Wacken 2019: Hamburg and home

So, it was time to bid farewell to Wacken / Heide and start the journey home. I’d built in a day in Hamburg as it’s another city I’d not visited before.

The traffic was “fun” as Mark drove us from my hostel to the city centre. The additional traffic due to everyone leaving Wacken is well handled, but things do happen… like a vehicle fire on one of the main routes out of the festival! For those on public transport, they increase the capacity of the trains and put on extra services.

It took us a little over ninety minutes to get to Hamburg, Mark dropping me at the main train station where I found a left luggage locker to store my suitcase for €4. Cheap enough. The next thing I noticed was that Germany is a little like the UK around twenty years ago… in two ways. One: smoking still seems that bit more acceptable and far too many people still do it (including one heavily pregnant woman I spotted, for f_ck’s sake). Two: lots of stuff is closed on a Sunday.

While the train station was busy, the city streets around it were not. Most of the restaurants and cafés were open, but not a single shop. Talking of food, Germans certainly seem to like theirs judging by the sheer number and variety of outlets you find at their train stations! Not content with an overpriced bakery and a coffee shop like we usually get, I’d estimate that Hamburg HBF played host to at least forty fooderies as well as a couple of other outlets.

Well, I was here to see a bit of Hamburg so I did. I aimed myself at the watery area to the south and just… wandered. The first thing I found was the town hall, which currently has an exhibition detailing the lives and thoughts of a handful of transgender people. All in German (though there are QR codes linking to English language websites for us foreigners) it was a simple yet heartwarming place to spend a little while. It’s also a staggering building.

Lunch was needed, so I found a nice spot and took a pitstop to try and eat some of the food I had left from the festival. I perched on some steps by the Binnenalster, the south of which was playing host to a lot of stalls as part of the local Pride celebrations. A cool breeze, lovely view and people running around in rainbow flags made for a very pleasant way to pass some time.

Afterwards, By luck I came across Google’s German offices and grabbed a quick selfie there. Sadly, it was closed to I didn’t get to see what wonderful décor they had inside (not that I would have been able to get in anyway).

I spotted a few towers as I walked, so geared my ambling towards them. One, the magnificent Lookout Tower (part of the St Nikolai memorial), looks like one of the oldest in the city. I didn’t go up the lift inside, but the tower is a staggering piece of architecture. It’s the highest church tower in the city (fifth highest in the world) and if it was designed to be imposing then it works.

The church acted as a reference point for allied bombers during the war and was itself hit in 1943. It now serves as a memorial to the tens of thousands killed by the bombing raids. There are a lot of building works going on nearby, so I hope it doesn’t get obscured.

Next up was St Katharine’s which chimed the hour as I walked past, reaching the port area which is hugely impressive. More impressive are the potential water levels which can break the (very high) banks of the waterways during the flood season!

There is a lot in this area, the south bank, including the Hamburg Dungeon, Maritime Museum, Mechanical Museum and the Miniatur Wunderland… which I’d forgotten was in Hamburg until after I’d arrived. You need to book in advance for this. While you can walk up, the waiting time to get in (as they have to limit the numbers inside at any one time) can extend into several hours – three by the time I walked in. If I’d realised beforehand, I would have booked my ticket weeks ago. Next time, definitely!

By now I was actually starting the flag. The last few days have really been catching up, so I decided to head to the airport. Thankfully, Hamburg makes this very easy. Hop on an S1 train from platform 3 at the main strain station, makes sure you get on one of the first three carriages, and you’re there in 25 minutes. All for the tiny price of €3.30.

I’d already checked in, so I’m now sat at the McDs in the check-in lounge (there isn’t one after security) using one of their plug sockets to charge my phone. I should probably buy something but I’m not hungry!

My flight’s delayed by 30 minutes, so not due to take off until 22:15 local time. I should land in Edinburgh around 23:05, and with luck will be on a Megabus to Glasgow before midnight. An hour to get there and then a ninety minute walk home.

My own bed! For three nights. Then off to Bloodstock…

And an update…

I was walking to my gate after finding about the only not-stupidly-overpriced item in the Duty Free for my son when I saw a familiar t-shirt. Was that Joe and the band he manages, who have just played Wacken and who would possibly be heading home… which happens to be Glasgow? A quick facebook message confirmed it was and I spent the rest of the evening in the company of Saor. A lovely bunch of hard-working musicians, who cruelly (!) “forced” me to drink Jagermeister.

The company was welcome because our flight was further delayed (of course it was), and we also had some fun as the staff at the airport, specifically a couple of Emirates reps, had no idea what gate our flight would be at. Lesson learned: believe the police and the boards, ignore Emirates staff as they’re bloody clueless.

Back in Blighty, Joe offered me a lift back to Glasgow as they had a spare seat in their van. Better than hanging around for an hour and booking a last-minute Megabus! I gratefully accepted, and was dropped off pretty much where I’d have arrived anyway, only a fair bit earlier. The walk home was a little over an hour, but it pretty much killed my suitcase as the dodgy wheel, knackered in my initial train-chasing sprint 10 days earlier, seized so I ended up partially dragging my bag home rather than just rolling it. As a result, said wheel is now half a wheel having been scraped away across three miles of paving slabs. RIP cheap suitcase.

I got back to the flat around 3:15am and to bed around 7:30 after trying to catch up on work, do a laundry, drink tea (which I couldn’t as I had no milk) and generally just faff around like an idiot instead of getting sleep.

Anyway, Bloodstock in 3 days time!

Limited travel

Again, a quick post so that the blog doesn’t look like it’s completely lying fallow. I had “kind of” plans to travel over xmas, but they fell through for a variety of reasons. One was price, another was that I’ve started seeing someone who lives in Glasgow and I’d much rather spend the holiday season with her and her kids than travelling.

Given the “travel chaos” (i.e. Heathrow being rubbish) that hit around the time I would have been hoping to get a flight, this is perhaps for the best!

I may look at going somewhere for Easter. After watching the Top Gear Christmas special, I’m once again drawn to the Middle East. A shame that, unlike famous people, I ‘d struggle to get into Iraq. On the other hand, I don’t work for the BBC so Iran is permissible. Last year’s plan was for Syria, Lebanon and Jordan – I may resurrect that plan. Kind of apt for Easter.

Summer will be another call. I have “permission” to go away for a long break if I want to. It would be strange, what with the kids, but I do still miss the backpacking and I’m as ever drawn towards Vietnam. Having said that, I’ve still not managed to make it to South America. Or if I fancy staying closer to home, I still want to do Sweden, Norway, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania and Bulgaria. Oh, and Liechtenstein. And more of Italy. And Germany.

Sometimes it’s a pain living in a world with so many interesting and exciting destinations!

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Insult? Meet Injury.

The following morning I re-checked my new flights. Amusingly, Tenerife South Airport’s website was still listing Globespan‘s two flights as on time. I’d spoken to a couple from Aberdeen who should have been on the other flight to me and they’d coughed up £1000 to get home. Ow.

Another person told me a friend of hers had taken up RyanAir‘s generous “repatriation” offer at £60 all in. Except for the additional fees. After which her flight was then £200. Plus it landed at Prestwick Airport (not Glasgow International) shortly before midnight so she had a costly taxi far to add to that.

Just to make that point there – RyanAir ripping off people stuck in a horrible situation. Absolutely no surprise whatsoever.

We were ushered out of our room so the cleaners could assault it shortly after 10am and jumped into a taxi to the airport. We were very early, so the queues were short although none of the check-in desks were open.

The fastest queue to grow, though, was EasyJet‘s. I think they were the only airline with flights covering routes offered by Globespan and a lot of people had not found out that they didn’t have a valid ticket any more until they arrived to see their flight cancelled.

I had a quick nosey at the board to see that Christina’s flight was on time and mine was… delayed. Oh great. I had 2 hours and 10 minutes’ layover at Belfast International. That gave me around an hour and a bit to get my luggage and check in for the next flight. I was now delayed by an unknown length of time.

Fortunately, it eventually became clear that my delay would be no more than an hour. After no fewer than three gate changes, we finally boarded (Christina and her mum were already on board their flight by this time) and taxi’d for take-off.

Credit to Jet2.com. The flight was delayed due to bad conditions in the UK which caused problems with the plane being able to leave there to get to us. And it was a comfy enough plane for budget. Nice staff, too. And a decent in-flight magazine.

I snoozed and read all the way to Belfast where the couple next to me ushered me off the plane ahead of them as they knew I might be tight for time with my transfer. Fortunately, Belfast is a small airport and my luggage appeared fairly rapidly.

I ran down the corridor, got directions to check-in, ran down another corridor, turned left, spied the EasyJet check-in and gasped my way to it.

“Where are you going tonight, sir?”


“You are aware of the delay to your flight, yes?”


At that point it was an hour. Of course, it wouldn’t make a difference to checking in as they always close 40 minutes before the original, scheduled time. But that’s  no consolation. Again, weather was being blamed. And it could have been worse – I’d seen flights from Luton, Stansted and Gatwick cancelled.

I moped my way into the departure lounge and eventually settled down for a panini when my flight was delayed by an extra half hour.

And then bumped up by 15 minutes with a “boarding now” announcement just as I got my food. Typical.

I finally arrived in Glasgow at a little before 11pm. Christina and her mum had waited patiently (in a pub – surprise) for my arrival as I was driving them home. My uncle picked us all up and ferried us to their house where we swapped cars and I began the drive up towards Perth.

We didn’t die. I got everyone home safe. And it made for an interesting though tiring end to the week.

Huge thanks to Christina and Karen for inviting me out there. I really needed the break after my recent placement and other things that were messing with my head. And thanks to my dad for sorting the flights out at the UK end. More thanks to Stuart, my uncle for dropping me off at 5am and picking me up a few days later at 11pm.

Here’s hoping the excitement on my next holiday is all pre-planned.

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Northern England Part 3

Yarm fair 5

Bright spinny thing!

Or part 4 if you include the match at Gateshead Stadium on Saturday.

Not a whole lot to add apart from that I had – as ever – a wonderful relaxing time with the lovely Viv over the weekend. Good grub (KFC and spag bol!), great company, good fun and always a complete chill out. I hope I was as good a guest as she want a host.

On the Friday I popped over and watched a couple of films until Viv was out of work. I helped with a bit of housework before we went out to the fair in nearby Yarm. I was fed candy floss and then KFC on the way home before we opened the wine and watched some telly.

Saturday was match day (Gateshead live then Newcastle on the box) followed by more beer and some coursework for me!

On Sunday I enjoyed the four hour drive up to Perth to see my folks. The A1 is looking nice these days, especially around Berwick. A little mean of the Scots, though, as there’s a speed camera northbound about 200 yards past the border. Right as the dual carriageway shrinks to single lane so there’s every chance you’re trying to get past a slow-moving vehicle.

More ironic is the sign above the road which when I passed it read “Frustration Kills”. Yet the camera stops you getting past the truck you’ll be stuck behind for the next 15 miles, thus creating frustration!

Other than that, still a beautiful drive up through more lovely countryside. Definitely a route I’d recommend to tourists with their own transport. Quite a few things to stop off and see on the way as well – watch out for the big brown “tourist attraction” signs.

Home for food and to drop stuff off, then over to Glasgow to see Kat and catch up on telly.

Overall a pretty relaxed week away, and my last for some time due to university workload.

Again, I’d like to say “thanks” to everyone who gave me a bed/sofa for the night, fed me, watered me and was overall just darn good company! Cheers, people!

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It’s gone quiet here…

Yes, the page is pretty much on hold at the moment barring a few backdated posts I really should be working on. There will be more stuff on here as time goes on and I will be going to new, and returning to old, places.

But right now I’m residing in Scotland as I managed by some miracle to jump onto a PGDE Secondary course at Strathclyde University. It’s a one year course with a one year probationary year immediately afterwards. As a teacher I will get those nice long summer breaks which will allow me to get a decent foreign trip in!

Long term, I don’t know what will happen. I may opt to go straight onto a PGDE Primary course if the job market’s still slack in 2 years. I might get a really good offer and stay in the UK. I might remain here for a year or two working and then use that experience to get myself a job overseas – perhaps Bangkok or Hanoi.

Right now, my priority is to complete the course. Lifewise it’s to meet Ms Right and settle down, wherever that may be. Or to convince a Ms Right I already know that such is her surname and she’s just not realised it yet!

I guess we will see.

But in the meantime, I’d recommend you bookmark the page and check back once in a while; subscribe to my Twitter feed (not always family-friendly but I don’t go too overboard on it); or click on the RSS link and add me to your feed reader. That way when I add something new you won’t miss it.

Thanks for the company over the last 3-and-a-half years, people. It’s been a great ride and I look forward to seeing you all again soon for the next trip. Whenever that may be!

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