261. Amsterdam Pub Crawl

CJ and LD looking fab!

Given we were now living in close quarters with a bunch of other travellers whose job was to organise pub crawls, we thought it would be rude not to join in. Plus we got a discount. I’ve become quite fond of these touristy pub crawls – guaranteed rentacrowd, you don’t have to think about where to go, and the price:free drinks ratio is very good. Especially this one.

We worked our way through everything from a grunge irish rock music theme bar, to an Australian themed club to quirky wine bars with hipster DJs on miniature balconies

It was a really fun night, and we made friends with some hilarious Amurrrcans and the people running it were actually so disorganised we managed to cram in quite a few extra venues.

I must say though, Amsterdam in the summer is just chock full of dudes. Guys, if you are looking for girls, you are only going to find them in windows! And just as common as those windows, were packs of beer loving (as evidenced by the size of their bellies) packs of “The Lads” looking like they were on stag do’s. Sights like these were not at all uncommon:

Whichever one of his friends told him he could pull off spandex was wrong

Another cycle bar

Skin coloured shark costume?

For the first time on one of these things I could actually knew who the organisers were, which kind of made me feel really sorry for them – they were tired, sober and bored, having been out to the same few bars every single night for the last few months at least. Didn’t stop us having a great time, eh CJ?

233. The Best Soundsystem In Europe

The largest speakers, or loudest, or best soundsystem, I forget which one, are supposedly found at a nightclub called Flex, on the riverside in central Vienna. The most hilarious thing is that the club itself is actually pretty small! I tell you, those bad boys are really loud. Well out of proportion there!

We went in search of this place, with some dubious google maps directions and an even more dubious cabby, and at last we were thrown out of the cab “Pretty sure its down there” and pointed toward some stairs leading down below a bridge, not seeing or hearing much partying at all. We saw a few people headed that way, and thought “seems legit” and followed. At the bottom of the stairs was what looked like a large beergarden, minus the garden. So really a whole bunch of people at picnic tables, and a bar opening out. This can’t be right, we thought, its really quiet. Eventually we spotted the door, with the glittering “Flex” over the top and realised that upstairs must be the pre-game area. Once we got downstairs our suspicions were confirmed – the drinks were significantly more expensive downstairs than up.

Inside, it was loud, like don’t even try to shout at eachother loud. To get a drink you had to point and gesture wildly and then drink whatever the bartender gave you because it was just too difficult to try to tell them it wasn’t what you wanted. The order of the day was some particularly grimy dubstep, and you definitely need to be a tad inebriated to enjoy a night of that at serious decibels! Many, of course, had taken that to whole new levels, and there were definitely a few crackpots on multiple combinations of not so legal stimulants. One of which came up to me and tried to bite my shoulder. It was weird. Mum and Dad you’ll be pleased to know those self defence skills came in handy!

There were a couple of weird, old guys, pulling out some nutty dance moves. This one was my favourite.

Wait no, that was Rob. This guy:

He was cutting shapes so intensely I couldn’t even get a decent photo.

A further observation, as is common with drum n bass/dubstep gigs, was the male:female ratio was well off. Uncomfortably so. I’m usually not bothered by that sort of thing, but I was very close to requesting an escort to the bathroom to make sure I got back again OK! On that note, some pretty nifty bathroom decorations.

All in all though, a fun night and definitely worth a visit. And for anyone keen to check it out but nervous about the volume, get some free earplugs while you are getting your cheaper drink upstairs!

227. Prague Pub Crawl

I once read an article in the NZ Herald, that apparently someone (residents, local government, not too sure) was complaining about New Zealand tourists travelling to Prague and getting too drunk/making a mess of the town. I can’t seem to find the link, but I thought it was hilarious that people would be complaining about the drunken antics of tourists, when all day whilst wandering through the centre of the city I was being harassed and accosted by people trying to get me to go on their pub crawls.

Such was the fierce competition between them all, that it begun to be quite entertaining hearing their sales pitches. They also had some really ludicrous deals. Apart from the usual free entry to a bunch of bars/clubs and free drinks on arrival, most of them had a two and a half hour “power hour” or “happy hour” where you could drink as much as you wanted. So these salespeople would try to get us signed up and committed right there on the spot, and would be listing what deals they have, how you can drink for longer on their pub crawl, how the other ones all watered down their drinks. My favourite of course was “Come on our pub crawl, we have absinthe.” Really? Your sales pitch is listing what the bar has in stock? At that moment I really felt whoever the complainers were ought to take a long hard look at their tourism industry before pointing the finger at the tourists.

We did the math and decided these pub crawls were much more efficient than drinking in the hostel bar, or even buying our own drinks and off we went. It was loads of fun, they did have absinthe, it was watered down, and we met a hilarious bunch of UK students, who as a travelling first, rather than say “Oh you’re from New Zealand, that’s where Lord of The Rings is from” or “Ohhhh like Flight of the Conchords” instead rolled with “That’s where Paul Henry is from!” and the hilarious quotes ensued. We also taught them all our favourite drinking game “fingers” and had a good laugh at how Fraser turned into Zach Galifianakis when he got all sweaty and swooshed his hair to the side.

We went to some really cool bars – from a Cold War themed one (with hilarious fashion magazines from Prague in the 80s decorating the bathrooms), to the creatively named “Music Bar” which had many levels and areas which were also quite well designed – from murals of famous artists to table tops covered in photos. All in all it was a fun night, and I definitely recommend a bar tour run by whoever has the best sales pitch at the time.

192. Clubbing in Berlin

Our first nightclub attempt, Berghain, had failed, but that wasn’t to deter us! This was, however, our first realisation that when someone says “Go out in this area, that’s where all the bars are” it actually isn’t that useful. The other difficulty in Berlin is that given it’s history of being so divided, there really is no main centre or one area to go out in.

We were told by our helpful hostel receptionist (which later would prove to be a rare luxury compared to other hostels and hotels) that Friederichshain was the place to go. So we headed off in that direction. The problem when we arrived was that it was a lot more spread out than we had anticipated. Given the advice to just head there and we will find the bars, we were envisaging it being a Courtney Place type scenario where they were all quite central. But alas, it was a really spread out area, and it was quite difficult to tell if the bars were any good. Especially when they all had cover charges so you don’t want to part with your euros for a crappy bar. We sat down at one that had a cocktail special, but it was pretty average and we were getting tired, so decided to call it a night. As we were headed back to Westbahnhof station, however, we stumbled across what seemed to be an old railyard, with bars in all these old wharehouses, many of which were covered in really cool graffiti, political statements and art. It turned out to be quite the find, with loads of cool bars and beer gardens with novel themes and far more reasonable prices. We stopped in at a few of them, and it was just such a cool, laid back and novel atmosphere compared to most cities which try to have the classiest bar or compared to really intense clubbing districts.

191. Berghain

One of the boys was particularly keen on a club we’d had recommended to us, which goes by the name of Berghain. From what we had been told, it was one of the biggest dance clubs in Berlin, but once it made it into the Lonely Planet (a “must do” in Berlin), the locals, staff and owners were really unimpressed about it becoming a watered down tourist destination. So we had been told it was quite exclusive, but who gets in and who doesn’t is somewhat arbitrary (apart from those looking overly touristy). It wasn’t too far from the area we were going to head out to on a Saturday night, so we thought we would give it a go. It didn’t open until midnight, but there was a garden bar next door where we sat down and had a quite drink. All of a sudden, at about a quarter past 12 (because no-one wanted to be the first one at the party) the garden bar cleared out and there was a giant line to get in. As we got closer to the door, we saw the bouncers look everyone up and down and either point silently inside, or point toward the exit. Definitely no discernible pattern.

About 20-25 people immediately before us were all straight denied, but we got quite excited when we managed to pass the look up and down test. Then the bouncers said something in German, we gave a confused look and were given the point-toward-the-exit. It seems our advice of “you probably won’t get in without a local with you” held true.

We were a bit too busy playing it cool to get any photos, but I definitely regret not taking a picture of what appeared to be the owner of the club – possibly the most hilarious person I have ever seen. He was this overweight, fake tanned, much older man with long grey hair, sunglasses on (at night), loads of piercings, but the best bit was he was squeezed in to these tiny leather pants, and had a very small studded leather vest, not at all covering his large, grey-haired pot belly. And yet he STILL thought he was the coolest thing since sliced bread. I bet in the eighties he was king of the Berlin techno club scene, but it is just plain awkward and unfortunate now!

*Update*  –  a wee google search provided a photo of the guy in question. Turns out he is one of the bouncers, although when I was there he was swanning in and out barely doing any work… I guess that means he is a “supervisor” these days. Apparently he is a wee bit famous for being all tough and scary looking. I personally still maintain he was the one of the more ridiculous people I have seen of late. And I’m travelling Europe so that’s really saying something.

142. Ping Pong Bar

Also known as Shen Mao, the Ping Pong bar in Aarhus has quickly become our local. It is a truly novel and amazing concept – a tiny little hole in the wall with great music, cheap drinks, and a ping pong table.

The rules are simple, and make for a fun challenge rather than the usual drink/dance combo most bars employ. You can get a paddle for 20kr from the bar, and then at the start of the game anyone can join, and is signalled over by prospective players banging their paddles on the table. When everyone is ready the first person serves, then each person is allowed to hit the ball once, and must very quickly move on afterwards so the next person can have their turn. If you miss, you are out. Eventually the game wittles down to two players, who keep playing until one person is 2 points ahead (according to normal table tennis rules). When it gets below 6 players, people are literally running in circles around the table so they don’t miss a shot! There’s no prize, just the glory/satisfaction, but it is still a whole lot of fun!

They also have some pretty sweet cocktail deals, and I have sinced learned that optimal playing ability is somewhere between cider and Long Island Ice Tea. Or ‘Loong Island Is Tee’ as they call it, with the engrish theme.

42. Fri Bar

As you may have guessed, fri = free. After the Icebar our wallets were feeling a little light, so we went in search of the mystical, magical party-animal mecca. It was a club called ‘Penthouse‘ that supposedly had an open bar, in return for a 100DKK cover charge (about $20), or 150DKK after midnight.

Being from New Zealand, which is incredibly politically correct when it comes to encouraging excessive drinking, I was firmly in the ‘I’ll believe that when I see it’ camp. We rounded the corner of the street and saw a huge line. At that stage I started to think maybe it wasn’t just a rumour. My suspicions were finally confirmed after seeing a poster outside – it was true!

The club has multpile levels and DJs, and at various stages throughout the night there were costumed dancers on a little stage on the main floor. It had a very cool prohibition era theme too, so I suspect drink deals like this aren’t the norm.

Not quite as good as a drag show at Fluffy, but the dancers were pretty good!

As expected, there were a few catches to the deal. There was an extra charge for coat check, which unfortunately is necessary with the amount of layers need outdoors in a Danish winter. The real catches came in with the open bar, however. Unsurprisingly, the free drink choice was limited to beer and shots. The surprise came in when there was a charge for a shot glass. The obvious solution? Having the shots poured directly in to your mouth.

Shotglasses? Who needs those!

A certain someone got way too excited about the free beer