Bier in the evening (and morning, afternoon, ...)
I grab some 007 themed beer and salty snacks and immediately my flight gets a gate and it's in satellite terminal B, for fucks sake. Also it says "board now" rather than gate open. So I pack up and piss off to the monorail, which is sweltering. At T5B the gate isn't open and the sign just says take a seat and wait, so bollocks, I go to the local lounge and snarf down another danish before the screen tells me boarding is in progress. Again.
Wandering up to the gate, I discover this time the screen hadn't lied. Furthermore, unlike almost every flight I ever take, the priority boarding queue is almost non-existent. Hamburg doesn't seem to attract any frequent fliers at all? The other queue is pretty long, though the flight isn't exactly full. I waltz on and take my seat in 10A, an emergency exit row but not the sort with slightly narrower seats and a tray in the arm - in fact, this seat is pleasantly wide and the legroom is fantastic, but the tray is still reachable on the seat back of 9A.
I'm in my seat at 1145 but this is a 1215 take off. This is nice and prompt. Eventually someone sits in 10C but 10B remains empty, however I can't get a little bit more space because the armrest won't stay up. The doors close at 1205 so things are looking very good indeed, and then the plane makes numerous broken-sounding noises for 10 minutes at the gate, after which we taxi for 30 minutes, caught behind a bunch of long haul departures apparently. During this time I read the whole of the inflight magazine which is celebrating its 500th issue, and it's really bloody interesting. I also skim read bits of Business Life magazine which is a pile of shit.
I hadn't really felt relaxed until now, but of course being on a plane does that to me. I'm given some food; BA's short haul offering continues to get worse. It's a tiny little chicken wrap seemingly devoid of chicken and disappears in 2 bites. But there's a couple of nice views and the podcasts in my ears are entertaining me while I play Threes and then before I know it, we're coming in to land. I know it's windy over Europe atm but this feels ridiculously quick, considering it was meant to be a 1h40m flight but we're descending after only about an hour.
We're at the gate by 3pm local time and I get online. I thought Germany was a Three "feel at home" country but no, it's not, so I pay a fiver to get online. Bah. I can't find my bag in the locker above my head because someone had fucking moved it 3 rows down, and a bloke passes it to me. At passport control there are two queues, the left hand queue waves 5 people through in the time it takes the right hand queue to process Dave Shady, who is still there when I go through and there's a policeman behind the immigration officer. Huh.
I'd got detailed instructions on how to find the lounge in Hamburg airport on flyertalk, but hadn't remembered it too well and went straight past where I was meant to go, also distracted by talking to Mike on facebook. I double back, go up a couple of escalators, and enter the lounge and, wow, colour me impressed. I'd read it was usable enough but nothing special, but I respectfully disagree. It's large, airy, has great views of the planes, two fully stocked self-serve beer fridges, and there are proper pretzels and loads of other snacky food.
Airberlin are the 8th carrier in the oneworld alliance with whom I have now flown, the others being: BA, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, Malaysian, American Airlines, Iberia, and Sri Lankan Airlines. They are also the only one of the 8 on which I've had no beer. This was actually through choice, surprisingly. I thought Airberlin were kinda low-cost carrier style, except on their mid- and long-haul routes with proper business class, so I was surprised when a free snack and booze service came round.
This flight iss basically a commuter service and I'm sure I was the only non-German on board. It's just an hour to get to Nuremberg and in the dark the views are shit. I play Threes the whole way and can't wait to get out of the cramped seat. As we get off the main cabin guy is holding a plate of chocolates to offer, which is nice. We're shunted off onto a bus and driven to the baggage reclaim part of the terminal, no immigration or customs for a domestic flight so I'm straight out and at the ATM.
70 euros later I buy a U-Bahn ticket and the train arrives a couple of minutes later. It's 8 stops to Nurnberg hauptbahnhof and during the journey I look up train times from there to Bamberg, my final destination. With about 2 stops to go I discover there are 3 trains in the next 15 minutes and then nothing for an hour. Crap.
At the station I peg it up a couple of flights of stairs and queue up at the ticket machine. There's 6 minutes until the last train for an hour. Just as I'm about to step forward a guy starts talking to me in German, I say "sorry, I'm English" and he asks me where I'm going. First mistake, I tell him where I'm going. "Oh really, me too. So, would you like to travel with me? I can take a companion for free". This sounds proper shady to me and I'm like, really? He shows me a couple of documents which I can't make head nor tail of, claiming it's a pass that lets other people travel with him, but, meh, I have no clue. I tell him I'm really sorry and I don't want to offend him, but I don't know what I'm looking at so I'd rather just buy a ticket. He seems a bit crestfallen but I persevere. I wouldn't really have enjoyed trying to make smalltalk on the journey anyway.
So now it's just 3 minutes until the train and I don't have a ticket. The machine is easy enough to use and I get one, then run to gleis 4 and straight onto the train, standing room only. I don't see the guy who offered me that ride. We end up leaving about 5 minutes late, but I get a seat when a shitload of people get off at Erlangen, replaced in large part by people who reek of smoke. Battery life on my phone is down to about 15% and Geoff sends me the location of where to go, because no-one wants to come meet me at the station.
In fairness, the directions are pretty easy: come out of the station, walk in a straight line forwards until the 3rd road on the right, where 3 or 4 doors down there is a brewery. Oh, did I forget to mention that I've come to the town with the highest concentrations of breweries in the world? Hello, Bamberg.
Mike, Geoff and Jon are out back and there's a pilsner with my name on it. Ace. This isn't just the place we're meeting and drinking tonight, but also our accomodation. We're outside but it's not cold and we're making a lot of laughing noise; no-one seems to mind. Mike goes to the bar and returns with another 4 beers and it's only €10,40, or, like, 7 quid or something. Daft pricing,
Geoff gives me my room key because apparently you can't check in after 6pm, wtf. Silky reckons I should go drop my bag in my room but since that's 3 flights of stairs up I opt to not bother and we go to our next drinking venue, which happens to be another brewery and is directly opposite the one we're currently in. Such hardship.
In Spezial we are told to sit in the only non-reserved 4 seats, and out come 4 smoked beers. They don't taste of bacon, but of sausage. I shit you not. These beers taste of sausage and they are fucking fantastic. People on either side are speaking English every so often, including the guy in the Sierra Nevada cap who I run into on the way back from the loo. He says he's a brewer and making a coffee stout, has a deal with some people from Beavertown in London, and tells me the ingredients of the next beer he's making and just generally he's a very friendly man. The others tell me I've pulled.
Food isn't a terrible idea, so we order sausages made of sausages and some leberkase and stuff. I dunno, I'm pretty drunk by now. Steffen the brewer recommended the bock so we got 3 of those, Jon having given up for the day. Everything was pretty decent but truth told the food was too late to stop us getting riotously pissed, so we got riotously pissed. Steffen came over and had more words and shook all our hands and told us which brewery he worked for, and told us to turn up at midday tomorrow. Well alright then!