wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Monday, June 26, 2006

Berlin WC 2006: the highlight tour

Hypothetical: if, before you made plans to go to the WC in Germany, you knew your team were going to be out of it after three games, earning only one point and generally underachieving, would you still go? Answer: an unequivocal yes. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather that the US had gone on another improbable run through the tournament, but even as their success put a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm for the soccer, the experience overall was unmatchably great. Some highlights:

--The Berlin fanfest. I was here at least five or so times, and while the frenetic fan energy of the Germany-Poland contest had its own appeal, I'd have to say I preferred the experience of the relatively deserted fanfest in between games, when you could just wander around and check out the various attractions. Among my faves were the soccer-themed sand sculptures, one of which featured Klinsmann, Voller, Vogts and Beckenbauer in a Mount Rushmore setting; the beer stands strategiclly staffed by adorable German girls; and the Bavarian style bierhall that morphed into the world's cheesiest Eurodisco by night. I could, however, have done without the live performance from Toxic (sp?), which has to be one of the worst bands I've ever had the misfortune of hearing. If you try to imagine a cross between Christian Death and Poison doing terrible a capella covers of American top-40 pop songs, you'll be somewhere in the neighborhood. I spent almost the entire set transfixed by its sheer hideousness, going so far as to buttonhole random German adolescents to ask whether this kind of performance was actually popular in their country (they denied it but I'm suspicious--after all, these people love David Hasselhoff).

--The food. I abandoned vegetarianism for the time I'm here because I didn't want to miss out and it's turned out to be a wise, if not entirely healthy decision. The first few days were a wurst-fest, mainly because the square nearest my Ku-damm hotel is populated by countless food stands where you can get a couple great brats for cheap. On one day I think I ate six of them all told (breakfast, lunch, dinner). After a while, I have to admit I got kind of sick of them, and changed over to Nackersteak for a while (basically grilled steak on a bun--more expensive but worth its price in deliciousness). Oh right, and there were restaurants too, of which my fave has to be Henne in Kreuzberg, an out of the way place with a lovely biergarten and the most delicious fried chicken I've ever eaten (or, I suspect, ever will eat). And after I grew tired of meat, I basically camped out downstairs at Va Piano, a chain of really slick modern Italian places where chefs make your custom pasta creation in front of you (also surprisingly cheap). Given the posh Ku-damm locale, it's a bit Eurotrashy, but you know I'm kind of into that, so I spent hours reading in the slick interiors amid fashionista ladies with the enormous sunglasses (yes, worn indoors) and awful Eurotechno.

--Berlin, again. So as the broad readership doubtless knows, I kind of killed this city last summer, spending weeks here and seeing it in pretty much every detail. This time around, my plan was more to focus on watching, writing about, and traveling to the football rather than exploring the city (though I was glad to spend more time in the west/Ku-damm area rather than the east/Mitte where I stayed last summer). But then Tim rolled into town and I had the opportunity to serve as tour guide, which called on my knowledge of Berlin geography and transport (shaky at first, but it came back) as well as my opinions on the best things to do and see. In only a few days I reprised for Tim what I thought was a pretty good overview of the city, starting from the medieval center over by the east/Mitte and then all through the city--medieval center; Alexanderplatz & fernsehturm; museumsinsel; Checkpoint Charlie; remnants of the Berlin Wall; Holocaust memorial; Brandenburg gate; Reichstag; fanmile; Column o' Victory; Tiergarten; and back to Zoo station and the Kaiser-Wilhelm Gedanischekirche (or Broken Tooth for ease of remembering and pronunciation). I'd seen it all before, but wandering through it all again created a strange mix of memory, nostalgia, and wonder at the heart of the monumental, historical capital.

--The life. The life is, as the man says, good. Thanks to Web Guy I have had the enormous good fortune to spend my time here staying in the Hotel Concorde for the low low price of free. This means that instead of shelling out too much money for a low-end hotel room in an outlying area, I've got the comfort of a luxury hotel at my disposal, and have been taking advantage of it all--the posh lounge, the well-accoutred gym (steam room good; freezing cold plunge bath horrible); the resplendent breakfast buffet; and the looks of the hotel staff who are all like "who's the American guy with the board shorts and the T-shirt that says "Jamaican me crazy"? Plus since I'm here with more friends this time I've been able to go out and see the nightlife a bit (OK, more than just a bit). Best bar: this really cool place along a canal that's crawling with K-burg hipsters and has a swimming pool (which I didn't end up using--didn't have trunks with me and thought the alfresco alternative was a tad bit creepy). Best club: Sophienclub, which has a relaxed door policy and a great playlist of fun dance songs.

So yeah, I wished the US had done better, and I felt more than a little jealous of all the Germans and others who were able to cheer goals and wins and generally be proud of and excited about their team. But as total experiences go, Berlin is just as bewitching and fun as I remember. I'm ready to go, but it was a great two weeks and strangely enough I'll miss this place.


Blogger Phutatorius said...

A point of acronymic etiquette:

I studied German for four years in high school, and to my memory, "WC" is the term most commonly used in Deutschland to describe a toilet.

E.g., here, and here.

Thus, one should be careful throwing around "WC" in Germany, lest there be some sort of hilarious international misunderstanding — at the speaker's dignitary expense.

Just a thought from your ever-loyal looker-outer,


2:44 PM, June 30, 2006


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