When travelling, meet as many people as possible – just be careful they’re not unquestionably violent…
Half past five in the morning: Berlin: some small subway station. Sobriety had not yet prevailed. The early morning hush of a platform lined with commuters emancipated in tiredness shrouded us, and without recognition as to where, we stood poised awaiting the journey-bringer to arrive.
All was dimly lit and as the city woke we grew weary, each German beer inside lay stagnant within us as with the time. In nonchalant expectancy we counted down the yellow dials. It had been a brilliant first night in the capital, and now we looked forward to a good night’s rest in our hostel, ‘Hotel Alcatraz.’
But before I could snuggle, a ridiculous flurry of events left me slightly bewildered. Was it not for a bottle of water relinquishing my parched mouth, such an ending would not have sharpened this tale; though in replenished fate, the slap struck hard. It was a Canadian onslaught of bitter turmoil. Not particularly deserved either.
It started with a table, at a hostel in East Berlin. Such were the times, an evening of frivolity; the second city on our trip. We began in the courtyard drinking bottles of Beck’s and knocking-back Jeager.
Upon our table suddenly sat two Canadian girls, eager to join our night of under-bridge excursion and nightclub exploration. They sank a few drinks too, and exchanged life tales, then changed into attire more suited apparently to an evening ‘on the town’. After this, we emerged into the unequivocal buzz of near-midnight Berlin, awaiting merriment and the world.
Trekking through with only happiness and the previously navigated wall as our guide, we encountered an enormous bridge, with a DJ set booming from below. We joined the dancing.
And then the bars: line upon line of tall buildings, overridden with colour and laughter; the slickest city streets in cool summer embraced us as we rolled. And too, we met and conversed with an abundance of travellers, all with stories of their own.
Unravelled as it did, long consummation quickly tickled by and at double take the clocks face disregarded our lives, so we made our way through the milky dawn towards the station, sampling pizza slices as we strolled. I bought a bottle of water, my thirst would not be quenched by further strength.
We eventually found the station: commuters lined the platform; rigid in their poise and of similar weariness. And so began the reckless abandon, which cut an ending dismal to our otherwise brilliant first night in the capital.
As I sipped my water, in some drunken ridicule and joke one of our female companions hit out and splashed me with my own; once, twice, thrice. I stood wet, laughed, and so released a flurry of watery bombardment back unto her brow. Perhaps my retaliation was slightly overcooked, though unintentionally so.
Alas, she was not amused, and pounced a tender attack upon my right cheek, slapping it silly with utter anger – anger that has no place upon an InterRailing expedition.
The commuter gaze stuck mesmerisingly so upon these two thankless English men, as one received three cracking slaps to the face. Confusion was the order of the morning. I stood before the transatlantic pair, said my farewells in a manner untoward, and as the train pulled up to the station, boarded never to see them again.
This quite reckless ending proved insignificant to my trip, though of course, when I think about my time there, I do ponder the thought of whether she was slightly deranged. Perhaps it was the alcohol, of which there was a fair proportion, or the tiredness and jet lag (they had only just arrived that night). I don’t care so much for the act itself, but the person.
It is strange, recollecting a person I spent an evening with – amongst others, of course – and who played a vital role in one of my more memorable escapades. The first night in Berlin is always to be remembered, and the transitional nature of ‘friends’ along the way is often short lived. When moving from hostel to hostel, people are met, people are forgotten – no doubt if we had simply said our farewells at the foot of the stair well, I wouldn’t even remember them being there without positively digging around my mind palace.
But because of this event, I do – and although I can’t remember her name, I remember the night, the slap, and perhaps understandably, her right hand really rather well.