It’s all Batman’s fault.  You don’t need to know any more.

On Thursday 13th November 2014, I woke late feeling like death.  Not even warmed up.  The realisation dawned on my that I was about to embark on Batman’s Crazy Plan.

First stop: the pharmacy.  Lots of pain killers and decongestants.

Suitably drugged up, I headed to Heathrow airport for the 16:00 flight to Berlin.  We warmed up in the bar at T5 and prayed that our flight wasn’t delayed.

The gods were with us and we landed in Berlin early.  A quick round of confusion at Tegel airport when looking for the train station (there isn’t one!) saw us catching the next bus to Berlin Haupbahnhof, where we hopped over to the train to Ostbahnhof.

Thankfully, Postbahnhof was a stone’s throw from the train station.  We had a little time to spare, so we grabbed a quick dinner from a kiosk at the station and were pleasantly surprised that their sarnies weren’t as bad as the usual crap you get in a UK station.

Tickets at the ready, we were in with time to spare get a couple of beers before Prong hit the stage at 9pm.

But I’m not going to let the venue off that easy!  Suffering from man-flu and knowing what was in store for me over the next few days, I planned ahead and packed a bottle of water in my backpack.  But no!  You can’t check bags into the cloakroom of Postbahnhof if they contain water!!!  Nope, you have to throw that water away.  I mean, what kind of stupid fuckwit made that rule up??  I understand that venues don’t want me to take my own drink in, but I wasn’t, it was going into the cloakroom.  Wankers.

Anyway.

After the show, we hung around in the large bar area with more beer, hoping Tommy would come out to see us and the baying masses.  He was a very popular man, with quite a few people looking for autographs and photos.  It was good to see.

Tommy was on fine form and good humour.   It was good fun catching up with him again.  Art Cruz (drums) and Jason Christopher (bass) also made an appearance after the show too.  Both are great guys to chat to and whilst Jason might look like a demon on stage, he’s a perfectly charming fellow in person.

I made the comment to Art that I think this might be the best Prong line-up to date.  Of course, I meant since the heyday of the Parsons/Raven line-up 😉  But I think it’s true.  I mean no disrespect to their predecessors that have helped take Prong to where they are today, but Prong just seem to be a larger force to reckon with these days.

So after hanging around until we got booted out of the venue – they still had beer left, what they thinking?! – we decided to take a stroll to a nearby bar.  That’s when I found out that Batman had never seen the East Side Gallery!!!  He’s been to Berlin several times, but I think he was here more before The Wall came down.

We covered the whole stretch, which happens to be conveniently placed right outside the gig venue.  At the end, we got to Oberbaumbrücke, the next bridge over the River Spree.   We had intended to take a walk north to Friedrichshain, a district where I’m told there are loads of late night bars.  However, the bridge looked so inviting, we decided to cross the river to marvel at it, knowing that the other party district, Kreuzberg, wasn’t tooooo far away and that Google Maps showed lots of bars on the way.

Walking further than we anticipated before drinking again, we stumbled upon a rather fancy cocktail bar called Schwarze Traube.  Far too trendy for us metallers, but hey, they served amazing drinks!  The better halves would have loved it even more and we may have never left.

But beer called.  Some amusing confusion with the barmaid about which direction the station was in sent us stomping toward the next bar.  This was a more fitting venue, truth be told.  It was full of Stiff Little Fingers fans, ejected from that evening’s performance.

More barmaid amusement followed when Batman asked if she could order a taxi for us.  Afterall, we didn’t know 1) any taxi numbers or 2) where the hell we were!  According to Batman, the amusing conversation with the taxi company went something like:

Barmaid, in German:  can I have a taxi from <here> to Hauptbanhof, please

Taxi company: sorry, we don’t speak English, can you speak German please?

Barmain in German:  I am speaking German!

Then she handed to phone over to a customer of the bar who proceeded to order the taxi for us :-)  It turned out, she was American and her German accent wasn’t good enough for the taxi company!!!

Anyway, we got the 04:25 train to Köln (I don’t like calling it Cologne, but I don’t have an umlaut on my keyboard either!) and we both snored our way through Germany for nearly 5 hours.
Waking up in Köln just before 9am, we went to a nice cafe for breakfast, then started to trek around the city.  The cathedral has new stained glass windows that look like Minecraft (i.e. coloured pixels on a computer screen).
We tried to find a pub, but none were open.  We were very disappointed!!!!  What’s wrong with these people?!?!  So obviously not Bavarian….
We walked forever and at lunch time, we decided we’d walk even further to the brewpub that had been recommended by my good friend “Martian Stevens”.  It was shut.  Shocking!!!  A pub in Germany.  Closed.  At lunch time.  But hang on – they were ALL closed.  Lazy bastards!!!!
We eventually found one open at 1pm and had lunch.
We toured quite a few more bars, trying a different brewery each time and managed 6 different ones before it was time for dinner.  So we took a tram back to “the” brewpub and it was rammed with people!!  We went in and got a beer, but slowly and surely realised, we’d gatecrashed a private party!!!!  So we left.  I’d tried saying to Batman that there was a sign outside that said something like “geschlossen geschäft” as we entered, but I only knew that the first word meant “closed” and Batman said, “well, it’s obviously open!”.  It turns out the sign actually said “geschlossene gesellschaft“, which does indeed mean “closed for a private party”,  Batman would have known that if he’d actually read it.  So it’s just as well he didn’t…  It’s a really nice pub, probably one of the nicest we saw.  And the food menu was nice too.  Bummer.
Still, we returned to the main touristy part and got dinner in a traditional bar.  I had the spätzle, a German cheesy vegetable pasta dish that is perfect for the beer drinking mosher and Batman managed to get his first proper German sausage.  And more beer.
Well, next we went to the gig, just in time to miss the two support bands again.  Well, we caught the end of one of them and they were… not my sort of thing…
The venue in Köln was better laid out than Berlin, with a bigger audience area, rather than a large separate bar area.  The crowd were much more “in to” Prong than in Berlin too, which seemed to feed the band’s enthusiasm because they performed far better.  So whilst the Berlin gig seemed superb, Köln was much better.  And I picked up a few bruises from jumping around like a twat.  And one of Art’s drum sticks.
Overkill, surprisingly, weren’t as good as they were the previous night.  They seemed a bit flat or tired, but only when compared to the previous night.  It’s funny hearing the same banter two nights in a row too.
Tommy came out to the merch area after the show again and he was more popular than before.  Very impressive.  He took time to talk to us again.  At least he could talk.  I completely lost my voice.  Note to self, when ill, don’t jump around like an eejit and scream your head for an hour.  I’ll never learn.
Anyway, after the gig, Batman decided that I had perked up and that more Kölsch was needed!!!  Thinking that Köln was tame compared to Berlin, we expected lots of stuff to be closed, but no!  We drank with all manner of crazy people until gone 3am!!  Everyone seemed to be having a great party and, according to Batman, were all singing along to German nationalistic (positive, I mean, not right wing) songs with all their might.  As I walked into one bar, some guy grabbed me by the shoulders and the next thing I knew, I was leading a conga through the pub to some sort of “Germany is great” anthem!!!!  Crazy bastards!
In bed in our hostel by 03:30, up by 09:30, we didn’t really feel like drinking more Kölsch.  So we went to an art gallery in the city then got our train to Dortmund airport.
Back in London, I met up with Lynn, went for dinner then a Dave Gorman show in Hammersmith Apollo.
On Sunday, I died.  Again.