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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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Video: Expat Bachelor Weekend Ends with Frenzied Housecleaning and the TUI Marathon in Hannover, Germany

Over the weekend of May 5, 2013, my German wife was at an overnight bachelorette party with her friends in Braunschweig, Germany. I had the apartment all to myself, so I did what any self-respecting American male would do when his wife is out of town; I stripped down to my undies, watched porn, ate beans straight out of the can and drank a fifth of vodka.

The next morning, as I emerged from my coma of bachelorhood with nervous bowels and a headache, I left the apartment to go do whatever chores my wife had asked me to do before she left. I had no idea what those chores were because I wasn’t listening, but the point is I was in no mood to find myself in the middle of the goddamn 2013 Hannover TUI Marathon.

What follows is a video of this marathon, which I recorded with shaking hands and thinly veiled contempt.

I retreated from these strangely tribal sounds and dragged myself home. My wife was due to return from Braunschweig very soon, and she likes to keep our apartment nice. Now, remember, for the past 24 hours I’d had the apartment all to myself, so you can imagine how thoroughly its state of order devolved from “Euro Chic” to “Hurricane Pig Grenade.”

Check out these pictures I took 5 minutes before my wife walked through the door, when I was scrambling to clean up everything like a tornado made of panic and teardrops.*

* What has two thumbs and is totally up for the Husband of the Year Award? THIS guy.

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Pictures: Expat Couple Visits St. Pauli’s Red Light District in Hamburg, Germany

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Welcome to the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg, the second largest city in Germany, where you can legally pay someone to touch your pork roll.

On March 23rd, 2013, The Wife and I took a day trip to Hamburg. We rode the Metronome (or “slow train,” as we affectionately refer to it) north for about one hour, changed lines in Uelzen, then rode another hour to Hamburg.

When we first arrived, I was struck by the extent to which Hamburg reminded me of Seattle. It was beautiful, with a lively and colorful bay rife with wide-eyed tourists staggered about in circles. However, where Seattle has hills and skyscrapers, Hamburg has cargo cranes and a world-famous red light district. The red light district surrounds the street called Reeperbahn, which runs right through the St. Pauli quarter of the city. St. Pauli used to make me think of St. Pauli Girl beer (which is actually brewed in Bremen). Now, Saint Pauli makes me think of a slightly intimidating neighborhood where a couple of euros gets your bone smooched.

The Red Light District of St. Pauli is best seen at night, or so I was advised, enthusiastically, by the German guy I spoke with at the Restaurant Fischerhaus. Sure enough, there were neon signs and crazy porno storefronts everywhere, so I imagine the effect at night would be much like that of the Las Vegas Strip, where my every sense is subjected to a spectacular display of Shock and Awe. And much like the Las Vegas Strip, I wanted to spend just enough time on Reeperbahn street to have a beer, take a few pictures and get the hell out of there before shit got weird.

Here are our pictures. We hope you can dig ‘em!

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Pictures: Our Looney Tunes Trip to Berlin – January, 2013

Oh Kreuzberg, you big silly. Is that a meat-eating flower jutting out from a mural of pure, German madness? "Have fun on your way to school, kids!"

Oh Berlin, you big silly. Is that a meat-eating flower jutting out from a mural of pure, German madness? “Have fun on your way to school, kids!”

The Wife and I were recently visited by one of our very close friends from Portland, Oregon. We shall call him, “Looney Tunes.” Looney Tunes spent New Year’s with us in Hannover, and then on January 2nd, we all took the CE train to Berlin.

I’d only been to Berlin once before, back in June of 2011, and that trip was wildly different. It was summer and we were staying in Mitte. This time around, it was winter and we were staying in Kreuzberg. Kreuzberg used to be punk rocker central and it was scary as hell, but it is rapidly being gentrified. Walking down the street, the buildings go like this: scary apartment building, crazy graffiti mural, depressing pub, Turkish döner place, Vietnamese restaurant, scary apartment building, really nice coffee shop. It’s kind of jarring how the places with money stick out from the rest, but Kreuzberg does have its own unique charm, I suppose. Looney Tunes absolutely loved it. The Wife and I will stick to our quiet little Hannover for now.

Here are some of the pictures from our trip. We hope you like them!

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Pictures: Oktoberfest 2012 – Hannover, Germany

This was the view as we approached the Oktoberfest fairgrounds. I was so excited I had to go pee pee behind that tree on the left.

This was the view as we approached the Oktoberfest fairgrounds. I was so excited I had to go pee pee behind that tree on the left.

In Hannover, Oktoberfest takes place at the Schützenplatz, which is an open area directly across from the AWD Arena (home of the Hannover 96 soccer team, and yeah, you heard me right, I just called it ‘soccer’). This year, Oktoberfest ran from September 28th until October 14th, and yet The Wife and I almost missed it! We kept meaning to check it out, but (my wife) couldn’t seem to find the time. I finally jogged past the fairgrounds one morning and noticed it would only be open for one more weekend. That’s when I finally convinced my wife we had to go.

“I ran past Oktoberfest this morning and there’s only one weekend left!” I exclaimed. “There were tons of beer tents in there! They even had roller coasters with Germans on them! Screaming Germans! I need this, honey. I need it so bad.

The Wife relented and we experienced our very first Hannover Oktoberfest together. It was AWESOME.

Here are the pictures we took that night. I’m sorry there aren’t more; I was too busy experiencing pure, unadulterated joy.

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Pictures: A Walking Tour of Hannover, Germany, on the Red Thread, Part I

Hannover New Town Hall Rathaus

On September 8th, 2012, just 6 days after my arrival in Germany, The Wife and I began the first part of our ongoing walking tours of Hannover. We followed “The Red Thread,” which totally sounds like a yarn shop for old ladies, but is actually the main tourist circuit through the city. We barely made it through half of the tour on our first day, so I would expect these posts to continue for some time because the Red Thread is one long mother.

Here are the pictures. Click one of them to open the gallery. We hope you like them!

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Pictures: My Lufthansa Flight from Portland, Oregon, to Hannover, Germany

On Sunday, September 2nd, 2012, I flew with Lufthansa Airlines from Portland, Oregon, to Hannover, Germany. This was a fortuitous date, apparently, because employees of Lufthansa went on strike right before my flight and immediately after. I totally threaded the needle on that one, like Tom Berenger in Sniper – “One shot, one kill.”

I arrived without problem in the arms of my wife on Monday afternoon, September 3rd (a day later, because the flight from the US to Germany is one long mother).

Also, the Lufthansa strike is over, thankfully, because I have a massive flight-crush on Lufthansa and I would hate to see my winged lover’s reputation sullied.

Here are the pictures from my intercontinental journey. Click one of them to open the gallery. Let us know if you can dig ‘em!

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Pictures: Our Visit to Einbeck, Germany, in the Summer of 2011

As you are probably aware, The Wife and I visited Germany last summer. One of the places we stayed was Einbeck; A sleepy little borough right smack in the middle of the country. Einbeck is famous for its 600-year old Einbecker Brewery, home of Einbecker Bier — the origin for the term “Bock” beer. Einbecker Brewery is believed to be one of the oldest breweries in Germany; a fact that is not only awesome, but reason enough to go to Einbeck and never, ever leave. Unfortunately, my wife spent a great deal of her life in Einbeck, so she is immune to its siren’s call. Thus, we did not see this magical brewery, but we did take in some acceptably charming sights around town.

Here are the pictures. Click one to open the gallery. We hope you enjoy them!

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Pictures: Our Stay in Marburg, Germany, During the Summer of 2011

The Wife and I stayed in Marburg, Germany, last summer before stopping in Einbeck on our way to Berlin. Marburg was by far my favorite town — with its fairytale scenery and small, college town charm — and I wanted to move there immediately. My wife, however, spent the last two years there earning her second Master’s Degree from Philipps-Universität Marburg, so she was quite done with it. This made me cry like a little bitch, so she compromised and agreed we could retire there when we’re old and crusty. So, here’s to you, Marburg! I look forward to the day I slip into the foggy wasteland of senility as I wander your magical hills and alleyways with absolutely no idea where I am!

Here are the pictures from our stay. Click one to open the gallery. We hope you enjoy them!

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Pictures: Our Trip to Berlin, Germany, in the Summer of 2011

The Siegessäule in Berlin

The Wife and I visited Berlin last summer and had an awesome time. I’m finally getting around to posting the pictures, so we thought we’d share them with you instead of doing a regular old post this week. We hope you dig ‘em!

Click any of the pictures below to view the gallery.

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