Friday, June 29, 2012
Warsaw, Poland – Riga, Latvia
Just before going to bed, Zen Meister refused to let me give him any cash for my bed in the hostel. “Pay me back with a couple of vodka shots next time I see you. You are a guest of Germany,” he tells me.
After three hours sleep – above average for the tournament I’d say – I am up at 5am and tip toe out of the room so as not to wake Philip Lahm or Zen Meister. A 25-zolty taxi ride and quick cup of coffee later I catch the 15-euro, 12-hour Ecolines double-decker to Riga.
Before boarding I promise myself that I won’t drink any alcohol for a week and will try to sleep most of the journey. The bus is full and sat next to me is a lad from Belarus who travelled down to Warsaw for the football. He stinks of alcohol – reminding me of what I must have smelt like on many bus journeys – and tells me that he missed his bus back to Minsk after last night’s match and ended up kipping down in the bus station where he knocked back 700mils of vodka. By the time we reach the Lithuanian border, Zhenya insists on me sharing a beer with him and when we get to the Lithuanian town of Panevezys, a few hours later, a Ukrainian-Latvian lad, Andrejs, who used to play for Skonto Riga football club, adds a bottle of Ukrainian Balsams to the mix, while Zhenya and I take it in turn to buy rounds. Somehow, I can’t imagine this scenario playing out on a UK National Express.
Back in Riga any plans to go straight to bed are instantly shelved. I pop on my new Ukrainian football top and get myself down to Kiwi Pub where I meet Johan and American Jeff, who got back from Ukraine earlier this week. After all the chat about being extra careful in Ukraine, Jeff survived the delights of Kharkiv, Odesa and Kyiv only to get mugged (cash, credit cards, phone and keys stolen) and knocked out with a blow to his head on his first night back in Latvia.
We are all still buzzing from our Euro adventure and 24 hours on from the semi in Warsaw I find myself on a boat floating down the Daugava River with around 100 partygoers on board; trance and house tunes pumping out into the early hours when it is soon light once again. I guess the Euros really won’t be over until I wake up on Monday morning after the final.