Rooms and luggage sorted out, it was time for some action.
"So, a couple of hours in the city then back to the Messe to register?" I confirmed.
"Sounds good." Steffi agreed.
" Let's do it!" Anna enthused.
We piled out of the hotel and across to the tram stop where we just caught one heading into the centre. You might expect the route to be quite direct but the journey took nearly ten minutes before we hopped off at Neumarkt.
"Anyone know the way to the shops?" Pia asked.
"This map says it's the other side of the square, Schildergasse?"
"Come on then, time's a - wasting!" Anna set off with the rest of us trailing in her wake."
And so started a whirlwind blitz of Köln's most famous shopping street. I have been before, several times, but today was a different experience, for starters we had arrived at the 'far end' of the pedestrianised zone. Might not seem like much but your perception of the place changes by where you arrive, I barely recognised it.
Köln being Köln the street was populated by about fifty percent 'locals' and the balance a cosmopolitan mix of foreigners, Belgian, Dutch, French and British mostly but North American, Italian and Spanish were in the mix too besides the usual flocks of Japanese photographing everything in sight!
"Grockles (1)." I sighed as we negotiated our way past yet another group of dawdling visitors.
"What?" Con asked.
"Grockles, it's what we call sightseers back in England."
"Grockall, I like it" Nen giggled.
By the time we reached the Kaufhaus we'd hit Pimkie, H&M and even Biba as we made our way towards the Dom and River.
"Ot oh, Gaby alert." Con suggested.
"Where?" Anna asked.
Con just pointed across the street to where a light plane was embedded in a shop front.
"Meet you in the Dinea?" I offered.
Like I said, I've been before and behind the aircraft sits the Kölner Spielwaren, the cities best-known toy and model store.
Pia just rolled her eyes, " Fifteen minutes?"
They know me of old and even if it's not a patch on that place Ron took me to last Saturday you have to like , take a look.
"You and those plastic cars, you sure you're a girl?" Brid mused.
Leading question there of course.
"Leave her alone, we'll see you in twenty." Anna confirmed.
"You want schnitzel?" Steff asked.
"Sounds good to me."
We went our separate ways and I was soon lost on the top floor, perusing the array of stuff from my favourite model suppliers. Of course I hadn't come to buy anything but, well you kinda have to and inspired by the earlier conversation re 'grockles' an idea came to me for Dad's Chrimbo prezzie. Money exchanged hands and I was only five minutes late getting to the Dinea.
“Told you she wasn't lost.” Pia chortled.
“Well I reckon I still win the bet, I know a Spielhaus bag when I see one.” Steff stated.
“So wotcha buy , Gabs?” Nena enquired.
“Nothing much,” I sat down next to a plate of schnitzel, Rotkohl and fries, “just something for Christmas.”
“Christmas? Its only July!” Bridget exclaimed.
“So I like to plan ahead.”
“No kidding!” Pia joined the fray.
“So? What is it?” Anna asked.
“Here.” I passed the bag over, my food was going cold!
Anna extracted my purchase as I tucked into the pile of food.
“An autobus? Thought you just had cars?”
“‘Old oo, ‘sfor ‘esent.” I got out around a mouthful of Rotkohl.
In case you are interested, which I doubt, it's a model of a touring coach like people go on trips and holidays on.
“So what're we doing after gutso has finished stuffing her face?” Con asked.
“We can go down to the river, walk along to the Dom and cross over to the Messe.” Anna told us.
“Walk?” Pia exclaimed.
“ It's not like it's a long way.” Anna noted.
“Whatever.” Nena sighed in resignation.
I took my time eating that only delayed our departure a further five minutes, soon enough we were back at street level heading down to the river. We ambled along out of the main shopping area, losing most of the foot traffic as we moved further from Schildergasse.
“Hey lets take a look!” Pia suggested.
I hadn't been concentrating but my attention was grabbed. ‘Dieters Festartikel' the sign stated, a look in the window revealed a costume shop, interesting.
And so we trouped inside to survey their wares.
I think I told you about the costume place in Sheffield, well this is on a different level. For starters the costumes aren't for hire, no indeedy these are to buy you see in this area they really are keen on Karneval and everyone has their own. Inside Dieters you can buy everything from wigs and makeup to full on costumes that wouldn't be out of place on the stage.
“I have so got to buy these.” Brid stated brandishing some white hold-ups featuring a red bow front and top.
“And just where are you going to wear those?” Steff enquired.
“I'll think of somewhere, you have to admit they're cute.”
“And nine euros.” Pia put in.
“Nine!” Brid had them back on the shelf in double quick time.
“Oh wow.” Con's voice stated from around the corner.
“Wassup , Con?”
“I am so buying this.”
“What?” I joined her in an aisle full of perücke (2).
“This,” she held up a bag containing a cute red bob, “it'll go great with my costume for tomorrow.”
“Go for it, the green looks good too.”
“That'd clash with my eyes!” she giggled.
“If you say so.”
Over the years Drew had certainly found himself at the wrong end of far too many of his friends 'good ideas'. Not that he seemed to mind too much but there certainly were some hare brained capers.
"You ready yet , Gab?" Anna enquired through the door.
"We'll wait for you downstairs then."
The main door closed with a solid thud and Drew let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He was dressed and ready but he certainly wasn't ready in his head, no he was far from ready on that score. With a sigh he opened the bathroom door and walked back into the main room, plopping himself down onto his bed.
He wasn't even sure why he was in such a fugue; it had descended as he started changing for the first session and left him feeling well out of sorts. Thinking about it it started right after Connie finished telling them about an incident with Bernie at the school dance, shortly before she went back to England.
His phoned chirped from his handbag.
"Mushi mushi!" he forced a cheerful response.
"Ha! So you are awake, come on or we'll miss the next shuttle." Anna huffed.
"On my way." he ended the call, gathered his stuff and headed for the lift.
Whilst the RPG wasn't a pure cosplay event there were a considerable number of players in costumes ranging from Super Mario to Lord of the Rings and everything in between. The girls had decided to avoid specific costuming and so they were wearing a selection of Japanese style school uniforms and gothic Lolita outfits. Having accumulated and somehow kept various outfits over the last couple of years Drew was doing a more than passable Lolita which, in his head at least, was less girly than say Nena's short pleated skirt and sailor style top.
“Pictures?” a spotty youth asked.
“Yeah why not.” Drew agreed, it was after all part of the whole con thing.
He was temporarily on his own, the others having gone ahead while he perused a stall full of imported manga.
“Momo from Kamikaze Girls, right?”
“Er I think you mean Momoko?”
“Yeah that's the one.”
“Not particularly, so how do you want this?”
“Well um…” he clearly wasn't used to this.
“How about I do some poses and you take some pics?”
“Er sure, Freddy, by the way.”
Posing for Freddy escalated to a session lasting some twenty minutes as other ‘David Bailey's' (3) joined in asking for different poses. By the time I called it a day I was out of my earlier fugue and ready to enjoy myself.
“Where've you been?” Con asked from beneath her new headgear.
“Just doing a few pics.”
“She was great!” Freddy chirped from behind me.
“Who's this?” Con asked.
“Freddy, he was taking the pics, Freddy, my best friend Connie.”
“Cool outfit Connie!” he enthused.
And so we gained an extra member to Drew's Con Klub! The three of us set off to explore the immense halls that house the RPG event and all its weird and wonderful contents.
1 A not particularly respectful term used by some in the UK to describe a certain class of sightseer - usually the ones walking into your pictures or dawdling on restricted paths!
3 Famous English photographer of the 60's and 70's
to be continued....
© Maddy Bell 16.12.2011