Thursday, 5 June 2014

In Hagen...

Reluctantly I bade farewell to Berlin. I checked out of my hotel and walked the short distance to the metro and took a train to the zoological gardens, from where I took an overground train to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof and then another train to Hagen. It was a long journey of over three hours, but the luxurious German train, even in second class, made the whole experience worthwhile. Our first stop was Berlin-Spandau and I was immediately reminded of the 80s band and, of course, Rudolf Hess who, if I remember correctly, was imprisoned here.
The view from room 530, Mercure Hotel Hagen...
Naturally the train left on the dot at 1427hrs and was soon speeding along at something like 174km/hr, but as smooth as you like. I decided to do some work and put some finishing touches to an article I was writing. Somewhere along the line I was disturbed by somebody who said I was sitting in their seat and then, after I moved, somebody else accused me of the same thing. Very annoying as I found myself playing musical seats without any music. It was quickly resolved. My ticket didn't carry a reserved seat - I could sit anywhere - but unfortunately, because German trains don't have paper 'reserved' tickets sticking out of the top of the seat (reserved notices appear digitally over the seat below the luggage rack) I failed to see that I was sitting in a reserved seat...until it was too late.

Another great thing about the German trains is that you don't have to make your way to the buffet car when you fancied a drink. Fortunately, somebody comes to you to take your order and returns with whatever you decided upon. In my case it was a wonderful orange and vanilla tea.

Room 'end of terrace' room, so to speak, and very pleasant
As the train powered through the German countryside, I continued with my article and then, at roughly 1822hrs - actually, it was probably bang on the dot of 1822 - the train arrived at Hagen where it was damp, rainy and overcast. I found a taxi and was driven to my hotel, the Mercure Hotel Hagen, a building of Colditz proportions sitting high on a hill and having these wonderful tiled ledges that, by rights, should have people hanging on to for dear life, be it Richard Burton in Where Eagles Dare or Jason Bourne from the Bourne movies.

Not a bad hotel. I wouldn't call it corporate, more 'middle management', the sort of place where, after a company booze-up you come down to the self-service buffet rather sheepishly because the night before you had a few too many and said things you wished you hadn't and now it was time to face the music. You pass the familiar surroundings of the bar you inhabited the night before and every embarassing moment of your debauched evening floods back to you as you scoop a pile of greasy button mushrooms on to your plate, using a slotted spoon, and take a seat in some faraway corner, hoping that all your colleagues have already had their breakfast...until, that is, they turn up, eager to remind you of your appalling behaviour the night before.

I wonder if the Kemp brothers ever visited Spandau?
Fortunately I wasn't in that position as I travelled - in Schindler's Lift - from the fifth to the mezzanine level to eat a healthy breakfast of cereal, fresh fruit, yoghurt and dried apricots, but this is definitely that sort of hotel. It's a bit lairy with its Apple Macbook white furniture and fittings – Apple Macbooks used to be white – and a horrible icy mauve lighting that gives the place a certain coldness it could easily do without. But I mustn't moan. Well, actually, perhaps I should moan as dinner last night was appalling. There was only a buffet available and I was late down so I made do with bony breaded fish 'fillet' - some of which I had to spit out for fear of choking - accompanied by over-cooked aubergine, green beans and potatoes, plus a Warsteiner, all of which I finished in about 10 minutes. I went out for a walk and found, about five minutes from the hotel, some wonderful restaurants that would have been a darn sight better than what I had just experienced.

Still, the room was fine, although I had left a window open and, at roughly 4am, the roar of traffic, even five floors up, was enough to wake me up and I didn't really get back to sleep. Having closed the window and drawn the curtain to keep out the light, I tried to sleep but all of a sudden something started up in the bowels of the hotel. It sounded like a ship's engine being fired up, but I wasn't on a ship, I was in a hotel, even if it did boast Bismarck proportions and now sounded a bit like a battleship making its way out of port.

I'm now sitting in the reception area using the hotel's business centre (the lap top is playing up a bit). I've been in my room working all morning and I need to print something out, so I thought I would use the occasion to update the blog.

We have Pound Shops, the Europeans have EuroShops. This one in Hagen.
Hagen doesn't compare favourably with Berlin. The hotel receptionist told me that the downtown was pretty rubbish, although I think I'll go and find out for myself just as soon as I've printed out what I need to print out.
Woolworth's is alive and well and can be found in Hagen, Germany!
Postscript on Hagen's downtown: I moseyed into town after lunch to check things out and, to be honest, Hagen was kind of okay. If anything, it's a bit like Croydon, there's even a TK Maxx and, believe it not, a Woolworth's, a C&A and, I daresay, if I look hard enough, a Claire's Accessories. Also, while they don't have pound shops in Germany, they do have Euro Shops (shops where everything sold costs 1 Euro). Hagen had that down-at-heel look that Croydon has - there's even an Aldi supermarket - and the same kind of low-rent shops. I was hoping for a decent restaurant. All I found was bakery-oriented caffs of the Greggs variety, but not called Greggs.

Later, as I made my way back to the hotel after dinner in town I noticed a man sitting at a bus stop drinking from a bottle of beer – always a bad sign. Earlier I had seen a man taking a leak in a doorway and there's plenty of graffiti around too, making it even more like Croydon. But I'm only talking about the downtown. Take a cab into the suburbs and, like Croydon, it's a different story and quite pleasant.

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