Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Cripes, that's a big ship!

Beloved regular readers of this blog will be well aware of my continuing efforts to maim myself recently. Various escapades on inline skates have left little bits of 'Fargonite' smeared all over pavements around the UK. Happily, I can now report that this particular circus act has been taken further afield.

As alluded to in recent posts (if you read German), I had a groovy wee road trip to Germany last week. 5 days in Hamburg, Bremen & Lubeck, to meet up with my brother R for a couple of days (he lives in Austria, although, only for another 48 hours).

Having got safely to Lubeck airport (after having initially departed my flat at 3am on a Saturday morning *ugh*), picked up my hire car, found the city of Hamburg in appalling weather and then navigated to the Hotel, I, finally, had the rest of the day to myself.

After a quick snooze and dinner in the Hotel 'zum Zeppelin' (Graf Ferdinand von Zepplin, Father of the Airships, stayed there when his car broke down outside the Hotel early into the 20th century. They asked him if they could use his name for the Hotel and he said 'Yes'), I caught the U-Bahn into town and set about exploring a bit of the city... with camera in hand.

Naturally, in true Gonzo fashion, I headed immediately to the Reeperbahn to see what all the fuss was about. After a quick assessment of the scene and, not long after arrival, having been 'informed' by a burly, bearded, German biker guy "zat photos vere not to be taken in zis area", I, astutely, decided 'bugger it' and found a bar where I could have a beer.

At this odd wee bar I asked if they had Weiss Beer (a Bavarian beer made from wheat, vice hops. Try it, it'll change your drinking life. I, personally, recommend 'Erdinger') to which, with a disinterested look, the barlady said "No, Becks!". "Oh" I said "have you got anything else. "No, just Becks!". And so it was, they sold Becks and only Becks (reminds me of a 'Mad' comic joke once about a radio station that only played "Led Zepplin's - Stairway to Heaven".

The actual conversation-

Me: "Haben Sie weiss bier?"
Barlady: "Nein. Becks!"
Me: "Ach So, welches anderen bier haben Sie"
Barlady: "Nichts - nur Becks!"
Me: "Hmmm, klar - ein Becks bitte"

So, having finished my yummy Becks, I headed down to the Harbour area to see what was going on. The port was, as it turned out, only 500 metres downhill from where I was, as a crow flies... or as a Beck's bottle rolls... or, in fact, as a Beatle crawls...

I casually wandered down the hill and, as I got closer, I could see an enormous ship looming up, directly in front of me. Now, I don't know a heck of a lot about ships but, by anyones standards, it was a bloody big ship. As I got closer and closer it just rose further into the air and, then, when I was only about 200 metres away from it, I realised that it really was absolutely colossal!

It was about then that I started to notice that I wasn't the only person taking more than a passing interest in this ship. There were lots of people standing about, all taking pictures and when I looked down onto the dock area, I noted that there were big crowds down there as well.

By now, knowing something was truly afoot (or afloat), I furiously got out my camera, changed lenses and starting taking pictures. The damn thing was already on the move and starting to slide from view, behind some buildings. After taking a few hurried pictures, I ran another 800 metres down the road to try and get a less obstructed view.

In this new location, I threw down my daybag and pulled out my camera again. Rapidly assessing the situation, I realised that I needed to get a bit further out onto the busy road in order to get a better angle of the ship. Very quickly checking for traffic to my right, I proceeded to step out. On my last step, at edge of the pavement, I caught the hem of my trousers under my other shoe and as I tried to pull that leg forward, my pants pulled taut and toppled me forwards and over, onto the road.

Before I knew it, *CRASH*, I had fallen knee first and ended up sprawled out on road surface. Now, looking properly Left, I saw that there was traffic coming directly towards me. I was pleased that I had managed to cradle the camera and protect it in the fall but, now, it was time to get off the road. I quickly sprung back up and leapt back off the road.

Safely back on the side of the road, I mentally berated myself for my stupidity! When I had checked the road for traffic, I had looked 'Right', BUT, of course, I was in Germany, Europe, and the traffic there drives on the right! Hence, I actually needed to have looked 'Left' to clear the road.

I had been in such a rush and with that blinding bit of stupidity, I had fallen, completely and ignorantly, into a road full of busy traffic endangering my safety - or the camera's at least. Luckily (he says with 4 still intact limbs), the traffic was slowed up, slightly, by the traffic lights further down the road.

As I somewhat tentatively took some more pictures of this ship, I noticed that my knee was hurting a bit. Subsequently, in a toilet in a hotel bar (where I did find an Erdinger), I pulled up my trousers and looked at my knee and took the picture above (I'm surprised, looking at the pictures on this blog, that I don't get more hits from people into self-harm).

This, of course, all leads to the question: what the hell was the ship anyway?

As it turns out the ship was called 'The Freedom of the Seas' (as can be seen in the quality picture above) and, in fact, is the largest ship in the world (passenger ship anyway - I assume there are bigger Aircraft Carriers?). It was in Hamburg for its last trials (I don't know if it was built there though) and, on that night, it was going out for it's last night sea trial.

The damn thing moves pretty fast (as I discoverd) and, as I subsequently learnt after my wee adventure, during those few minutes that I tried to photograph it - it had moved from its initial berth, a kilometre eastwards to the main Port area, where it executed a 3-point turn and had then, rapidly, buggered off northwest and out into open seas...

And, of the pictures, you may very well ask? Well I must have taken at least 25 snaps and all of them are crap! Being nightime, I was having to use a bit of timelapse photography to try to burn the pictures in and with no tripod to assist me, they are all blurred and crap. The one above is the only slightly usable one I have i.e. for a blog (click on it to see a bigger version) and even that does not do the the ship any justice at all.

2 days later it set forth on its maiden voyage from Hamburg to New York. Since there have been no 'Titanic' type stories in the news since my return, I assume it safely made it...

Hmmm, I wonder if I sent them a letter and a blurry photograph, whether they'd give me a free trip?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

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2:48 pm  

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