Nude, German

Thursday 24th June 2005

We needed a little encouragement to get going the next morning and so we went for a walk along the beach looking for a good place to go for a swim. There were some steps and railings that led down through the slippery rocks and this was the reason we chose that spot, absolutely nothing to do with the sign that we had passed twenty yards back that read, 'Female nude bathing.'

The planning for the trip had always revolved around the implications of being in the Arctic and we had serious weight restrictions in the airplane. The result was that Ross and I had brought thick shirts, thermals, woolly socks, but no swimming trunks. We tied our wet boxer shorts to the back of our rucksacks and made our way back to the airfield.

Another affable chap greeted us in the clubroom and helped us grapple with the local idiosynchrasies. We discussed the length of the runway with him and he told us about the one that didn't get away. We lined up as far back on the runway as we could, almost in the field behind it and I put on full power with two stages of flaps and the brakes still on. We began to rumble forward painfully slowly, then gathered speed and cleared the road at the other end of the runway by just enough. Ross admitted to a moment's concern as the end of the runway approached, but we were away.

We routed out over the Kattegat Sea. The beautiful island, Anholt, passed below us and then plenty more water. It had been hot at Varberg and the preparations for the flight, the checks, the clambering in and out of the plane and the lifejackets we now wore led to us getting seriously hot and sweaty. The climb into cooler air and the sight of so much water had a wonderfully chilling effect.

We could see the Danish mainland and its accompanying islands all around us. It started to feel busier, there was more activity on the water, on the land and in the air. The radio buzzed with the calls of other pilots enjoying a day out in the sunshine. We passed over the German border and talked to the Bremen controllers. They called us back after five minutes to say they would no longer be offering us a service as they were 'taking a break'. I found it hard to believe that a German air traffic controller was not only familiar with the concept and the expression, but also able to bring himself to use it.

We landed at Kiel, famous for the canal that we had overflown earlier on the trip and one other thing that we were soon to discover. Before that we came across more familiar Germanic expressions. The radio crackled,
'You will be parking overnight?'
'Yes please, but we would like to refuel before parking if that is possible?'

Ross sorted a taxi in fluent German and by the time I joined him in the back seat he had a strange expression on his face.
'What is it?'
'It's Kiel Woche.'
'Come again.'
'Kiel Woche. Kiel Week. It's a huge sailing event, the German Cowes Week. The taxi driver thinks we'd be lucky to find anywhere to stay at all in Kiel.'
'What's the German for bollocks?'

It would take more than a few hundred thousand people to stop us now though, not least because we had a trump card. One of the reasons we had chosen Kiel was that one of Ross' old school chums lived and worked there. We had contacts, we would get the inside track, all would be well.

In the end it was a woman who we got chatting to in a café who gave us a tip off. She told us of a slightly rough place that nobody else would stay at. What was the area like? Brixton, but closer to the centre of town. She spoke excellent English (had worked in London, but was not worried about the Euro) and combined with Ross' German we were spoilt for communication possibilitites.
We walked for ten minutes and found it above a basic Indonesian restaurant. No curtains, strange bathroom, stranger smells… It was Kiel Woche and it was a deal.

We wasted no time immersing ourselves in the mayhem of the town centre. The festivities in the town square were broken down into national patches. Greek, American, Thai… Where is the British part? I enquired of the German woman in the Belgian quarter with the French crepes. There is no British section, she said with a smile.
Ross was engrossed in mobile conversations with his former colleague, Kally. 'We are at the creperie. No it's right in the centre, opposite the stage, you can't miss it.' When Kally arrived half an hour later he explained that there were dozens of creperies, that we were not anywhere near the centre of things and that with our directions he was lucky to still be in Kiel. 'Ah well, we flew here from Sweden.' We said as some sort of pathetic explanation.
Kally escorted us to the real heart of things and it soon became clear why the taxi driver's prognosis for our sleeping arrangements had been grim. The whole town swarmed for miles. It was packed with pissed up Eurotrash. Kally must have picked up on our alarm as we walked for what seemed like miles, 'Don't worry. Here they drink beer. Where I am taking you they drink Champagne.' At that moment an aggressive chunky man with beer steaming out of his ears shoulder-barged me. 'Yes, we need to find ourselves a better class of drunk.' I thought to myself.
Kally delivered as promised and soon we were mixing with some of the movers and shakers of Kiel. Well, people who would have described themselves as that at least. Including one woman who swooned around like an ambassador's wife faux-sipping champagne and laughing theatrically. When pressed she confessed to being Kally's hairdresser.
Kally proved to be an excellent host, introducing us to someone new every few minutes for hours. A ridiculously tall chap called Henny shook my hand and was greeted by me with some zippy unoriginality,
'Do you play baskeball?'
'What do you zink zat you may be ze zillionth person to have said zat?'
Fair cop really.

It was so much fun to be immersed in a great crowd at Europe's biggest party that night and to know that the whole thing had been a total fluke. A good result.
The walk home took half an hour through a park. It was here that Ross introduced himself to two policemen hiding in a bush when he tried to relieve himself on it. What were the policemen doing in the bush? Maybe they knew our next stop would be Holland and wanted us to be prepared.
By the time we got back to our home for the night I barely had the energy to concoct a curtain out of a spare bedsheet before falling asleep on a pillow that smelt of a smokey horse.


Looking for a place to swim, within cannon range.


Varberg town square



The Fort's defensive architecture that we found ourselves trying to breach in the dark.