Dusseldorf part 2

So it all boils down to tonight. I’ll probably write part 2 on Sunday and you’ll either hear about my Damascene conversion and splurging on tickets for December’s show, or all my future holidays being confined exclusively to the north west of England. (Chris Harrison, July 6th 2018)

Here’s my timetable for December 2018: (don’t laugh)

  • Thursday 6th December, fly Manchester – Dusseldorf, check in for two nights at the Tulip Hotel, Esprit Arena.
  • Friday 7th December, attend the first Helene Fischer Show recording at the Messe Halle, across the road from the Tulip Hotel.
  • Saturday 8th December, check out of the Tulip Hotel and check in to the Schnellenburg am Rhein Hotel, 200 metres up the road, attend the second Helene Fischer Show recording.
  • Sunday 9th December, check out and fly home.

The Damascene conversion happened and it was in part thanks to several factors. The concert was a night to remember, Dusseldorf Airport restored my opinion of air travel, and a madness took me in which all concepts of money disappeared.

I was going to call this post Two Airports and a Pillow because the pillow at the hotel very nearly scuppered everything. It was like a 2ft wide marshmallow with no support for the head, which meant the room was almost unsleepable and uncomfortable during the day. Staff were great though, breakfast very good. But having stayed in hotels in Britain you get used to having a kettle, tea bags and coffee. Doesn’t seem to be the done thing in Germany.

As I mentioned in my first post Manchester Airport was a disgrace. According to the taxi driver on the way home, all three terminals at Manchester are being flattened to create a new billion pound superterminal. I’ll believe it when I see it.

In contrast, Dusseldorf airport was amazing. Spacious, clean, simple to navigate, a place designed for human beings not human being-shaped units. It was comfortable. They even had upholstered chairs to relax in. Security was handled without fuss or impending calamity and the only black mark on the return trip was the Flybe flight delay. Yes, the only bit that went wrong was the British bit.

But enough of the travel. I could tell you about Friday’s supermarket expedition to buy orange juice, salami and crisps, but it passed off without a hitch. I could tell you about my stroll along the Rhine and my translation app translating the information sign about the water pump. But I know you want to hear about das Konzert.

I bought a tee-shirt, a programme, a glass of beer, not because I wanted a drink, but because I wanted one of the tour glasses. I missed out on a full ‘becherset’ and the merchandise trolley had vanished when I tried to buy a white tee-shirt. No one spoke to me, which was a relief because my attempts to speak German had been pathetic.

During the first ten to fifteen minutes of the concert I had to keep reminding myself that the person on stage wasn’t a lookalike or a tribute act, but the actual woman herself, the real Helene Fischer. Two and a half hours of bedlam, the stewards gave up trying to tell people to go back to their seats, the party atmosphere mind-altering and by the end of the show everyone had lost it.

I knew the day after would be an enormous come-down. The crowds gone, the trams empty, road deserted. No indication that the area had been over-run by schlagernuts the night before. It was as if it had all been a dream.

Looking back on it now, maybe hindsight is selective, but what I remember of the trip is the stroll through the park near the supermarket, avoiding the cyclists everywhere, sitting eating salami under a tree outside the stadium, German paving, the fruit seller, the number of hedges being trimmed and crickets chirping when I set off for the concert.

It’ll be different in December. Shorter days, cooler weather, but I’ll have practiced my German, I’ll know what to do during the day, I might even take a travel kettle with me and go back to the supermarket to stock up on tea bags and biscuits. Next time I’ll be prepared.

And I love those two words: next time. There’s going to be a next time. The phobia is dead.

Click here to see all the photos from the show.

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