Rostock, June 2020

I blame it all on being bored. Very bored. Two months of boredom.

And not soaring through the skies in Italy.

Otherwise I have no proper justification for this.

I never got the point of the hipster or 'post-modern' idea of embracing stuff that is boring, ugly, old-fashioned and tasteless, and pretending that these things are cool now, as 'we' are doing it in an ironic way now, so we're not boring old farts, but young urban trend setters with an innovative look at things.

I'm talking about stuff like paintings of gypsy maidens, cardboard suitcases, glasses with horn-rimmed frames, camper trailers, vintage cameras on a strap around the neck, garden gnomes, lawn flamingos, checkered jackets and similar stuff.

To be clear: I'm not complaining about people who do these things. If you like those things, go ahead and have them.

What irks me are the people who know these things are not hip, but wear them anyway to make some vague statement and pretend that this is cool, because they pretend they are cool and due to that, everything them surround themselves with is cool too. It doesn't make any sense to me. The only thing that it seems to show is that their coolness is pretty much in doubt.

So, when I told my sister where I'll spend a night, her first reaction was "You? Sleep in a camper trailer? But why?"

Like I said - bored!

It didn't even make sense as far as the location was concerned. I might as well stayed at home, given that the 'hotel' was about 300 meters down the road from where I live.

But after coming back from Sweden at the end of March, I had been, essentially, staying at home. And spent my time sitting in front of the computer or in the bed (with some relaxing time in the warm bath tub in between). A short walk to get a coffee in the morning, about once a week a slightly longer walk to go shopping, but that's it. (Although it got better once more restaurants offered take-away and re-opened.)

Another point of frustration was that I was supposed to be at a meeting in Rome in early June 2020. Which had been cancelled (for obvious reasons). I had been looking forward to that meeting (and a couple of vacation days before or after it), especially since there are two interesting ziplines not far from Rome. For both of them the season hadn't started yet when I was in Rome in February, so I had been looking forward to 'fly' on both of them in June.

But, as the lyrics go, I was "far from flying high in clear blue skies" in Rome, and instead had to be, metaphorically, hiding in my "hole in the ground" at home.

I was looking for somewhere, anywhere to go.

Some time ago, I had read about 'interesting' hotels in Berlin and knew about 'Hüttenpalast', a hotel mostly consisting of old camper trailers. Indoors. So it's not a camp site, but two old factory floors, with camper trailers (and some other sleeping places) standing in it. They also got a couple of normal hotel rooms available as well.

I had assumed that they were located in some industrial part of the city, as the photos looked a bit 'storage area', but I didn't pay much attention to it.

So when I walked down the street a while ago (to pick up a parcel from a delivery place - the longest walk I had done for a month at that time), I walked by a place called 'Hüttenpalast', which I had seen before. But I always assumed it was a cafe and that the similarity of the name to the hotel was a coincidence. And it finally clicked and I realized that this was the 'breakfast room' for the hotel. And the place wasn't even 'just around the corner' from where I live, but straight down the street (no corners involved).

About a month later, I walked by to have a look whether or when they might be open again. And while I was standing outside, looking for some notice, someone came out and asked whether she could help me. Turned out that they were re-starting business the next day and were currently cleaning up and getting everything in a presentable condition again.

I then decided that about everything would be better than spending another night at home, in the same environment as the last two months, and booked a room for next Friday.

And that's how I ended up spending a night in a 1950's "Dübener Ei" camper trailer.

Duebener Ei Duebener Ei

It's the only camper at Hüttenpalast that is not on ground level. It's on top of a frame and sort of couch hangs down from the frame, next to a bookshelf, so you can do some relaxed reading before you retire 'upstairs'.

Lounge level Sleeping room

Many of the camper trailers there have some sort of 'outside seating area', as the trailers are all configured for sleeping. In most cases, the inside of camper trailers can be reconfigured, so that users have a 'seating area' with a table during the day, which can be stowed away at night, when the beds are folded out. As this is a bit silly in a hotel, the trailers are permanently set-up in 'night mode', so seating is provided elsewhere.

Camper trailer at Huettenpalast Camper trailer at Huettenpalast Camper trailer at Huettenpalast Camper trailer at Huettenpalast

The nice thing about having the camper trailers inside the hotel (besides creating an unusual place to visit) is that it also keeps them off the streets.

It's amazing how flimsy some of them are. From far, they look a bit like oddly shaped cars, but close up most of them seem to be made from cardboard. Well, not exactly cardboard, but hardboard, like the back wall of the cupboards in my kitchen or the backing material for framed pictures. Thin enough to make you worry that you might inadvertedly stretch an arm while asleep and push one of the walls out.

But enough of this. It's more interesting to stay in an indoor camper trailers than in a regular hotel. But that's about all there is to it.

And I didn't notice it while I was there, but only noticed it on the pictures - they even have garden gnomes.

Camper trailer with garden gnomes

I really blame my staying there on being bored stupid.

To sleep somewhere unusual that's a bit farther away (so it involved actual travel), I went to Rostock.

There's company that has a number of 'sleep cubes', which they put in unusual places, where you're normally not allowed to spend the night in.

Sleep cube

Here, everything is about 'location'.

They got about 60 of their cubes in different locations (which change from time to time), with typically only one cube per location, so you have the whole place exclusively to yourself.

Some of them are in botanic gardens, some on scenic spots, some on the grounds of castle ruins, some near or in animal enclosures (depending on the type of animal). There's one in an indoor go-kart track and one in a furniture store.

You can, literally, spend a night in a museum.

I spent a night on a decommissioned freighter ship.

The "Dresden" is a freighter ship that was built in 1957 in Rostock. It went into service for about a decade before it developed engine problems. As repairs would have been to expensive, the ship was permanently moved to the pier in Rostock and used as the location for the maritime museum.

That the location of the 'sleep cube' was in Rostock seemed somehow appropriate.

When the Corona restrictions started, I was in Sweden and I couldn't get a flight back home. So I rented a car, drove down to Trelleborg and took a ferry to Rostock (and then a second rental car to drive home). So, in a certain sense, Rostock was the last place I had been to before I entered the 'Corona indoor season'. It felt kind of proper that this would be the first place to travel to afterwards. (Not that it mattered much to me - if I had gotten the chance to fly to Seoul, I wouldn't have gone "Oh, no, too bad, I have to go to Rostock first." - but when it happened to be Rostock where the most convenient 'sleep cube' was located, it had a pleasing symmetry.)

The 'sleep cube' was on the outside area of the upper deck.

Sleep cube on board of the Dresden Sleep cube on board of the Dresden

When I was there, the museum closed at 5 pm. After that, I had the ship, essentially, to myself.

At least the outside of it.

The museum itself, which is indoors, has an alarm system, so I wasn't allowed to go inside. (Except for a couple of designated rooms, which included a toilet and a shower.)

And I couldn't leave the ship. There is a one-way exit gate for emergencies. If you go through this, you can't get back in. And you raise an alarm.

But the outside areas were all mine.

Deck of the Dresden Deck of the Dresden Deck of the Dresden Flags on the Dresden - they do not spell anything

It's difficult to explain the feeling to be allowed to roam around somewhere all on your own, in an unusual place. It's fun. It's exploration. And after most of two months spent in two rooms, having the run of a large new place is even better.

There was even a cinema.

Well, sort of.

Ad hoc car cinema

As regular cinemas were still closed, they had set up a drive-in cinema on the pier.

It's location was a bit inconvenient, so even at the bow of the ship, I could see only the left side of the screen. Hence a lot more Ingmar Bergman than Humphrey Bogart... (Unfortunately without sound. They did broadcast the audio track on a radio frequency, but I didn't have a radio with me. I was aware that there probably was something in the ship radio station that would have allowed me to listen in, but that room was in a part of the ship that had an alarm system.)

I had brought some food with me (and there's also a box with some snacks and drinks provided with the 'sleep cube'), so after a bit of exploring and fooling around, I found me a nice place on deck and had a leisurely picnic in the evening sun.

The night on board was relaxed. As the 'sleep cube' has a massive frame, consisting of eight large corner pieces, it is stable and doesn't 'flutter' as much in the wind as a tent does. And as there is no draft, it stays surprisingly warm at night.

To my surprise, I was the first one staying there. (In the 'sleep cube'. I suppose people have been sleeping onboard and possibly on-deck back in the 60's when the "Dresden" was still moving around.) I didn't plan on being there on 'premiere night'. (I didn't even find out about it until next morning.)

While the company providing the 'sleep cubes' has been around for some time now, they move them around from time to time to 'fresh' locations. And this was one they hadn't used before. Originally, they had expected guests from early April, but as circumstances didn't allow to provide any sort of accommodations (even though something like this is probably as self-isolating as you can provide), they had to cancel all the bookings. So it was a coincidence that I had been the first one to stay there after they were able to make it available again.

After a long night and a relaxed breakfast (as I wouldn't be able to check-out before 10:30 anyway), I also had some time to look at the museum before moving on.

Part of the exhibition is the ship itself, with access to the living quarters, the working areas and the engine room.

Maritime Museum in Rostock Maritime Museum in Rostock

In addition to that, it also houses an exhibition on maritime matters in its freight rooms.

Even though I should be aware of this, it is always a bit surprising how much room ships have.

Part of the surprise is because most of the areas you can 'normally' access on a ship are small rooms and narrow corridors, so it all has a bit of a cramped feeling to it. (And I somehow still seem to think of ships as 'flat' and rarely notice the volume they represent unless it becomes really obvious.)

Engine room of the Dresden Engine room of the Dresden Engine room of the Dresden

(At some point I had wondered how they have gotten the larger exhibition pieces in there, as the doors were too small for them. So I considered for a second that they might have disassembled and reassembled them, before I realized that I was completely thinking along the wrong lines. That thing used to be a freighter! The simply had opened up the roof and lowered the museums pieces inside. They could have easily exhibited mid-sized airplanes without having to worry about how to get them in.)

But in the early afternoon, it was really time to leave the "Dresden" in Rostock.

Time to drive home and hole up again (but presumably for a somewhat shorter time than before).

And I took the long way and visited the "Bungsberg", but more about that detour is here.

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