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A weekend in Cologne with Michael

Where did Michael take me? Is this a WWE event? A rock concert? No, it's ESL One Cologne, one of the biggest eGaming tournaments of the year worldwide. 15,000 people turned up to essentially watch other people play video games. I'm simplifying it of course. This weekend was all about Michael and me spending time together one-on-one.

We came to Cologne because this is where Michael wanted to go. He's a huge fan of CS:GO and had been wanting to come to a tournament live. I was a bit skeptical, mostly because I've never been into video games, yet the weekend has opened my eyes and allowed me to learn more about what's going on inside Michael's mind.

We took an early flight Friday morning to get to the event as soon as possible. After dropping our bags at the hotel, we took the 30 minute walk across the Rhine to the arena.

Like most European cities, Cologne is quite the stunner! More on that in a bit. So we arrive at the event and I really have no idea what to expect. The first quarterfinal literally ended as we walked in so we had to wait 90 minutes for the next match to start. We grabbed a bite to eat and took our seats and what a setup they have!

The floor might not look to full (these are the premium seats), but the rest of the arena must have been 75% full. Later in the afternoon we sat in the upper deck to get a different perspective.

Throughout the matches Michael was explaining to me what was happening, the rules, who was who, etc. It was really interesting to see the incredible talent these gamers have and to think about how quickly their brains have to process everything that's happening around them. Friday night's matches ended around 11pm, so we finally headed back to the hotel for some sleep.

I headed out for a short run along the river Saturday morning while Michael slept in. Two bridges down was Cologne's version of the lock bridge, which I first saw in Paris.

After Michael woke up we headed across the bridge for some breakfast at a bakery we saw the day before. There were lots of Pride celebrations going on over the weekend, making for some interesting sightseeing, yet a good cultural experience for Michael.

Saturday's games didn't start until 4pm, so Michael decided that we should do something touristy. Now, I'm not sure if he really wanted to do this or if he was suggesting it because he knows I like being a tourist. Either way, I took him up on it and we headed for the K├Âlner Dom (Cologne Cathedral), which is a Gothic cathedral in the heart of Cologne.

We'd read online that there were stunning views from the top of the spires and for only €6. How long was it to the top? This sign said it all.

Ok, we've got this! The tight spiral staircase was tricky, crowded, hot and smelly, but the views from the top were simply magnificent, especially on a clear day.

Saturday was the semi-finals of the tournament and Michael was super excited (secretly I was as well). I was finding this whole event fascinating! The players were introduced as if there were WWE wrestlers entering for a bout.

The quarterfinals and semifinals are best 2 of 3 maps. Each map in each of the semis were incredibly close, ultimately both resulting in 2-0 wins. The finals were set for Sunday afternoon, with SK Gaming from Brazil taking on Cloud 9 from America.

Exhausted, we headed back for the night stopping for pizza in the middle of the Pride festival.

Sunday morning I got up early to go for a 60 minute run. Fortunately, Cologne has great paths along both sides of the Rhine so I headed back and forth across the bridges up and down the river. Such a beautiful morning and such a great way to start the day.

After my run we headed to the hotel pool for a bit of swimming and some fun. We had some time to kill before the 4pm start of the finals, so Michael suggested the Cologne Chocolate Museum. It was pretty crowded outside the building as they had some things arranged for younger children. We took the chance to get some selfies with the characters.

The museum reminded me quite a bit of the chocolate museum Oscar and I went to in Paris, the one in Cologne being much more modern, much more crowded, and not laid out chronologically.

The finals were approaching so we took the 30+ minutes walk back to the arena, backpacks in tow, knowing we'd only be able to see the first of the best of five maps before we headed to the airport. We found great seats for the finals, dead in the middle so we could see what was going on quite easily.

The team intros were amazing and the crowd went insane! Michael said it was quite a different experience being their live, hearing and feeling the crowd, rather than watching it online with 2M other people.

I'm so incredibly grateful that I got to experience a bit of Michael's world. I feel like I've learned a lot about his interests, made our bond even stronger, and will forever cherish these memories.

Thank you Michael! I love you!


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