And the crowd goes wild

This World Cup thingy is really catching on in Germany. Who would have guessed?

Munich’s many beer gardens are probably the best places in town for World Cup viewing. The crowd at Menterschwaige certainly seemed to enjoy watching Germany spank Argentina yesterday.

But the celebration was just getting started. Back in the center of Munich, police closed Leopoldstraße for a three-kilometer-long victory party which lasted all afternoon and into the night. And this was just the quarter-finals.

An attempted burning of an Argentinian flag was thwarted by the flame-retardant nature of its material.

The final score? Continue reading

Going on in Munich: July 2010

As usual, my travel schedule will be calming down with the heat of summer, so I’m on the lookout for local fun here in Munich. After a very rainy June, the entire city is excited to sit outside under the chestnut trees and drink beer, but there are actually other fun ways to entertain oneself in the city of beer gardens, too.

Munich Filmfest (until July 3). The Filmfest started last week but you can still catch the end of it – movies are playing through Saturday. There are several international categories, and you can find plenty of films in English or subtitled in English. If you’re lucky you’ll catch a director’s talk, too.

Soccer Watching (until July 11). The World Cup is being viewed pretty much everywhere in Munich. Most biergartens and restaurants offer screens large and small. There’s a big screen set up for the German games at Bordeauxplatz, and at Wittelsbacherplatz you can find Siemens Soccer City.

Open Artist Studios (July 10-11). During Kunst im Karrèe dozens of artists open their Schwabing studios to the public. My feet ached after two days of pounding the pavement last year, but it was worth it. I recommend checking out the artists in advance (online or get a catalog) so you can target the ones who look most interesting to you.

Christopher Street Day (July 17-18). It’s almost time for the annual invasion of Marienplatz by racing drag queens. More gay pride fun than you can shake a big, throbbing stick at.

Tollwood (July 1-25). Hippie shopping, international food, and lots of concerts. This year’s highlights include the Pet Shop Boys, Norah Jones, Crosby, Stills & Nash, and, uh, Michael Bolton.

What will you be doing this July?

So there’s some kind of big soccer thingy going on?

Kidding, kidding. I am actually a big fan of the World Cup. It’s almost the only sporting event I can say that about. Professional league sports of all kinds bore me to tears, but the World Cup is different. And the fact that Glenn Beck is against it is kind of the icing on the cake.

Take this year’s event, and all its interesting angles. South Africa gets a chance to step onto the world stage. Desmond Tutu gets to wear adorable supporter gear. The world gets introduced to a new instrument. Sound nerds get to figure out how to cancel out the sound of said instrument. And then there are all the beautiful abs.

The North Korean team is another fascinating part of this years’ tournament. They have proven themselves to be worthy athletes, losing to number-one-in-the-world Brazil by a very respectable 2 to 1. They are, on average, a couple inches shorter than the South Koreans. Their fan section is small and uniform, and possibly consists of paid Chinese actors.

And then there’s the whole matter of whom to cheer for. After all, your country is only playing in a small number of the total games. Who else do you support, and why? We watched the US-England game in a beer garden, and I was surprised that the mostly-German crowd was so heavily cheering for the US. I watch games played by Germany or the US with great interest, but I find myself alternately wanting them to win or lose at any given moment. I used to be a loyal Italy fan, but I’ve found my allegiance to them flailing this year, too.

I love a good underdog, and found myself being happy for Slovenia in their tie with the US, the country with the highest population in the tournament. Slovenia, on the other hand, has a population smaller than that of Brooklyn. And going back to North Korea, I simultaneously want them to win and lose. I wish happiness and success for the individuals whom are being repressed by a crazy dictator, but I don’t want the crazy dictator to be able to derive any pleasure or glory from the success of his team. Maybe what I really want is for their team to do fairly well, and then for all of them to defect. Any chance of that?

Munich, like many cities around the world, is in party mode this month. Beer gardens and restaurants fill up with eager fans. Wearing face paint and clown wigs in public is suddenly OK. Companies let their employees leave early to watch Germany play. The beer* is flowing. Life is good, especially when the German team is winning, but even near-goals are celebrated with vigor.

As I type this, somewhere outside my window a vuvuzela is being played in time with the ringing church bells. I am happy that it’s just one.

Is the World Cup catching your interest this summer?


* And by beer, I mean the regular old Munich beer that always flows here. No one here seems to have heard of Hasseröder, the Official German World Cup Beer, except for me.

More honking*…

That would be for Turkey’s victory over Switzerland this evening. Sadly, host Switzerland has made a quick exit from the Euro Cup after losing its first two games. But I am happy that Turkey has a chance to continue on. Germany has such a large Turkish population that Turkey feels like a second home team.

* In Europe the traditional way to celebrate your team’s big soccer victory is to drive around in your car and honk. See previous discussion here and here.

Anticipation, Swiss style

Last week this clock went up in the Zurich train station. It counts down the minutes to the kick off at the first game of the Euro 2008, a year away.

5.4 million soccer fans are expected to swarm into Switzerland for this event (which the Swiss are co-hosting with the Austrians), coming close to doubling the population of this little country. At the same time, they’re trying to crack down on forced prostitution before the event. (Apparently large soccer tournaments tend to lead to an influx of prostitutes. Who knew?)

Rioting in Frawitzerland

Wanting to fit in one more trip before the visitor parade, we went to visit Sara and husband in a French suburb of Geneva this weekend. This gave us a chance to see first-hand some of the celebrations after France’s unexpected victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

The cheering and honking started immediately after the final whistle, and didn’t stop until sometime after we had gone to bed. There was a man dressed up like a giant soccer ball celebrating on a neighboring balcony (alas, it was too dark for the pictures to come out). If people were getting this crazy within the privacy of their own apartments, I reasoned, what wild, wacky stuff must be going on out on the street! We quickly donned our shoes and headed out to enjoy that rare beast, the French Victory.

We followed the noise to what seemed to be the main intersection of the little town, to find a crowd of all ages, races, and genders (yes, all 2 of them). Cars continuously drove through honking, with various passengers hanging various body parts out the windows and screaming.

Highlights of the festivities included a group of colorfully-dressed African woman dancing in the street, soccer moms trying to keep track of their young kids, guys running around holding lit fireworks, and a beer-bellied man on his balcony watching over it all in nothing but his bikini underwear. Don’t worry, we got his picture.

Why do all the teams I like suck at penalty shots?

So we watched the last Swiss World Cup game at El Lokal along with a couple hundred other hopeful Swiss fans. Despite Ali’s and my enthusiastic American-style face painting, things did not go well for Schwiiz. They lost to Ukraine in penalty kicks. We were all sad, especially because it meant there would not be another riot in Zurich.

I guess it’s back to rooting for Italy for me.

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