Chapter 20 – The race that stops a nation

Editors note: This chapter has been written by our good friend David Wood who has far more experience writing than the two of us. It’s not often you get to read from the loser’s perspective. 
Berlin: a metropolis rated right up there with Barcelona, Tokyo and Pakenham on all metrics of fun and frivolity. But you have come to the wrong place if you want stories of Lachie, Gem and their friends raving in the legendary club Berghain, or indeed connecting with the renowned local subculture on any level. For this tale largely unfolds in a hostel – and a fairly standard hostel at that.

G and L met us in a park. It was a very beautiful public park. The locals were tossing around Frisbees and greeting the oncoming sunset with some gentle tin action. We, on the other hand, were drinking our park tins furiously to cope with Lachie’s “director’s cut” edition of how the power couple lost their passports in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Those familiar with this blog will know the essential details. If you do not know the story, please take this advice: have easy access to several beers when Lachie tells you this saga in person. You will need plenty. His tale of opaque bureaucracy invokes the spirit of 1984, while running to the length of War and Peace. As with Russian novels, Lachie should have handed out a list of characters before starting, just so that his audience could keep track. Brace yourself for a sordid mixture of incompetent public servants, bemused family members and one shifty Tanzanian bloke on a motorbike.

Souls shaken, we headed out in search of a quick meal (checking everywhere for motorbikes, of course). Any Berlin veteran knows that “a quick meal” directly translates into Berlinese as “doner kebab.” Turkey may have contributed half its national soccer team to Germany, but even that generous cultural donation will never outdo the doner kebab. We introduced Gem to the “doner box,” which is basically a Halal Snack Pack. After raising a quick toast in favour of Pauline Hanson, a long-time proponent of the HSP, we set off to find some club action. Resident Advisor, the most trusted source in electronic music, told us to check out a place offering the following holy trinity: (a) free barbecue (b) free table tennis and (c) free deep house. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, as it turned out, everything –Google Maps pinned this unfindable club somewhere between a Berlin industrial park and Hungary. We would have had more luck finding Hogwarts. For reasons unknown, we then threw our lot in with Resident Advisor again and went to see some Italian DJ at the highly recommended “Minimal Bar.” To be fair, this small neighbourhood spot delivered on its name – we treated ourselves to some minimal house. Unfortunately the vibe was even more minimal, because there were minimal patrons occupying the minimal amount of floor space. Realising that the atmosphere would not improve, we left Minimal Bar with minimal delay.

Never fear – it is Day 2, and the notorious hostel is now here. Lachie and Gem reacted to the previous night’s orienteering fiasco by taking no chances – they woke up, and immediately set their internal sat-navs for the hostel bar. They found the bar with no trouble, and never let it out of sight. That said, Lachie still racked up quite an impressive number of steps on his iPhone, with plenty of return trips to the bar. Old mate Sam the Kiwi joined us for what steadily became a boozy and pointless day. We also had Tony the Likeable onboard, a good mate of mine from Texas. Sadly, everyone’s favourite cowboy was still recovering from a party injury sustained the week before during a mental night out in Paris. He followed doctor’s orders and resisted the tin.

Everything went smoothly until Lachie invoked the spirit of the free world’s benevolent leader. Lach concocted a Trumpian story based entirely on “alternative facts,” claiming that I had drunkenly challenged him to a sprinting race. These accusations hurt me because I am a humble man, and would never think of denigrating a good friend like this. With honour at stake, we went out into the street and tried to settle the controversy on the track. Trump himself would have approved of Lachie’s next moves.

1. Australian-Italian intervention (read: Gem) tampered with the photo finish technology, making it appear as if her unscrupulous husband had nosed me out. Very unfair!

2. Lachie planted Sam the Kiwi in the race, purely so that he would support the verdict in favour of Lachie’s “victory.” VOTER FRAUD!

3. Even if we accept the popular verdict that Lachie crossed the finishing line first (which we should not), I feel as though I won the mind games. Just like winning the Electoral College, mind games are much more difficult and sophisticated than the popular vote!

Tony the Texan had celebrated his first trip to Berlin by booking not one, but two hostel beds – in two separate hostels. This small detail added salt to his wounds later that evening, because he chose the wrong hostel to sleep in – ours. We all set our watches to LGMST (Lachie Gem Marriage Standard Time) by going to bed at some ungodly hour, like 10.30pm. Little did we know that our hostel’s courtyard worked like the world’s biggest amplifier, meaning that we enjoyed the hostel bar’s trash selection of music on full blast, all night. At around 3.00am, I genuinely considered taking my mattress to the main room at the Berghain, or to a runway at nearby Tegel International Airport. Tony wanted to shut down the madness ahead of his early morning flight but, in his words, “then they started playing Queen and I was cool with that.”

I could try to spin tales about the rest of our “adventures” – which included trips to a camping store, a Japanese restaurant with dodgy tiling and the abnormally wide boulevards of East Berlin (note: Soviet-influenced architecture is garbage) – but I would be wasting your time. We can wrap up by saying that you will enjoy a lot of new and fascinating experiences when you visit Berlin. Just don’t go with us.

Love G&L and The D Wood



2 Replies to “Chapter 20 – The race that stops a nation”

  1. By far the best blog so far: the nuanced insight is astounding and the pop culture references are very to my liking. Keep up the great work!!!


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