No sleep for a while tonight. Berlin is one big honking car horn wrapped in red, orange and black. I’m glad for the Germans, they deserve something to celebrate and celebrating they are. The area around the hotel is choked with street parties. I’ve seen San Francisco after the 49ers won a SuperBowl, Boston after the World Series, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins — but nothing compares to this. I can only imagine the scene at the Brandenberg Gate where an estimated 1 million showed up to watch the game on the Jumbotrons. Tomorrow night should be an epic party.
Had dinner at an amazing exotic car “museum” where everything was for sale. Some serious four-wheeled bling. Got to meet Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo, which was nice.
My favorite car was this three-wheeled Messerschmitt. There was a can of oil in the door pocket, leading me to believe it was a two-stroke.
The bus back to the hotel from the dinner got completely grid-locked in the post-game insanity. Finally the driver gave up and let us walk.
I completely overslept this morning, crawling out of bed at 10:30 and feeling so absolutely guilt-stricken that I compulsively cleaned the room and myself before skulking into the lounge for a double espresso and some advice from the Yahoo hostesses on how to best punish myself with a march around Berlin. They handed me a better map than the one I had, told me my aspiration of making it to the Brandenberg Gate was insane, and suggested I secure the services of a tour bus instead.
Bah, real men walk. So I packed a couple bottles of Evian (naive backwards) in my backpack and trooped out into the sunshine looking for Berlin.
I found it.
This is a sad city I think, the first I’ve been to that was the scene of so much misery such a relatively short time ago. The Kaiser Wilhelm Gedachtniskirche on Kurfurstenstrasse is a shocker — preserved in its bombed sadness, steeple truncated — in the midst of so many wurst and beer tent and partying World Cuppers.
I tried to get into the Tiergarten, the “Central Park” of Berlin through the Zoologischer Garden, but balked at the 12 euro admission, being down on caged animals as a matter of principle. I walked into the park off of a canal and crossed into a dark, dank forest that was all the danker from last night’s and this morning’s thunderstorms. I expected to get relieved of my wallet at every bush, the canals were brown and stagnant, the squirrels surly and red. I nearly wiped out in a mud puddle, but recovered nicely and continued marching through the amazonian glades and glens until I came out on a massive boulevard that had been blocked off to traffic. Down that I walked, thinking thoughts of Nazi rallies that doubtlessly once rolled down the same massive avenue in some show of force (I do wish I had Thomas Wolfe’s “You Can’t Go Home Again” so I could quote his excellent descriptions of pre-war Berlin). That avenue lead to an impressive monument, the Siegessaule, which I rounded to find another blocked off avenue filled with people, bier gardens, ferris wheels, and all sorts of branded fun — Fan Fest.
After being patted down and having my knapsack searched I walked through the Germanic equivalent of the parking lot outside of a Grateful Dead show, only substitute half-meter sausages for falafel and steins of beer for nitrous oxide balloons. Tons and tons of souveniers — it seems the big thing in soccer is a scarf. Nevermind the temperatures were around 95 degrees today — scarves and national flags worn as sarongs are the fashion statement to make.
At the end of Fan Fest was the Brandenberg Gate, obscured by a gigantic Jumbotron and doubtlessly the place to be on Sunday night during the finals if one doesn’t have a ticket to the real deal. The place was lightly crowded at 1 in the afternoon — the only language I overheard was German, and there were some good scenes of quasi-hooliganism consisting of packs of drunks dressed in German flags singing that weird soccer song that all soccer fans like to sing, a song I think has no lyrics, but is a guttural bellowing noise.
The music system was blaring what seemed to be Bob Marley’s “Jammin'” (I won’t attempt to quote the lyrics, but the version I head today seemed to say, in Deutsch “We’re German. We’re German. We hope you like Germans too …” This was bad craziness, so I ducked behind the gate and crossed into the former East Belin, and immediately felt all cold-warlike and wondered where Checkpoint Charlie and the Freedom Bridge and all those relics of my youthful fears of imminent nuclear annihilation had gone.
I made it to the banks of the river Spree and strolled back, feeling starved and in need of fluid. Back into the park, past some hunting statues and to a biergarten off of Lichtenstein Allee where I realized I spoke my first words of the day, in German, which were, in translation:
“Excuse me. My german isn’t very good. Do you speak English?”
“Ein bier, bitte.”
So I drank a beer, on an empty stomach, which turned me into an utter noodle in even more need of a sausage. So out of the park, back to the city, and I walk by a beer stand showing the Tour de France time trial to Rennes on a big flat panel. “Must watch cycling,” so I bought another beer and watched the time trial for half an hour before deciding I truly must eat or suffer the consequences. I found a Germanic looking cafe, ordered Berliner soup — potato soup with bacon — and the kase/cheese platter, revived myself, and came back to the hotel for the end of the TdF time trial, some photo uploading to Flickr (Berlin collection here ) and a little blogging.
More tomorrow. And as for soccer, what I know about soccer comes from playing goalie in high school — an adventure that ended when I dove headlong into a goal post, rendering me silly. I strongly recommend Luca Penati’s World Cup Blog (I know Luca from Ogilvy PR), Fuorigioco.