- 12 Jul 06, 01:58 AM
THE ENGLISH CHANNEL – Our ferry will shortly dock at Dover and our blog adventure will come to an end.
It’s quite hard to look back over the last few weeks as it seemed to whip by so quickly, the memories are all a bit of blur at the moment, but I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll be able to pinpoint my favourite incidents more clearly.
That said I’m going to give it a go now, otherwise how else would you ever know, unless you bump into me in a grimy pub complaining about how much better life was like at the World Cup – probably more likely than you think.
First the raw statistics: 35 days, more than 4,000 miles, one new immobiliser and a patched up bumper have taken us to (deep breath) – Banbury, London, Mons, Luxembourg, Dortmund, Bochum, Troisdorf, Dreieich-Offenthal, Frankfurt, Hockenheim, Heidelberg, Stuttgart, Munich, Archen, Baden-Baden, Ulm, Nuremburg, Bamberg, Leipzig, Colditz, Dresden, Hannover, Bremen, Hoisdorf, Hamburg, Gelsenkirchen, Rheindalen, Essen, Dortmund again, Helmstedt, Berlin, Cologne and back to London.
That’s 11 out of the 12 host cities – sorry Kaiserslautern.
It’s hard to pick my favourite place but I must say I was very surprised by Leipzig, I’ve travelled round Germany a bit before but never there and I was unsure of what to expect – unlike Fletch you see I have been ohne guide book.
I suppose we were fortunate in that we hit it on the day of Germany’s second-round victory and when Argentina and Mexico were in town, but still the place had a real buzz about it and it was really heavy hearts we had to leave the party just at it was starting – ah the troubles we went through for you dear readers.
The best party we did stick around for was in Stuttgart, after Holland had beaten the Ivory Coast and the Dutch were painting the town centre a very vibrant shade of orange.
I can’t say I had a bad experience with anybody that I met, although my late-night conversation with two Canadians – one of whom had spent time in prison and the other who kept offering to show me his gun – was a little uncomfortable.
Certainly the best group I met were the German lads who fed and watered us in Helmstedt, and when we left it was like the parting of life-long friends, I really hope to see them again soon.
But as had been said on this blog many times before, the Germans were exceptional hosts and really went out of their way to help us in any way they could.
Having not seen a lot of the football, especially in the group stages, it’s difficult for me to get involved in the whole best player/match/goal debate, but I will anyway.
BEST GOAL – Fabio Grosso for Italy in the semi-final against Germany, just for the composure and control needed to score at such a vital time, superb.
BEST PLAYER – Another Italian, Fabio Cannavaro, who was magnificent in every game I saw him play.
A thorny subject I know but I don’t think Zinedine Zidane should have won the Golden Ball after his ‘incident’ in the final.
BEST GAME – The final, if only because I had a clear view of the screen for the entire 120 minutes plus penalties, and was engrossed all the way through.
But a special mention must, of course, go to Juergen Klinsmann’s men who lit up the tournament with attacking football and passionate support from every corner of the country.
I obviously can’t get away with summing up the trip without mentioning the little coming together between Svan and a metal gate – a low point for me, Svan and Fletch and myself’s relationship.
I also have to mention the food, of which there was a lot, and hereby announce my roast duck with dumplings and red cabbage in Munich as the pick of the lot - the worst was the barely cooked bratwurst at the Gelsenkirchen fan fest.
As for the beer, I’ve brought back a decent amount of Hefe-Weizen, which will be of interest to a lot of my friends who will be expecting an announcement of a BBQ in the near future.
I’ve also brought back a spectacular amount of World Cup tat – from whistles and flags to hats and the most awful shirt you could ever dream of, all costing between one and two Euro.
All in all it has been a fantastic trip.
Sure I’m tired, grimy and sick of the sight of campsite toilets but there is no place I would have rather been during the tournament than in the thick of it.
I hope you’ve all enjoyed taking the journey with us – thanks again for all the suggestions and comments, good and bad, without you it would never have been so much fun.
The white cliffs are looming large now and it’s time for me to sign off.
Tschuss bloggers, auf wiedersehen Deutschland!