Düsseldorf, Balotelli and Klutegate

HANS ON’s latest dispatch from Germany on the height of all tragedies – the ruined night out.

balotelli düsseldorf germany hans klute klutegate on pepper spray why always me?

While past dispatches from Germany have been concerned with the (sometimes qualified) thrills of year abroad life, there do come times where events beyond your control contrive to give you a metaphorical, or not, smack in the face, to which the only semi-dignified response is to channel the maverick of the moment, Mario Balotelli and simply ask “Why always me?”


It is even more infuriating for this to happen when on a night out – an activity that we all expect to be enjoyable, whether making the most of Fresher’s or seeking a release from Finals revision.


In my case, the bars and clubs of Düsseldorf have provided some amazing nights over the year, but last weekend provided my own Balotelli moment.


On Friday I was out with a group of Germans for a friend’s birthday. All was going swimmingly, with a bar crawl – the Düsseldorf Old Town is arguably (almost) better than the Bailey for this with around 200 bars and pubs within a square mile – before ending up at a club.


Until suddenly, with the night winding down, I find myself suddenly being slapped, bitten, and to top it all off pepper sprayed by a randomer while standing outside, who claimed that I had left without paying at the bar she worked at.


Yes, I got attacked by a woman. But I’ll try and save some sort of face in pointing out that this was a German barmaid, with guns bigger than mine from carrying silly amounts of beer around all day.


And she was f**king FURIOUS, bringing to mind a rhino protecting her young. What I just couldn’t understand was why she had pepper spray on her, being pretty much physically unrapeable, and not exactly a looker to put it mildly.


Although it turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, and I managed to just about close my eyes before the mace got to them, the half-hearted, pissed apologies did little for my quite understandably irritated mood, and the bite-marks on my forearm. Why always me?


However, sufficiently recovered the next day, it did bring my thoughts back to Durham. Developments in the city’s nightlife have also threatened to ruin our evenings out, with the majority of our clubs facing severe financial difficulties, the matter coming to a head with both Klute and Studio only saved by new management in 2012.


Surely something to be grateful for? This seems hard to believe in face of the vitriolic backlash on Facebook. 


I have kept track of “Klutegate” from Germany, and while I won’t wade into the debate on dress code, décor or quaddies, one of the chief grievances given by many protestors is that non-students will be now allowed in. I assume that this is largely through concerns that the volatile mix of town and gown will result in increasing friction and violence, or pure snobbishness.


Being able to approach the subject at something of a distance – 1000km give or take – it’s interesting to see this fear or intolerance being expressed. Having been out with some student friends on Friday, and having been attacked by a Düsseldorf ‘Asi’, I guess that there are some parallels to be drawn that could support this line of argument.


However, that would be missing the crucial point that this evening is noteworthy exactly because of the solitary instance of stress and violence. At any rate, it happened outside of any premises, something which could also have happened in Durham too, but such cases are, like mine, very much in the minority.


What difference now that Klute and Studio will run non-exclusive nights? It is the first time this year in Germany that I have even considered that I am going out with fellow students to places where non-students also are, be they builders, accountants or, err, barmaids. Everyone gets on with their own thing, enjoying the nights as the welcome release that they should be.


What’s to say that it can’t be the same in Durham? It's one thing to have a night out ruined, another completely to be without one TO ruin.