When the Filmfest Hamburg committee chose the image of multiple yellow rain jackets for their program cover, I am sure they didn’t know the weather gods were watching joyfully from above. On Thursday, October 7 came the announcement that Storm Xavier was coming in full force and we had better batten down the hatches. The rain and wind exceeded 120 km/hrs as the temperatures sunk to the lower teens celsius. Trees fell over like chopsticks, people were stranded since the bus, trains, and planes were either delayed or blocked by some obstruction. The Hamburg fire department had over 700 calls in fewer than two hours. Not to mention that several people had died and many more were injured. All this was happening while I picked up my accreditation for the festival and bought a ticket for Blade Runner2049 hoping to be accompanied by my colleague Rose who was coming from Berlin. It wasn’t until my husband called and said that the U1 was not operable and I had to rescue him that I realized the extent of the damage. As I drove passed fallen trees and excessive water puddles, I became more concerned. My son was traveling to Mecklenburg by bus. Would he make it? What happened to Rose? Come to think of it, where are my other colleagues? I hadn’t seen any of them and I didn’t have any messages until later, verifying where they were and what had happened to them. Feeling helpless but needing something to distract me since there was nothing I could do, I decided to go to the movie anyway. I just hoped that the next day everything would pass but that was not the case. Here are their stories:
It all started calmly enough. The ICE 1712 left Berlin Hauptbahnhof promptly at 13:42 with an expected arrival in Hamburg Dammtor by 15:30. Or so they said. However, shortly after leaving Berlin Spandau station at 13:50, news came to us that there would be a half-hour delay. No big deal. The train stopped at Ludwigslust and after the half-hour passed we were informed it would be another hour. The wind had long since passed and the skies were bright blue. When the Bahn workers came through offering free sweets and drinks, that’s when I knew it was bad, for Deutsche Bahn never gives things away for free unless they think the passenger proletariat might rise up against them in some sort of mini train revolution. For a while the bribery worked, but as the hours tick by, no amount of free Mars Bars and beer could prevent the rising frustration.
The power was out, the toilets blocked, and darkness came quickly with no sign of us going anywhere anytime soon. People began to grab their things and run to the station, hoping to get one of the three taxi cabs available, but this was in vain for there would be no escape for the majority. My look of panic evokes pity from a nearby mother with two young children who takes me under her wing as we wait for the nonexistent taxis. By this point it is past 20:00 and hope was dwindling. Then came a miracle: a black van appeared and some strangers tapped the mother on the shoulder and asked if we want to ride with them to Hamburg. Stranger danger rings through my mind, but the mother and I decide to risk it and ended up spending an hour in a van with a few kind strangers listening to Schlager music. Despite the Schlager, we made it to Hamburg safely and I bid adieu to the nice strangers. By 22:00 I had collapsed exhausted in my comfy hotel room, a positive end to a rather arduous journey.
Friday, October 6, noontime: I was sitting in my car waiting for a red light to turn green and thinking about my first film of the festival. I was on my way to Abaton. Suddenly, a huge truck crashed into the back of my car and pushed me forward. Luckily, no other cars were in the way and I was not hurt. My car was a wreck. The driver, Michael S. of the Freshcon Company, blamed Xavier, saying that he had braked but slipped on wet leaves. I missed my first film, and my car was out of commission for two weeks, but luckily I could depend on good bus connections in order to see many films as possible for the entire festival.
“The same thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago, so they put us on busses,” I smugly answered Rose’s frantic WhatsApp when she wrote stranded in Ludwigslust. I had great faith in the Deutsche Bahn that they would save her. Well, they didn’t, she had to hitch a ride.
As it turns out, all those trees which had fallen on the tracks for me two weeks earlier didn’t prevent new ones from toppling over on the line from Stade to Hamburg. In fact, the S-Bahn was not up and running on schedule till long after the festival was over.
So I sat out the first two days just checking every half hour online to see when things would be repaired. I had bought a weekly ticket and was determined to use it. On Sunday I drove into the city, and the rest of the week I fought the terrible traffic by avoiding commuter hours. Unfortunately, thanks to Xavier and the DB, I ended up missing some of the films I had been so excited to see.
Because of scheduling conflicts, I couldn't pick up my Film festival Hamburg accreditation package until midday on Thursday, October 5. No worries methinks, since the festival tent is open until 17:00. Noonday it started raining, pouring. Therefore, I waited, leaving for the festival tent when the sun was shining. Arriving at 15:25, I saw someone going in the tent as I came around the corner of Abaton (cinema). Imagine my complete surprise when I tried the door, and it was locked. I knocked, it became quieter inside; when I realized it wasn't a cosmic joke, I walked away steaming mad. The next morning, before a 10:00 screening I wanted to see, I stood in line. I was prepared, though. I had a printed copy of my accreditation confirmation to use to get in the cinema; I was not going to miss a film because of FF HH's blunder.
I had no trouble with the storm, I am a Florida girl, and there was heavy traffic so it took longer to get home, we only had some branches in the yard but no more than usual, and if it wasn't on the news I wouldn't have known it happened.
I was each time swept in by the storm, and dripping wet, made it to my seat in the theater. I can only say it was hard times for bicycle riders.