Working at LNOF, one of the perks of the job is getting to head abroad to check out our weekend locations and last weekend we headed to Germany, visiting Berlin and preparing for the launch of one of our brand new locations – Hamburg.
Caption competition for my facial expression - answers on a postcard please!
We go out there and liaise with our suppliers, meet our lovely tour guides, contract accommodation and road-test activities – we go and experience the city first-hand so that we know it inside and out and can advise our groups on all of that plus the little things - like where to go when you’re wanting another club at 4am, which bars have the cheapest drinks and the loudest crowds or the best way to get home at the end of the night.
Some of this research is more taxing than others, mind – I can’t pretend that the Love Boat Strip Show was as much of a challenge as riding a beer bike down a main road in rush hour. Here’s a little snapshot of what we got up to when LNOF went on tour to Germany…
We look chuffed now - we were knackered after about 15 minutes
We arrived in Berlin in the afternoon and decided we should start as we meant to go on – embracing the German stereotype of drinking an abundance of beer. We arranged to try out one of our most popular stag activities – the beer bike. On an hour and a half trip you get 10 litres of beer and unlike some of our other locations, such as Amsterdam’s pedestrianised streets, in Germany you take your beer bike onto the main roads. Good fun, but pretty shit-scary with lorries whizzing past you during rush hour. You end up at the famous Brandenburg Gate, so it’s a great photo opportunity for stag groups.
We ate dinner at Hofbrahaus, a German beer hall; live music, steins of beer (that’s two litres) and traditional food. The atmosphere is fantastic and way more relaxed than you get back home. Packed with big groups making lots of noise, you’d expect bouncers to kick them out in England, but the rowdiness was fully embraced here and everyone was in good spirits.
Berlin’s nightlife is one of the most diverse and vibrant in Europe and the clubs aren’t required to close at a fixed time at the weekend, which is music to the ears of us Brits who are used to being turfed out onto the streets at some ungodly hour. Berlin has become super-trendy in the last few years, especially East Berlin, where you’ll find the rising urban hipster scene; obscure warehouse parties, bands you’ve never heard of and men with experimental facial hair. We were taken on a guided bar crawl through central Alexanderplatz, which is more commercial and full of bars playing mainstream music.
Rush Hour is one of the city’s most popular lap clubs. This was my low point (or high point, depending on how you look at it) of the weekend as the rest of the LNOF lot arranged for me to be the victim of a stag stitch-up (lamely passed off as ‘research’) and I found myself dragged up onto the stage by a dancer, ball-gag whacked in my mouth and got my chest (and, erm, more) unwillingly waxed. Apparently, this was hilarious. Cheers for that, guys!
Last stop of the night was The Matrix club. It’s massive; four floors and lots of feel-good cheesy pop and R&B. The clubs in Berlin are generally more relaxed than over here – the girls dress really casually, a world away from the Geordie lasses in their 10-inch heels, spray-tans and false lashes (sorry, lasses!). There was way more men than women here too – a club that’s probably better for the hens!
Don't mess with Alex, Garry...
We started the day in just the relaxing fashion you dream of when you’ve got a thumping hangover – by shooting loads of shit in an eerie cold war bunker in the middle of a forest. Not quite as sinister as it sounds – we were trying out one of our most popular stag activities with one of our shooting packages. There are two other shooting ranges in central Berlin and although this one is slightly off the beaten track, it’s the best by far. Following that we went on a tour of apartments and hostels and contracted a load more accommodation for our groups.
Our evening meal stayed in the vein of traditional German food – and we didn’t do things by halves. We were treated to a hog roast – one
of the new offerings for our stag parties – and for want of a more delicate way of putting it, the pig had been lovingly slaughtered for us the day before our arrival. Not for the faint-hearted this, and naturally not to everyone’s tastes, but it was amazing for us bunch of carnivores – delicious and served with the traditional accompaniments of roasted carrots and saurkrat (pickled cabbage).
We had a guided bar crawl around the Friedrichshain area, just as our stag groups would do, where you’re taken to 3-4 bars – as a quiet
shopping district by day, we couldn’t imagine how this would be for nightlife, but it was a really lively area full of quirky little bars. Better for small groups though, as you won’t find any big commercial venues here.
We ended the night at E4, one of Berlin’s high-end clubs. Another massive venue set over four floors and we (well, Garry and I) were pretty chuffed to see the male to female ratio had flipped from last night and we were looking at 5:1 women to men. It’s also good value to buy bottles of spirits here, unlike the UK where you pay hundreds for a bottle of Smirnoff in the VIP area, so you might as well buy a bottle for your table – usually served with Red Bull.
Yup, the word 'schnitzel' never stopped being funny
We arrived in Hamburg! This is our latest addition to our stag weekend locations, chosen for its cultured city living by day and its playboy’s playground by night. Split into seven boroughs, Hamburg is half the size of London but six times the size of Paris. It’s known as Germany’s centre for shopping and culture, with over 50 museums and over 30 theatres. It’s also a green city with over 1/5th of Hamburg being green space, and of course, The Beatles began their careers playing here, for extra cool points.
We kicked off the day with hot rods (not as rude as they sound!) – they’re like small go kart-like cars that you drive on the road, very light at 90 kilos and can reach 100km in speed. This was followed by a trip on the Love Boat (this one is as rude as it sounds!) – a private cruise for the group, you get an hour on the water with a 15-minute choreographed strip show, with special attention for the stag. Garry was our stag. He ended up with his chest covered in wax. Don’t ask.
Kicked off the evening with a traditional German meal of schnitzel (largely because we all liked the word ‘schnitzel’) at a restaurant located on the Reeperbhan. The Reeperbhan is essentially the Red Light District. Prostitution is legal in Germany, but it is government controlled. You’ll see lots of prostitutes if you're on a bar crawl around there, but it’s controlled and respectful and if you’re with a woman then you won’t be approached. However, there is one street, the Herbertstraße, which women aren’t allowed to walk down – it’s a territory thing. There are 100 windows of posing ladies, but they get pretty annoyed by women on their turf, so keep out, lasses!
We ended the night at Dollhouse, Hamburg’s number 1 lapclub – there are male and female strippers, all very high-class
and excellent dancers – basically they’re stunning. We use a couple of other strip clubs in Hamburg too - Pearl’s Club and Susi’s Show Bar - but be advised to skip the rest or you’ll be ripped off as a bunch of tourists.
Back in Geordieland now... and we're still recovering to be honest. Check out our gallery below and my journey of facial expressions as we go...
Beer, Love Boats and Schnitzel