Guess who came to Berlin to visit us?
Following a series of molasses-like traffic jams that made me wish for a bicycle and question the sanity of owning a car in a city (it took us over an hour to travel 5 kilometers), we met them in the counterculture center of East Berlin: the Kreuzberg borough.
Then, we parked our little red car near their big green van…
…and immediately began hunting for a suitable location to watch the World Cup. Tara and I both played soccer in elementary school, but neither of us has paid attention to anything fútbol related since. We're definitely the minority in Germany (and the world at large, I suspect).
For the last few days, we've been wondering what the constant droning noise filling the streets of Berlin was. Felix quickly explained that we've been hearing Vuvuzelas, a South African stadium horn. Then, with a boyish grin, he pulled out his own so I could give it a shot. Though annoying, I unabashedly admit it was fun :)
Finding somewhere showing the game was easy. Every mini-mart, bar, restaurant, cafe, and parking lot(!), had at least one big screen TV blaring the match, complete with tens or hundreds of people surrounding it. The tricky part was locating one of them with any free seats. When we couldn't manage that, we lowered our expectations a bit. We simply wanted the ability to see the screen!
In spite of the ubiquitous collection of TVs around town, this turned out to be a tall order. We wandered the streets amidst the ceaseless buzz of vuvuzelas for a good twenty minutes until we found a bar where we had a decent vantage point of the game. Thankfully, a few minutes after we settled in, some people left and we were able to sit down. Sadly, we couldn't see much of anything. The beer was good though!
Germany's star player, Miroslav Klose, got a red card in the first half.
With the team down one player (their best scorer no less) they hardly stood a chance against Serbia. Germany lost 1-0. Oh well. They're not out of the running yet!
When the game was over, we headed to the nearest doner kebab stall, as Nadine insisted that east Berlin has the best kebabs in the country. Tara and I have had a lot of good kebabs recently so I was a little skeptical they could get much better (they are great!). I was wrong. This thing was delicious!
Once we'd eaten, we went for a walk around East Berlin, formerly segregated from West Berlin by the "Anti-Capitalist Protection Wall" (known more simply as the Berlin wall). The area reminded me a lot of Williamsburg (a "hip" borough in New York City): lots of graffiti, fixed gear bikes, and twenty-something hipsters in funny glasses and skinny jeans.
Before driving to our campground outside the city to call it a day, we walked over to the East Side Gallery, a showcase of graffiti from artists/activists around the world, covering the partial remains of the Berlin Wall.
There were several billboards near the gallery with huge comic strips depicting various anecdotes about life before the wall fell. One of these involved a girl having to give her pet bird away because it started incessantly parroting the West Berlin news jingle (she lived in East Berlin and watching TV from West Berlin was forbidden). Another talked about the gentrification of East Berlin, leaving some people feeling displaced, while a third talked about losing a loved one who tried to escape to West Berlin and was shot by border guards in the process.
It is hard fathom the concept of having a wall run directly through your city, much less the sanity of the people who built it. Even stranger is realizing that this ridiculousness isn't even ancient history. I was six when it came down!
After another intense, emotional German experience, we headed back to the cars and drove out of town to our campsite.
Just before we left, I had to take a picture of this billboard. Every time we see one of these crazily long German words we laugh and remember the time we joked about it with our friends Ingrid and Yves. We insisted that German boasted the longest words we'd ever seen, but they didn't seem to agree. So here is your proof, guys! :-)
…and lastly, here is a specimen of what looks to be old communist construction. Not very inviting!