Monday, 3 October 2011
Late Sunday sun on Ratinger strasse in Dusseldorf, close to the river, and I am sitting on a bench at the Goldenen Einhorn, the Golden Unicorn, number 18 and built in 1630 - though in those days I assume the bar didn't offer live Sunday night Tatort (the oldest and longest running German cop show) screenings. I have history with Tatort, but I have never seen it. Tonight I will be back.
The vibe is very different from anything experienced in Cologne and I ask the waitress about it. "Oh, it's much more hoity-toilty here," she says somewhat surprisingly, sounding almost Coryation..."it's stuck up; Cologne is more industrial, grungey. I should dress up when you go out."
The other boys at my table find this slightly amusing; of the three two are head to toe Prada, with plenty of logo. I have been for many post Naomi years very much Kein Logo, though hypocritically so, but am, as ever, utterly non-judgmental. They are testing out a new cologne named "Matador" and recalling the highlights of a recent trip to the Dominican Republic. We don't speak; my IPad may have something to do with this.
At my next espresso order I ask the waitress if I am vaguely suitably dressed for an evening. "you look alright" she says, "Sure, why not shake them up a bit? I should tell you that there are more Porsche drivers here than anywhere you've been on your route so far."
Stay pedestrian, I think. Easy in the old town. Ratinger street has many bars, and the hot night, I am told, is Wednesday. Just a few metres away a club promises Hugh Cornwall, founder of the Stranglers, live-ish, soon. I wander down a street that's done business for a good 700 years. On the river the light is sensational - again - and a few hundred metres away a street performer is making rude shapes with balloons and many of the audience are convulsed. "More stuck up?" They must be tourists, I hear an English voice and scurry home to my hotel.
In the evening, spruced by shower rather than a change of clothes, I wander around the old town, there are thousands of bars, all doing good mid-September business. None appeals. There's a lot of boutiques, and smart clothes, and I can't imagine what the new city super malls are like. Thankfully I don't have to find out.
Back at the Golden Unicorn I read my Cologne notes, some a little blurry. "The problem with the Brits in Dubai," I read, "is that they still believe they are running an Empire." it occurs to me that Germany, the places I have seen at least, are a successful regional empire that needs no geographically expansionist dreams any longer. Is it finally at ease with itself? I like to think so.
The opening credits to Tatort have been the same for over 40 years. Saul Bass and Burt Kamfert meet in limbo to suggest big action. Almost. A dozen or so have gathered inside to eat dinner to Tatort and the atmosphere is gently nostalgic; a one time common culture that's now deracinated by download and time-shift, demographics and the web. But this is, despite the small numbers, a collective experience. The show is based in various cities, with various casts, a precursor if you like, of CSI. It begins bang on 8.15, displaying none of those on the hour insecurities that bedevil British or US networks. A ninety minute show with no adverts, it is truly a time-travelling experience. This episode opens - in Cologne, and familiar vistas and those Cathedral towers - with an opera soundtrack - revealing my operatic ignorance - played on domestic vinyl, and a middle aged man dressing up as a woman not utterly dissimilar to Grayson's "Clare". This could be the BBC, though the editing lacks Spooks' ADD driven propulsion, and despite the deaths and mid-life tentative romances and burly jean-clad "Gene Hunt" detective it is all really rather cozy. There are men with axes and sundry nice retro cars and it is a classical way to end Sunday after a heavy weekend of sun, gun clubs, and thrash metal bars...
I wander towards boutique home and the shoe sales-people but just a few metres away it is salsa night at the Schlösser Quartier Bohème. The place is very close to the main art museum, and seems closer too to the Dusedorf money. Men and women in high heels and burnished leather wander back and forth from the dance floor to salsa or sit out or change partners. I jot: long legs and silk dresses. A man stops to ponder my terrace jottings and says: "but words are never the present for yesterday has gone," then he asks to buy a cigarette. A taxi of blondes arrive and the burnished shoe boys hover, and as I walk home I pass an underground car park from where a Maserati sticks out its shiny red nose with a growl of Ruhr industrialism and Italian design. Kein Porsches tonight for me.
There is chocolate on my pillow for the first time on my journey. In the morning at designer breakfast the shoe sellers are very smart indeed. And many are Russian.