Andrew and Donna's Road to the World Cup

Friday, June 16, 2006

Thursday, June 15, 2006: Football Fever in Berlin

After a three hour nap, the alarm woke me at 6:15 and we were off to Berlin. The crank-factor increased quite a bit when I realized our train tickets were in the smoking wagon. Our fellow passengers may have been confused into thinking smoking was compulsory, rather than simply not prohibited. I reclined my chair, put my rain jacket over my head and went to sleep. I awoke in better spirits and ready to face the day. When we stepped off the train at the Berlin Hbf (the main station, I won’t even try to spell the entire world), I knew we were in store for a good day. Donna agreed because we immediately saw a Starbucks, the first since London. Berlin, more than any other city we’ve seen, has a bad case of football fever. The entire city seems to be catering to World Cup patrons.

Therese, if you are looking for your people they are in Berlin. Sweden played Paraguay in the late game at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, which holds 80,000 people. That means Sweden’s Football Federation were allotted 6,400 tickets to distribute to their fans; I know we saw at least that many Swedes wandering around Berlin. Their turnout was impressive though I don’t think I’ll ever understand the men who wear the hats with the blond pigtails.

Before Donna and I (me, more than her) enjoyed all the football-focused attractions, we checked out a few of the tourist attractions.

Brandenburger Tor

The gate that used to mark the boundary between East and West Berlin


The seat of the German Bundestag or federal government: the transparent dome represents the transparency of their republic.

Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche

Berliners call the remains the ‘hollow tooth’. The church was bombed by the British in 1943; it’s a reminder of the devastation of World War II.

What struck us most about Berlin was its newness. Much of the city had to be rebuilt after World War II so while the architecture of days past may have been replicated, the actual buildings still seem relatively new. I really enjoyed being there: the public transportation is very well-organized, the drivers aren’t crazy and the people are friendly.

On our way from the tourist stops to the football fan fest, we came across a monument to people who died trying to cross from East Germany to West Germany. It was sad to see, for sure. Many of the memorialized were between 18 and 23 years old. It was especially sad to see the last person was killed just a few days before the wall came down.

Onto lighter matters –

We spent the rest of the day eating, looking for souvenirs to buy, and watching the day’s first two matches. Donna and I were both pretty tired from the day in Amsterdam and from the Berlin sun so we settled in a shady spot in front of one of the six or seven big screens at the fan fest and watched Ecuador beat Costa Rica. Earlier in the day we bought tickets to watch the England/Trinidad & Tobago match in the Adidas stadium. Watching the game with a couple thousand other folks was a lot of fun. Adidas made a show of it, giving away tickets to the Sweden/Paraguay match and T-shirts; they even brought out cheerleaders. Who knew Europe had cheerleaders? Donna aptly pointed out that they looked and danced more like pole-dancers. I love Europe.

At half-time of the England match, the Adidas MC called three fans onto the field—two Swedes and a Paraguayan--and had a contest to see who could shoot the hardest. The winner would get two tickets to that night’s match, obviously a coveted prize for the three fans who had traveled so far just to be in the city where their teams were playing. The crowd in the stadium was overwhelmingly European, mostly Swedes and English, but they got behind the Paraguayan. In two rounds of shooting, his two shots were the slowest. I’m not sure he ever kicked a soccer ball before. In the end, Adidas gave all three fans tickets and they all started hugging the MC and jumping in a circle. It was awesome.

Our trip back to Hannover was uneventful. We endured the smoking wagon again, hopefully for the last time. We got back a little after 11, which gave me some time to catch up on the late game and to confirm the facts I was planning to share during the radio interview. I caught a quick nap and then called into WBAL. The interview went well. It was pretty short, but I enjoyed it. Talking about soccer is easy for me so I felt comfortable. I got to sleep a little before 4 and slept until noon. I don’t remember if I’ve ever done that before. I’m feeling good and rested and hope to put up a good show tomorrow in Kaiserslautern.

Have a great start to the weekend. Thanks for checking in.

Andrew 1:37 PM


I can't believe I missed your sportscasting debut! STUPID STUPID STUPID. Sorry!

Maybe it's that family humor, but I laughed at the sign too.

And I was cracking up imagining the scene on the train with the non-English speaking woman, and the miming to help you understand how to get to your train. Hilarious.

So, are G-rated trips to Amsterdam actually possible? Donna, you shall hereforth be known as "Roxanne."

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