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June 22, 2006

From Dortmund to Athens

Tuesday was an epic journey back from watching the Switzerland - Togo World Cup match in Dortmund, with the aim of reaching Hania in time to watch England - Sweden at 10pm Greek time that evening.

My train from Dortmund was at an eye-wateringly early 8:37am. Well, it was certainly eye-watering when you consider we'd stayed up into the early hours drinking quality Polish lager from our mini-bar, after a night on the town.

One disadvantage of having reservations on a train indicated by at-seat electronic signs rather than little scruffy tufts of paper like they used to be in the UK, is that it is quite possible to get on a train, get yourself sorted out with a lovely seat, and only then have the reservation signs come on after the system is switched on. That is what happened to me in Dortmund on Tuesday morning as I got bumped out of my cabin by someone with a FIFA VIP pass hanging around their neck. Perhaps I should have asked him if he had any spare England tickets?

The journey was pretty uneventful, but we did pass through Köln where England's last Group B match would be later that evening. I could already see hordes of Swedish and English fans on the streets, and I have to confess that having enjoyed the World Cup atmosphere so much in Dortmund, I was somewhat regretful that I hadn't opted to stay an extra night in Germany and hang around Köln trying to get tickets for the match, or at the very least watch it with the great unticketed masses in the city.

At Frankfurt airport I triggered a mini-security alert when I overcame my usual British reserve and reported some unattended baggage that had been sitting at the head of the check-in queue for the whole of the fifteen minutes I was waiting. Of course it turned out to belong to just some complete numpty who'd decided to leave it there because he didn't want to go to the effort to carry it all around whilst he queued up to check-in. Stupid arse - maybe it is because I grew up in London and all my life whether it has been the IRA, right-wing weirdoes, or religious fanatics, someone has been trying to bomb me, but I felt like saying to someone "Can you just hold my place in the queue whilst I go over there and kick this #@^% in the #{~$".

Mind you, later on, I should have actually called the police to report a fraud instead, as at a snack bar in Frankfurt airport called "The Cockpit" I paid a whopping €7.10 for the most flavourless flaccid pastrami ciabatta in history, washed down with a disgusting half-cup of what was, according to the receipt at least, coffee.

I got a bit of easy-to-use wifi internet access in Frankfurt, and then in Athens I also got some not-quite-so-easy-to-use-and-a-bit-of-a-rip-off internet access, but it kept me out of trouble anyway. I also got lost in Athens Airport trying to work out how to get from my arrivals gate to the departure gates without inadvertently leaving the airport. In the end I had to just follow some signs in reverse and go through some no entry areas, which is a bit scary when you know that you can't speak the language and that Greece can be very unforgiving for tourists accidentally doing the wrong thing near airports.

I reached Athens just after the Germany and Ecuador game had started - in fact our Lufthansa pilot announced on the plane that Germany had gone 1-0 up after three minutes - but with getting lost I missed the majority of the first half. I was soon settled down in front of a TV with a beer in hand though, so part one of my operation to get from Germany to Crete without missing too much of the football went off without a hitch.

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