Monday 24 June 2024

Europe Diary - Week 1

My little family is visiting the motherland.

We are in Germany, where my wife was born and my ancestors made fine wine. The trip is a holiday, a chance to catch up with my wife's many relatives, and an opportunity for my soccer-obsessed son to see some games of the Euro Cup.

We started with relatives in Lüneburg, a really beautiful town. And we went to look at the best view in the city - from the historic water tower.

Next we were off to Berlin.

In each town hosting games of the Euro Cup, there's a Fan Zone, with giant screens to watch the games and a bevy of beer and sausage vendors. The Fan Zone in Berlin is huge, with a mile of astroturf stretching back from the Brandenberg Gate.

We stopped in for a burger at Five Guys in Berlin. The food was excellent, but very expensive. They had their supply of local potatoes in the middle of the shop, with details of the farm they came from.

Our next stop was Düsseldorf, which sits on the Rhein River, to see our first match.

We originally entered a kind of ticket lottery, which got us three seats to see Turkey vs Chechnia. But my wife wanted more, so she joined the French team fan club and got double passes to some French games.

So in that Dusseldorf, my wife and son went to see France play, while I wandered around in the city. Down by the docks it was crowded with huge groups of various nationalities, drunkenly singing their anthems and local tunes.

This next guy knows how to party! Drink with a bird on your head or why even bother?

Allow me to translate. Frog vomit is the drink du jour.

This is a shopping centre in Dusseldorf, with over a thousand trees planted on it. You've got to love the design.

We had a brief stop in Celle, my wife's home town. It was the last day of school and the school-leavers had painted each other in bright colours and got brought into town on tractor wagons!

Leipzig was next, where we arrived at the biggest train station in the world! This is just the front entry.

It's been a market town since Roman times, so the town square is huge.

While my wife and son hit the next French game, I went to the Fan Zone and rode the Ferris wheel.

I watched the game for a while, but I'll be frank, it was boring. The atmosphere is fabulous but the sport itself is often very dull indeed - 90 minutes of ultra careful play and no scoring.

There are some nice sculptures in Leipzig though. It feels like a very wealthy town.

Leipzig is also home to the Monument to the Battle of the Nations, or Völkerschlachtdenkmal.

It commemorates Napoleon's defeat by half a dozen armies in the largest open battle that had ever been seen on the face of the earth.

It was also built to encourage German pride, so the images are very powerful - brave soldiers, holy knights, proud mothers uplifting their children to glory. And the scale of it it amazing.

This is the viewing platform. Behind me is a historic cemetery that looks like a castle. And behind that in the far distance is a nuclear power station!

But it's a long way back down.

As our final stop in Leipzig, my wife suggested an ice cream Cafe. This one has been around since before the wall was built! And the sundaes were sensational.

Next, we're heading back to Berlin. We've also got more soccer games to see and a side trip to Paris!

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