Monday, 3 August 2009


Louise and I have recently got back from a ten-day holiday in Sopot, a beautiful little town near Gdansk on the Baltic coast of Poland. Not only did we have a terrific time; we also made an interesting discovery. Namely that, though most people think of him as German, Sopot is the original birthplace of the great Klaus Kinski, sometime muse of Werner Herzog and best known for his leading role in the remake of Nosferatu. The accompanying photograph is of his home on Koscluszki Street, now a bar dedicated to his memory and called the Galeria Kinsky. On two storeys, with balconies up top, it's as dark as a cave inside, littered with Kinski photographs and memorabilia, and just to add a final macabre touch there are funereal crimson drapes throughout the entire place. The perfect Goth hangout, in other words ... except that Sopot doesn't seem to have any Goths. What a waste. Maybe some of my black-clad, mascara-wearin' buddies could stage a convention there.

You'd think that there'd be more around town regarding the famous man than just a bar. A statue, maybe? But poor old Klaus doesn't seem to be held in very high regard by the otherwise kind and friendly locals. The tourist guidebook -- Sopot in Your Pocket -- refers to him as a 'nutter.' And that's not just an idle snipe; Kinski actually did spend time in an asylum at one stage. He fostered most bad habits in the book. He ... ahem .. 'dated' several hundred women, and was apparently quite proud of that, because the first draft of his autobiography had to be scrapped for being overly graphic. He even once attempted throat surgery on himself. Yes, I'm afraid you read that correctly. How wasted or deranged does someone have to be before that begins looking like a good idea? But Klaus was either very hardy, very lucky, or had natural talents with a scalpel, because he managed to survived it.

Here's the tale about him that I really like the best, though. When he finally did pass away, in 1991, someone asked a friend of his, "What exactly did Mr. Kinski die of?" The friend thought about it a few moments, shrugged, and then replied, "A little bit of everything." Now that's a life well lived. Next time I'm in Sopot, I'll head for the bar again and raise a glass to him in tribute. Cheers, Klaus!

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