Clashing Cultures and Soccer

Berlin and Amsterdam are very different cities. The former is a picture of efficiency; Germany can seem so futuristic for a country so tied to its history. Public transportation is punctual, organization is logical, and authority figures are intimidatingly strict in their enforcement of “the rules.” As such, Berlin was almost shocking having come from Amsterdam, the city of “live and let live.”

While in the Holland capital, we witnessed punks as they overtook the streets, live music bumping from their truck, parading against racism throughout roads crowded with book stores, brothels, pharmacies, head shops, cafes and "coffeeshops," whose patrons never seem to have mugs in their hands. Clearly, the relative proximity of the German and Netherlands cities is not reflected in the local culture.

That said, Zac and my time in the two cities was spent rather similarly. After enjoying the standard free hostel breakfast of toast, fauxrange juice and mystery meats, we set out for the day, choosing to walk over taking public transportation for the most part. The often lengthy walks provided a great way to see the city on the cheap. Without an understanding of the local language, subway rides start to seem a bit repetitive from city to city.

We usually ended our hikes at a museum, taking a couple hours at each. In Amsterdam, favorites included the Van Gogh and Rijksmuseums; in Berlin, the East Side Gallery (the longest remaining stretch of Berlin Wall) thrilled, while the Checkpoint Charlie Museum was a bit of a let down.

The evenings played out even more similarly. At around 8 we would park at an outdoor restaurant, making sure we had a good view of the TV to watch the Euro Cup game or games for the night. I'd imagine it's tough for most Americans to understand why we would spend so much of our vacation sitting in front of a TV, but unless you've witnessed something on this scale, I wouldn't expect them to.

To speak generally, the Europeans are incredibly devoted to the game. If nothing else, you have to be impressed with the passion and national pride of the droves of onlookers. Watching Holland slaughter France in a packed Amsterdam bar was truly an unforgettable experience. Just as exciting was watching Turkey edge out a victory over Croatia in Berlin. It seemed like every member of the enormous Turkish population in Berlin was out in the streets celebrating. I would have sworn I was standing in downtown Istanbul (I've uploaded a video showing some of the celebrations below). With every goal, you have do worry about the health of your inner ears and the strength of the floor below you swaying under the weight of hundreds of crazed fans.

I'll never be able to view the now seemingly-lame Super Bowl the same way again.



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