Friday, June 13, 2008

We couldn't it make it to Istanbul, so we headed to Kottbusser Tor instead

One of the benefits of moving to Berlin (besides the culture, the cheap rents, and the nightlife,) is that friends who have disappeared for years suddenly reemerge from the woodwork and want to come visit and see what all the buzz is about. Such was the case for my friend Boris, who was in Switzerland watching the games for the UEFA Euro Cup 2008, and decided to head up to the German capital for a couple of days.

When he first emailed me asking for recommendations for “youth hostels” (an indirect but transparent means of asking to stay with me) I wrote back: “Boris, you once told me that as far as Germany is concerned, they make good cars and beer, and that’s pretty much it—why the sudden change in heart?” Of course, he vehemently denied ever saying this. Boris is originally from Russia, so he’s got two chips on his shoulder—they still think all things French are amazing (look where that got the Romanovs) and they don’t want to admit that their greatest ruler, Catherine the Great, who effectively brought Russia (kicking and screaming) into the modern world—was basically German. (Just kidding, Boris!)

Anyway, I told him he was totally welcome to stay, provided that sightseeing did not revolve exclusively around the Third Reich (which is, understandably, beginning to annoy most young, modern Berliners). Like most people whose image of Germany has been shaped by excessive exposure to Steven Spielberg movies, Boris was (by successive stages) pleasantly surprised, impressed, and charmed by the city.

But sightseeing took a back seat to watching the game (sorry, old Fritz). In total we watched 6 games (two on each day) but the most memorable one was Turkey vs. Switzerland. For that game, we headed to Kreuzberg, one of the hearts of Berlin’s vibrant counter-culture, a neighborhood where trannies and Turkish immigrants (sometimes begrudgingly) live side-by-side. It is known as “little Istanbul” and has the largest concentration of Turks living outside of their country of origin.

Thanks to my prodding (and running) we managed to get a seat in an outside restaurant which was projecting the game on a large tarp. We shared our bench with two enormous Turkish guys, who, after joining our table, promptly offered us their selection of mixed nuts and cigarettes. For a moment, I felt as if I had been transported back to the summer of 2002, and was hanging out in some remote village in eastern Anatolia.

The cheers of the audience and the blaring speakers that marked the start of the game brought me out my reverie. The Swiss scored first, and sent the audience (which overwhelmingly supported Turkey) into despair, but the Turks came charging back, winning the match 2-1. During each score, the four of us rose up and roared, throwing the bench back and hugging. Around us, fireworks exploded from countless rooftops and windows, and the chants of “Turkiye! Turkiye!” resounded down the streets.

When the game finally concluded, an impromptu band was playing and there was a euphoric pandemonium at Kotbusser Tor. But the evening wasn’t over—we raced up to chic Prenzlauer Berg and met up with Edgar, another friend staying with me (but who has absolutely no interest in soccer) at the Marietta Bar.

The Marietta is a great place to hang because you don’t need to deal with the hassle (and glacial service) at the bar—you simply cross the street to the South Asian (Indian? Pakistani? Krishna and Shiva occupied the same wall as the 99 Names of Allah) store and buy a Beck’s for 1 Euro. In summer, everyone stands out on sidewalk (in Berlin, they are enormous), much to the chagrin of the people that live in the apartments above the bar, I’m sure. By midnight, the bar owners have to force the people inside, who either deal with the heat inside, or go home before the public transportation shuts down. We chose the latter, as Edgar had class early in the morning, and Boris and I had to get in sightseeing before the next game at 6 PM.

I forgot the charger for Trevor’s old camera, and so I’m not able to take the sexy images that grace the pages of T$ and Erichen.; so instead, here the jingle/anthem of the 2008 Euro Cup. It is really, really catchy. One of the first leitmotifs of this Sommermaerchen, no doubt.


Andy said...

Thanks for the upterkratzendaten, Tarek. I'm glad you boys could connect

T$ said...

I'm sure you can get a 220v battery charger on the cheap somewhere...bring on the pics, heidi.