After spending a happy afternoon in Copenhagen on my way south, revisiting old haunts, watching football (an unexpected and oddly great atmosphere and high number of Angolans for the Angola - Portugal game in the station sports bar) and spending a couple of hours catching up with Camilla (for those with really long memories, I had met her in Romania, and she was there when my wallet was swiped, and had trawled through Rubbish bins with me) it was time to head to Germany.
I had failed to find free accommodation in Copenhagen at such short notice, but had then come up with a cunning plan. I had a ticket which was valid from the following day, and had expected to be on the 07.45 train, but it occurred to me that my ticket started at midnight, and Denmark has a few trains leaving Copenhagen and Kastrup airport in the early morning which I could use, thus saving on accommodation and getting to Berlin earlier to boot. Thus, at 00.30, and with typically convoluted indirectness and cunning (or, perhaps, "me-ness"), I headed from Copenhagen to the German capital via Aarhus, Fredericia - and yes, i did indeed go to all the way to Aarhus for no reason at all except to double back about an hour to Fredericia. I did say it was convoluted me-ness - Kolding, Padborg and Hamburg, eventually winding up in Berlin. An amazing city, and one of my favourites, and I was delighted to be back, football or no.
When I had been killing an hour waiting for my train from Copenhagen, I had farted around online and actually managed to score tickets to another World Cup game. Thus it was shortly after checking in to my hostel, I headed to the Olympiastadia to queue for several hours to receive my ticket for that heavyweight battle to top all others, Tunisia v Saudi Arabia. Annoyingly, it meant that i missed the Australia v Japan game, but that couldn't be helped. Fifa not showing their own football in the ticket centre until huge pressure changed their minds was odd, so i saw it was 1-0 with 81mins gone. I should have actually stayed to watch the last 10mins, of course, but I didn't and only discovered later that Hiddink had inspired a 3goal comeback. Pah!
Instead, i headed to the fan fest in Berlin's central Brandenberg Tor, a mass of colourful fans watching football on some huge screens whilst enjoying German sausage and beer, which thankfully as it wasn't in the stadium, was real German beer, instead of the American cats p1ss cr*p that has to be served within the stadiums due to a certain 'beer' company being one of the official sponsors. I have no problem with official sponsors, and even one who's slogan says 'you do the football, we'll do the beer', except that to have such a slogan, surely they should actually supply beer, and not whatever the heck the water stuff they actually do is.
Despite barely seeing her 2weeks ago on my second pass through Siberia, it was great to catch up with the mad Masha again, although tragically she was neither wearing her superb wellington boots or any fancy multicoloured socks. Gutting. I'm sure that shouldn't really be allowed. Masha had been doing a bit of work in the city, but was now free to enjoy herself, and also celebrate her recent acceptance to Edmonton University. I don't know why, but most of my Eastern European/Russian friends seem to be in the process of moving to Canada. Me thinks at this rate, a new trip will have to be planned very soon... Amongst other things i learned that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the human Trotskyist (the hero in this little tale for those who have no idea what I'm talking about http://gelli.travellerspoint.com/90/ ) had lost his job on his release. You might think that a little harsh for somebody that didn't even have to fight an attempted terrorism rap, but when you realise that he was a primary school teacher, it becomes a bit more understandable...
Assorted freelance entertainment outside the Brandenerg gate included this group of break dancers etc
We spent the afternoon watching football in the square (Czechs looking good), meeting up with random other friends of Masha's - by the end we were a Welshman, Russian, German Polish expert, Italian, Brazilian and handful of Spaniards - and seemingly constantly walking back and fore between Brandenborg Tor and Fredericksraße S-Bahn station, utterly confusing the guards outside the American embassy on the way and probably appearing increasingly suspicious to boot.
Oh, and Kiki is pregnant. With twins. And Christian is not the father.
Croatian fans preparing to face Brazil
The following day can probably be summed up in the way that many subsequent days will be. Football in the fan fest. 3 games over an 8hour period where i did little except watch and take in the great atmosphere. The final game was Brazil v Croatia, the first to be played in Berlin, and also the first time I saw the Berlin Fan Fest properly packed. As with the previous day, their were fans from almost every conceivable country, including many from countries not even in the finals. Probably 70% of the crowd were wearing Brazilian tops or waving Brazil flags, although suspiciously high numbers of them were English speakers or Germans, and probably the number of real Brazilians there was very low. The remainder included large pockets of noisy Croats plus lots of Swedes (who play here in a few days time), who added to the general yellow-ness. And even a fair few Scots, including one with a simple yellow T-Shirt with Brazil in big letters, followed by the line 'because my team is rubbish'. It's still slightly odd how such a successful team can attract such affection and support from virtually ever other nation, but that sums it up really. The game itself wasn't great, but the atmosphere was, and it was a heck of allot of fun.
Brazilian fans with musical accompaniment passing through Berlin's Central Station
Croatian fans in central Berlin "celebrate" the pitch invasion by a random naked guy...
And the pregnancy (why the heck does everybody i know - without exception - have to have complicated kids. They either have twins or triplets, have one parent missing, unknown, in prison, or some other twist, and even in one case, a single mother still utterly convinced she's a virgin despite obvious evidence to the contrary... Why the heck am i seemingly incapable of knowing a happy couple who have a single child at a time????) wasn't even the twist I was going to tell you all about if the response had been that you wanted to hear about it. That one is even better!
Pictures, like so much of the last few months, will follow at a later date, but for now it's gone 3am and time to try and sleep. I haven't really in 2 days, and I have a 6hour trip to the other end of Germany to watch an Arab game tomorrow.
I get reminder's of the whole Kiki thing everywhere...