Around 11.00 pm, fueled by the hot wine and spirits I had drunk, I suddenly had an inspirational idea.
I left my friends in the cozy bar, telling them I would return shortly, then ran out onto the brightly lit, freezing Reeperbahn. Past all the strip-joints, bars and sex parlours, avoiding eye-contact with the suited salesmen outside, I made my way to the top end of town, where I knew there to be a year-round fairground. About a quarter of a mile away, there it was, glittering in the frosty darkness like a huge, circular Christmas tree.
Soon I was bolted into the hard seat of the Ferris Wheel and slowly ascending over the bustling city, my breath forming clouds of steam in the isolated darkness. Absolutely magical - all of sparkling Hamburg stretched 360 degrees around me, and the only thing higher than me was the telecommunications tower, itself lit up and topped with a flashing red light like a fairy on a tree.
What comes up, must go down, and soon I was back to earth and walking briskly down the street again with my German friends. We were going to an 18th century church where - almost 300 years ago - Johann Sebastian Bach played the organ, and where, this night, a recital of Bach's music was to be performed to an audience of semi-inebriated music lovers, including about 30 local prostitutes who had taken a few hours off work to attend. Sadly, I have forgotten what the piece was, for reasons you will see below, but if I ever hear it again, I will recognise it immediately.
We made our way to about 4 rows back from the nave where the musicians had gathered, sat down and waited until they began. From the start, it was obvious that these were absolutely gifted professionals, and the music was beautifully transporting. The singer was an extremely pretty woman who wore a long, blue satin dress, and as she began to sing, she stared straight into my eyes.
For the entire, lengthy performance, her eyes never left mine. It was as if - out of the few hundred people gathered to listen - she was singing for me and me alone.
I cannot describe the emotions that I experienced that night, other than to say that all of them were intensified by the inherently devotional music of J. S. Bach, and he would have been proud of her, singing so beautifully in his own church, and grateful to Bomber Command for sparing it when so many others had evaporated in the fire-storms of WW2. That's what you would call a Christmas story.