Bier in the evening (and morning, afternoon, ...)

I don't remember the last time there were no wifi networks within reach at all. Sure, networks I can't connect to, but no wifi at all? What kind of place is ths? Actually I can make my own network but tetherng doesn't work any more because bastards. BASTARDS. But, whatever. This is a shit intro paragraph.

Hello! I'm in a brewery. It's about 0037 local time (yeah, "about" that) and I'm lying in the bed of a brewery whose name I already forgot, in Bamberg, Germany. It took me about 9 hours to get here from this morning, like so.

Started packing at 0850 and left the house at roughly 0912. One bus followed another, the X26 from Kingston to Hatton cross was the emptiest I have ever experienced it. No obvious reason why, the stop and bus itself were creepily quet though. I listened to a bunch of wrestling podcasts, disagreeing wth all and sundry about the most recent RAW while we trundled slowly past the previously unnoticed "laboratory of the government chemist" and paused randomly in west Feltham.

On the tube I stood near people with vast amounts of luggage, includng the presmably duty free purchase of a blender. I don't understand. Either way, things are progressing at speed. I end up reaching T5 just over an hour from the flat, and I'm through slow-track security - where, for the first time ever, I have toiletries in a clear bag - in 5 minutes. Come 1035 I'm not just in the lounge, but I've fixed the problem with my second flight, and furnished with water and sugary pastry. Aaaand relax.

Oh, I can't relax. The lounge is as suspiciously empty as the bus was. Well maybe not empty, but certainly far fewer people than I've ever seen in there before. I can pick a seat in any section, including the big comfy sofas, and end up choosing an armchair across the aisle from a man who reveals himself as Johnny Volume, when he has a VERY LOUD PHONE CALL followed by ANOTHER VERY LOUD PHONE CALL, the latter directing someone to the lounge so he can be joined in person and have a VERY LOUD CONVERSATION. But I had too much stuff out of my bag and pockets to bother moving, plus the food, so meh.

Neither shaken nor stirred.

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.

Still love the 747.

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.

Obligatory legroom shot included.

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.

There's an unfortunately timed "hey visit Sharm" piece in the magazine, and a hopelessly broken chart of destination distances from London, despite two other charts where the bars were correctly proportioned. Odd.

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.

I stock up on basically everything, going particularly hard for the licorice allsorts. And the chicken sausages mit kartoffeln. And a Flensburger pils, apparently rated 'sehr gut' by someone or other. It's bloody lovely and calls for a second. I already know what gate the 5pm flight to Nuremberg leaves from and it's pretty close.

The lounge really is great. I have half of it to myself for most of the time, and can see a tiny BA prop plane out on the apron which makes me wish I'd flown from London City. Almost. Also one of the free papers is The Sun, which seems strange. I chat to Helen for a bit but then need to up and leave - there's still 40 minutes until the flight, but my 1hr of free wifi is about to finish plus I figure I probably need some euros and a piss.

As I leave the lounge I catch sight of the departure board, which says "go to gate". Yeah, heard that before... but I head in that direction anyway, missing the ATMs and figuring there'll be a loo at the gate area. Halfway along the corridor there's a sign saying I have to go downstairs to reach C10, and as soon as I'm there I see a very empty gate area with what seems like just the last few people getting on. Shit! So I go straight up and hand over my boarding pass and it makes the machine beep badly and display "UNABLE TO BOARD". I have no idea why, and the bloke looks at his computer and taps something and then lets me through anyway. Whatever.

Outside and onto a packed bus, because we're going from a remote stand. Fine. The bus takes a while to get very very very close to its final stopping place, but pauses for 5 minutes before the last yard or so. A bunch of people shove their bags on a truck but I keep mine with me and walk up the 4 stairs to get on the plane. Just 4 stairs! Been a long time since I've been on a plane this small, a Bombardier Dash-8 Q400 with 2x2 seating and only 20 or so rows. I'm in 7F, a window seat, and my bag just fits in the storage above.

The seat is very cramped. Legroom is OK but width is a significant problem. I'm sat directly next to the propeller, which is very cool. For a 1700 departure I'm in my seat at 1635 along with virtually everyone else, and we don't just set off at 1700 but actually take off at that time. I can't remember this ever happening before. It's a hell of a noisy plane and very steep climb, beaten around a little by the wind. The views of Hamburg are kinda meh and my attempts to take photos all fail dismally.

apart from this one

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!

Did I mention all the beer? I'm pretty sure I mentioned the beer.

Pretty much everyone left, and Mike asked the barman if there was anywhere we could carry on drinking. He basically said no; I suggested that maybe no-one drinks late, but they start early, and when we asked if this was the case he said yes, absolutely, here in Bamberg we start drinking at 9am. Good work, Bamberg. So we crossed the road back to our brewery guesthouse and Mike and I decided one last beer was a good idea, so we got 2 bottles of different stuff from the counter.

Jon and Geoff had had enough and disappeared, so Mike and I drank in his room. I know we had a long, moderately quiet, and in-depth chat but honestly by this time I was drunk and tired enough to not really let any of it sink in. I do remember that the beer was nice, and that Mike's was called Bambergator and was some stupid percentage.

Back in room 301, I put the TV on and couldn't find any English channels at all. What, no CNBC?

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