Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Punk Rock Stories: Rambling Around Europe...Part Two

We'd been through Poland and Berlin on our “tour” of Europe, playing three shows in five days.

The shows in Poland had gone pretty well and we'd made some friends there.  The show in Berlin was attended by four paying people, so along with the friends we had there, that made a total capacity of ten. Even though the show was dead it was one of those that was a lot of fun to play anyway, the energy on stage was high and those who paid at least got a spectacle. We were supposed to have been supporting a bigger band but they had cancelled the day before.  Since we were already  in Berlin we thought we'd play anyway, even though not a single soul in the whole of Germany would have heard of Rowdy Ramblers.

The show in Berlin was sandwiched between two days off, which we spent in the city. We spent most of the time in the sun, drinking and watching the European Championships. Good times...

This tour was costing us a lot of personal money, since we were only playing about fifty percent of the time. The next show was in Prague in a couple of days time and we decided that as fun as Berlin was, we should probably book a hostel in Prague and head down there where the living is a little cheaper.  The show in Prague would be followed by a show in Rostock the day after and then we were taking the ferry back to Sweden.

After quite a bit of farting around on the phone in Berlin, trying to book a hostel in Prague, we got in the van and drove south. We weren't completely sure if we'd managed to reserve a room since the woman on the phone didn't speak the clearest of English, we'd just have to wait and see what was in store for us when we got there. Olle's girlfriend Gabriella had flown in to Berlin to hang out for a couple of days, but both her and Jenny had now flown back. So the first night in Prague would just be the four of us in the band. Our friend Kalle Blix was flying into Prague the day after. This has to have been the most relaxed tour I had ever been involved with...

We turn up in Prague and find the hostel with relative ease. It's in the Zizkov area of the city, somewhere I'd been before with Speedhorn on the Carnivore tour. We had gotten hopelessly lost that time with Speedhorn but that was to be to Ramblers advantage this time around, since I recognised a lot of the streets, having spent about three hours driving around them previously.

When we get to the hostel Erik's mood dips considerably. The place is swarming with American backpackers. Erik reveals he has a distinct dislike for these types. He thinks they're a shower of free-loading, rich kid poseurs who just loaf around from hostel to hostel in their flip-flops, trying to impress each other with their travel experiences and intellect. His words, not mine. But I kind of see his point. The thing I notice with these backpackers is that they do indeed seem to spend all of their time at the hostel in their fucking flip-flops. They never seem to leave for the streets or the sights, they just hang out at the hostel reading about them on the internet.

Anyway, after much muttering from Erik, we get on with getting checked in. And of course there is a fuck up with the booking...

It appears that for the three nights we'll be spending here, we'll be moving rooms three times. The second night we have a room with five beds and a private bathroom, which will be perfect since Kalle arrives on the second day. The third night we'll have a dormitory with nine beds, but it will just be the five of us in there so no problems there either. But tonight, the first night, we're sharing a dormitory with seven other people. And of course, when we dump our bags in that dormitory we find it occupied solely by American backpackers.

We leave our bags in the lockers in the room, make a few nods in the direction of our flip-flop wearing room mates who are sat around chatting to each other, a few of them holding tourist books. They seem like a bit of a stiff crowd. We head out of there as soon as we can and go in search of a bar and a big tv screen.

It's around 4pm. There is a bar straight across the road and it's showing the footy. It's also selling booze at an exceptionally cheap rate. We settle down and everything starts to feel very positive again. We discuss the room situation and realise it's not so bad. We only have the one night with these people and it's not exactly like we have to mingle with them. We plan to be out all night as it is, and by the time we get back to the hostel they'll be asleep anyway. Tomorrow we move into our own room and then all will be hunky dory again.

With this is mind, and the rum and coke that has just cost him about sixty pence, Erik is in far better spirits again. We sit there watching the footy with a couple of beers and then we're ready for the night to begin. Our connection in Prague for this show is a chap called Radek, who is a friend of an acquaintance of Erik's from back home. Even though the show is still two days away, Radek has kindly offered to show us a good night out in the city, away from the tourist traps. We'd arranged to meet him at 6pm so by the time the football is over, it's time to go.

We meet up with Radek just a short distance from where we're staying. After introductions and hand shakes, we follow behind him and talk about getting some food. We head into the nearest KFC. As much as I know that this is the food of the devil, I can't help but love it. The Colonel has had a firm grip on my taste buds for a long, long time, and being that he doesn't exist in Stockholm, I have a hard time resisting his friendly gesture, beckoning me into his fast food restaurant. We sit around munching down fried “chicken” and making small talk with Radek. His English is pretty good and he appears to be a very friendly, punk/hardcore kind of guy. He tells us he wants to take us to this great bar a bit away from the city centre where his friends are drinking and we tell him that suits us just fine.

We jump on the tram which takes us away from the tight, compact streets and up into the higher ground away from the city centre. As we're sat there talking English with Radek about music and the like, I notice that most of the people on the tram are looking at us, this one old guy in particular is holding a firm stare in our direction. He's eating what looks like a huge, greasy nan bread. Radek notices him staring at us and starts speaking to him in Czech. Radek then looks at us, smiling, and says the old guy is interested in us and where we come from and that he'd very much like us to try the food that he's eating. Uh, ok. I'm never one to say no to food, especially when it's free so I happily accept his greasy bread, as does Tompa.

We tuck into it and it's actually really fucking good. It is very, very greasy and has a quite a lot of garlic in it, but it tastes great. By now, the whole tram is waiting our verdict with baited breath. I nod to the guy and tell him I like it. A few people on the tram actually start clapping their approval. This is mad, it's like an episode of some Michael Palin travel programme! The old guy lets me have the rest of his bread, and warmed by the spirit of these people, I happily munch away at it the for rest of the tram journey.

We hop off the tram after fifteen minutes or so, cut through some bushes, across some train lines and arrive at a very cool bar.   It is actually an old train station that has been renovated into a bar. The beer garden is right next to the tracks and apart from the bar inside and the long drinking tables, the place still looks very much like an old-time train station. It's a really nice place. The have the football on the tv inside, of course, but it's not that interesting a game and the beer garden is far more inviting on this fine summer evening in Prague.

We sit at a table with Radek and his friends and start drinking big steins of beautiful Czech pilsner. As we sit there in the fading sunshine, enjoying our cold beers, Radek decides it important that he gives us an explanation on the drinking culture in the Czech Republic. He tells us that in his country, people like to enjoy drinking their beer. Therefore, they don't like their beer too strong. Apparently the beer they export is a lot stronger than the beer they have at home. They like to drink beer because they like the taste of it, not because they want to get steaming. As Radek is sipping from his huge beer, he tells me that one could easily drink ten such beers without getting drunk... We explain to him that we have a similar thing in Sweden called Mellan Öl, although most of the time we drink the stronger stuff...

The evening rolls on and the beers are flowing. Radek's friends are a rough looking bunch but they're friendly enough. We're listening to music on Erik's phone, chatting about punk rock and life in general, as you do. Someone has pulled out a joint and is passing it around, a couple of the guys happily accepting it. The night is getting hazy and the beer tastes good. We are reaping the benefits of the Czech drinking culture, although Radek actually seems to be getting pretty drunk. Despite his claims that he could drink ten beers and remain sober, he seems to be getting pretty tanked after five or so.

Radek's friends also seemed to be getting pretty fucked. They spend most of the time grinning and trying to engage Tompa in conversation. Tompa seems to be feeling the effects of the joint that was passed around earlier. Erik and I are sat across the table from each other, chatting away, when we hear something from down the table that stops us dead. We hear one of Radek's grinning friends saying to Tompa, “It's like big pig with long tail”, to which Tompa confidently, hazily replies, “Ah, you mean a Rhino.” Me and Erik just look at each other, before pissing ourselves laughing.

The beer keeps flowing and the night gets darker. We move inside the pub for some more beers. Radek goes to the bar to buy a round in. He's now had about nine beers. He comes back with four of these huge beers in each hand and bangs them onto the table we're sitting at, before falling on his ass. He is absolutely fucking boats! We cheer him on whilst he picks himself back up. So much for not getting drunk..

We eventually leave the pub and get into a taxi with Radek and head back in to the city centre. As much as he is fucked, he doesn't seem ready to stop drinking. Whilst in the cab, he tells us he's we're going to another really cool bar. When we climb out of the taxi ten minutes later, we're in what looks like a residential area. Nothing but apartments in sight, and it's very quiet. Radek leads the way and we figure he must be picking something up from his flat. We come to a small door leading into an apartment building and we follow him in. Expecting to walk into a large hall area, I'm surprised when I'm faced with a narrow staircase leading underground. I'm even more surprised when I get to the bottom and find myself in probably the cosiest bar I've ever seen. It's literally like someone's living room, carpeted floors, sofa's, wallpaper and a small bar. It's packed out with about thirty people, and the music is good. I'm extremely happy with Radek's choice of bar.

We have a great time there and meet some more friends of Radek's. The booze is absolutely flying down now and we're sat at a round table talking to loads of people. Erik has started chatting to a girl we assume is Radek's girlfriend and the rest of us are just getting on with getting fucked. By the time we leave, I'm very drunk. Radek is beyond fucked though!. It's around 3am. We're on a street corner trying to hail a cab, Radek standing in the middle of the road waving his fist threateningly at passing taxis.

We finally get into a cab. The driver starts to pull away and we're waving goodbye to Radek. He's laughing like a monkey and waving back. Before we make it out of sight, we notice Radek picking up the girl Erik was talking to, in a jovial, drunken, bear hugging motion. Before any of us can voice our concern, the two of them fall, crashing to the pavement, the girl going face first into the tarmac with Radek on top of her. We all gasp a collective “Whoa fuck!” Erik tells us that he had just made out with her whilst the rest of us were trying to flag a cab...

We finally get back to the hostel. Erik and I decide we've drunk enough and need to go to bed whilst Tompa and Olle decide on one last beer before they call it a night. We leave them and head in to the hostel.

Now, we just have to be quiet and avoid contact with the Flip-flop crowd sharing our dormitory...

We creep into the room. It's pitch black. We're drunkenly whispering to each other like mischievous teenagers. I have a bottom bunk to the left of the room, but Erik actually only has a mattress which has been laid on the floor in the middle of the room for him. There wasn't enough beds and Erik has picked the short straw. Just as I'm getting into bed I get a jolt as Erik's mobile phone starts blasting out ZZ Top. It's fucking blaring! It appears he's sat on his phone, causing not only ZZ Top to blast out of it, but also the light, which is giving off a bright, white beam. Being drunk, he can't find the button to kill the music. The two of us are by now, pissing ourselves laughing. It's only made worse when a voice in the dark, coming from the direction of the bunk above mine, calls out in a drippy American accent, “Be cool guys.”

Well of course, this just makes thing far worse. I'm in bed and I have my face in my pillow, desperately trying to suffocate my laughter. I hear Erik in the dark and it sounds like he's crying with laughter. The guy in the bunk above me is sighing loudly. I feel like a kid trying not to laugh in school assembly.

I finally drift off, my face and stomach aching with the laughter attack they have endured, my final thoughts drifting back to Olle and Tompa. They still aren't back yet....

I'm woken the next day by the thud of a large bang against the frame of my bed. I roll over and see who is presumably the guy from the bunk above.  He has just opened his locker door and slammed it into the bed frame. He grunts “Morning!” at me. I reply a simple, “Morning” right back at him, which just seems to make him angrier. I roll back over and face the wall. Bad fucking vibes. I realise that the sooner we can get out of this room and into the private one we have for tonight, the fucking better! I wait until the sounds of Angry Guy shuffling about in the room fade away, before turning back over and scanning the room.

Tompa is in a bed across from me, waering nothing but his kecks, ass facing the room, fast asleep. Olle is on a top bunk on the other side of the room, fully clothed, duffel coat fastened up to the neck, shoes still on, little brown satchel bag resting on his chest. He looks a fucking state. My immediate thought is to wake Erik. I look over at him. He's lying there on his mattress in the middle of the room. His eyes are firmly closed but he's grinning from one side of his face to the other. Thank fuck he's awake.

I whisper over to him and we decide it's time to get the fuck out of the dormitory. We consider for just a second, waking the other two before deciding we don't have time, we have to get out before Angry Guy comes back. My hangover simply can not deal with him right now.

We get up and leave there quick as fuck. We're praying the reception woman will give us the key to our freedom. She does. The relief we feel when we get into our beautiful, private room with en-suite bathroom is almost orgasmic. We jump into our new beds and breath a sigh of relief. We lie there enjoying our solitude, waiting for the phone to ring...

It takes about an hour before Olle calls. Erik answers his phone to a panicked Olle, who is on the other end of the line, whispering, “Where the fuck are you two?” When Erik tells him we're in another room he angrily reacts, “What the fuck do you men other room? Where the fuck are you? I need to get out of here!

He's knocking on the door within two minutes. We open the door to a very pale faced Olle. This is going to be good...

It turns out that Tompa and Olle had arrived back at the room about an hour after we'd woken everyone up the first time. They're both boats! Tompa strips down to his kecks and crashes into bed, not being too subtle about it. Olle carefully tip-toes over to his bunk. As he's climbing up to his bed he accidentally steps on the girl lying in the bunk below.  She shouts out at him and he hushes apologies, climbing into bed as quick as he can. No more than five minutes pass before he realises he needs to be sick. He panics and climbs back down to yet more groans and grumbles. He makes his way out of the room and goes in search of a toilet. He finds one in time to his great relief. After he's done being sick, he then spends what seems like eternity trying to find his way back to the room we're sleeping in. He seems to have lost it. After a while he actually considers sleeping in the toilet and starts to head back there, before he notices a door ajar and realises it's our room. He creeps back in and climbs back to his bunk, once again stepping all over the girls bunk below him. Yet more annoyed groans fill the room as Olle drifts off to an uncomfortable sleep.

He wakes to the sound of himself farting, followed by a shocked, female, American accent, “Oh my God!”. He hasn't quite remembered where he is, but it quickly all starts flooding back. Bad fucking vibes. He opens his eyes when he thinks it safe, scanning the room and sees that both myself and Erik have left the fucking building. He picks up his phone and dials Erik's number. He makes his way to the haven of the new room, leaving Tompa lying in his bed, who is still defiantely pointing his ass at the room.

Tompa wakes a while later, not really giving a fuck who he's disturbed in the night, packs his bags, says hello to Angry Guy and leaves.

Kalle turns up a few hours later and we recount the story of the night before to him. He loves it and thinks we should start a hostel war with the Americans.

The rest of the time in Prague is a little calmer. We have a great show the night after, which takes place in a nuclear fallout bunker, about sixty meters below the ground. The load in is a nightmare but the show is amazing. We spend a final night in the hostel, having once again moved room. We get back a bit drunk after the show and realise we're in the room next to the dormitory from the first night. Erik spends about an hour shouting out of the bedroom window to the room beside, chants such as, “Go home America!” and “No war!”. We're all loving it, of course...

The final show in Rostock is absolutely fucking rubbish. It's supposed to be a festival, but it's actually in a function room at an English pub and the rather mature crowd spends the whole time watching us, sat down, looking like they're waiting for the bingo to start. It's fucking crap to say the least, and my amp sounds like it's broken.

The one good thing about that show is we're given a comfortable bed to sleep in afterwards. We're getting the ferry at 7am the next day so we don't have much time to enjoy it. But despite the early rise, we're happy to leave Rostock and head home. The memories of the ferry we'd taken at the start of our journey nine days before, cracking a smile across my face as I drift off to sleep on the boat home.

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