I love to travel. I love to go places I’ve never been, where I see things I’ve never seen before, do things I’ve never done before, and drink beer I’ve never drunk before. Many of my best memories are tied up with travel.
Of course, there’s the occasional not-so-great one thrown into the mix, as well. Like that hotel in Hamburg, for example.
We were on our way to the Wacken Open Air festival – somewhere we would be at this very moment were it not for the fucking pandemic. (But I’m not bitter. (Actually, I’m not. My loved ones and I are safe and healthy, and that’s what really matters. (Plus I’ve got the Wacken World Wide live stream open in another window as I type this. (And I have beer.))))
Anyway, our schedule had us arriving in Hamburg one day and leaving for the festival the next, so we decided to stay near the train station to make things easier.
Ha! “Easier,” she says. Famous last words.
Neighbourhoods around train stations are often not the best, but we hadn’t heard anything specifically bad about that area in Hamburg. We figured that since it had been a travel day, and we were about to head for a festival where we’d be going flat out for four days straight, it was unlikely we’d do anything but drop our stuff at the hotel, go out for supper, and make it an early night in anticipation of an early morning start. So even if the neighbourhood wasn’t great, it’s not like we’d be walking through it at 2am or anything.
But even at midafternoon, the walk from the train station to the hotel was uncomfortable – especially when we had to cross a square full of pawn shops and sex shops and wall-to-wall people who stared pretty hard at us, and we were screaming, “Tourists!” with our luggage and backpacks. Even Ron, whom I’ve mentioned previously is a pretty intimidating guy, was uneasy. Not so much for himself, he told me later, but because I was there, and intimidating is the last word anyone would use to describe me.
But we came out the other side without incident, and found the hotel.
Pro Tip: It’s never a good sign when the hotel staff is hanging out with the prostitutes on the front step.
Still, we pressed on. Once we got inside, the hotel itself seemed okay. At first. It was clean, with a simple but decently appointed lobby and dining area, and the desk clerk was super polite.
And then he showed us our room.
It’s difficult to find words to describe the blast of moist, hot air that hit us in the face the moment the door was opened. The hotel as a whole was air conditioned, but our room was not, and it was easily 30° that day. Plus there had been a rain squall or two, so the humidity was about 1000%, and the room had no windows. There was only a – and I use this term in the loosest way possible – skylight that was propped open about an inch for – and I use this term in the loosest way possible, as well – airflow.
The room itself wasn’t much better. The bed took up nearly all the available floor space. I had to sidle around it, it was so close to the walls, and the bathroom door would only open about a foot before it hit bed frame. Although there was technically enough space for our luggage … so long as we didn’t want to occupy the floor at the same time.
Fairly certain we’d been given the by-the-hour room.
We were not staying in that room. So while the desk clerk went to phone the hotel owner to see if there was another room available, Ron and I decided that if there wasn’t, we’d have to book somewhere else for the night. There wasn’t another room. And booking something somewhere else was tricky as, contrary to the specs listed on the hotel website, there also wasn’t any wifi. (Well, okay, I guess technically there was, but due to it having an expired security certificate, my computer wouldn’t connect.)
So off we trundled, back through the sketchy square to the train station, to use their sporadic wifi. We went to a restaurant where I wrestled with the computer while Ron ordered drinks. He mentioned to the server what was going on, and she rolled her eyes and agreed that we definitely didn’t want to stay in this neighbourhood. Then she brought us some free nibbles to tide us over while we waited for the internet to eventually connect. (She was amazing. A large tip was given.)
And that’s how we, who generally avoid big hotel chains, ended up at a Radisson Blu. With air conditioning. And a bathroom door that opened. And was located across the parking lot from a train station that would get us where we needed to go in the morning. Because we essentially booked two places for one night, a dive hotel made it one of the most expensive stays we’ve ever had while travelling.
Still, it wasn’t a total loss. Never ones to let a little hiccup phase us, Ron and I have adopted, “Like that hotel in Hamburg” as personal shorthand for, “Something that isn’t as advertised.”