Tomorrow I am for the Continent. I have passed the earliest months of this new Millennium studying quite vigorously all aspects of the Battle of Waterloo. My place of residence for the composition period has been Brighton, & as a bright-eyed 23-year old it is definitely a cool place to be. I feel free & young & ready to devote myself to the cause that is the perennial, pantheonic perusal of poetry. I have settled upon a singular poem 60 tryptychs in length, & I shall compose it across two trips to the continent, the first of which has been expediated by my first ever internet purchase of a cheap Ryanair flight to Italy. It is now cheaper to fly to places like Milan & Barcelona than it is to travel from London to Manchester by rail! For this first mission I shall be accompanied by my housemate, Brynley Warlow. He has an amorous attachment to a lady in Venice, so we have decided to travel to the continent together for ten days. The first half shall be a tour of the scenes upon La Route Napoleon in France, the road the rogue emperor took on his return to Paris in 1814. The other half shall be a whistle-stop tour of Italy, the chief aim being to satisfy my friend’s youthful lust. Bring it on!
Began day at seven-thirty in the arms of Kate. She called round last night to bid me adieu, so I’m a little tired right now. Bryn cooked up some breakfast, I made some pasta for the road & away we went. On the way to the airport we jumped two trains & had to buy a one-stop single (3-1) en route. To our surprise, the Stanstead Express was having a training session for conductors, two per carriage, but we still jumped it. On the way we stopped off at Bishop’s Stortford, a mad little Fenland market town. It was Bryn’s brother Gareth’s birthday (MC Hiaraki to those in the know) & he had some pills waitin’ fer us. We necked two, the others pocketed, & proceeded to indulge in some messy pool table shennanigins.
After an hour or so he dropped us off at the airport, where we got thro’ customs quite smoothly, despite Bryn having a small knife & being so trashed he forgot to hide the pills. Luckily the knife distracted them from any further searchin’ & we were soon on a lovely jaunt over the clouds… especially when the tips of the Alps peeped their ragged peaks thro’ the oceans of cloud. Of our two Ryanair Irish stewardesses; one was moody & the other gorgeous. We were still tryin’ to chat em up as the plane descended into Genoa, our first Italian breaths inhaling in a fine city stacked against the mountains.
We caught the bus into Genoa, which was hardly enticing, it being night & a little seedy – not like the Italy I remember. At the stazio we skinned up a skunk spliff curtesy of the birthday boy & chilled out til the train to Ventimilia came. The jump was easy, a nice ,late train & a half-hearted sweep (5-1) & we arrived at the hotels of San Remo at about half-past midnight. The town was almost deserted & as we were on a bit of a come-down it was all rather bizarre; the acclimatization not quite having kicked in yet. We wandered out of town a little & found a nice secluded beach, where we put up our tent in the moonlight & drifted into pleasant, pilled-up dreams…
Woke up to the luscious sounds of the sea. It was Bryn’s first time abroad & he was instantly enamored to the experience. We bought wine & bread to go with yesterday’s pasta & breakfasted by the sea. The weather was warm, if a little windy, & we set off along the Riviera (6-1). After passing thro’ passport control at Ventimiligia, we arrived in the stately streets of Monaco. We pottered about a bit, but soon found ourselves sat in a little market square, drinking in the sun… getting quite drunk in the process. Our next stop was Antibes (7-1) from where we found the Golf de Juan, the site of Napoleon’s landing in 1815. After a swift look around we headed to the campsite at Boit, put the tent up, dipped in the pool & prepared to go out.
We dropped the pills on the way into Cannes & arrived off our heads. It was the day before the festival started & the place was beginning to buzz, with huge film billboards lining the front. After a pizza we hit a few bars; never seeing any stars, but at one point this Italian lady entered a swanky place & the barman led a round of applause. Didn’t know who she was, but she would definitely have got it. Our only hiccup was when we stumbled into a whorehouse, got stung 4 squid a beer & had to refuse their advances – tho’ on his pills an over-rampant Bryn was sorely tempted.
Back at the campsite we hooked up with two English chicks who took us to a few caravans full of script-writing English. They seemed bemused when I told them we were here to visit La Route Napoleon & not the festival. I managed to help myself to this geezer’s weed, which finished me off, & it took me half an hour to find mi fuckin tent. Bryn turned up later after getting off with a bird & we both snored ourselves into oblivion. At this point getting our heads together for the rest of the tour seems molto difficile.
We woke up proper spangled, but a quick dip in the exquisitely cool pool proved enough of a respite from our frail noggins & we were able to pack & head out to Cannes. It was the first day of the festival & full of noisy Yanks, so we soon got out of dodge, striking inland on a bus to Grasse, a lovely town stacked high against the hillside. We had a couple of hours to kill so wandered around a bit & to our delight found it very swell, with lovely narrow streets & great prospects of the Cotes d’Azore in the distance.
After sending off our postcards we hopped on a bus north along La Route Napoleon. The view was spectacular as we climbed & wound thro’ the mountains, each one clad in trees giving a baize effect, & I could imagine Napoleon & his column following the same road. A rapid mist descended, however, followed soon after by heavy rain which showed no intention of letting up as we were unceremoniously dumped in the wee hamlet of Seranon. We dived into the only bar around for shelter & refreshment, obtaining a few funny looks off the funny looking locals.
Eventually we found out the bus North didn’t leave til the morning, so we were stuck. We didn’t fancy puttin the tent up in the rain so opted for a hotel. A friendly couple drove us a half mile down the road to their mate’s hotel, which was closed. Luckily the mustached madame opened it up for us (a whole hotel to ourselves), but we were forced to share a double bed (with pants on obviously). As soon as we paid our 15 francs the sun came out & we heaved a table up to the roof’ bought wine, cheese, bread & sausage & had a most pleasant supper among the mountains. It was cool, me musing & Bryn sketchin’ & it felt nice to be doing spot of real travelling, the only sound being the constant chuckle of crickets. Bryn very correctly brought up the point we were stuck in a one horse dive & had less than two days to get to Venice, but I re-assured him all would be reyt. We made a chess-board out of paper & stones & played to the setting of the sun, before all the wine & well-thought-out moves took their toll & sent us both a-slumbering.
We woke early & made a half-hearted attempt at hitching (I remember now why I prefer the trains), before catching the morning bus out of town. It was very expensive, but luxurious, & took us into the wonderful townlet of Castellane. It is set amid a great amphitheater of mountains, spread underneath a huge chapel-capped crag. Beyond Castelleane we wound along a road hewn into the rocky surrounds & the driver had to honk hard at each bend. We were dropped off in a sleepy village called Barremme, where Napoleon had slept on his march to Paris. After buying some fresh bread we finished off the sausage & cheese, plus a wispa Bryn had pilfered off-his-nut in Bishops Stortford. We left the tranquil station, where a woman controlled the level crossing by hand, on a tiny, impossible-to-jump train. We had to pay to a place called Digne (7-2), passing along the bottom of a deep gorge, by a scintillatingly blue river. Digne was the largest town we’ve seen for some time now & we idled an hour in the bar waitin for the next bus. This took us to Saint Auban, where I breathed a massive sigh of relief as we had now reached the main railway line. It felt as tho’ we’d been an arrow, slowly pulled back on its string as we travelled thro’ the almost comatose Provencal backwaters, then fired away at a hundred miles an hour in the direction of Briancon.
After two successful jumps (9-2) we meandered through’ the mountains, our train driving thro’ sheets of dramatically pouring rain. We were so high the clouds hugged the ground, while the Alps towered above us like stunning, hungry beasts. At Briancon (the highest town in Europe) we were suddenly thrown upon our wits again as we rudely discovered there were no buses between France & Italy. It was pushing 7PM when we set off on the 5 mile hike to the border, the light fading but in good spirits as we crossed the Alps… both Napoleon & Hannibal had done it & now I was about to… buzzing’! Fortune smiled on us once again, for not 200m into Italy we were picked up by a proper friendly Algerian truck driver, taking empty bottles back to San Perrignon to be filled with water. He spoke about as much English as we spoke French, but somehow we managed to carry on a pidgeon conversation for the next few hours (mainly about cannabis, which none of us had any of) as we headed West. Just outside the city he pulled over for the night & much to Bryn’s annoyance I got the bed while they slept in the seats… benne notte!
We awoke in an Italian service station layby at about 8… a little tired but very happy for the fact we were just one train jump from Venice. Our guy had dropped us off on the outskirts of Milan, from where we took a train into the centre (10-2). The women on the train were stunning, & for the first time in my life I was forced to give a perfect ten. We proceeded to spend a couple of hours in the wide avenues of Milano’ me indulging in a little poetry while Bryn checked out the architecture. Then, after a swift Burger King, we hopped on a train to Venice (11-2). The journey skimmed the Alps, looming high upon our left, while to our right stretched the lowland plains to the sea.
On arrival at Venice Bryn tried to ring Linda, but she didn’t answer… has she bottled it? As a safety precaution he came with me to Finistra, where we put up the tent with a fine view across the sea to the island. Necking a bottle of vino we trundled into Venice (12-2), where Linda was waiting! She’s the boss of a million-per-year turnover sunglasses factory up in the mountains… & Bryn is her toyboy. She very kindly bought me a meal before I bid them ciao & fucked off… twos company! Back at the campsite I drank more wine & looked out to Venice. I’d been there back in 1998 & was just happy to know that somewhere amid those velvet streets (hopefully not in the streets), Bryn was getting laid (mission accomplished).
Woke up early feelin’ fresh & funky. Breakfasted on chocolate milk & pastries by the waterside, admiring the splendor of distant Venice, a shimmering sea between us. Bought a bottle of wine & idled a little while longer, skimming thro’ a biography of Lord Byron. Eventually I got going & hopped on a bus into the old city where the Grand Canal was still a wonder to sail upon on the unofficially free waterbuses. Composed a little to the splish-splosh of the sea & the beating of a serene sun. Hooked up with Bryn & Linda – he had a smile on his face – & we visited a facing island, which in stark contrast to the chaos of San Marco Square was a tranquil seat of serenity. The wine began to flow, & after Bryn returned from a museum with some interesting postcards of stairs, we jumped train back to the campsite – it was Linda’s first fade & she performed admirably.
My gigalo buddy changed his clothes & was whisked back to Venice to be wined & dined, while I spent the evening with some young Aussies. They roam Europa on busses with a firm called Buzzabout & were good fun – that was until, after a few bottles of wine, I brought up the fact they were descended from botty-boy convicts. The wine soon told for me so I’ll leave you with Bryn.
Spent evening walking around close to San Marco’s, stunned by the beauty of Venice… it’s also nice to see Linda again. Fumbled our way to the hotel where there was later further fumblings. Had a meal with clams as they are supposed to be an aphrodisiac – they worked! We then hit a jazz bar for Hemmingway cocktails, after which I was pretty damn fucked. Met a man called Virgilio, a Salvador Dali lookalike. We then went dancin’ by the piazza Margarheta, downed more beers, had a few arguments & a lot more sex.
I’m goin’ back to Venice!
Awoke to a couple of creamy lattes & some pastries. Spent the mornin’ readin’ & writin’ then packed up the tent just as Bryn returned from his Venetian porn adventures. We breathed in the city one last time then hopped down to Bologna (13-2). The city is a bit messy & we didn’t stay long, nipping further south to Firenze, i.e. Florence (14-2). These last two jumps have been the most difficult of the tour so far, especially the stench emanating from the bogs on the Boulogne-Florence train.
We arrived in the sultry Tuscan capital just as a warm rain was chuckin’ it down. We spent a funny couple of hours tryin’ to locate a suburban campsite… only for it to be closed. So we headed back into the city, past the epic gates & walls & into the fairy-tale streets that cluster at the foot of the absorbing Fiorentine hills. We strolled to a new site & blagged our way in a la Glasto (over the fence) & put up the tent. After a shower we hit the town for some much needed food & some much-more needed beers as proceeded to tour the centre. It remains one of the best places I have ever visited, the cut-out-&-glue-the-cardboard-flaps Duomo a wonder to behold, & it was in a very pleasant mood that we retired to our campsite.
The view of Florence on waking was superb. A sea of roof tops with the Duomo rising from them like some grand Poseidon. After a swift breakfast we plunged into the city & were soon swept up by the buzz of the place. The chicks & the tourists, mopeds & the money! Me & Bryn parted company for a while, he busying himself with sketching the architectural delights while I composed poetry over a couple of cappuccinos, sat outside a cafe. ‘Waterloo’ is coming along well & I hope to be able to complete it later this month in Belgium. We took our lunch sat in the courtyard of some student campus, then packed up our tent & simply sauntered out of the campsite – great blag! The sun was just setting thro’ the Ponte Vecchio in all of its golden splendor as we made our way to the stazione.
The train to Pisa (15-2) wound thro’ Tuscany, & I was much joyed to return to the city, for it holds a special place in my heart after my sojourn there two years ago. Unfortunately, the Macchia Nera social centre in Pisa closed down 5 months ago, & is now a building site. It was quite sad really & I felt a little link to the past extinguished. Luckily, I knew of another place to crash, & we tromped by the side of the Arno to the Old Arsenal. While a very tired Bryn was sleeping I took a stroll along memory lane, calling on old busking spots & sleepin’ areas… it was surreal, but pleasant. Back at the tent I listened to the trains for a while then drifted off to sleep.
Our funds have begun to run seriously low, so I trudged thro’ the blazing sun of a very hot day to the giant supermarket in Pisa. 20,000 lira (& three pockets) won us 4 cartons of wine, 2 baguettes, 2 tunas, 2 bananas, 2 oranges, 1 chocolate bar, a jar of jam, a jar of seafood dressin’, salami, a sausage, anchovies, bread & water. We proceeded to dine on our feast in the grounds of the leaning tower. I caught the sun while Bryn did his best sketch yet. Five hours just flew by as swift as birds & as calm as their flight.
The penultimate leg of our Continental tour dawned, & we set off, pissed as fuck. Being that drunk & so close to our departure, I let mi guard down & full of bravado set in a first-class carriage next to four chatting conductors. Unsurprisingly we were caught (15-3) but I do consider this one more of an own goal. Luckily we weren’t travelling far & got kicked off where we wanted to go… Le Spezia. It was close to sunset as we arrived & caught a bus to Portovenere. As we wound beside the Gulf di Poeti, Bryn became enchanted, as I was when I first saw these sights. We pitched the tent amid some ruins overlookin’ the Med, the 11th century church & Byron’s grotto… completely enamored to the idyllicity. After gorging on the last of our supplies we took a stroll by the harbor & passed our last night in a very amiable manner. While I fell asleep Bryn was full of poetry & climbed & scrambled all over the place, bathing in the starlight. It feels strange to return, for this place is here is where my poetic sensibility first blossomed only two years ago, but an immortal lifetime in my soul.
Our tour’s last dawn broke over the Med & the view from the tent was sublime. After spending our last 3ooo lira on bread, plummed tomatoes & aqua, we gained enough energy to swim in Byron’s grotto. The water was cool & beautiful & while we splashed a couple of big-titted Italian chicks came down to sunbathe – a suitable send off. So, we jumped train to Genoa, & got caught on the very last train- the only official time of the tour (16-4). We had 5 hours to kill, so I checked my bank, found cash & drew out 1oo,ooo lira – wuhu! This money was soon spent on booze as we pottered around the charming centre of the city, before headin’ thro the industrial outskirts to the airport.
The flight back was cool, following the sunset, a constant glimmer of gold ahead of us. Below, the scattered clusters of lights shewed the dwellings of man & was very pretty. We returned to England in good cheer & were picked up by Gareth. In his local pub he shouted the absinths & we rolled off the choice anecdotes of the tour… it sounded pretty good! Needin’ some proper nosh I bought a kebab & headed to Buntingford to spend the night in Bryn’s mate’s caravan. Unfortunately, after a couple of reefers & some Italian wine I whiteyed, staggered out into the chilly rain & vomited dodgy meat all over the garden… thinkin,’ ‘It’s good to be home!’
Woken early (6:45) in Leytonstone by Nichola as she took little Adam to nursery. I walked with her & she bought me a hearty breakfast for the road. A couple of train jumps later I was at Dover, spendin’ my measly tour funds on some supermarket food. The voyage to Belgium was furnished by a beautiful, clear day & I could actually chill out on deck without fear of being blown into the sea. The journey took us past Dunkerque, where 60 years ago the sea was a phalanx of boats & the sky full of planes. Further down the coast, Ostend reared its tower-block facade & I was soon enough jumpin’ a train down to Brussels. Obviously I didn’t linger long in Europe’s dullest city, & jumped a train down to Chaleroi, passing by the Waterloo battlefield en route, when a couple of miles to my east the Butt de Lion stood tall in timeless defiance. Around me the flat Belgic plains began to undulate & become peppered by scarecrows.
Charleoi was peaceful, but I wondered what it would be like when the English turn up for the Euro 2000 match against Germany… it seems poor Belgium is always the battleground between these two nations. From here I jumped train to the small town of Ligny, where a friendly local showed me somewhere to camp beside his scout hut. After pitchin’ my tent he took me on a tour of the town, showin’ me where the shops & museums were. Then we hit a friendly bar for a much needed beer… there were two old queens, however, who were perhaps a little too friendly. The guy bought me a few beers & my school-boy French began to flow. On the wall was a picture of Napoleon & I knew right there & then that I had truly arrived. I hope to finish off the poem I begun in France earlier this month over the next few days. When we were drunk the guy showed me his pad & cooked me supper, then gave me a gas heated lamp so I could write back at my tent. Only managed a few lines before I fell asleep.
Awoke in Ligny… quite a cool sensation to be just about to embark on a march thro’ the battlefields of the campaign. The local museum was closed, but I did obtain a map which I used to discern the battlefield (difficult with houses in the way). At the magasin I was buying some wine & tobacco when an English=speaking lady saw my map & whisked me off to her house. It turned out her husband was a Napoleonic expert & gave me more maps (plus troop movements). They were really nice & sent me off in buoyant mood. Thus armed I packed up my tent & set off to the site of the now destroyed Mill de Bussy for the best panorama of the battlefield. I chilled in the sun, close to the site of Wellington’s & Blucher’s meeting, composing a little, then set off for Quatra Bras.
I idled along for a very pleasant 6 or seven kilometres, pausing for dinner en route, & reached the barren looking junction at about 6pm. Quatra Bras means ‘four roads’ & apart from a restaurant & a farm that’s all there is really… plus a lot of traffic toing & froing. I made camp by a monument & took a stroll around the battlefield, the best feature being the farm Gemioncourt. I chilled there awhile, dining on cold tinned chicken curry & tinned peaches, then settled down for the night with my poem. Unfortunately, I had camped in a field full of bulls & soon became the focus of their attention. After several inquisitive snorts & a few horns bulging thro’ the canvas, I literally picked up the tent & chucked into the next field, where I could at last settle down into a sleep.
Awoke, breakfasted, packed up within half an hour, then hit the road on the march north to the battlefield. After a short while, with the sun beatin’ a very perfect heat, I arrived in Genappe. In 1815, this was the sign of Wellington’s reargaurd, holdin’ off Napoleon’s forces in the pourin’ rain while his main body headed back to the slopes of Waterloo. I found a cafe & downed a couple of stellas, then spent a wad of mi francs on wine & food & renewed my march. In Genappe town centre, loudspeakers were blarin’ out tunes, & when James’ Sit Down came on a great sense of well-being came over me… duly sittin’ down in the mid-day sun.
Further down the road I came upon a museum where Napoleon made his HQ on the eve of the battle. It was tres cool, especially a little ossiary full of battlefield bones. Then, with the Butt de Lion in sight, I reached the place I have been studyin’ relentlessly for. The sun shone bright as I stashed mi bags & took a little stroll around the field… a beer at La Belle Alliance, a chill amid La Haye Saint & then sneakin’ up the lofty Butt. On the top I had to correct a loud mouthed Yank who’d got the battle positions back to front. We got on well & he drove us to the house at Hougoumont. The place was better than I expected, the wall still full of musket holes from the battle.
After he went I reclaimed my bags, returned to the chateaux, pitchin’ my tent in some nearby woods. From here I took a walk into Braine L’Alleaud, picked up some beers & chilled awhile in the local park, composing. On returning to the battlefield the sun had already set. I ascended the ridge where the Garde Imperial met their doom before mounting the Butt once more. On the night before the battle the scene would have been dappled with fires, but tonight the field was black & an eerie sensation overcame me as I stumbled back to my tent in the dark thro’ the dense woodland…
A pleasant day of wandering around the battlefield writing my poem. I tried to write each stanza in the appropriate place where the action occurred. However, the sun & wine began to make me weary & before too long I found myself getting drowsy with the writing. Then I had a shit & to my surprise found it was green… I suspected the cold tinned chicken. I still had some of the poem to write, but realised I could finish it at a more lazy speed during my last sunny month in Brighton… so packed up my tent & set off home. I jump’d train from Braine L’alleaud to Brussels & then to Ostend. Flicking through my poetry on the voyage home I felt satisfied with my performance. It had been an interesting experience & the study prior to the visit had paid off. To most other people passing over that terrain, they would see just a few fields & houses. But I could recreate the individual portions of a great battle… a sort of living cinema.
Tuesday June 12th
Kate’s mobile phone alarm started buzzin’ at 4:30 am – a time only one third of the population has ever seen. After a wee cuddle, I set off into the seagull squawks of Brighton, spliff in hand, to catch the 5.10AM to London. I was lucky with the trains to Stanstead airport where I stroll’d onto an Easyjet (i), which was dropping, before anyone knew it, into Salzburg. I had never seen the Alps from this angle & was surprised to see how suddenly they thrust up against the North European Plain like some indomitable fortress of rock.
At Salzburg I jump’d straight on a train to Munich where, despite the efforts of border police & conductors, I perform’d my first train jump (ii) of the tour (1-0). In Munich I found a scenic woodland campsite for £4.50 a night. After more spliffs, the city was roam’d in a piss’d & stony haze (30p a can). The city is quite pleasant, having an almost Italian air, & I found it weird to think that I was walking the birthplace of the Nazi evil. Talking of which, I found the very classical Koenigsplatz & the Braunhaus, site of the 1938 Munich Crisis (iii), to be very cool indeed.
After taking a few notes, I idled back to camp, which appear’d to be full of the Irish. It seems it is quite common for young Irish kids to come over to Germany in the summer & work for a couple of months… a mixture of Auf Weidershein Pet & the Potato Famine. Had more beer & spliffs & an early night in the tent, which was a little cold & uncomfortable – I hate camping!
Wednesday June 13th
Awoke, shower’d & hit the banks. The first one refused my card but after a nervy wait the second one cough’d up some marks – great! Skinn’d up, stroll’d into town (via the free U-Bahn), found a nice café & hit the books. A very relaxing sommer’s morn trundl’d by, help’d by the cappuccinos & skunk.
Moved a few K out of the city to the Nazi camp at Dachau & was suitably impress’d. The place really invoked the despair its desperate inmates would have had to endure. I found the cremation ovens spooky, but was glad to see a huge rock erection dominating the scene, raised by the Jews to exorcise the ghosts of that terrible regime. Back in town I explored the Englischer Garten, a very nice place but chock-a-block with nudes. It is possibly the best municipal park I’ve visited, especially when sat with a giant ice-cold beer (very hot today) & a bratwurst in a beerkeller by its picturesque lake.
Back at camp I chill’d with a few spliffs & some Irish lads, who had very wisely brought a crate o’ booze wi’ ‘em. I was soon trash’d & took a walk by a river, where a very dramatic lightning storm erupted, chucking bucketfuls of rain on mi head. Raced back to camp where I composed a little in my thankfully waterproof tent, the rain eventually lulling me to sleep…
Thursday June 14th
Hung over! Saunter’d into town to work on my stanza about the Putcsh (iv) – but found it virtually closed down as there was a German holiday happening. I found myself having a coffee in a bar & tasted my first Aryan hostility, being virtually hounded out of the place. After this I used the old, ‘I’m a poet,’ blag & got into the majestic Residenzmuseum for free. I was soon stood captivated by classically painted scenes from the Niebelungen (v), then finally prising myself away at the very time it felt had come for me to leave the city.
With all my U-Bahn & S-Bahn action never being noticed once in Munich, I have decided to give myself an extra Train-Jumping point (2-0). I hopp’d local trains to Landsberg (3-0) where, munching cold ravioli, I sat by the prison where Hitler dictated Mein Kampf (vi). It is a relatively nice looking place, far from the Victorian foreboding of an English criminal incarceration. However, a prison is not an ideal place to spend one’s tour, so I headed on outta town.
Flank’d by the sunset I cross’d a very wide plain northwards thro’ Augsburg to the delightful town of Donauworth (4-0). It was had been ruin’d by wartime bombing, but rebuilt almost exactly how it was. My tent was pitch’d in a secluded spot where the Danube meets the Worlitz – a lovely poetical place. So lovely, in fact, I decided to drop 20 mushrooms. Once fully within the shroom-bubble, who would arrive but some trippy psychology student & his girlfriend upon a romantic outing. We shared a spliff & had quite a deep conversation – my first proper one with a Kraut, & very stimulating. After they left, I just chill’d with the waterflow until attempting to get to sleep – very difficult & that’s the last time I sleep on a slope!
Friday June 15th
Awoke to a fisherman stood outside my tent. He generously gave me some beers for breakfast (God bless Germany!) which turn’d the double-decker train jump up to Nuremburg into an unnecessarily difficult affair (5-0). It was nice to return to somewhere I had visited before (two years previously) but this time I avoided the cheap hotels & pitch’d my tent up in a forested camp site.
I drifted into Nuremburg on my penultimate spliff & twenty mushrooms. The old city is very beautiful, tho’ the temperature had climb’d to 34 degrees, so it was a little arduous. I took a U-bahn out to the Grand Palace of Justice where, to my muse-stricken fortune, I happen’d to ask the public prosecutor for Bavaria about the War trials (vii). He ask’d if I was a student, I said no, I’m a poet. Upon saying the magic word he took me for a private tour of that great scene from history. As usual the room was a bit disappointing, being a little small – but cool all the same.
My psychedelics on full throttle I headed to the Luitpold – that monumental legacy of the Third Reich. After checking out the hypnotic Kongressbau I went to the Zeppelinfeld, site of Hitler’s speeches. These days it’s just a hang-out for the kids, car after car blaring out tunes. I hook’d up with some lads, sharing beers & chatted about the footy. Ask’d them about England’s chances in the forthcoming World Cup qualifier in Munich – they were very blasé (viii). Had my last spliff outside the tent, underneath the Teutonic pantheon of stars, then crash’d in my tent…
Saturday June 16th
Slipp’d out of the campsite without paying, easily enough, & U-bahn’d it into town. Stock’d up on wine & jump’d on an intercity for quite a big jump to Jena. After a slick, quick-shuffle I was crusin’ along on a real nice train, listening to some German baroque thro’ my chairs in built radio. At last the countryside has begun to improve, with wooded hills rising out of the plain to the accompaniment of a refreshing deluge.
As I was a bit piss’d I miss’d Jena & had to blag my way back on another train, almost losing the TJ point to the Germans (6-0). An otherwise pleasant town is dominated by a giant GDR building call’d ‘Jena’s Willy’ – a tall grotesque amidst the charming streets. I open’d more wine with a corkscrew borrowed in an Italian café, then bludgeon’d my way towards the battlefield where Napoleon kick’d Prussian ass in 1806. The road travers’d a very steep hill & I proceeded to get lost in the woods after searching for a short cut.
Stumbling upon a nice spot overlooking the town, I decided to pitch camp & try the battlefield in the morning. With tall, rainfresh forest behind me & the hills & vales of Jena before me, I relax’d with the panoramic sunset. Later, to the crackle of an open fire, in the heady mist of a couple of bottles of red, I cook’d up some meat & wrote poetry. Then, as the stars came out, I slapp’d on my walkman & had a private party, dancing round the fire – well, it is a Saturday night. To one song in particular I felt the greatest of connections; Driftwood by Travis;
I’m sorry that you turned to driftwood
But you’ve been drifting for a long, long time
Sunday June 17th
Woke up, pack’d up & march’d to the battlefield. It wasn’t particularly spectacular, so I made my way back to town. Fully cappucino’d I smok’d the bit of skunk that I found in my shorts (bonus) & hopp’d on a train north. After a day of no weed, the green hit home & I was duly caught for the first time this tour (6-1). I tried to explain to the guy he’d done well to catch me & it was cool, to which he replied from underneath his blonde handlebar mustache; ‘Is nicht cool! Is nicht cool’ & threw me off the train.
Taking my defeat like a man I embark’d on the 35 k march to Naumberg – my personal penance for conducting a terrible train jump – even if I was stoned. It turn’d out to be a very interesting stroll, partway spent in academic conversation with a Russian language teacher. I was fuell’d by the occasional roadside beer & sausage & cool’d by the occasional light shower, but by the fifth hour of walking I was pretty fuck’d.
Luckily the jump to Leipzig was easy (7-1), & I soon found myself meandering round the city (yet more walkin’) in search of the campingsplatz. I finally found it & gladly paid my cash for a sound night’s sleep. B4 bed I dined with a New Zealand family who told me that the forthcoming ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy has been film’d in their country. Cannot wait…
Monday June 18th
The weather had turn’d overcast for my trip to Colditz (ix). After a few stops on the train I was kickt off by a pig-tail’d conductress (7-2). I thought I’d outwitted her, but she got me on the second sweep. That’s twice in two days & one of them was a girl – the shame! I hitch’d a lift to a town call’d Grossboten, where I bought 6 beers & caught a bus into Colditz. I arrived a bit drunk & stagger’d up to the castle’s gloomy courtyard where 4000 Allied prisoners once lived & appell’d. It was cool chillin’ there, but it soon began to chuck it down, so I blagg’d my way onto a guided tour with another ‘I’m a poet!’ I was soon absorb’d in the history.
Once the rain had died off I set off back – but had to contend with a massive fore-arm’d, skinhead Nazi bus driver. When I had bought my ticket earlier at Grossboten, the driver had misunderstood me sticking up two fingers & asking for a return, selling me two singles instead. The Nazi wouldn’t accept it & we almost came to blows, but I swallow’d my anger, said to myself, ‘The wars over, mate,’ & got off the bus. Fortunately, the next but to come along was driven by the guy who sold me the tickets in the first place – problem solv’d!
The bus went all the way back to Leipzig, where I took in the city’s atmosphere. At one point I brows’d thro’ a bookshop’s collection of German poetry. It seems a little like English poetry, but there’s not much of it & written in a romantic gothic lettering. Bought a book of Goethe’s poems, with English translation, & wander’d thro’ his pages over a fine beer. I made my way back after sunset & found Leipzig to be very oppressive at night. There are hardly any streetlights & you feel like you are in a poor communist country. I was rather reliev’d to get back to my tent without being murder’d.
Tuesday June 19th
I shaved, wash’d my clothes & relax’d in the sun awhile until the mozzys began to bite. It seems they had been train’d by the Luftwaffe, so I buggar’d off into Berlin for my own safety. It is a very vibrant city & I enjoy’d a stirring afternoon amongst some of its sights; more impressive Nazi architecture at the Olympic stadium, the wonderful greenery of the Tiergarten & the grandiose Brandenburg Gate.
I paus’d awhile in the Bebelplatz, site of the notorious book burning in ’33, then made my way to the university library & blagg’d my way onto a balcony in order to gain a grand perspective of the square. Upon composing a poem, I set off into the neon night & buss’d it back to the campsite. There I met three young German lads & spent the night chattin’ & sharing beer. To my horror they told me the beer I’d been drinkin’ all day was alcohol free – & I thought I was piss’d!
Wednesday June 20th
Woke up about mid-day & hookt up with Thom, one of the guys from last night. We set off out into the city in fine spirits & in blazing sunshine & soon found ourselves sat by the water in the Tiergarten, drinkin’, chillin’ & chattin’. The place was full of Germans baskin’ in the rays. They seem a nice bunch. My hawkish eyes spotted a guy skinning up & I bought a bit of his hash to put the cherry on the cake; or so I thought…
Two fine young eighteen-year old fraulines turn’d up & join’d in our chill. They gave me a wonderful reading of ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ by Gothe. It turns out they were ballet dancers. We lazed around in the sun for a while then hit a couple of bars for civilised chit-chat, martini & merlot. In the men’s, me & Thom suss’d out which bird was whose & proceeded to pull them. Mine was a lithe young creature call’d Rebekka & I was soon enough being dragg’d back to hers.
Her room was a wonder to be within. It was decorated in pastel hues, garnish’d with polish’d wood & piney floors. After getting a graceful, private ballet dance, a huge grin slapp’d itself on mi face. Suffice it to say, I did Anglo-German relations a world of good. It was nice to taste the delights of a German woman, her passion for ballet has seem’d to have given her a tenderness rare in the act of lovemaking. Slept well.
Thursday June 21st
After a little more cross-cultural harmony with Rebekka, she took me on an expedition in her car, despite the grim weather that had suddenly closed in. We made our way to Potsdam, & being immediately enamor’d to the place we enter’d the Sans Soucci park, holding hands, a palatial place stuff’d with splendid imperial architecture. Then the sun came out & I felt delightful with life & adventure.
I had a very interesting chat with an old woman about war-time events, then we left the park & wound thro’ Potsdam’s spacious serenity til we found the Schloss Cecilenhof – site of the Potsdam conference (x). After blagging our way in (“We are poets!”) I absorb’d the atmosphere where the modern world was created, before we headed back to Berlin. On the way, Rebekka wanted to show me Wansee. The Konferenzbau where the SS order’d the extermination of the Jews was a villa by the velvety Wansee lake, & it seem’d to glow with an evil hue. The place was closed so we snook over the fence to walk thro’ its garden where I could muse on the events.
We drove to a restaurant for a fine evening meal – which made a great change from all the sausage I had been eatin’. On returning to hers she did her own little bit of sausage eatin – & I must say, what they say about German efficiency is true.