Ton Sai Kalligynaikos Slide, Reeperbahn


Ton Sai Kalligynaikos

Slide, Reeperbahn

Bargain Hounds

Shopping tips for drunken womanisers in Hamburg

Hamburg, Germany
June, 2002

"I'm sorry, I'm not going to make love to you. I'm just not in the mood."

"I see. I do see." I paused. "Who are you anyway?"

I wobbled a little on my feet, and tried to focus. The great problem, I was beginning to discover, in a city renowned for its 24-hour bars, is that 24 hours spent in a day drinking does subtract from the time spent on other activities, such as sleeping, and washing, and thinking up clever chat-up lines. This mixture of blurry eyed confusion, heady animal aroma, and dumb, muted stupidity had - what else! - attracted someone to my side. Someone nice, too. Fooled herself into believing me a rough untamed beast, no doubt. If I were clean shaven, fresh soaped and filled with the works of Thucydides, she would have taken me for a choirboy, laughed at my shoes, pinched my drink and gone elsewhere.

.How did that happen? I had been talking about the usual things, oil rigs, the Chinese economy and fly fishing. The usual things of which I know nothing, need to know nothing, but can argue about for hours, and there she was. Putting her cigarette out on my hand and looking at me though one eye. How strange.


But then, this was the Shamrock Bar, and anything is possible. Just a stone's throw from Hamburg's famous Reeperbahn, a mile of drink, sleaze, corruption, and good oozy fun. But the Shamrock Bar is special. Where the bars and brothels of the Reeperbahn are commercial establishments designed with German efficiency to vacuum (quite literally, in the red-light street) the cash out of your pocket, the Shamrock Bar has a heart, and character too. Character enough to laugh at your fashion sense, and heart enough for you to laugh too. There's twenty years of mouldery laughter embedded in the wood panelling, and remember not to try to flush the men's latrine.

And in the Shamrock Bar I had suddenly become all-powerful, the master of destiny. I winked at Richard, as if to say, see how mighty I have become over women, and promptly fell off my stool. "What are you thinking of, becoming so super-confident all of a sudden, Sleepy John?" He glared at me. "You're going to frighten the customers." I gave a cunning glance at my new companion: "Let's go get a drink."

Now we wandered from bar to bar in a haze of cigarette smoke and Kneipe-deutsch. I remember little except wandering around the same block four times looking for a light, visiting a 24-hour bar where anything was acceptable as long as you bought a beer, including falling asleep, mumbling angrily to yourself, and sitting around in a group discussing the abominable state of the Bundestag.

At precisely 5.30am my new friend suddenly made a lurch in a profound new direction. It's time, she said, to go to the river. I looked around me. Everywhere drink sodden and fumey people were lurching in the same direction. Like zombies, we all moved towards Hamburg's great river. I did not fight it.

Must buys

Hamburg is the great port of Germany, mile upon mile of waterfront overlooking the expanse of the river. After a day spent in the airy streets and cheerful cafes, you have your choice of riverside paths for a slow evening stroll.

But at 5.30am on a Sunday morning in Hamburg, everyone knows exactly where to go, and what to do. And it's nothing that anyone with a 48-hour sleep debt and veins filled with Dunkles Bier should ever dream of. p>Everyone goes to the FischMarkt. To buy potted geraniums.

I wandered in a stupor with my perfectly composed German friend. Had I passed out with everyone else in the U-shaped bar? Or was I here, browsing through, occasionally commenting on, maybe even considering the price of, potted plants at six o'clock on a Sunday morning. 'What are you doing here?' I wanted to shout amid a row of yellow nastursiums. 'What am I doing here?' But all I could do was croak. Then a fiery snapdragon caught my eye and I bent over for a closer look. Very affordable.

Seven o'clock. My friend had to go. I was about to pass out, and needed somewhere to lie down, fast. "Maybe you should take me with you?" I suggested.

"My boyfriend wouldn't like that." Oh yes, good point. Very logical, I had to admit as I wandered off through the city and wondered how long I could sleep on a park bench before someone sold my kidneys. I had no idea how to find Richard. All of a sudden, cunning plan. I believe I was giggling to myself as I bought a one way train ticket to Kiel. "Noone will find my kidneys there", and fell fast asleep in the carriage.

Some time later, having had to find a way back to Hamburg, I was in the Shamrock Bar again. "What happened to you?" asked Richard.

"Just popped out to the garden centre. Back now"



Shamrock Bar





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The Facts

Where I stayed

How I got around:
Deutsche Bahn, Hamburg to Kiel: two hours. Kiel to Hamburg: two hours.