I've been quite amused by all the soccer fanatics around, most particularly by my nearest and dearest.
But flying back from England to Germany on June 23, the day both played their games and proceeded to the next round, I decided I'd rather had enough.
I planned well for my English getaway. I needed to be at the airport for my 5.30 pm flight, and England started playing at 3 pm (local time). So I had the registration desk order a taxi for me for 4.10 pm (only 15 minutes to the provincial airport). The taxi came on time, we heard the game on the radio, the driver explained his thoughts on soccer, soccer schedules, soccer hooligans, and lots of other stuff in the Geordie dialect. Or rather, I assumed he was talking about soccer, I just nodded occasionally.
The streets were deserted. There were no car, and this during what is normally rush hour. The parking lot was almost deserted. I entered the airport, remembering my last run-in with the check-in folks there two years ago.
The machines are still there, but I can approach a counter (okay, not KLM, but Lufthansa this time). There is one person before me in line. A polite young man takes my bag, attaches a HOT sticker to it, explains to me that this means it will get quick attention for the transfer to the Berlin flight, and gets my seat assignment.
The hall is deserted, so I head for the gate. There is no one in line. A boarding pass checker takes my boarding pass and passport, but his attention is elsewhere. I do the undress dance, both women operating it are busy looking elsewhere. I get my stuff and head on past the security guards, intently watching the game. England is still in the lead 1-0, but there are 10 minutes left to play.
Everyone is watching one of the three screens. The woman pretending to work filling juice bottles is also watching the screen. Notice (in the circle) the door guards. Yup. Could have smuggled a bomb in there, or (gasp!) a bottle of water. No one would have noticed. They were watching the game.
As the final whistle sounded, people clapped, sighed a sigh of relief, and got on with their lives.
We flew to Düsseldorf, where the continuing plane was late. I wanted to have some food in a little bistro, but the servers were so busy watching the Germany game that no one wanted to take my order. Oh well, I had a packet of cookies left over from the conference. Our plane was late taking off, and the pilot let us know the halftime score.
Just after landing the stewardess got on the PA system: "Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened until the plane has reached its final parking destination and Germany just got a goal YIPPIE!!"
I retrieved my luggage and decided to watch the last few minutes at Tegel. It was the same scene - everyone intent on the screen. When the whistle sounded I headed for the bus and started to doze.
We had almost reached Bahnhof Zoo when I heard the noise. Those pesky trumpets! And horns honking, and cars all over the place and PEOPLE, people streaming out of the station heading for the Ku'damm. They smacked on the windows, I took a step back, fearful that the window would break. The bus inched forward, finally deciding to dump us. I got out, smiled at the mess, took a few pictures, and headed for the U-Bahn.
Or rather, tried. There was a mass of humanity sweeping up the steps I wanted to go down. I tried to go down, but the waves would not part. I saw the tail end of a train I just could not reach - too many people between me and the train. Disgusted, I resigned myself to wait for the next one. At least they show the minutes.
10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-3-3-3-3-3-2-1-1-1-1-1-1-1- Please be patient.
The platform was packed by now, and there was no train coming. I decided to invest in a taxi, and headed back to the surface. Except there were no taxis. None. I tried waiting, but there was none to be had. So I headed up to the elevated train. That would be a horrible detour, but it should get me home.
I pushed up some stairs that had masses of humanity pouring down them. My clue should have been that trains in both directions were stopped. I made my way into one, and it just sat there. And sat.
I got off again and headed out. Still no taxis. So I started to walk, with my little suitcase trolly behind me, through the crowds. They were exploding firecrackers under the bridge. The sidewalks were so full, I had to walk on the streets. People were smacking the busses caught in traffic. There were broken bottles everywhere, and police standing by, waiting for something. They had the Ku'damm blocked off.
Resigned drivers had turned off their motors and were out leaning on their cars. There was singing, dancing, fireworks, fights, stupid chants - I just wanted Out Of There Right Now. Finally, the other side of the Lietzenburger (that had cars parading up and down with flags and people hanging out the windows and roofs), I flagged down a taxi. In a few short, quiet minutes I was home.
If this is the reaction to making it to the eighth final, I don't want to be near (German) "civilization" if they go all the way. I like the comment a friend has on his Facebook page. The niveau of these fans is so low, there is a basement flat free above them.