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
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
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.'
'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
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 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
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.