June 20th, 2006

me: wrong side of the mirror

Day 6: Third game: Trinidad & Tobago v Paraguay

Caribbean brethren

Andreas prepared weisswurst for us in the morning. It's a Bavarian breakfast specialty, a sort of white sausage involving veal and flat Italian parsley among other secret ingredients. It must be consumed before noon, a tradition based around the lack of refrigeration at the time of the sausage's development. It's mostly cooked, so it gets dropped into a pot of hot water just off the boil where it finishes. You slice it open lengthwise, cut it in half at the middle and peel off the skin. You dip chunks of it into sweet Bavarian mustard and then nibble a bit of warm pretzel. With a shot of espresso and a glass of orange juice, it made one of the best breakfasts I think I've ever had. It's difficult to obtain outside of Bavaria as the sausages don't keep well and each butcher has his or her own recipe.

We packed up and left for the train station to go to Kaiserslautern for the Trinidad & Tobago (0) v Paraguay (2) game after a last luxurious shower. Even on an ICE train it still took five hours. By a stroke of good fortune, we were completely alone in our train carriage so we were able to stretch out and grab a couple of hours of sleep during the afternoon as a buffer against the all-nighter we were due to pull, though we didn't now it yet.

We met mysti77 briefly at the Fan Mile and danced to the drums. While attempting to leave the area around the T&T booth, we got caught up in the biggest crush I've ever been in. It was literally impossible to change direction or even shift laterally. I couldn't even reach into my pocket for my mobile, so we lost her to the crowd and a lack of phone credit on both our parts.

At the stadium, a group of Trinidadians behind us shouted encouragement at the pitch. ("T and T! We want a goal!") Sadly, Trinidad & Tobago went out of the World Cup without scoring a goal, although they had some great chances in the second half. One of the men behind us had a conch shell into which he periodically blew. It took me a bit to realize that the drops hitting the back of my neck were not rain. Or beer.

The fans didn't seem disappointed by the loss. They shrugged it off and went to party the night away. We joined them briefly, but it slowly began to sink in for us that we didn't have anywhere to stay that night. We retrieved our luggage and boarded the 1 AM train for Köln, due to arrive at 4:45 AM. We were lucky enough to find seats, along with three beer-toting Trinidadians. Too tired to speak much, I fell asleep listening to their beautiful lilting accents as they shared their passion for football with Marco. A pair of very drunk Dutchman passed out snoring outside our door. At Frankfurt airport, the ticket collector kicked the Dutchmen awake and our companions disembarked, to be replaced by another Trinidadian who'd been anxiously awaiting a seat, and a German physicist. I know he was a physicist because he kept catching me peering over the top of my book to read his papers.

Like Marco, I wanted to sleep but the physicist turned on the ill-placed reading light and it illuminated the whole cabin. He didn't seem to sense that it was irritating the hell out of everyone else at 3:00 AM. I walked into the corridor to watch the lights reflecting off the passing Rhine, to feel the cool wind in my face from the open window and to smell the rain. Dawn broke as we arrived in Köln, the train station platforms and halls lined with sleeping football fans. We hit the plaza outside the cathedral, still surprisingly full of singing English football fans who hadn't passed out yet. Police officers sat on and cuffed a man while his "friends" laughed at him. I recalled a pamphlet we'd been given at Heathrow airport, which helpfully informed us that one of the things the British consulate cannot do for you is get you out of jail.

Relieved of our backpacks at the hostel, we went on one of those terribly surreal walks by the river that one has after having stayed awake all night. The gentle pink glow of the Rhine contrasted sharply with the carnage in the streets and the parks behind us - bodies, broken glass, fag ends, napkins and the pervading stink of beer and urine. I took photos, partly to try to capture the Köln horizon and partly to kill time while trying to stay awake until 6:00 AM, when the coffee shops and bakeries would open. We walked back to the cathedral plaza at a quarter to six. Some of the English and Swedish fans kicked a ball around, occasionally bouncing it off the doors and walls of the ancient edifice. Cheerily oblivious of their blasphemous behavior, they shouted insults at one another in their own languages, although it's probable that the Swedes spoke English.

Six AM arrived. Marco paced up in down in front of the bakery where the women were still setting up. Clearly they wouldn't be serving for a while, so I dragged him away. His wolfish, predatory countenance boded ill for any pastries that might cross his path. Hungry and exhausted, our resolve broke.

We went to Starbucks.