Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Karlsruhe and the German GP

There are no Spätis in Karlsruhe. Maybe that’s all anyone needs to know…
There isn’t even a Kiosk, as Spätis are known in some less fortunate places. There’s an Alkoholverbot in Baden-Württemberg forbidding Spätis, Kiosks, petrol stations and their ilk from selling alcohol anywhere in the state after 10 p.m.
Strange then that I managed to see more pissed people in my short time in Karlsruhe than you’d see in a month in Berlin. There was a gang of wannabe punks that sat in the courtyard between the train station and the flamingos and of course the erratic dude I mentioned in the previous post.
Admittedly, I didn’t see much of Karlsruhe but the little I saw was enough to convince me the place is dull as fuck. The architecture is very nice and the buildings are pretty but dull, as, fuck. I know “ruhe” is in the name but still…
I was in town to cover the German Grand Prix in nearby Hockenheim. It went on for four days between practicing, qualifying and then actually racing the damn things. Thankfully there were a couple of crashes to liven that up.
Porsche treated me to lunch one day. Very nice. Some fancy shit I’d never eaten or even heard of before. Of course I had to eat it quickly. Apparently I could have eaten at Ferrari every day. But I only learned that on the last day.
There were a lot of fat people around. I guess that’s what happens when your idea of sport is watching cars going around in circles. But only the men were fat. The women were all supermodels. Standards only apply halfway across the board in Formula One.
I didn’t bother going back to Karlsruhe when it was all over, got the train instead to Mannheim, which seems to have its own Fernsehturm imposter. Inferior of course. That’s all I can tell you about Mannheim.
The train that took me back to Berlin was quicker than anything I’d seen over the few days. It shot back at frightening speeds. Even then, it wasn’t fast enough.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

An evening in Karlsruhe

This evening in Karlsruhe, I went back to the courtyard with the duck-pond and the flamingos on the way to the Späti that isn’t a Späti.
It turns out the flamingos are in the zoo, but still. It’s all laid out like a park in front of the pond. The zoo’s almost embarrassingly easy to break into.
I sat down beside the pond, cracked open a beer and looked around. Mostly well to do types, though a few delinquents on a bench yonder were getting rowdy.
Some dude came along with a bottle of beer, went straight for the pond, stood in it with his boots and all on and started scooping the water into his mouth with the bottle. He kept doing it, loads of times, and his beady eye caught mine as he kept scooping. I looked away, figured the poor guy must be thirsty. But of course I looked back.
He took his already sodden boots and socks off, and started doing circuits around the perimeter of the pond. He rolled up the bottom of his tracksuit bottoms initially but they got wet and the weight of the water started dragging them down.
By the time his arse was showing he dived flat on his face into the pond, right in front of couple of respectable looking oul wans.
“Na, toll,” one of them said, disdain oozing from her every pore. They looked at him in disgust, then resumed chatting.
The dude went to where he’d been before, sat down on the ledge with his feet in the water and put his head in his hands. He looked thoroughly miserable, worryingly so.
My neighbor on the ledge, a guy with a large rucksack who was presumably waiting for a train to bring him somewhere better, got his stuff ready to go, then started looking at your man, who was still there, head in his hands.
The neighbor talked to him, and it seemed a normal conversation. They both laughed. Then the neighbor got his wallet out and gave the dude a note. Dunno how much it was, it doesn’t matter.
The dude was overcome, thanked the guy profusely, they both shook hands, punched shoulders, and the guy with the rucksack left.
The dude was alone again. He sat down again, contemplated what to do next. Sit-ups. He lay down on his back in the pond, clothes on and started doing sit-ups.
Some fat people came along and laughed at him. They sat down, continued munching.
There was nothing left for your man to do but parade around in his jocks, just in front of the fancy restaurant next door. The diners tried their best to ignore him, but the staff could no longer ignore him when he sat at a table and perused the undoubtedly overpriced menu.
As I was leaving, he’d returned to his place by the pond, put his trousers back on, and sirens could be heard approaching. Normal order was being resumed.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The best and worst of the World Cup

The best thing about the World Cup for me was watching it with the young fella sitting on my knee. We watched a couple of games and they were always the exciting ones. I think Brazil v. Chile was one of the highlights of his life – first the Chilean guy hitting the crossbar in the last minute, then the drama of penalties. Jaysus, he loved it!
Every time there’s a goal he’ll celebrate, regardless of which side scores, South American style. “Gooooooooooooooooolllll!! Gol! Gol! Gol!” So he gets pretty excited for penalties.He was very impressed with Messi too. At first he didn’t believe that was his name. “Messy? Messy?!” But after he’d watched a bit of him and heard the commentator call him that too he figured, what the hell, that must be the guy’s name.
Jenny visited one evening and he was telling her how nobody can get the ball off Messi and how he’d scored two goals. “Two goals!” He was incredulous. I guess he’d never heard of anyone scoring two goals before.
Despite his allegiance to Messi he was still sorry for Switzerland when they went out: ”The red ones didn’t get a goal. The poor red ones.”
Yeah, it was great watching the World Cup with him. He said he’ll play in it when he’s bigger.
The worst thing was seeing nationalism raising its ugly head with Germany’s win. The ‘Schland crowds at Brandenburger Tor for the final and again for the trophy presentation (I had to be there for both for work*) were bad enough, though relatively harmless.
But I heard tales of Nazis celebrating with “Sieg Heil!” and giving salutes (on Eberswalder Straße in Prenzlauer Berg). One friend, a Germany fan and football nut, was hassled by Nazis upon leaving his house after the final, presumably because he wasn’t draped in a German flag or tattooed with swastikas.
You could also buy “Endsieg” t-shirts featuring Nazi imagery on Amazon for a short while until they got enough complaints.
Germany mightn’t like to admit it, and I think visitors are blissfully unaware of it, but the country has a far-right problem, one whose advocates are finding football to be a fertile breeding ground.
Most people don’t believe it or simply don’t want to know. They bury their heads in the sand and hope it will go away. Many are already closet Nazis with far-right sympathies. Some write for newspapers – big-selling newspapers too.
I asked the young fella what color he’d be playing in at the World Cup. Imagine my horror when he replied, “White.”
“White?! But what about Ireland? Ireland play in green!”
He corrected himself straight away.**

*I wrote this on my way home but it didn’t make it into my report. Still, I think it provides an accurate description of the celebrations in Berlin.
“Hundreds of fans gathered around the Eberswalder Strasse metro station, blocking the Schoenhauser Allee avenue, drinking, singing raucously, shouting and setting off fireworks at 2 a.m. local time. The ground was littered with broken glass and the strong waft of marijuana could be smelled in the air. Riot police watched closely from nearby but didn’t intervene.
“Other revelers were staggering away in search of the next party.”

**This conversation did happen, but I should point out that of course it’s up to him to do whatever he wants to do. As long as he doesn’t actually become a Nazi I’ll be fine with it.

I’ve no pictures to add to this post yet because I’m away, but I’ll update with pictures of the first football match he went to a couple of weeks before the World Cup – the Berliner Pokalfinale. Another momentous occasion.