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June 20, 2006

Travelling to Dortmund

On Sunday I started making my way to Germany for Monday's clash between Switzerland and Togo. My first flight was a delayed, but otherwise uneventful hop to Athens with Aegean, and then I changed to get a Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.

Wc_airportlounge I was impressed with the World Cup welcome at Frankfurt airport. There were World Cup embassy desks, people wandering around with "Welcome to the World Cup, can I help you?" t-shirts, and even a special room where people could watch the games on giant screens.

I only discovered this after the Japan - Croatia match had finished, but that was no matter, because once I'd got my rail tickets to Dortmund sorted out, I was straight in the nearest bar. It ticked off nearly all of my usual conditions for avoiding a pub - flat roof, faux "old" in an otherwise ultra-modern building, close to a railway station, but it had the match on so I wasn't fussing. I caught the last twenty minutes of the game, and by the looks of things I was lucky to have missed the first seventy.

Booking my train ticket for immediate travel meant I was unable to reserve a seat - pretty much a cardinal sin on the DB. I'm sure the scenery between Frankfurt and Koln was lovely, but I can't confirm that, as without a seat on a packed train I spent the first half of the trip sitting on the floor outside the disabled toilets. I thought I'd act like a proper English football fan overseas, so sat there getting in the way whilst drinking beer. In fairness, I betrayed my cosmopolitan European tendencies by at least drinking German beer and listening to German music - it would surely be churlish not to listen to Kraftwerk singing about trains whilst on a train in Germany?

The funniest thing of the train journey was caused by a couple of off-duty policemen who ended up standing next to me. A Swiss fan went in to use the disabled toilet, which caused a stern look to cross the face of one of the polizei. Then in a comedy turn of events worthy of Benny Hill, the Swiss fan failed to lock the electronic door properly. One of the policement bent over to get something out of his bag, the train lurched, he fell backwards, and with his bum hit the switch to open the toilet doors, which then obediently purred open to reveal a red-faced Swiss fan mid-business.

And then, in a development which is going to stretch my ability not to resort to cliché or national stereotypes, the train I was on broke down. I didn't understand the announcement, but the fact that nearly everybody got up to leave alerted me to a problem. I asked the police - "I stay on here for Dortmund?". "No". Everybody going to Dortmund had to shift off one of the coupled trains onto the one in front, which then carried on.

A stroke of luck for me, as it happened, although it meant missing even more of the Brazil - Australia game. Instead of sitting opposite the disabled toilets next to an unfortunate guy who had some kind of Tourette's Syndrome and kept shouting and barking, I ended up in a nice little cabin of six with a couple of helpful elderly German ladies who assured me we were going to Dortmund. Plus a very pretty young lass who amused herself on the trip by stretching out across two seats striking model poses whilst taking pictures of herself with her phone. Whilst I was listening to "Das Model". Natch.

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