‘That’s what remains of old Dresden,’ declares the croaky Namibian. He points out a grassy knoll partially obscured by one of the AC/DC tour buses, and lights his umpteenth cigarette of the morning. Spielberg, perched on an upturned beer crate, looks briefly – and quizzically – up from an intimate email to one of his Swedish girlfriends. ‘I thought that hill was where they buried all the people,’ he counters. Hmm, we may need the informed opinion of Gentleman Steve to settle this.
I find Steve at a little after 8 a.m., ferreting in the Catering fridge. He tuts plaintively, discarding one soft drink bottle after another. ‘How am I supposed to have a decent Scotch without fizzy water,’ he wails, rather precluding further interview. When I do get him chatting however, his effervescence is directed more toward the nearby Erotic Car Wash than the bombings of ’45. ‘There’s also an Erotic Diesel Station on the A9 to Leipzig,’ he gushes, warming to a familiar lascivious theme. ‘When you apply the truck’s exhaust brake, the engine goes “aaaaaah”.’ Oh, very droll.
So what exactly defines an Erotic Car Wash? And how many of us do you think they’d allow in a vehicle whilst flaxen-haired, libidinous beauties work feverishly with a sponge? As Dresden, dubbed ‘Florence on the Elbe’, was the birthplace of that splendid invention, the bra, these are pertinent questions indeed. And I’m off to answer them before exploring the city in earnest. You see, either we could squeeze a dozen of us in a truck for this Erotic washing or, thinking well outside the box, I’m tempted to run the bicycle through for the full, bespoke treatment. ‘That’s the spot, keep polishing my crossbar until…’
The Wash, as it happens, turns out to be elusive. Adverts are posted all around the edges of the city, yet, standing atop my saddle, ineffectually peering over corrugated fences like a Peeping Tom, amounts to disappointment. On each occasion, rather than happening upon busty, aberrant nubile women, their lustrous, soaped locks glistening in a light breeze, there is nothing. Not even a poorly-filled bra. A few disused garages perhaps, and a thistle or three, but little else. The world is a pitiless beast, a cruel, merciless tease.
Sagging despondently over a cup of tea, a similarly stymied Alice approaches. His trouble however, is with technology. ‘We’ve got three fifty-year-old men here trying to copy pictures onto a memory stick,’ he says gloomily. ‘And it ain’t ‘appening. We ain’t got a clue what we’re doing.’ I follow him obligingly onto a tour bus, into that air-conditioned, soundproofed bliss. Ah, now I suppose you should know a little about the buses..
When the crew finish dismantling AC/DC’s gear, and the last trailer door closes, where do you think they go? Well, I meant after the showers. Yes, they repair thither, winding down in one of the bus’s two lounges, opening alcoholic bottles as though fearing the imminent return of Prohibition. Or, if feeling a little peeky, they may toddle straight up the stairs to bed for the journey overnight, without so much as an Ovaltine.
Each tour bus – we have eight on the AC/DC tour – is equipped with something like a dozen single occupancy beds upstairs (plus a DVD chill-out lounge); downstairs is another recreational area with a kitchenette. Oh, and the suspension system is far superior to that of trucks – it has to be, so that crew can arrive at the next venue refreshed, ready to set up the next show.
As I pop the photos on to Alice’s newly-issued AC/DC memory stick, he opens and closes his mouth in befuddlement and scratches his knee. ‘How does he do that?’ he asks the bus drivers. ‘Just look at him copying and pasting like a blooming clever clogs.’ Bluffing mission accomplished, it seems. He still has no idea that I couldn’t tell you the difference between Alt F5 and a terabyte.
So, I can finally think about cycling into Dresden, a remarkably attractive city rising like a phoenix out of the ashes. Literally. Well, the ashes bit, at least: the Brits totally flattened this city in World War Two. 22,000 square kilometres of rubble has gradually been rebuilt, using around a third of the original stones, restoring Dresden to its former glories. Here is a view of ‘Europe’s balcony’ from the north side of the Elbe.
Oh, I don’t believe it. Attempting to carry three bottles of water and a cup of tea is simply stupid. A full half an hour is now spent deciding whether the tea will stain, or whether short trousers might be the thing. Mind you, it looks awfully cloudy for a whole afternoon in Dresden with exposed shins…