Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Eurotrip 2011 - Day 12 (6/28/2011) - Dresden

Let me start out by saying that this was a great day and it would be hard for another day on the trip to top it.

We were not in any particular hurry this morning, so we slept in until about 9:30 or 10. After showering we walked to the train station supermarket and bought some breakfast food for 2 days - bread, cheese, bananas, cereal, milk, tea, juice. We then returned to the hostel and ate some of it. Next we wandered over to Altstadt (Old Town) Dresden. Galen led us down the wrong street again (I failed in my resolution to double-check his navigation), but this led to the magnificent fortune that while correcting our path we bumped into 4 players from the USA women's soccer team, whose game we would be seeing that evening. Galen was the one who initially noticed them and then hinted who they might be. I had been oblivious, and by the time we convinced each other that they were probably on the team we had already walked past them. I resolved to run back and ask them but Galen beat me to the punch and yelled our question at them. Two of them answered in the affirmative and turned around to come meet us. We introduced ourselves and chatted briefly - one player was Alex (Morgan), and I can't remember the other's name, but I'll look her up later. They were also kind enough to pose with me for a picture, which was pretty freaking cool. As we parted ways we assured them that we would be rooting for them at the game later.

After that we walked through Dresden for a while, and I must say that it is a gorgeous city. Our most noble stop was probably the Zwinger, which is a palace that has been converted into a few museums. We separately toured the art museum, using the audio guides that I have now come to like (it was worth the €3, especially since we got €2.50 off the entry fee for being students (Germans are also very trusting, including if you don't have your student ID, as Galen didn't). We also walked through the armory museum as well as the uncontrolled palace grounds. After that we walked to the German Hygiene Museum, which was next to the stadium and had been recommended by one of the hostel workers in Berlin. But by the time we got there it was closing up early due to the game, and we didn't really have time to see it anyway - it was almost 4:30 and the game started at 6:15. We walked over to a huge, and faily packed, beer garden to grab a bite before the game - I had a bratwurst (no bun), fries, and a Fanta while Galen just had fries and a couple of half-liter beers. We then walked through the fan zone (my favorite game, though I didn't play any, was a penalty kick station with a computerized/mechanical goalie that pivoted to save the kicks) before entering and finding our seats.

The game itself was really good. The North Korean women probably had more pace, but the larger USA women were often able to muscle them off the ball. The game was tied 0-0 at halftime, with each team getting a couple of good chances. The USA controlled more of the ball but the North Koreans were dangerous on the counterattack. The second half saw more USA control and finally yielded a breakthrough. The final score was 2-0, and I think each team also hit a crossbar. Abby Wambach won player of the game honors, and Alex came on in the second half (Galen and I thought #7 might have been her from the start, but she turned out to have my favorite #13). I may or may not have taken a few close-up pictures of her after I realized (due to the substitution announcement) which player was her. After the win the team did a victory/cool-down lap for the remaining US fans (the crowd had been mostly neutral with a large US contingent and a tiny North Korean section), and a couple of players later signed some autographs.

After that Galen and I went to hang out by the stadium VIP exit with a small crowd. There we saw Julie Foudy and later Mia Hamm (who was my, and everybody's, favorite female player for a long time). One of the staff with her came over and semi-discretely told us that Mia would come over to the barrier if we called her - so I did. And when she came over I was shell-shocked. I just stared, unable to say anything, until Galen bailed me out by asking her if/how she gets to go to all the games. As they chatted briefly, I fumbled out my camera from my bag and asked her for a picture with me, to which she graciously obliged (!!!). After that my head was in the clouds for a while.

After hanging around for a few more minutes, we noticed a bus pull up where another crowd had gathered by an exit, so we hustled over. The North Korean team was first to board their bus, and the (pro-USA) crowd gave them a healthy applause. Some minutes later the US women came out to loud cheers. Some of them again signed autographs, including Alex. I held out my ticket and a pen for her to sign, and she recognized me. She thanked me for coming out to support them and I congratulated her for the win. She asked if we were going to any more of their games, to which I replied that we weren't. Galen and I had earlier joked about asking her if she or the team were hanging out later, and I actually did ask - I tried to do so in the most non-creepy way I could but I'm sure it probably came across that way anyway. In any case, she said that they were leaving early the next day so they wouldn't be doing much of anything. If she was indeed creeped out, she handled it very well and was super nice. I wished her good for luck the rest of the tournament and let her continue signing. And that is how the young up-and-comer Alex Morgan became my new favorite female soccer player (although Marta is so amazingly good that she'll probably be 1a).

After all that Galen and I walked back to Neustadt, this time over the nice bridge. We tried dropping by an Indian joint marked on the map, but the kitchen was closed, so we instead hit up another Turkish place for a couple of dürüm. We then walked back to the hostel to hang out and play some chess before calling it a night a little before 1.

Some pictures from the whole trip:

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