Culture Shock: The 2014 FIFA World Cup as Experienced by an American Expat in Germany

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Photo by Alexandre Breveglieri — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/breveglieri/

Until this year, I had never, in all my life, watched a World Cup soccer match. Oh, I caught a few Bundesliga games last year, but they did little more than inform me the Bavarian team (FC Bayern München) is much like the Los Angeles Lakers; they have all the money — and therefore all the star players — and regularly put their foot so far up everyone’s ass they can taste the shoe laces. It comes as no surprise, therefore, the German national team is comprised largely of players from the Bavarian team (many of whom come from other German cities, states or even different countries entirely). What did come as a surprise — at least to me, an American with absolutely no interest in soccer or sports in general — was just how incredibly good they would be.

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Holy flying monkeyshit, these guys are circus freaks! They never stop running. (Their heart and lungs have clearly been replaced with top-secret BMW engine components, which run on jet fuel and processed uranium.) They’re fast too, constantly stealing the ball and passing between tight groups of opposing players. They’re also smart. They plan ahead, executing plays with all the unfeeling precision of a serial killer. And their goalie, Manuel Neuer? Nothing gets by him. Jesus Christ, that handsome homunculus is clearly the offspring of long-armed orangutans and a randy Chewbacca. Even the coach, Joachim Löw is a badass; he’s all business, and he’s a total fashion stud too — with his churched-up designer clothes and full head of raven-black hair. (Maybe it’s Mabelene?) But you know what struck me most about the Germans? They play as a team. Oh sure, they’ve got their high-scoring players — their superstars, like Thomas MüllerAndré Schürrle and Miroslav Klose — but I never got the feeling anyone was showboating. The German national team really worked together, with equal emphasis on both offense and defense; a trait which would prove vital during the World Cup games themselves.

Of all the 2014 FIFA World Cup matches, my wife and I saw exactly 4 of them here in Hannover, Germany. These are my reactions and experiences:

June 26, 2014: USA vs. Germany

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Shit, I don’t know who to root for!”
Experience: My wife and I sat inside a chain restaurant called Maredo on Georgstraße, in the back room, directly in front of a flatscreen TV with a shaky video stream. (It lost its cable connection enough times we shan’t be returning. Amateurs.) Anyway, I don’t think anyone behind us could see around my gigantic, baseball-capped skull, but you know what? Fuck ‘em. This was the first World Cup match I’d ever seen. I deserved the pole position.

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So after beating Ghana, who took us out of the last World Cup, the US faced one of the best teams in the world: Germany. I knew Germany was going to beat us, but I was surprised by how well we did against them. The final score was only 0-1 — far from the red-assed spanking I expected. I was proud of our team and simultaneously impressed by the German team. I really had no idea who to cheer for. I had my native country on the one hand, and my new home country on the other… and a visibly inebriated gang of German fans behind me. What was I to do? With absolutely no guidance from my wife, I opted to cheer for both. I must have looked like the world’s most confused soccer fan ever. “Nice save, USA! Yeah! Oooo, Germany is kicking ass! Good job, boys! Ain’t no shame in losing, America! Go Germany! Go USA! Hooraaaaay!” *Followed by awkward hand clapping, double fist pumps in the air and a few violent Tourette’s syndrome tics.*

July 4, 2014: France vs. Germany

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Heh heh, the French guys look like roman candles.”
Experience: For this game, The Wife and I sat in a café called Finesse in Bothfeld. The place was packed, and the only available seats were at the bar. This proved to be a blessing in disguise, as we were the only people to receive immediate beverage service. (Everyone else had to wait for a very overwhelmed, very meltdown-primed waitress to come around.)

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Image collage featuring photos by Epic Fireworks — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/epicfireworks/

It was a good game, with both sides displaying fantastic athleticism. But the only thing I can really remember about it was the French team jerseys. They wore dark blue shirts and shorts, with knee-high red socks and fluorescent green/yellow cleats. I was reminded of roman candle fireworks — you know, the ones we shot at each other on the 4th of July while our mother’s weren’t looking? I was mesmerized by those jerseys, even managing to overlook all the diving going on. Seriously, “diving,” or “flopping” is one of the primary reasons Americans have been so slow to embrace soccer. It disgusts us to see grown men flailing around on the ground, grabbing their ankles like they’ve got a compound fracture, only to see them stand up a few seconds later and play the rest of the game like nothing happened. No, no… we expect to see our athletes win games with blood flowing from their ears and vertebrae sticking out of their backs like dinosaur spines. Anything less and you’re a pussy.

July 8, 2014: Brazil vs. Germany

Score: 1-7 (Germany)
Reaction: “What in the sweet holy fuck is going on?!”
Experience: The Wife and I watched this game from home. We grabbed a couple of brew doggs from the basement, flipped on the tube and watched the madness unfold. My wife tried to correct a few term papers at the same time, but I knew right from the start that was a pipe dream. Also, I dropped one of said brew doggs on the staircase coming up from the basement, so I had to deal with that before I could watch the game. (And our basement still smells like a brewery.)

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Finally the whistle blew and Brazil came out like a swarm of pissed-off yellow jackets. Jesus Christ, they were so balls-out, I thought surely their intensity alone would win them the game. I mean, Brazil is supposed to be the best in the world, right? Some guy named “Pelé” played real good for them, or so I’ve heard. And they had the home-field advantage. But of course, Brazil lost their star player, Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior, when a Columbian player named Juan Camilo Zúñiga delivered a flying knee kick straight into his spine. Brazil also lost their star defender, Thiago Silva, after he earned his second yellow card in the game versus Columbia. But all the frenzied intensity in the world could not make up for these losses — or prepare them for the icy power of the German national team.

While the Brazilians sprinted around the field like a bunch of headless chickens, Germany played it cool; they matched Brazil’s speed and dexterity, but their demeanor was freakishly calm, like they’d done this all before. “Yes, yes, this is a very important game, we know, but we still have the final to win. No sense in getting all emotional.” Man, when Germany scored in the first couple of minutes, I thought, “Oh, maybe Germany can deal with these psychos.” And then, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, BOOM, within the span of 15 minutes, Germany racked up the score 5-0. My wife and I could not believe it. Our thoughts — in sequence — were:

  1. Something is wrong.
  2. Someone bribed the Brazilian goalie.
  3. All of the referees are on the take.
  4. The Germans are on steroids.
  5. Everyone will blame Brazil’s missing star players.
  6. The citizens of Brazil are going to murder the entire German national team.
  7. For the love of God, Germany, if you value your lives, stop running up the score!
  8. Oh God, everyone is crying…

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Thankfully, Brazil scored a dignity-saving point, leaving the final score 1-7. Still, I could not believe what I had just seen. Even if the final match between Argentina and Germany proves to be amazing, people will be talking about the bizarre 2014 World Cup match between Brazil and Germany for the rest of their lives.

July 13, 2014: Argentina vs. Germany – FINAL MATCH

Score: 0-1 (Germany)
Reaction: “Ole, ole, ole-ole-ole… SUPER DEUTSCHLAND!”
Experience: We watched this final championship game at the Leibniz Universität Unikino with a big group of our friends and enough concealed beer to kill a rhino. I was so nervous I wanted to hurl.

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The game was fantastic. Both teams were perfectly matched, which made for some real nail-biting moments — especially with that disqualified goal by Argentina. I wasn’t convinced Germany would win, but it did seem like most of the game took place on the Argentina side of the field. That was a good sign. And then BOOM! Mario Götze bounced a pass directly off his thunderous heart and booted it past the Argentinian goalie. Hot potato! And then the rest of the game played out, both sides fighting for the victory, but it was Germany who proved the better team. They won the World Cup and took home that hideous trophy. (Seriously, that thing looks like disembodied souls being crushed by the sun.)

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Photo by Charles Kerr — Subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/ckerr/

Here are some pictures from the game. Click one to start the slideshow.

And here is a video I recorded, which summarizes the whole experience — from the game, to the win, to the aftermath with drunken German fans singing (very loudly) in the subway station.

 

Thank you for reading our blog, and we hope you enjoyed the World Cup!

 


 

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American Expat Gleefully Passes German Integration Course

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“Yeaaahhh BUDDY!” — Photo by Toms Bauģis (https://www.flickr.com/photos/toms/) — Subject to copyright


For the past year, I have been taking an intensive German integration course here in Hannover, Germany. The class is mandatory, requiring expats to attend 3 days per week, for 4 hours at a time, and then pass the B1 exam and an orientation course exam in the spring. If you pass the tests, you can extend your residence permit and even apply for permanent residency. The overall goal, of course, is to learn the German language and integrate into German society. Needless to say, this transition hasn’t always been a smooth one.

First, there was the language itself. Almost immediately I found German to be both logical and precise, but unnecessarily complicated. (Seriously, nouns don’t need gender-based articles unless they have, A: testicles, B: boobies, C: both, or D: neither.)

Then I encountered challenges with my German teachers. A few of them were so awesome they deserve to be showered with money and rose petals, have their toes massaged with clover honey and dipped bodily into swimming pools filled with beer and immortality. The rest of my teachers, however, were downright awful. These people should not be allowed to teach. Instead, they should be chased by killer bees into a jungle full of septic cats, which, in turn, chase them into a valley filled with molten hot lava. (And the lava has herpes.)

But of all the challenges I faced, none proved greater than the students themselves. My classmates came from all over the world — Russia, Kosovo, Latvia, Poland, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ghana, Sudan, Senegal and The Ivory Coast — but it didn’t matter to me in the slightest which country they came from or what their socioeconomic background might have been; I only cared whether or not they took the class seriously.

Unfortunately, only a handful of us were really there to learn. We were the ones who showed up on time, did our homework and studied for the tests. We turned our cell phones off before class, payed attention to where we were in the book, and listened whenever someone — especially the teacher — was talking. In short, we were the nerds of the class, and I was their angry leader.

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“Today we are learning the word, ‘hassen,’ which means ‘to hate’…” — Photo by Shane Global (https://www.flickr.com/photos/shaneglobal/) — Subject to copyright

The rest of my classmates were obnoxious slackers who showed up each day simply because they were required to do so by the German government. They strolled in an hour or two late, interrupted class by joking around with their friends, made us repeat lessons because they never did their homework and turned each class into a unique nightmare for the rest of us. Every single teacher we had said our class was, “the worst one they’d ever taught.” Seriously, the worst one, and some of them had been teaching for years! God dammit I hated that class! And you know what’s worse? Most of the slackers were supported by the German government, so the class was essentially free for them and their public transportation expenses were reimbursed too. Since my wife is a German citizen and she has a good job, each quarter cost me €250 euros plus transportation and the cost of the books, which means I spent over €1000 euros to sit in class with a bunch of rock-banging neanderthals with the combined IQ of a pork chop.

Now, keep in mind, all of us were required to take this class and pass the DaF B1 Integrationskurs exam and the DaF Orientierungskurs exam if we wanted to extend our residence permits. It made absolutely no sense to dick around and jeopardize one’s visa status, so I studied my sweet American ass off, took both exams and prayed to that 9 pound, 7 ounce, big baby Jesus in the sky. On the last day of class, we all went up to the administration office to receive our test results, and you know what? I passed! I nailed both tests! I nailed them like a Bangkok ladyboy waking up at the docks on a Sunday morning after the sailors left town.

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“Hallelujah!” — Photo by zaphodsotherhead (https://www.flickr.com/photos/zaphodsotherhead/) — Subject to copyright.

I was so happy! Oh dear lord, it was such a weight off my mind! And best of all? I never had to return to that class again. As I walked out of the building, about ready to barf with pride, I noticed all of the slackers from my class looked very sad. Like, full-on downtrodden. Most of them scored in the A1 and A2 range, which meant they would have to repeat the entire class all over again. Oh sweet justice! I don’t normally celebrate the misfortune of others, but in this case, I wanted to drop trow, grab a fistful of my manly bits and mushroom stamp those sons of bitches right between the eyes. My scrotum would make a satisfying *BOOP* sound as it made contact, leaving behind a cartoonish red mark in the shape of a heart…

*BOOP* “You like that, Achmed? Maybe you should have studied harder instead of showing up late every class and asking questions we JUST answered half an hour ago!”

“And what about you, Franciszka? Still feel like talking to your stupid cross-eyed friend so loud I can’t even hear the teacher?” *BOOP*

*BOOP* “That one’s for you, Badrani, with your goddamn cell phone going off every 15 minutes…” *BOOP* “…and that one’s for your phone. Look, it even left a sweat mark on the screen!”

“Well hello, Fahran! What’s the matter? Do you have to repeat the class because you were always throwing shit across the room and laughing with your functionally retarded friends?” *BOOP*

“Abdulla! There you are! Remember how you always wanted to share my text book because you couldn’t afford to buy one of your own, and yet you always had a fresh pack of cigarettes in your bag? Taste my salty plums!*BOOP*

Okay, I feel better now. Thank you for reading all that. I can now put my integration class behind me and forget all about it, bit by bit, like a harrowing nightmare that is slowly receding from memory. As for next steps, I will be switching schools as soon as possible. I am hoping to find one which attracts people more like myself — huge nerds with zero tolerance for tomfoolery — so I can one day command the German language with as much irresponsibility as I do English. But first, let’s celebrate!

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“Zum Wohl!”

 


 

My German Wife Politely Asks If I Have a Hearing Problem

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“Can you hear me MEOW?” — Photo by Travis Isaacs — Image subject to copyright — https://www.flickr.com/photos/tbisaacs/

So the other day, The Wife and I were watching my favorite movie, Memento. Have you seen it? It’s a psychological thriller starring Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss and Joe Pantoliano, and directed by Christopher Nolan. It has been my favorite movie ever since my good buddy, Shortround McSugarblood, called me up and said, “Check out Memento, dude. It’s totally you.” That was in the year 2000, and ever since then I have been proclaiming it (annoyingly) as my absolute favorite movie of all time.

Anyway, I recently got around to showing it to my wife, and she loved it too. She had a lot of questions about the plotline though, as one might imagine, but I proved myself fairly useless in explaining it. It’s not that I don’t understand Memento — I can talk about it for hours — it’s that I can’t watch my favorite movie and talk at the same time. I sit there with rapt attention, like a fat man in front of the microwave, and let its glowing brilliance seep into every empty chamber of my brain. I have no cognitive capacity for anything else, so when my wife got up in the middle of the movie to go to the bathroom, I did not hear her at all.

THE WIFE: “Pause the show, please.”

ME: “Hmmmmmm?”

THE WIFE: “PAUSE IT. Are you sitting on your ears?”*

*Translated from the German expression, “Sitzt du auf deinen Ohren?”

 


 

 

My German Wife Somehow Equates Past Grieviances with the Making of a Sandwich

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“German mayonnaise… you’ll never forget it.” — Photo by Renzelle Mae Abasolo – Subject to copyright — (https://www.flickr.com/photos/maehabasolo/)

My wife has an old friend named Killjoy McBittertits. That’s not really her name, but I think it does a great job of summarizing my overall impression of her. You see, Killjoy is the kind of person who keeps track of every little good or service exchanged over the course of a friendship: the number of gifts given, the gallons of gas used, and even the number of cups of coffee shared. All of this information goes into the great empty pit where her heart should be, and fuses together into a lump of bitterness which can be thrown like a projectile weapon whenever someone pisses her off.

My wife somehow managed to anger this woman many years ago, and she has recounted the tale to me several times since. They were in Killjoy’s apartment, Killjoy was in her normal emotional state (simmering fury), and my wife decided to have a second cup of coffee. Since helping yourself to a friend’s coffee pot is obviously reason enough to eviscerate them emotionally, Killjoy decided to list off every single thing she had purchased over the course of their friendship — like she’d been keeping track of each perceived offense on a list hidden beneath her pillowcase, written in pig blood.

If there’s one thing my wife is not, it’s a freeloader. The insinuation makes her very mad. So when she told me this story — describing each insult and retort in detail — she spoke as if she were snapping back at Killjoy herself:

THE WIFE: “Sorry you feel that way, but don’t smear this on my bread!”*

*Translated from the German expression, “Schmier mir das nicht aufs Brot,” which figuratively means, “Quit bringing up the past.”

 


 

 

The Screamingly Psychotic, Totally Dysfunctional German Couple Upstairs

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“It’s not over until somebody shatters a vase.” — Photo by Vic — Subject to copyright — (https://www.flickr.com/photos/59632563@N04/)

In an earlier post, I told you about our apartment building and the truly evil neighbors beneath us. Today, I would like to tell you about the batshit insane ones living in the apartment directly above, and why I hate them with every ventricle of my American heart.

First off, let’s meet the couple: Off-Medication Astrid and her henpecked husband, Timur the Castrated. At first glance, they may look perfectly ordinary. Astrid is a young German woman, pretty, with long blonde hair. Timur is Turkish, and he has that adorably pathetic look of a little boy who has just zipped his pecker up in his fly for the first time. But if you take a longer look — really stab them to death with your eyes — you’ll see they are far from normal.

Timur the Castrated, as the name suggests, has only one major flaw: deficient scrotitude. He doesn’t have the eggs to divorce his crazy wife, but that’s not what infuriates me about him. No, I want to pick up a newspaper off the street, roll it up real tight, and pimp slap him for marrying her in the first place. I’m sure his parents warned him about her, but if they didn’t, I’d like to mega-Turk pimp slap the shit out of them too.

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“Quit flirting with that trigger and roll the cylinder, pussy.” — Photo by Thomas Leuthard — Subject to copyright — (https://www.flickr.com/photos/thomasleuthard/)

No, the real problem in our apartment building is Off-Medication Astrid. If you pass her in the stairwell, she will give you a toothy grin that lets you know she calms the voices in her head by detonating feeder mice in the microwave. You can just see the crazy inside her. But all one really needs to appreciate her madness is a pair of functioning eardrums. This woman is loud, and by loud, I mean the noise she generates passes through the floorboards above our home office, cuts through the music in my headphones, and punctures the bony zenith of my skull.

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“Please let me pass, lady. I just want to go home. Oh God, I just want to go home!” — Photo by David Long — Subject to copyright — (https://www.flickr.com/photos/fromthefrontend/)

Astrid seems to have exactly two behavior modes: Heavy Construction and Murderous Harpy. While in Harpy Mode, she screams, calls her husband names, cries, throws shit and then screams some more. While in Construction Mode, she is hammering, drilling and painting something with roller brushes. My wife and I have absolutely no idea what she is building.

My wife once said, “They don’t like each other. I think they are building a wall.”

I found this hilarious, but have since come up with an alternative scenario: I think Astrid fancies herself an artist. Either that, or she is constructing a Hate-Fueled Nuclear Fusion Engine, which she will one day use to split the earth in twain and entice the Devil himself to come forth and take his rightful seat upon a throne of ashes.

Get this: Astrid was once drilling something so loudly above our heads, one of the horrible neighbors in the apartment beneath us shouted up at her to stop. I felt like I was in the middle row of Hollywood Squares, trapped on all sides by senile actors from the 60s trying to out-lunatic each other. Holy flying monkeyshit I hate our neighbors. Every single one of them. Thank Christ my wife and I are looking for a new place to live. The thought of finding a house of our own is my one true hope — one which soothes me to sleep every night as I suck my thumb and snuggle my blanket like a spiteful little baby.

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“…you sons of bitches…” — Photo by Ms. Phoenix — Subject to copyright — (https://www.flickr.com/photos/32020964@N08/)

 


 

My German Wife Complains About Getting Cramps While Jogging

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“Wait up, Honey! I just blew chunks all over this new shirt your mother bought me!” — Photo by rosmary — Subject to copyright — (https://www.flickr.com/photos/rvoegtli/)

As you may already know, I often jog around the Maschsee here in Hannover, Germany. It’s about 3.9 miles in circumference (6.3 km), which is a pretty good bit of exercise for someone who sits in front of the computer all day long making pretty things for money. The first time I successfully ran the Maschsee, I wanted to throw up as hard as possible. I wanted to vomit like a dog who’s been gorging on something nasty it found in the garbage — back all hunched over real tight, mouth open and drooling, making that awful, full-body dry heaving sound, like, AHYUK-KA YUK-KA YUK-KA — and then BAM! Paydirt.

Although jogging the Maschsee has become progressively easier each time I’ve done it, there is one thing which still challenges me: talking while running. It gives some people cramps or stitches in their sides, but personally, I just don’t have the cardiovascular fortitude for it. Not after the first minute into the run or so. After that, it’s a test of willpower and socially acceptable masochism, and wasting oxygen is like spitting in the eye of the exercise gods. I’m pretty sure every dude who ever dropped dead while jogging was trying to hold a conversation at the same time, like it was no big deal. But oh, it was a big deal, for Lord Cardio the Spiteful is a god who demands your full attention, lest he become jealous and smite thee with a cataclysmic aneurysm.

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“Welcome to your new home, big mouth.” — Photo by Martin Pettitt — Image subject to copyright — (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mdpettitt/)

So back in the winter of 2012, my wife actually joined me for a jog around the Maschsee. (A rare occasion, as my wife is a teacher, and teachers work way more hours after class than you might think.) We managed to go most of the way around before we decided to walk. As we were walking, we were passed by another couple — a man and woman with superior thighs and exemplary calf muscles — who were running at a good clip while conducting an effortless conversation. I mentioned to my wife how impressive I found this, to which she replied:

THE WIFE: “If I try to talk while I run, I get these horrible side-bites.”*

*I think she was translating the German word, “Seitenstiche,” or “side stitches.”

 

 


 

German-American Couple Visits the Spanish Island of Mallorca

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Pictured: The Hawaii of western Europe.

In April of 2014, my German wife and I flew to Mallorca. Mallorca, (or Majorca) is an island off the southeastern coast of Spain, known condescendingly as “Malla.” It is a warm, beautiful and relatively close vacation destination where western European people — particularly highschool and college students on spring break — go to sing, dance and flirt with alcohol poisoning. If you say the word Mallorca to a German person, chances are exactly 2 things will pop into his or her head:

  1. El Arenal, the district where all of the beer drinkin’ and titty swingin’ happens.
  2. Ballermann Songs, El Arenal’s folksy techno soundtrack for the lethally inebriated and/or functionally retarded.

But Mallorca isn’t just an STD riddled playground for Europe’s shameless youth; you’ll see a lot of middle aged and retired people there too — just wandering around, snapping pictures with cameras from the 1980s and relaxing in tapas bars as they seek some momentary escape from the hollow footfalls of death’s relentless pursuit.

And although we did visit the El Arenal party district once, my wife and I mostly stayed in and around the capital city of Palma. In Palma we saw the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (more commonly referred to as La Seu), walked up to the Castell de Bellver (or Bellver Castle), and even rode the historical train to Port de Sóller. We had an awesome time, and I took a whole lot of pictures to show you, my faithful readers. Please click one of the images below to start the slideshow. We hope you can dig it!