Just imagine this: I depart Prague at 11:00 on Saturday and am scheduled to arrive in Frankfurt at 12:20.  I have forty minutes to connect to the flight to Hamburg. Having arrived from Czechoslovakia meant I would have to go through passport control and negotiate my way through the sprawling monster – that is Frankfurt International Airport – to get to the domestic departure. But I make it, just in the nick of time. I arrive in Hamburg at around 14:15. Since my baggage is checked in from a non-EU country, however perfunctory, it is still subject to the customs inspection.  I have the train to catch at 15:29 from Hamburg Altona to Westerland-Sylt. To make it across the city to the train station in just less than an hour in the afternoon traffic in itself is daunting. But I just can’t afford to think in those terms. Because I have promised my dear friend and fellow Scorpio, Andreas Odenwald – ex-editor-in-chief of the German edition, that I will be on the island of Sylt for his 50th birthday celebrations.  And so I am. I make every connection, tight as they were.  If that meant me sprinting from one plane to another, nervously rubbing my hands together while the cab sped along Hamburg streets, buying my ticket and making onboard the train just minutes before it slithers out of the platform. Arriving triumphantly in Westerland-Sylt on time at 18:17.

Andreas is waiting  for me on the platform. He gives me a hug: amigo! He says. Hotel Stadt Hamburg – where the shenanigans has already began – is only a short walk from the station.  I check in, park my suitcase in my room and come down for a quick beer and greet everyone who’s there. There are about fifteen to twenty guests occupying the dining room. Some of them I already know. Andreas’ life-long partner, Gudrun Thiel, Rainer Wörtmann and his wife Renate. And I see two very pretty ladies, they look quite familiar, but am not sure. They both smile at me and go, Eva Peters, Bettina von Beaust.  Of course. They must realize that my memory of them was from 1975, when both of them were ever so schlank, so their now Bottero-esque figures have me confused. But they seem comfortable in their evolution, which puts me at ease. There is no one else I recognize or remember, except in my agenda, there is a little note that says: meet Brigitte – interesting!  And like the saxophone aficionado – the birthday boy would have said: let the good times roll. And so they do. Between apèritif and digestif, the delicious home-made pasta with button mushrooms and wild duck in pepper crème sauce are washed down with appropriate wine pairings. And still waiting eagerly is the birthday cake with the colorful saxophone motif.

The clock is already ticking beyond 03:30 in the morning. I have the train to catch at 05:50 to take me back to Hamburg. Waiting for me at the station would be Michelle and Rüdiger, with whom I will have  breakfast before catching the Lufthansa flight at 10:45 to Frankfurt, connect with their Chicago bound flight at 13:00, and in the evening meet up with our visiting Dutch publisher, Meinard Carper and his advertising director, Auke Visser.

‘I guess, I can take a quick nap and a shower before catching that train.’ I say to no one in particular. By then all of us are wasted and more than ready to hit the sack. But nope! Leave it on Rainer.

‘It doesn’t make any sense to go to bed now. How about another bottle of champagne? And then we’ll walk you to the station.’

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