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Soccer Hooligans

Berlin has a lot of soccer hooligans to deal with. They are smelly, sweaty and I don't like them very much

Taking a two month absence form writing on my page has been a very sad time. It's not like I've been that busy. More interviews in Zürich and such can keep you occupied to an extent, but after that you're only wasting they days away with laziness. Sob sob...

I have accepted a job offer with Bombardier Transportation in Winterthur (near Zürich) Switzerland. They make trains, in case you've never heard of them before (I hadn't). I think the only interesting part of the story is when I had the second interview with them; I was rather confident that I had the job when the HR woman said: Would you like a coffee? Actually no, come with me to the kitchen so you know where it is for next time. This whole story would have been wrapped up nicely there if I'd not eaten airport sushi that morning. After the interview there was a rumbling in my tummy, so I now have some very special memories of Zürich airport. If you ever need to know were the closest toilet is, I'm your man since I visited them all (more than once).

I've visited Zürich so many times lately I've lost count. Most times I've stayed with Katherine, my very very nice American-Swiss-Professional friend, which is rather nice. I also went to Kassel once (somewhere in Germany) but was thorougly unimpressed. The whole place felt empty somehow - no way I'd wanna' be there! I was happy to be leaving. However, I've got a LOT to say about Switzerland but for now let's just recap the points that stood out recently:

Going completely out of order here, but I'm actually 26 now. Meike took me to see The Blue Man Group in Berlin as a present. It was very blue and I liked it a lot. Especially the peculiar pass the paper part where the audience was covered in (I think) toilet paper. The cake she (we) made was kinda big - it looked like a giant sponge-cake helmet filled with 1 kg of strawberries and cream, with a biscuit base. It took so long to eat, keeping in mind I quickly devour cakey things, that it almost went off.

We've been playing volleyball on Sundays lately. We have our family afternoon lunch at Meike's parent's house then catch a train to Nordbahnhof (North Train Station). Berlin has lots of open area that's still awaiting post-unification redevelopment. It's a big open area of sand that sits above the underground rail lines, so you can feel the trains rumbling below. Nearby is a small intact section of the Berlin Wall. The story goes that the original barbed wire was removed for safety reasons after two Australian blokes unsuccessfully tried to cross the wall. You can imagine the dare one bloke made to the other earlier that day: I bet you can't make it, mate - Like hell I can't! They were to be found somewhat entangled and rather cut up later that night.

We visited Meike's grandmother in Oldenburg again, this time only the three of us - Maren was busy dancing with Americans. The highlight for me was Meike's absolute conviction that the animal noise she heard in the garden - quack - was made by a frog. It was a win for Sam in our long-running argument about German and English animal noises: Meike thinks frogs say quaaak. 'It is definitely a frog', she said. 'It is definitely a duck', I said. It was a whole family of ducks, hehe! We went out for smoked eel one evening, my first time eating it smoked. They came whole with little red price tags around their necks for you to pick and rip apart with your bare hands. The oily fat is unbelievable - it's so thick that you're forced to use high-percentage alcohol to wash. At the end of the meal you take a splash to wash off your hands and then another to wash it down your throat. Incidentally, after I came back to Berlin with food poisoning and Meike's dad picked me up, I gave him a marzipan eel with a Dankeschön! tag around it neck as thanks.

We've also been diving three times a week at the old Olympic pool. It's warm enough now for that kinda' stuff, although today's weather disagrees. On the way there by train one day the underground train's display had Windows illegal operation error messages, but I sadly missed out taking a photo. On hot days there are far too many yobs there. Yobs aren't the only annoyance, even worse are the people in the sport lanes who think breast-stroke is 'sports swimming'. Only two sport lanes and a pool of hectic randoms in my god-damn way. It was later as we lay on our towel over some nasty hard pointy ground that Meike asked if my bike was chained up securely. 'Sure' I say. 'Why?' "You don't wanna be the victim of a Polish triathlon" she replies. Get it? The stereotype is that all Polish people steal cars in Germany, so you understand what a Polish marathon is? Run to the pool, have a swim, ride home. Ah ha...

The Potsdamer Platz buildings are still rather confusing - when you get the right angle you have a hard time deciding between the fake and real ones. Anyway, have I written about the buskers on German trains yet? It's really common apparently. There is this one guy that keeps popping up on the S1 Oranienburg line who knows no English but sings English songs. You know when you're singing along to a song but you're not sure of the words in some parts, so you just try making the noise or hum? Well, his style is to sing entirely like that: no actual words, just noises like words. His take on Bob Marley, dear lord..., went something like:

AAh shohh daa sherif buuh AAh did not shot no dep-youuh-tee!!

The topic of this post was Soccer Hooligans and I've not said a word about them yet. Saving the best for last - No I take that back. Saving the worst for last. There's just no better word for them than hooligans. Here's the scene: Germany has made it to the European Soccer finals with Spain, after beating Turkey and (surprisingly) no riots breaking out. Tiergarten, the big park in the centre of Berlin, has been surrounded by fences and is being patrolled by police and security guards with dogs. Inside the park are huge screens every hundred meters along the roads with beer sausage stands along the sides - a 'Fan Mile' with free entry. Then just after midday there were announcements that the garden is already at capacity and closed. How may people do you think they let in before that announcement? Half a million. You wanna see a map? The whole park is only 3 km long and 1 km wide at most, and not all was being used. So you have over 500 000 people in about 1.5 square km of park, but all of them squashing in front of the screens. Croud control: none.

Meike and I got there early to sit in the park and watch the spectacle of it all unfold from a safe distance. On our way to the entrance we saw one skinny security guard trying to guard two places simultaneously and stop people from lifting the fences and rushing through. In the time it took us to walk about 50 meters, the fence was broken and a sea of people flooded in. The poor bloke just stood there watching helplessly. Meike and I walked on, passing a small pond/canal and then up to the entrance. We were literally pushed through under the force of a thousand sweaty smelly hooligans pushing from behind. I was worried about being trampled. The bag check was a joke (no glass, fireworks, etc); the bloke only had time to touch the outside my bag before I was shoved onward. I was feeling suffocated by smoke and stupid so we found some open space far away from the screens on the grass. We didn't dare venture far because all around us were drunk hooligans kicking fences and peeing on trees. When Meike got really bored and went for sausages she was bumped into by a very wet woman. Odd Meike thought as she starred at her. The woman noticed and then explained she had swam inside [through the swampy bit]. Eww...

So we wait for a few hours and finally the game starts. We walk back to the road and see how far people are willing to go for a good view: 7 people up one lamp post, 3 girls up one tiny tree, and 2 blokes sitting on the traffic lights - the best seat in the park! There were some arbitrary police efforts to stop this but as they stood on the kebab stand roof and poked the climbers with a pole, the whole crowd began hurtling their empty bottles at them. The two police men thought it best to let it go. You should have seen the body armour that some of em' had on - where are we, China? I couldn't find one person there who hadn't painted themselves from head to toe with black-red-yellow colours, or at least wore a German flag as a cape (most did both). One funny side story about flags: in a news report about the soccer final the broadcast's background was a 'Yellow-Red-Black' flag, which is not the German flag, and is in fact no ones's flag. Red faces and 48 hours later, on the fan mile there was a live broadcast from the same station. This time some random had made real 'Yellow-Red-Black' flag and was waving it behind the people talking. Take that channel-German-land!

On the way out we overheard some girls talking to the police at the far entrance saying: "Oh come on! We'll do anything to get in!" Dirty, smelly, loud, and now slutty soccer hooligans. Later that evening back home, I was the victim of a girls' night and this was the result (now who's the slutty one?) That crap does not wash off easily!