If you are going to spend some time in Germany, one of the best things about the country is that every two yerars there is a big soccer tournament in the summertime right around the time when the weather is nicest.
All over the country, there is a culture of going out and watching the game in the thousands of outdoor biergartens, corner pubs, and big public plazas. There is always beer, radler (half beer and half lemonade), and sometimes apple juice mixed with soda water, or white wine mixed with soda water. Since the last decade, it's also been a time when Germans have started flying thier flag and getting more patriotic about these games. Many older Germans, still haunted by the history of nationalism in Germany, still refuse to fly the German flag, or they fly, instead, all of the flags of the teams playing.
I'm getting ahead of myself. We watched most of the games at home on Saori's laptop, streaming from whichever of the two German stations was streaming it. The streams were always a minute behind. It was nice they were in HD, but I have mixed feelings about knowing something good or bad is going to happen based on the yells and whoops from the street outside, so we would rush over and watch expectantly.
We saw Germany play Italy one afternoon in Bad Canstatt at a kind of alternative arts center, where we met up with a bunch of the Behnisch architects. There was a big screen and a pretty big crowd which meant there were really no seats to be had in the hour before the game, but there were on the higher terrace, where there was a beamer set up to project the game on a screen. But it was too light out, so you couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on on the field. So we got greaat seats and watched the game on our phones until it got dark enough that we could see the screen, and then we had GREAT seats. Germany won and the arts center courtyard exploded.
We watched Wales vs Portugal play last night at a restaurant. Not so many people interested in this game- more people just wanted to see if Wales could continue the dream they have been playing, and many also secretly hoped for a catastrophic Portugal collapse like what happened to England.
Today was a big day, a semifinal. Saori's coworkers decided they were going to try to watch it in Schlossgarten, which is the closest equivilant to saying you'd like to watch new years in Times Square. I got there two hours early, and there were already no seats to be had. If you wanted a seat, you had to be there at least five or six hours ahead of time. It was packed. Saori sent word that two of her coworkers were already there, and sent me their numbers. I actually ran into them before they had a chance to reply to my message. It helped that I was hanging out by the food line.
Where most people come in, checkpoints had been set up to look through bags for food? beer? water? IEDs? but I came in from the schlossgarten side (which was lovely bathed in the late afternoon sun) and I walked right in without being checked. Which was good, since I was toting a liter and a half of contraband water, and also some kettle chips (but I heard later they were not as concerned about food). Anyway, I jumped in the beer lineand picked up two beers- one for Saori who was on her way, and I. The beers were each $12. You would get about $2.50 back if you returned the cup, which was plastic, but at least you got a liter of beer. A liter of German beer is not a joke. For one, it's heavy. For the other, if you're not drinking that water you couldn't sneak in, then you are getting slammed with booze unless you drink real slow.
Anyway, I set up a small picnic blanket for the coworkers who wanted to eat, and then we met up with Saori and a few others. Once the game started, Saori and the other girls wriggled thier way deep into the crowds and staked out spots to watch where we could stand and not get sworn at in German too much.
The game was a bust. Not much fun to watch, honestly. Better was watching the crowd, the thrown beer, the small and vocal contingent of French fans, etc.
Around the time when all hope was lost for the German team, I decided to make a pit stop and headed to the bathrooms. The upside was they were free since I guess it is too hard to try to wrestle coins out of 5000 drunks and give correct change, but the downside was they were built according to the usual planning which meant there was a huge, huge line out of the women's restroom, and a constant changeover in the men's. Actually, I was a little shocked to see a line of mostly women INSIDE the men's restroom, waiting to use the WCs. I mean, like inside, with a line going past all the urinals. It was a little unusual, but I shrugged and relieved myself. For one, this is Germany. There is not only "free body culture" here, but also the mixed thermal baths which are totally normal. To be perfectly honest, this is the future of bathrooms in Europe and the US. No mens room, no womens room, just a bathroom with a bunch of urinals and WCs. It solves too many problems about gender identity and too few women's toilets for it to be not inevitable.
After the game, there were a few fights which broke out. There was a small altercation between two men, who where quickly separated and calmed down by their friends. However, five minutes later, nearly a dozen private security personell swoop down and start throwing people into holds like the slightly drunk and overly emotional combatants were terrorists. It was overkill.
Germany is out, and now France and Portugal will play, and Germany will try to wake up again in another two years for the World Cup.