Tuesday, June 20
Okay, if I wait until I have time and motivation to write up the whole trip it'll never happen. Here's a quick recap instead. We flew separately to Amsterdam, stayed there a couple of days. The whole town, and probably the whole country, is all lit up in orange in support of the national team. Every store has something orange in the window, whether or not it's got anything to do with soccer. A big chain of supermarkets is giving away these little fuzzy things with purchase (and, yes, I managed to buy sufficient groceries to earn three little ones and, yes, I paid €2.49 to get a big one). Sari stores have orangy cloth in the front windows. Fruit merchants have...well, you just guess.
Amsterdam was its usual jolly self, and we were there while a Dutch game was happening, so we got to a bar and watched it with a bunch of orange-sporting people. Of course the Oranje won, so the cheerful mood was unbroken and the rilly bad music played on into the night. (Sorry, I know it means a lot to a lot of people, but that shit is wack, yo.)
The next morning we took an early train to the first game we had tickets for: US versus Czech Republic, in Gelsenkirchen. Saw the game, which was a disaster, and at which I lost my cell phone; then we took a night train to Berlin, on which I lost the smooth little black pebble I've been carrying in my pocket for a couple of years now. I guess it's not technically irreplacable, but the chances of me ever being back on that particular stretch of Pacific Northwest shoreline to find another one are sadly slender. As for the cell phone, I'd written it off as well, but when we got back to the US there was a message on B's voicemail from the nice Yank who'd found it. I'm hoping he'll be able to meet up with B's brother at the next US game.
Anyway, Berlin was nice, though it reinforced my belief that there is no place you can go after Amsterdam that can ever compare. We put miles and miles on the pedometer, hitting a new record of over 30,000 steps on at least one day and totally moiderizing a pair of shoes. Berlin is kind of spread out. Even with the pass we had which let us on all of the trains and subways for the whole time, there was a lot of walking. This is probably why I lost weight on the trip despite eating a hideous amount of sausage each day. And lots of processed meats and cheeses. I was getting pretty sausagy myself from all that sodium; my fingers puffed up so much it hurt to bend them, and the wrinkles in my socks left angry red canals on my ankles. I did eat salad whenever possible, but, all things considered, I'm pretty damn happy to be back home to my lovely kefir and its Eden-like effects on my intestinal flora.
We were in Berlin for Germany's game against Poland. We didn't have tickets to that one but the nice people of Berlin were kind enough to let us watch their TV. They actually had about half a dozen of them, arranged along the stretch between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Tower. It was really something, especially once it filled up with about half a million people, the majority of them German. Sorry, but one young German male shouting the word DEUTSCHLAND! sounds like a dog barking. Half a million of them in one place causes even these light-colored eyes to glance around for the nearest exit route. I'm just glad the team won. It would have been an ugly place to get out of if they'd lost.
But they didn't, and we enjoyed the sights and atmosphere of Berlin for a few days, watching lots of games in lots of places. It's not like here: the game is on everywhere. You stop into a place to get a bottle of water, it's on. You select the places you eat and drink based on the size of the screen and the available seating. You walk by somebody's house and you hear the cheers and whistles. It's just in the air there.
And then we took a train to Kaiserslautern to the US/Italy game. After the shellacking of the first game we were all pretty fatalistic. Italy is kind of good at soccer. But we all drank sufficiently to cheer noisily and to our surprise the team didn't play shittily. They actually managed a 1-1 draw, which doesn't sound like much but in the soccer world was kind of a miracle. After that game we got on our train with a number of Germans including one particularly robust fellow who blessed us with song after song, amusing shanties about the sexual proclivities of the fans of the neighboring city's team, for the entire train ride to Neustadt, which was scheduled to last half an hour but somehow seemed longer.
A little bit of sleep and then the rude morning kicked us out, red-eyed, onto the train to Frankfurt. B got his plane and I got to know the Frankfurt airport. Then a plane to Schiphol, where I saw half of the Brazil/Australia game, then back to good ol' EWR, then home to the angry, angry cats.
There's more, of course, but if you're reading this, you've endured enough for one day.5:20 PM