In 1992 I was to spend my first proper length of time inside the recently lowered Iron Curtain. We had taken an overnight train (another first for me) from Leipzig.
Having been in Scandinavia prior to this, the contrast was stark. The following was what we experienced with our super cheap youth hostel…..
It was now just past six so the hostel would be open, so it was here we headed for a reviving shower and to ask for recommendations on how to spend an enjoyable evening. It was Friday night and time to party!
Two blows. Firstly no hot water and secondly the friendly and trendy Adrianna who had checked us in earlier had finished her shift and been replaced by the sort of lady you used to see representing the Eastern Bloc in the field events at Olympic Games.
She did not know where we could go for fun, she did helpfully remind us though that the door would be locked at eleven and not opened again until morning under any circumstances.
Just as we anguished about what we could do, we noticed some flyers on the communal lounge table. Fugazi Rock Club, less than ten minutes walk away, five bands tonight, free entry before eight, beers two zloty each (about £0.40).
Fantastic, just the ticket. Fugazi lived up to our expectations. Dingy, very concrete and full of young rockers. We arrived fashionably late at 8.15 p.m., so having to pay forty pence to get in.
The beers were of the blonde variety as we were yet to discover the delights of the Eastern continent’s dark beer offerings. Zywiec would do for us tonight (it would be gorgeous Zywiec porter many years later) and at forty pence a throw we could afford to knock a few back.
The live music was cracking. The first band came on just after nine and played for nearly an hour. The beers were flowing really well and when the second heavy metal group came on, we lost all track of time as we were having a fabulous time.
As the music reverberated, Hamish was trying to tell me something. When he pointed at his wrist I realised that the topic was time related. A shocker, it was 10.55!
Without thinking of any alternative plan, we just ran. Neither of us ever troubled the school athletics team, but as we neared our goal, we were confident of making it. We rounded the last corner and still had two minutes to go. As we arrived at the door, there was still a whole minute to go by our watch.
Clearly our watch did not synchronise with the hostel clock. The door was bolted shut. Damn!!
We got our breath back and agreed facing the wrath of Igor (as we childishly christened the Olympian on duty) was preferable to sleeping rough.
As Hamish searched for the bell or knocker Igor opened the door. She was not happy!
It was clear from her buttoned up coat that she was on the way home rather than letting us in from the goodness of her heart. Off duty she may have been, but she found it within her to do a bit of unpaid overtime to scold the two miscreants!
‘You vary lucky. You must not break our rules. No lights on, it is rule after curfew.’
We thought she had made this one up, but Igor Mark II (as we equally childishly christened the equally large night watchwoman) gave us a terse ‘no lights!!’ as we passed her desk.
In fact we had no choice in the matter as the lighting circuit had been switched off, as I found out in the bathroom.
I gingerly found my way to my bed, in what was to unfold a sleepless night, due to:
- A) There being no sheet, meaning I had to sleep under a musty, prickly, grey blanket
- B) The sound of the rock music blaring out of Fugazi, in through the jammed open window
- C) It being really cold (see B), and
- D) The guy opposite having smuggled his girlfriend in for noisy sex!
Sometimes there is no justice!