In the past, we accustomed you beloved readers to pieces which reported, more or less faithfully, our ESN activities from a point of view as close as possible to yours. In this article however I would like to propose you a somewhat different approach. What will follow is in fact the report of the ESN Abroad weekend in Cologne, organised by the friends of the Activity Committee and which occurred between the 27th and 29th of November 2015 from my point of view. Two days in Cologne/Keulen/ Köln /Colonia (a city whose name changes depending on whether you eat fish & chips/bitterballen/bratwurst/pasta) which eventually resulted into an unpredictable, unforeseen, undetermined three acts comedy.
ACT I – The calm before the storm
The internationals arrived in the North Rhine already on Friday night, amusing themselves with Sex Drive. Which contrary to what you may have thought at first was a 2008 movie, which probably never won a Palme d’Or. Once reached the destination, it’s my understanding that the original plan was a pub crawl with the help of ESN Cologne. Now not being there I am not entirely sure of what happened (this is the biggest tragedy of being a reporter not on the scene), but legend has it that the majority of our German counterparts were simply too drunk in order to do so. (I’m eager to retreat from this line were I proved wrong!)
On the contrary my masterplan involved arriving on a later stage, i.e. the morning of Saturday, with a comfortable blablacar ride in the company of Federico, another loyal ESN Volunteer from Italy. This resulted in a two hours journey with a German guy who didn’t do anything to hide his despise for the Netherlands and the Dutch people (why?!) and who was probably the biggest (if not the only) expert on the scores of the last twenty years’ games in the Italian fourth division. But as we got in Köln – I will purposely keep inter-changing the name of the city just to be fair with every language – we were welcomed by an incredibly pretty Christmas market, the pride of this Rhineland gem, other than a miniscule gothic cathedral that you may spot if you look really carefully.
ACT II – Intermezzo Notturno
The AC liven up Saturday evening with a masquerade. As it happens, when the theme of the night is the “hero you want to be” you could see on the same dancefloor some two or three Catwomen, Wonderwomen and Batwomen, accompanied by Zorro, Popeye and “Van Gogh’s painting” (sic). After this pre-party, the joyful fellowship moved to an amazing club, Pan Tau, where they taught to the Germans how we roll here in West Side Utrecht.
And I? Well, here’s a peculiarity of Colonia that not everyone may be aware of: if it’s true that this city is in Germany (no duh?), it must also be said that is crawling with Italians. They/We are THOUSANDS. You want to have an awesome pizza within the range of 200 Km? Go to Cologne. This is more or less what I did, and I must say I was rewarded for my quest. Little did I know that Karma/God/Buddah – you name it – would have punished my gluttony. In facts my night saw me ruefully returning feverish to the hostel – the same of the rest of the band but in another room. This fact would have been my condemnation. At around four in the night, a veteran of the Huns raids of the V century A.D. decided it was about time to raze again a colony of the former Roman Empire, starting from my room. Once entered, after having turned on the light and dropped himself on the bed just facing mine with his boots and hangover still on, he started snoring. Now, to be correct, the verb snoring has been invented to describe an activity which is common to natural species once they are asleep. But the snorting noises which came out of that possessed body cannot be defined or reproduced by the languages of the men. While Sauron himself was speaking through his orifices, there was no way to repel this demon (namely: wake him up and explain in English that he was moderately annoying). Here came a suffered decision: while two other poor Chinese girls hosted in the same room were sitting on their beds and looked desperately into each other’s’ eyes, Fede and I packed our mattresses and went on a journey which brought us to the ESN Board room, which welcomed us in very Christian way (thanks Marloes). The remaining three hours of slept were actually really pleasant, gladdened by some extemporary passing of gas of another Board Member who made a new Köln Concert.
ACT III – Götterdämmerung
The morning after, once again my way was diverted from that of the AC and the Internationals. If the latter visited a Chocolate museum, and after a true German lunch in the heart of the New Market of the city could comfortably return by coach, only weeping for Mufasa’s death, Fede’s fate and mine were quite different. After attending one of the most surreal experiences of my life, a catholic mass celebrated in an odd Southern Italian jargon with a thick German accent, a series of trains awaited to carry us back in the beloved Utrecht. This nearly-perfect plan naturally failed after some twenty minutes from our departure, when it was clear that we would have missed our connection train in Mönchengladbach. The mere fact that I was just able to write down the name of this city without checking Wikipedia is a valid proof of how much it marked my experience. To be fair, the poor M’gladbach is not even a bad place. But it has a fundamental flaw: is close enough to the Netherlands that you could actually go there by bike, and yet has a limited numbers of trains in order to do so.
Anyway, after a windstorm pretty much pushed us back in the hauptbanhof we had so naively tried to walk out of, we eventually managed to catch our train, but a final spectacular coup de theatre was scheduled there. The passenger in front of us, some inebriated gentleman probably relative of that of the previous Act, turned out to be without tickets, documents or papers whatsoever. Well, technically he did have one of those small coasters that you use under a beer glass, filled with some hieroglyphs which allegedly confirmed his identity and destination. Too bad he was unsure whether the latter was The Hague (Netherlands) or Hagen (Germany) when interrogated by the German police aboard. This ultimately led to a joint action of four different German officers who I’m pretty sure were also villains in a James Bond movie, and a German shepherd (appropriately) which kicked the poor man out of the train. While Fede and I were still captured by this scene as in a cinema with pop-corns, immediately after Venlo and the Netherlands welcomed us back. And on our final overcrowded train, when a gentle OV lady kindly told us that we could have taken a sit in the first class of the train, I realised that an equilibrium in Karma was re-established.
By Claudio Agnesa