One thing has followed another this week and I've consequently barely had time to update this blog. I'd better start in chronological order...
Saturday 14 June
Friend Rob drives down the previous day from Heidelberg to stay a couple of nights in Lörrach at the flat of his girlfriend's sister. Both his girlfriend, Melanie, and her sister Sabine, are up in Hamburg at a hen do. Sabine gives Rob the keys to the flat while she's away.. I meet Rob for a beer that afternoon in Lörrach town centre. Afterwards, we travel into Basel, where we meet another friend Karl-Heinz. The three of us then watch the Spain-Sweden match down by the 'Riviera', i.e. on the big screen by the side of the Rhine.
The real reason why Rob is down here is that he is due to travel to Geneva the next day to watch the decisive Turkey-Czech Republic Group A match with Scott, who lives in Zurich. However, Scott suddenly texts Rob that afternoon to say that he's torn his Achilles playing football (he's a goalkeeper, btw) and will now be doubtful for the trip to Geneva. He asks whether I would like to buy his ticket off him and go to Geneva instead. I basically say yes, I'd like to. During the course of that evening, text messages are sent to and fro - the upshot of which is that Scott might still be fit to go to Geneva after all.
Sunday 15 June
While I'm nursing a hangover late in the morning, Scott calls me to say that he definitely can't go and asks again whether I want to take the ticket. I'm admittedly slightly somewhat wrong-footed by this, as I ultimately wasn't expecting to go. However, I shower quickly, have something to eat and then leave to meet Rob and Scott at Basel SBB station. Scott manages to get to Basel from Zurich to hand over the tickets to us - a gesture very much appreciated. As is his wont, crutches are not the only props Scott has brought (see photo). Rob and I then bid our farewells to Scott and we eventually leave on the train to Geneva at 14.03.
Well, we could hardly have picked a more dramatic match to go to. Turkey come back from 0-2 down to win 3-2, with the winning goal coming in injury time. We have great seats in the main stand and have perfect views of all the goals bar one. We even spot Arsène Wenger at pitchside before the match giving an interview to Al Jazeera. The atmosphere is fantastic and the noise from the Turkish end of the ground is deafening at times.
After the match, we head home on the special train leaving at quarter past midnight and eventually arrive back in Basel , at 3.05 in the morning. Due to it being a match day in Basel as well (Switzerland beat Portugal 2-0), trams are still running at that time of the morning. We're therefore able able to get to Basel Badischer Bahnhof, from where we take taxis back to Weil and Lörrach respectively.
Thursday 19 June
After a busy day of work in Zurich, I head back to Basel with scores of German and Portuguese fans on the train who are on their way to watch the Germany-Portugal quarter-final, either at the ground itself or at one of the town's various public viewing venues.
Basel SBB station is packed with fans arriving. I pass almost a dozen ticket touts who are openly advertising their 'wares'. I notice that the English touts are conspicuous by the fact that they're the one without signs. Perhaps they see themselves as "better-quality" touts who have no need for such props.
My original plan was to meet Karl-Heinz and watch the match at on one of the big screens in town. The both of us quickly discount that idea when we see the thousands (of mainly Germans) who are already squashed together like sardines on Münsterplatz. We opt to take the tram back to the Badischer Bf and watch the match at the Gare du Nord. That turns out to be a good choice, given that we're but a short walk from the platform for our respective trains back home. Still, my train only leaves after a 25-minute delay due to the numbers of Germans trying to get on after the match. K-H is less fortunate: he is unable to get on his train in the commotion and only manages to get back home at 2 a.m.
The above is a very rushed synopsis, but hopefully I'll be able to add some more personal impressions over the coming days. However, my next entry though will be devoted to yesterday's extraordinary Oranje-tinted events in downtown Basel. There'll be photos too.
Ok. Italy-Spain is starting now.. Will it be another sleepless night in Weil? [beep beep, honk honk]