Ernst at the Tulip

Ernst at the Tulip

We arrived at the dull but adequate Tulip Hotel and the night concierge was already on duty. Jim thought he had something of the Herbert van Rompuy about him, so he called him Herbert, but I prefer Ernst. So let’s call him Ernst – it suits his style. Mid-50s, balding, moustachioed, humourless although not unpleasantly so, starting to err towards stoutness, Ernst is one of those people who seems to never quite grasp what a situation requires. He has a gauche formality that disconcerts. Ask him a question and he seems to reply but not answer, always leaving some doubt about whether he has understood at all – and this is not about language but rather about manner, his being somewhat distracted.

We arrive quite late to check in and enquire of Ernst if we might have a drink after we’ve settled into our room. He seems to indicate that this is possible and points in the direction of an empty, dark area with a promising sign over the doorway: ‘BAR’. Twenty minutes later we’re back. The bar is still empty but no longer in total darkness. We may be in business. Ernst is concierge, receptionist, barman, he seems to turn his hand to anything. We seek him out at reception and he signals for us to go in. Without doubt this is the most soulless bar on the trip, possibly in life hitherto. We pick a table – there are only two. The wall lights remain switched off so it’s dim, an unromantic sort of dim. We order two beers, a small one and a tiny one that Ernst sets to drawing from the tap. 6 inches of froth soon blossoms into the glass; the tap has not been much in use lately.

Finally we settle down for a quiet drink, (bowl of peanuts provided – nice touch), to peruse the map and city guide and make plans for the morrow. Inexplicably, Ernst decided this was the perfect moment to do a spot of cleaning, so he switched on the little cup and glass washer that stands on the bar and it kicked into action. No CAT engineering here. No, this is technology with sound effects. It rattles, chunters, whooshes and clinks its way through the cycle, finally coming to a halt. Ernst is back with us like a shot, unloading the cups and glasses with percussive gusto, reloading the machine for another round. Honestly, Ernst, we would have been fine with the musak!

Poor Ernst. Earnest, awkward, utterly without savoir faire. But memorable nonetheless.

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