Trans Germany Express

Well not quite all, the last time you left our happy travellers they had reached Szczecin, close to the Polish/German border. After arriving a search was made for life but nothing much was found open by the station so an hour was killed in the waiting room with a Polish 24 hour news channel for comfort. On the news it was OK but a panel discussion about Polish disasters, like the rail crash that week, with detailed stories about people’s problems in the train were not the best in view of there being a train journey facing us. So we headed for the platform and waited for our train. It arrived and we got on. Berlin bound. I finished writing the earlier post and then we cracked open a bottle of wine we found in a shop near the station. We had no glasses but I’d managed to find some by going to a group of people sat in the foyer of the end carriage where there was a party taking place, and getting a couple of glasses.

I’ve seen fridge magnets saying ‘life is too short to drink bad wine’ but I think those people have not been on a Szczecin – Berlin train leaving after 20:00. It was like Ribena and at 10%, like Ribena.

We got talking in German and English to nearby passenger Uwe, whilst his mate slept. Uwe said his mate had slept during the day whilst he was out looking around the city. They both seemed to have consumed plenty of beer and had plenty of beer and vodka for the journey. During the discussion he said that his parents were from Silesia and had moved to East Berlin, and that he and his sleeping friend had been there to look at a place which had previously been German and look at the German parts of it. On arriving in Berlin we discovered that there was a special deal on the German railway of €10 for a day return to discover Szczecin.

Our tickets were only to Ostbahnhof but we managed to stay on to the Hauptbahnhof which is where our hotel was, well with a name of Central Inn at Hauptbahnhof that’s what you would expect. But having left the station and headed to the road of its address we discovered we were some way off. After various diversions, around 20 minutes off. After we had been helped into the building by the nice young women hanging around near it and walked the 2 floors up we got into our hotel room. The promised wifi didn’t work so it was not possible to download podcasts for the next days journey or upload already written posts.

However a good sleep was had as we woke up late the next morning and I had to forego a shower and shave to check-out on time. We headed to the Hauptbahnhof and a communication failure resulted in me thinking we had to vet to Ostbahnhof when we didn’t. I had been   about getting to the Hauptbahnhof to try to find the right platform to get to the Ostbahnhof and not get caught by the guards, at the same time JTO had discovered we actually got the train from the Hauptbahnhof so we didn’t have to go to the Ostbahnhof.

I was very pleased to see a bus to take us straight to the Ostbahnhof outside the Hauptbahnhof, no worry about platform, no worry about guards, so we jumped straight on and I paid for us to go to Ostbahnhof, only to hear we didn’t have to. Well it was an interesting journey through the centre of Berlin and I saw more of the everyday parts of the city than I had ever done. We got to Ostbahnhof to discover our train left from their anyway so we could join it, just hope no-one asked for our tickets. The most important decision now was to decide what to have for breakfast.That done we got on the train, our tickets were not checked and we headed off across Germany for home. The first part was flat with birch and fir forest and the occasional habitation or clump of windmills.

Change at Hannover and we went through central Germany over valley and through hill down to Frankfurt. From there I know the journey much more, on to Mannheim, which I would like to visit, together with Ludwigshafen. Much more interesting than the sterile Heidelberg which we had visited before. Then onto Karlsruhe before joining the Schwarzwald on our left as we passed Baden-Baden and the journey into the Rhineland plain to Offenburg where we detrained before getting the local connection to Strasbourg and home. After Karlsruhe, particularly past Baden-Baden, the train runs along the plain with the Schwarzwald rising up on the left, through the cultivated fields and villages and small towns with the distinctive local houses and it feels like all is right with the world.

In 1982 I spent the summer mad about the album, New Gold Dream by Simple Minds, and I saw the band play live at the Top Rank in Reading. When I went to university in Liverpool that Autumn I didn’t have a record player so I relied upon the radio and a few cassettes I had made and that album was one of them. I still didn’t get bored with it. Then the band chased after commercial success, they wanted to have hits in the US and play stadiums. I fell out of love with their music. Then I heard a song on the radio, Chelsea Girl from an earlier album and loved it and bought the album at a second-hand record shop in Reading. Then a friend gave me a copy of another earlier album Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings. I had recently traveled over the channel to Europe, if you ask me to be more specific to visit a friend in Germany, near Koln and the record sounded so clean and shiny, so travelling fast across Europe it seemed to be the soundtrack for what I had done. I have written here before about my love at the time for Germany, and about the fact I am converting albums to MP3 files. I did the 1980 records fairly early on and have recently been doing the 1970’s. This meant for the first time I had New Gold Dream and Celebration together and played them as we crossed Germany on shuffle, as we crossed Europe. It just seemed that they were not just the “windy words and oversized anthems” but just how fabulous the band were. As they said in a recent interview, “using sequencers and industrial textures to create an unsettling disco-rock travelogue….Going through these amazing landscapes my head was full of movie, book and characters…. We were speedy…Driving to Rockfield with 20 grammes… it was an innocent, young thing.” To me it was speed, Europe, shiny, new.

It seems I am not alone in thinking this as the band have released their first five albums as a box set. I wonder that they chased the dollar after New Gold Dream and were successful at it. They had the actress wife and everything that comes with the lifestyle. Now, having banked that they have realised the choice they made, to go for the money and not continue with the artistic credit for ground breaking albums. They are doing publicity to promote the new box set. The two main members of the band are going on about the artistic worth of the early work. It is true. For me the early albums are good. But they made a choice to chase the dollar and were successful at it. It just seems wrong now for the band to be trying to say, “Ah but we were worthwhile once and should have our place in history for it.” No, you became known for some dross, lowest common denominator songs seeking hits and money in the US in the 1980’s, nothing wrong with that. The point is you cannot have it all ways and re-write history as a ground-breaking historic act as you claimed you were afterwards. For me, I’ll continue to love the music and listen to it as I travel across Europe. It will represent to me travelling across Europe, especially ‘Sons and Fascination/Sister Feelings’.

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