Travel

P Marks The Spot

Normally when travelling by myself, I land at the airport with nothing more than a Lonely Planet guidebook and a completely open agenda. I had just two full days in Berlin though, so I planned more carefully. I didn’t have a day or so to orientate myself to my surroundings. I planned an itinerary and booked the required tickets. First up was a walking tour, booked through Viator with Discover Berlin. A four hour march past all the key sites in Berlin’s history. The first part focused on pre 20th century Berlin. The latter part on the World War and Cold War. The guide was enthusiastic and interesting, which helps.

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I returned to one of the locations the next day. A very nondescript car park, just a few hundred metres from the Reichstag. It’s a car park because its difficult to build on this spot. Underneath lies the Fuhrerbunker, where Hitler made his last stand. There is a sign explaining the location and describing the layout of the bunker, 8 metres below the surface. This only went up in 2006, in time for the World Cup.You can’t access the bunker today. Over the years there have been efforts to destroy it and/or fill it in with concrete. There’s a fascinating collection of photographs by Rober Conrad, who disguised himself as a construction worker in 1987 and went down into the bunker to document what remained.

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It’s a place worthy of sitting for a while. To picture the scene, seventy years ago. The Nazi regime was in its death throes, but Adolf Hitler still strolled this patch of ground from time to time. Have you seen the film Downfall? It’s a masterpiece, well worth a couple of hours of your time. It’s based entirely on the last days and hours of the regime, covering the moment that Hitler finally did the right thing and put a bullet through his brain.

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Historians have placed the pit where the bodies of Mr and Mrs Hitler were partially burned to be by the first parking sign in this photo. The irony of this being a wheelchair accessible parking space is not lost on me. The only way to make it a more appropriate parking space would be if it were reserved for black, gay, Jewish wheel chair users. Dr Goebbels has it worse. They built the Monument to Murdered Jews over his bunker. Karma.

Everything possible has been done by the authorities to make this site uninteresting and devoid of stand out features. To remove the blemish of the Third Reich from the streets of the city. To say that they have attempted to whitewash history or pretend it didn’t happen is going too far and is unfair. This is a complicated and touchy subject.

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How I Lost 7-2

The joy of living in another country is that you get to follow two teams in the World Cup. Double the opportunity for some glory. It also doubles you opportunity for misery. I got a double dose of the latter. The first infusion of misery hurt most. England being knocked out by Germany.

Yes, Germany were the better team. Yes, England’s defence looked as solid as a paper house in a hurricane. Yes, John Terry probably does a better job of staying erect with team mates girlfriends than on a football pitch. But if you think you’re about to read a humble post from a gracious loser, you’ve so come to the wrong blog!

In the northern hemisphere at the moment, in a small town in south London, Wimbledon I think it’s called, there is a tennis tournament going on. And they have this fancy little device called Hawkeye. It will tell your ears quicker than your eyes can tell your brain that a small, fluffy green ball less than 3″ in diameter, travelling at up to three times the speed of a football, has gone 1mm wide of a chalk line.

In the southern hemisphere, at the World Cup, you have three officials running round a pitch like they’re playing a game of musical chairs at an RNIB Christmas party. And getting things hopelessly wrong. Repeatedly. And yet I don’t blame the referee. Who, when shown the video replay at half time, is reported to have exclaimed ‘Oh my god!‘ Read the rest of the article for a more objective account of the point I’m trying to make.

Why is there no goal line technology in football? If you don’t know, here’s the reason. Because Fifa, and Sepp Blatter in particular, don’t want it. Because, apparently, football should be the same game whether played in a World Cup final or on a Sunday afternoon in an amateur league in Blackburn Lancashire. What a load of nonsense!

How many amateur teams play on pitches with under soil heating, that are maintained by a professional crew? How many amateur teams pay their players millions of pounds a year? How many amateur teams have tens of millions of fans watching them on television? How many amateur teams call off games because there’s a bit of ice on the road outside the ground?

How many amateur teams screw around with each others girlfriends? Ok, the last point might be both irrelevant and just as true as the pros. But still. You get my point. The amateur game and the professional games already have massive differences between them. Adding some technology to the professional game isn’t going to kill the amateur sport.

Sometimes games are won or lost according to who takes their chances and who doesn’t. Today it was about who’s goals were allowed and who’s goals weren’t. I know, I know. Germany went on to score two more after that incident. But that goal would have brought England level at 2-2. And that changes the game. The whole style of the game. If England hadn’t had to chase the game. If, if, if.

Maybe Germany would have gone on to win 6-2. Maybe England would have sneaked a third and triumphed. Maybe undeservedly so. I don’t care. Who knows? We’ll never know. It’s not fair on the fans who paid thousands upon thousands of ever devaluing British pounds to travel half way round the world to see their team. They paid enough to deserve to know what would have happened.

But such is life. It wasn’t to be. It turned out that Adolf needn’t have been so concerned after all. My Mexican amigos have common ground to commiserate with me too, after the first goal that Argentina scored was so blatantly off side. It had been a tight game before that. the goal really knocked the wind out of their sails. They lost their composure, discipline and soon after a second goal – game over.

So that’s probably pretty much the last of my World Cup posts. Maybe I’ll find some enthusiasm to write something more come the latter stages of the competition. Otherwise, I’ll sign off now. What’s left to say. Oh, I know…..who won the bloody war anyway?! 🙂

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Tsk. The Beeb are getting clever. The video won’t work if you’re outside the UK. Click here to see a slightly crappy video of the disallowed goal, to see just how bloody far it was over the line!

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