FRANKFURT - Arrived Tuesday evening and headed straight for the city centre, where it took me two hours to find any England fans.
Lee Hayes, John Bays and Mark Cove (pictured left to right), from Cambridgeshire, had driven from Calais and were looking for a) a campsite b) match tickets c) anyone English. Although they'd like more of their compatriots to be here, they are full of compliments for the German hosts.
"We thought they were going to be miserable and not like us, but we are well impressed," said John. "They're really friendly."
With only a handful of supporters here early, it's quite a low-key build-up so far, but the fans' festival due to happen on the banks of the River Main will be quite a spectacle.
A huge stand of seats faces the screen erected on the river and there are dozens of foodstalls and beer tents along the banks.
So if you don't have a ticket, don’t worry, there's going to be a great atmosphere. Now all we need are some people….
LONDON - It turns out the World Cup finals are not the only international football tournament to be taking place in Germany. At the weekend, Hamburg hosted the finals of the 2006 Fifi Wild Cup - a tournament specifically for regions not recognised by Fifa or the United Nations.
Reader Julia Leonard pointed us in the direction of the event, writing: This is a fab story and I'd like to see it disseminated to a wider audience.
Zanzibar battled it out with the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus to take the trophy, having beaten Tibet, Greenland, Gibraltar and a team from the host "nation", the Republic of St Pauli - a part of Hamburg more usually known for supporting FC St Pauli - on their way. Read more here.
I'll be hoping for some more quirky stories like this after I arrive in Munich in time for Germany v Costa Rica. After all - why should it be only the 32 official finalists who have all the fun?
LEIPZIG. So I've arrived in Deutschland. I left boiling hot sunshine in London to be greeted by a monsoon here in Leipzig. Who cares about the weather, you could feel the World Cup buzz as soon as we landed.
No-one was more effusive than our taxi driver Gunther who played his own game of luggage Tetris cramming all our camera equipment into his small but brand spanking new Mercedes. With me balancing a tripod in the front seat, I got my first taste of the autobahn. No speeding restrictions on German motorways. Gunther did his best impression of Michael Schumacher but we survived.
As you'd imagine, Germany is swamped by world cup symbols. The onslaught began outside the aiport. A diving Oliver Kahn was suspended from a bridge. Jurgen, you have told King Kahn he's number two to Jens Lehmann.
Now, I am sitting within a stone's throw of the Zentralstadion. It's home to FC Sachsen Leipzig who play their football in German football's third tier. Imagine Grimsby Town hosting a world cup match. Leipzig is the only former East German venue at these finals. Tonight I shall try their local speciality - Lentil soup with Thuringian sausages, mmmm. And then tomorrow, it's off to Munich for the opening game.
MUNICH - I arrived in Munich yesterday afternoon, and made my first trip into the International Broadcast Centre today. Match of the Day's World Cup studio is in Berlin, but most of the production team are based here in Munich. So all the VT (video tape) packages (ie features, interviews, match highlights) will be made here at the IBC.
The IBC is the media hub for broadcasters from all over the world. The scale of the operation is unbelievable. Every country imaginable seems to have some kind of presence here, including several I had never even heard of - Niue? Nevis? Kiribati? I make it 190 different countries, and 90 broadcasters.
The IBC itself is huge - it used to be Munich airport. There are restaurants, a gym, even a beer garden! Each media company has its own area, separated off from each other by wood panelling, so it feels a bit like a sauna (except for the temperature - the air conditioning has gone into overdrive, so everyone's wandering around in big jumpers and coats). The BBC's office is next to Brazilian channel TV Globo, so I'm sure there'll be plenty of friendly banter going on as the tournament progresses! Fifa present Sepp Blatter made a visit to the IBC today, but he didn't make it to the BBC office.
Continue reading "Shivering in a sauna"
BADEN-BADEN England's World Cup charm offensive was lapped up by hundreds of fans allowed to watch them go through their paces at a superbly-appointed training camp on the edge of the Black Forest.
Sadly, the arrival of England's superstars was not universally well-received, with one mean-spirited resident festooning his house with a giant banner announcing "Welcome to Absurdistan" - a reference to the tight security surrounding the England team.
It struck only a minor note of dischord, with many England flags decorating the picturesque hillside.
And as Paul Robinson said, you suspect England fans would not reciprocate with German colours should Jurgen Klinsmann's men pitch up in a village back home.
Continue reading "Welcome to Absurdistan"
LONDON - Some snippets from the England camp this morning:
Wayne Rooney trained on his own after whipping the nation into a frenzy of excitement with that picture of him scissor-kicking his way seemingly back to full fitness.
He had a nice soft landing on the pitch - newly laid with turf brought in especially from Holland, from the same batch that was used for the pitch at the stadium in Frankfurt where England play their first game on Saturday.
(Incidentally, which camp are you in? - Paraguay; best player injured, never past the second round = three points, no problem. Or Paraguay; finished third in South American qualifying, we've only won one of our first World Cup games in the last 20 years (2002 Sweden 1-1, 1998 Tunisia 0-2, 1994 DNQ, 1990 Ireland 1-1, 1986 Portugal 1-0) = tricky, very tricky.)
The squad played a small-sided game split into Oldies v Youngsters. It was a draw - the Oldies winning in a sudden-death penalty shootout (keep practising fellas!).
Continue reading "Practising penalties!"
LONDON - We picked our mobile home up yesterday and spent a considerable amount of time learning about the delights of the Fiat Riviera 181.
A true delight - check it out for yourselves in our first video entry.
It holds 125 litres of water, has a fridge with freezer - which is real luxury since I don't even have one of those at home - and a cassette.
Now before you become overcome with nostalgia let me point something out.
Continue reading "The name game"
FRANKFURT - With both teams we're covering (Italy and France) still not in Germany, we went down to the secluded referee's base to speak to England's man in black (and a rather fetching yellow outfit judging by what was on display) Graham Poll.
He says that the referee's have been told to crackdown on lunging tackles, dangerous elbows and players sauntering off the pitch when they've been substituted - so get your spread bets ready for lots of yellow cards in the early matches.
Came back to Cologne yesterday evening. There is a slighly strange lack of World Cup excitement. Not many posters, bunting etc -although a big screen is going up next to our hotel so I may live to regret those words.
Reporter Gaskers arrived last last night - although his suitcase was last seen seen on a baggage carousel in Amsterdam. We're trying to track down some T-Shirts which you can get out here bearing the legend "Never Mind the Ballacks". Surely the new fashion item for all Chelsea fans.
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