This past week has included several German firsts for even a seasoned German traveler like myself! On Thursday evening I watched a small town’s St. Martin’s Day celebration. On this holiday, children march through their towns, carrying home-made lanterns. Traditionally, the children would sing special St. Martin’s Day songs, and some parades still end with a large bonfire and a visit by St. Martin on his trusty steed. St. Martin then tells a story about sharing his coat with someone. (I think this is the story; my “Martinszug” didn’t actually share, so I am approximating.) Kids then go from door to door a la Halloween trick-or-treating style. For more info, visit Wikipedia! To my relief, children no longer carry real candles in their lanterns. I soon saw why as I watched one girl swing her lantern stick repeatedly into the bushes…
My more exciting first experience was attending a live soccer game! I have stayed close with one of my former German host families since meeting them in 2006. Now when I fly through Frankfurt I always stop by and say hello! They are amazing! The dad and daughter have been huge Mainz Bundesliga fans for years, and they recently got season tickets. I was the lucky plus one for the game on Friday.
I took the train to Wiesbaden on Friday, had a great German meal, again inspired by St. Martin (ham, sauerkraut with pineapple and mashed potatoes)! Then my host dad and I headed to the stadium in Mainz. It was fantastic! We had to walk through the brisk air to reach the stadium, which was illuminated in red, for the team’s color. We had enough time to walk around the stadium, get the first mug of Glühwein, and take in the crowds.
Here are several interesting things about the German soccer stadium experience:
1. There is a beer garden right next to the stadium.
2. Season ticket holders have SIM-chip cards that get you into the stadium and can carry a balance for use at concession stands.
3. Germans are civilized concessioneers. Food and drink at the stadium cost about the same as they would cost elsewhere. No $10 beers or $6 brats here!
4. Fans from the opposing team arrive at the stadium by bus, they enter the stadium through an underground tunnel, and they sit together in a fenced in area of the stadium.
5. The German soccer season runs from September to July. There is no final tournament or championship at the end of the season. The top team is determined purely by points added up from their wins and ties during the season.
6. You know almost exactly how long a soccer game will last. Two periods of 45 minutes with nearly continuous play. There is a 15-minute intermission. Usually you have a few extra minutes at the end of the game to make up for time taken away because of penalties or injuries. If the game ends in a tie, then there is no extra play. And that is fine! And I can mentally prepare for how long I expect to be outside, cheering in the cold!
Following the game, we headed home and enjoyed a late evening of chatting, red wine, and crackers with Sprundelkäse – a local specialty made of butter, cream cheese, and herbs. Unfortunately, Saturday was rainy and unwelcoming. I still managed to make out some of the magnificent castles that line the Rhine River between Bingen (as in Hildegard von) and Koblenz on my way home.
Sunday night I saw my first film at a Bonn cinema: Skyfall. It was good, even if I wasn't completely convinced that I knew everything that was going on, thanks to the German language dubbing. Thankfully B also saw the film on Sunday, so I could compare notes with him afterwards. I also told him about the make-up of the group I went to the movie with, in the style of a joke. “A German, Indian, Romanian and American walk into a cinema…” I haven’t come up with the second part of the joke yet.
I hope you enjoy the photos from the game!
|My host dad and I before the game.|
|I got to borrow my host sister's jersey for the game. I was worried that I would stand out if I wasn't wearing red.|
|Inside it looked a lot like any stadium in the USA.|
|A picture of the stands before the start off the game. Behind the fans standing to the right of the photo, you can see the fenced in area of the Nurembourg team, the "Gegner," dressed in black.|
|The Mainz team logo on a napkin on the ground.|
|German concessions, with my selection on the top right side of the sign.|
|Now the stadium is beginning to fill as players start warming up.|
|Mainz flag holder.|
|Playing action on the field.|
|Most Bundesliga games take place on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Friday games are the Monday Night Football exceptions to the rule. Thanks to night play, all of the soccer players cast five-point shadows under the stadium lights.|
|Your proof! I really was there!|