Friday, June 16, 2006

"I'm a travellin' man, and I've made a lot of stops..."

This here-today-gone-tomorrow approach to the World Cup is enabling me to enjoy plenty of wonderful football, both live in person and on the stadium screens – none more pleasurable, perhaps, than the sublime performance Argentina have just completed.

Yet there are some days it would be good to stick around in one city a little longer and see some of the sights – for a good example, Nuremberg yesterday, which gave glimpses of fascinating, low-lying yet high-soaring medieval architecture, the olde-worlde churchyards and Holy Roman Empire-hosting official buildings and somehow-sinister arenas and sparse cell-like blocks giving off the air of Nazi fervour past, and steel-eyed eventual justice.

Even when swarming with beery, cheery England fans around the Hauptbahnhof and the central squares last night, crowding around diner TVs to eke out any inkling of excitement from the Sweden-Paraguay game, or peering blearily at train timetables, there was a feel a little different from some (just some) of the other German cities through which I’ve so far shuttled – far fewer glitzy blinking towers, or identikit Apothekes or sky-nudging advertisement billboards than scattered around, say, Frankfurt.

A more downhomie atmosphere, touching a little more on the feel of that first night in neighbouring (well, also Bavarian) Munich. But these were merely instinctive impressions – a few repeat trips to cities should fill in a few richer shades and tints…

I’m especially looking forward to finally reaching Berlin, the week after next – at which point, indeed, we hit the first real breather of the tournament. Two days without a game, between the second round and the quarter-finals, which should allow a little exploring of both Berlin and, en route, Hamelin, which I last visited as a six-year-old enthralled by the Pied Piper story.

When attending the Euro 2004 semi-finals in Portugal, we got to stop off at a few interesting heritage sights on the trip from Lisbon to Porto and back – including Fatima, where the Virgin Mary is supposed to have appeared to two young boys and their sister (and where ardent Catholics still come, trudging the last stretch of the journey on their knees in self-abasement), as well as the Santa Clara Convent and cathedral in Coimbra. This all made for a fascinating distraction from just football, football, football, and now the first week’s done and dusted and I’m well settled in, I could and should be doing a little more such similar here in Deutschland.

As it is, I'm becoming more of an expert on the relative differences between the Ibis and Etap budget hotels (I prefer Ibis - a slightly friendlier feel from the staff, and more fruit and cheese at the stock-up-for-the-day breakfasts...) I did have to spend an astonishing 285 euros on a Novotel night in Kaiserslautern the other night, but at least it was just a few minutes' walk from the stadium. And the nearest alternative hotel available at short notice that night was in, er, Luxembourg...

But still... away from the art and history, displays such as that of Argentina just gone have their own aesthetic wonder, as well...

I’m in Stuttgart now for Holland versus the Ivory Coast, and while it would be good to see Van Basten’s men hitting their heights – and firing up even further the vivid orange spreading across the city – I’d now prefer an Ivory Coast win.

This would mean that the forthcoming Holland-Argentina game, to which I’m also going, would have something riding on it still.

As long as tonight’s game is better than the last one here in Stuttgart, though, any result’ll do.

That one stank the stadium out – time to cheer on even the Chelsea boys on both sides, Drogba and Robben, to help well and truly clear the air...

2 comments:

prolix said...

That was so very hard on the Ivory Coast, there is no way that they deserve the pitiful 0 points that they've so far accumulated. I think they would have qualified from any other group, bad luck for the elephants.

Aidan said...

Zokora and Yaya Toure could certainly do well in the Premiership too.