Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Spas, tattoos & mystery lagers

We had another lovely few of days in Aachen, Germany, which as always included a trip to the spa. As I was relaxing in the waters, however, I had a rather disturbing thought about aging.

It occurred to me that I am from an era you might call BT, or “before tattoos”. Not exactly, of course, as tattoos are probably older than Sumeria, which surely dates back before 1968. But I come from a time before tattoos were ubiquitous.

Watching people in the spa very quickly tells me what generation I belong to.

It’s not baldness or flab or grey or wrinkles that clearly defines the divide so much as tattoos. Anyone about my age (43) or older will more likely than not be free of subcutaneous inks, while anyone so painted will almost always be younger.

It’s not just in Germany either. I’ve noticed this in the US, UK, Belgium, and half a dozen other western countries.

Nor does it have anything to do with class. I remember when pretty much only sailors, convicts and erotic dancers had tattoos. Today, it seems to be everyone from accountants and architects to zookeepers and zymurgists.

Just to be clear: I’m not saying anything negative about sailors, convicts and erotic dancers -- one of which I used to be, of course (go on, guess...) -- any more than I would laud the accountant life-style, whatever that may be. Nor am I disparaging tattoos and the people who wear them.

I am only making an observation: at some point in my lifetime, the phenomenon went from being an almost cultish thing on the fringe -- even a mark of rebellion or an f/u to society -- to a mainstream rite of passage. There must have been some turning point, just after I passed some borderline age, when men and women started opting for tattoos in previously unseen numbers. Looking around the spa, I can see it’s a generational marker I must have just narrowly missed.

Sitting a bit later in Das Restaurant Elisenbrunnen and continuing to ruminate on my advanced age, I tried an “EB” or Elisenbrunnen Lager. I’ve no idea about the origin of this house-brand beer, which reminds me of another mysterious lager we’ve tried in Aachen, Öcher Lager at the Brauhaus just across the park. But the taste is not reminiscent at all.

Elisenbrunnen Lager pours a lovely amber, but then it hits you with an aroma of pizza dough and, um, sliced ham. Only one of those could make any sense for a beer... EB has fine carbonation, but the flavour is somewhat sweet and yeasty. To me, it’s not a winner.

But of course, maybe that’s how the younger, tattooed generation likes its beer.


  1. Hehe... I´m born in ´73 and I´m lucky to have no tattoos... maybe it looks cool when you are young... but when I see now all these older guys... OMG....

  2. (Born in '73 too!)

    Went swimming in Cardiff the other day and i must have been the only untattooed man (and many many women) in the place

  3. Good post. I enjoyed reading that one. I'm 40 and have 3 tattoos. One of them covers half my arm. Yes, you just missed the cut off period Andrew.


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