Fußball, Football, Soccer (as we call it in the US) – it’s here, it’s crazy and it’s totally fun! I don’t know how many of you are following the World Cup games in South Africa, but the Germans and most other Europeans are crazy for the World Cup. We have also been watching a lot of the games. The two students I tutor asked me who I was rooting for. “The United States, of course,” I said, “but I think Germany will probably get further in the World Cup, so I am rooting for Germany, too.” They seemed satisfied by my answer.
Because Germans are so excited by the World Cup matches (called the Weltmeisterschaft in German, or the WM), nearly everyone gets into the spirit of the games. Prior to 2006, when the WM was held in Germany, you didn’t really see too many flags around. But when the World Cup was held here in 2006, people put little flags on their cars, they hung flags out their windows, painted little flags on their cheeks, etc. I happened to be in Hamburg in 2006 with a student group, so we got all the extra excitement that comes along with being in the hosting nation. It was really one of the first times I had seen Germans waving flags. Due to Germany’s history, flag-waving had been frowned upon before this. Once again during the EM (Europameisterschaft, or the European Cup) matches in 2008, Germans got out their flags. And this year is no different! One of our neighbors across the street from us suddenly put up a flag in their yard, for example.
It’s so much fun to be in a country that gets so into the World Cup. Germany’s first game this year was against Australia, and they handily beat the Australians (the Socceroos) 4-0. During that match, as I was putting Rosebud to bed, I kept hearing all the neighbors cheering as Germany scored. The whole neighborhood went nuts when Germany scored!
Germany’s second game was aganist Serbia. We were eating lunch during the first half of the game, when I heard one of my neighbors yell out, “They scored! They scored! Yeah!!!” I was surprised when I tuned into the game and learned that the goal had been made by the Serbian team, and then I remembered one of our neighbors is from Serbia. After that game, my cousins who were visiting, Rosebud and I went to the town of Bad Tölz. There were several Serbian-supporters driving around in their cars, honking their horns and waving their flags.
In Bad Tölz, on that very same afternoon, we watched the US-Solvenia match in one of our favorite Italian ice cream shops. We ended up getting a draw with Slovenia, 2-2, but I still think our third goal should have been allowed and that one of the Slovenian players should have earned a Red Card rather than a yellow one. The Italians were teasing us as we were watching the game, and I think the local Germans were also amused by us.
Yesterday was Germany’s game against Ghana, held at 8:30 pm. It just so happened that my friend Kelly (who, incidentally, is also friends with the Shelby family), her husband and some of her friends arrived in Munich yesterday morning for vacation. We decided to meet for dinner at the Hirschgarten in Munich.
This turned out to be THE perfect venue for watching the game live! The Hirschgarten itself is a little park just west of the center of Munich, and not far from Schloss Nymphenburg. The restaurant and Biergarten caters more to local Müncheners rather than tourists. The restaurant itself has seating for 1,200 and the Biergarten has seating for 8,000. We knew we would have to get a table no later than 6 pm for our group if we wanted to be in a good place to see the TV screen.
Rosebud and I were already in Munich yesterday afternoon, as we went to the Tierpark Hellabrunn (the zoo) with our friends Veronika and Lilly. I knew it would take us some time to get to the Biergarten so we had David come to Munich directly from work to reserve our table. He managed to get us a great spot outside, in the restaurant part of the Biergarten.
So what’s a Biergarten, exactly? It’s like the ultimate picnic – in the non-restaurant part of a Biergarten, guests can usually bring their own food but they must purchase their beverages from the Biergarten at various stands set up throughout the space. For example, I saw one family that had brought their own box of fresh strawberries, a container of WM Gummi bears (in the colors of black, red and gold for the German flag) but had purchased plenty of Maßkrüge of beer of their table. A Maßkrug is the large glass mug that holds a liter of beer.
In the center of the park was a long stand of counters where guests could buy food if they wish, such as Schnitzel and Pommes (French fries), Hendl (roasted chicken), spare ribs, various Wurstl (sausages), salads, ice cream and enormous pretzels. There were also several drink counters throughout. You just had to grab your own mug and wait in line. Beer, of course, was what most people ordered, but water, soda and Schorle (a mix of sparkling water and juice) were available, too. Since we were sitting in the restaurant area, we had the privilege of ordering off the menu and getting our food brought to us. We did, however, immediately go buy some of the large pretzels, because I knew a certain little someone who would want one:
When we brought Rosebud her pretzel, her eyes got all big. She couldn’t believe there was so much pretzel-y goodness to be had at one time!
The Biergarten was PACKED with fans, and it really was like a huge party. The atmosphere was tremendous, and I’m so glad we got to take part in the festive event. The food stands were busiest before the game started. I think I waited in line for twenty minutes to get some water and a Rhubarb Schorle for Rosebud – I should have just ordered from our waitress. I was especially pleased that we happened to have our friends with us, because what better way to experience the local culture and to have fun? They timed their visit to Munich well!
I didn’t see too many children in the Biergarten, apart from a number of babies. School is still in session here so I imagine most families with school-aged children didn’t want to be out so late. Rosebud was the only toddler we saw, but nobody seemed worried about her being there. She was well-behaved and really enjoyed herself. She was laughing and smiling much of the time, and had fun drawing with Kelly.
Germany played really well and in the second half of the match, the team was especially aggressive in trying to score goals against the Ghanians. Everyone in the Biergarten felt that energy, because suddenly everyone was singing a song that basically went, “Score a goal! Score a goal!” And not five minutes later, it happened! Germany scored a goal! The announced yelled, “Tooooooooooooooooor!” (“Goooooooooooooal!”) and everyone stood up and cheered. It was absolutely amazing to be a part of that and was like the icing on top of the cake for us on our evening out. Rosebud had the hugest grin on her face from all the noise and excitement.
Not too long after that, we decided to head back home even though the game wasn’t concluded. Kelly et. al. were feeling very jet-lagged, so they wanted to get back to their hotel. We had a bit of a commute ahead of us. We had to take the S-Bahn from München-Laim station back to Marienplatz, and then a bus from Marienplatz back to Tierpark where I had parked the car, then drive back home. We had no difficulties at all getting home, but it was well after midnight.
By the time we got to the Marienplatz station, the fans started heading home and it was clear that Germany had prevailed. Everyone was in a good mood, waving their flags. Some were even blowing vuvuzela horns.
This was the most fun we’ve had in a long time and was truly a night to remember. We will have to do it again!