were smoking that bubbly thing. Is it a hookah? The place hadn’t yet been finished and reminded me a tad of the hotel in that Carry On film. The toilets had no doors. The staff believed majorly in the hard-sell. My Spanish came on in leaps and bounds in as long as it took to drink one beer. I almost hoped a prostitute might come and bother us to remind us where we were. We got out as quick as we could, and were just about to give up hope of a nice drink when we stumbled across the bar(s) in the land behind Tacheles. It was surprisingly nice, even if sand in a city is normally a very bad sign. Full of drunk Swedes and South Americans, which was fine. But, darlings, is it the party atmosphere or just straightforward drunkenness, but smoking in public in this city is now as dangerous as it is in Paris. For every one cigarette smoked, two are given away. Fuck off and buy your fucking own fucking cigarettes. The only one I was more or less willing to give away was to a drunken Swede, because he had the decency to flirt and converse for twelve nanoseconds before putting in his request.
Every silver lining has a cloud.