Great train journeys of Euro 2008

June 24, 2008

A Sweden fan’s disappointmentAs a reporter at Euro 2008 you’re only as good as the team or teams you are covering and after Sweden and Romania’s elimination from the finals, I was the first of the Reuters team to pack my bags and go home.

It was disappointment tinged with relief as the call came after Sweden’s defeat by Russia. Exhaustion was beginning to catch up with me, so my own bed in Brussels was a very attractive offer.

So what did I think about Euro 2008? It was very enjoyable. I met lots of people, learned a lot and crated many memories … oh yes, the soccer was ok too.

Two of the most interesting, but bizarre, lessons I learned were:

Firstly, if you leave the electronic key to your hotel bedroom next to your mobile phone in your pocket, it won’t work when you get back to your hotel at 1am and you have to wake up the owner to let you in.

The second thing is that first class and business class mean two very different things in Austria and Switzerland when you travel.

Let me explain.

On a train trip to Innsbruck to cover Sweden’s defeat to Spain, I was sat next to Dimitris Varotis and his 18 year-old son Dante. As you might expect by their names, they are Greek, or American of Greek extraction to be exact. They had both travelled from Pittsburgh to watch Euro 2008, taking in Spain and Portugal’s games. “The Greeks are boring and have had their day,” Dante, who prefers soccer to baseball and American football, told me. Soccer truly is a global game.

My insight into Austrian and Swiss levels of travel came on the return journey. Amid a packed first class section, a Japanese photographer, who had sat beside myself and my new U.S. friends on the outward journey, recognised me an invited me to sit with him and four of his photographer friends. in a very comfortable, Orient Express style booth.

But then a burly train inspector came up and told us to get out. “Business class is not first class in our country,” he snapped.

The five photographers looked ashamed, angry and upset all at once. The inspector then demanded 50 euros from them to stay put. They said they could not afford that. I intervened and in my limited German pointed to the small print on our accreditation, which was in English and which I had for some reason read beforehand, that stated we were in fact allowed to travel in the compartment once it was not an overnight sleeper.

The inspector quickly moved on with his tail between his legs and I became an instant hero in Japan.

Darren Ennis, Brussels

PHOTO: A Sweden fan reacts after defeat by Russia in Innsbruck, June 18, 2008. REUTERS/Michael Dalder


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