Saturday, June 24, 2006


As I mentioned in my last post, I landed a ticket to the Tunesia-Ukraine game in Berlin on Friday afternoon. I could feel the excitment surrounding game progressively growing from the moment I arrived at the Zoo train station. Even McDonalds was in on the action. On the train platform, it was fascinating to see the difference between the Ukrainian and Tunesian fans. The Tunesian fans seemed to arrive together in waves, completely decked out in red and white, wrapped in flags, singing, banging on drums and playing what I think was a Mezued (Tunesian bagpipes). The Ukrainian fans were also sporting their national colors (blue and yellow,) but they were much smaller in number and were most notable for taking pictures of the Tunesian fans from a distance.

I met up with Carl and his cousin's wife Akiko on the train and we headed to the stadium. These pictures of Olympia Stadium might look vaguely familiar because it is the location of the 1936 Olympics, over which Hitler presided and Jessie Owens ran for gold.

German efficiency prevailed once again, and we were through the security line, frisked, with our bags searched, and ticket checked in under 10 minutes. One interesting thing that I noticed was that the concession stands were outside the stadium instead of attached to the building. I suspect this is the result of when the stadium was built rather than a difference between US and German stadiums in general, but I am not sure.

The game itself was great to watch. Both teams had some good attempts on goal, but the only goal scored came from Ukraine. I thought it was also fun to watch the security forces. The number of guards progressively increased throughout the game-- especially near the Tunesian fans as a small group became more and more angry as the game was not going their way. By the end of the game, numerous flags, cups, horns and trash had been thrown at the guards. I can't comment on the Ukranian fan section because we were across the stadium from them. But since they won, I doubt they were too angry:-)

Attending a World Cup game during my year in Germany will definitely make my highlights of the year list!

This afternoon I headed to Pfefferberg, one of Berlin's well-known beer gardens located in Prenzlauerberg to watch the Sweden-Germany game. Our group of 7 made up the largest Swedish contingent at the beer garden. I loved the people I was with, but this was my least favorite game so far. The beer garden was crowded, the Germans behind me sang obnoxious songs throughout the game and the guy in front of us felt it necessary to block the screen by either standing up at random times or giving twinkle fingers everytime Germany was kicking the ball. It was also too bad that Sweden got creamed! The one positive I will say is that I continue to be impressed with the behavior of the fans towards one another, after the game. People came up to Carl and Christoph to say good game and seemed genuine. Quite classy!

So now I am back in my apartment and have decided to make tomorrow a soccer-free day! The fans were a bit intense today and I have easily inhaled more second hand smoke since the start of the World Cup than I have in my entire life!!! My poor lungs and throat need a rest. (Still allowing smoking in public places is one of the most backwoods, hicky things about Germany-- a posting for another day!)

I was also at the beach today and will write about that tomorrow (FKK BABY!)

Friday, June 23, 2006

USA and "a golden ticket"

Okay, so things didn't turn out so well for the US. We lost to Ghana yesterday, 1-2. On the one hand, I'm bummed because I was rooting for the home team. On the other hand, they didn't deserve to win. Yes, they were in a hard group, but there was some majorly BORING playing going on from our side. I brought my American flags to the pub yesterday, where I watched the game. But the GO USA award goes to Carl, hands down! No more the stoic Swede, Carl was sporting a great face paint design created by Jennie's friend Lisa:-)

In other news, I think I am living the modern-day German version of Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. I don't have a golden ticket, I have a green ticket! Do you get it? That's right, I got a ticket to go to a game at the stadium!! This afternoon I will be watching the Tunesia-Ukraine game at Olympia Stadium in Berlin. I am super excited!! "...And with a fussball ticket, it's a fussball day..."

More later!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

12 step program

Wow, I think I am in need of a 12-step program for soccer addicts! My schedule is becoming more and more dictated by which games are being played when. I have never been like this before about a sport (other than Katie’s races.) But soccer fever is rampant in the city and I have definitely caught it! Germany won last night and people drove around for hours afterwards, hanging out of the windows of their cars with German flags. I don’t really know how the city will survive the excitement if Germany continues to advance past the next round.

Here are some pictures I took near the Brandenburg Gate over the weekend. The guy with the hat was a riot. He wore the hat to the top of the Reichstag too!

Last night, I met Carl and some of his friends in Kreuzberg to watch the England-Sweden game. Two cute teams were playing (minus a few hair malfunctions,) Carl was rooting for his home team, the weather was great… it was a wonderful soccer evening! The game ended in a tie, which means Sweden and Germany play each other in the next round. I would have preferred an England-Germany game, so Sweden and Germany would have the chance to advance to the quarter-final. But so goes the game, I guess. They meet on Saturday. I think my allegiance has to lean to Germany, because I want to see how wild the city can get if Germany wins it all:-) In the meantime, the USA plays Ghana tomorrow. Send the team your good vibes!

who's that face-painter waiting on the street corner?

Carl! (no smiling stoic Swede)

dreaming of a Swedish victory

beer garden in Viktoria Park

Tuesday, June 20, 2006


My presentation is over (and the Americans tied their last match.) Finally, I can exhale!

View of Fan Fest from top of Reichstag. The stadium is not the real Olympia Stadium, but a replica built in front of the Reichstag where people can watch the game.

I’ve had a busy but very fun few days. Christina (college friend who now lives in Prague) arrived on Saturday afternoon with her boyfriend Dan to enjoy a bit of Berlin sightseeing and a lot of World Cup excitement. We watched part of the Portugal-Iran game at my place, part at a restaurant, and then headed to the “Fan Mile.” Dan didn’t believe me when I said the maximum capacity of the area is 250,000. “you must mean 25,000,” he kept telling me. I didn’t really believe 250,000 myself until we got down there. 250,000 it is! The festival area is enormous! 3 or 4 jumbotrons, food from around the world, bungee jumping, a carousel, t-shirt stands, and lots and lots of fans fill the area between the Brandenburg Gate and Siegessaule (Victory column.)

Sunday morning, Christina, Dan and I set out to see the Soviet Memorial, East Side Gallery and Reichstag building. The Reichstag is conveniently located right next to the Fan Mile, so we strolled through the crowds in the afternoon, looking for “the perfect World Cup t-shirt” and then relaxed while watching the Brazil-Australia game.

Christina and Dan at the Reichstag

I worked on my presentation throughout the weekend, so I was prepared for yesterday…the BIG event! Overall, I think the presentation was fine. I spoke for 20 minutes about how I collected my data, how I compared US and German public diplomacy in the Muslim world and made a few “where do we go from here” suggestions. Some of the comments afterwards were fascinating because I would never have come to the same conclusions from my American point of view. I said the German efforts should be more coordinated. Two people said (from a citizens’ point of view) they liked the chaotic decentralization of the German government. Hmm! Some questions I think I answered well and others not as much. I didn’t get any “super job,” “totally interesting work” comments at the end, but I was asked/told to publish a paper about my work for the Foundation, so I think that is a good sign.

Last night, I had a quite fun, quirky, Berlin evening. I met Matthias for a production of Taming of the Shrew that was being held on a barge along the Spree River. It poured rain in the hour before the play, so we found our way to a nearby bar. The bartender had such a strong accent I could barely understand him. (Matthias said it was Kölsch with a good helping of Berliner) But in the course of 20 or 30 minutes I did manage to hear him swear at President Bush, say he liked the brut force of the American police compared to German police, surmise that I was in Berlin either for the World Cup or to marry Matthias. He also made some other random comments that might have bordered on racist, but once again with such the heavy accent I found myself saying “Ich weiss nicht” and "interessant" a lot. Goodness only knows what I agreed to!

So today it is back to work… but I suspect the building will be empty by the time the Germany-Ecuador game begins at 4pm!