"Public Viewing"

For those of you following the Euro 2008, the European soccer championship, you already know what a fantastic game it was last night as Germany beat Portugal 3:2. For those who aren't, I'd like to let you know that my (second) favorite national team played brilliantly in the win against the favored Portugese national team.

I watched the game at a "Public Viewing", which is a German term using English words to describe a mass of fans watching a game on a public square. This is a brilliant solution to the German problem of having 30-40 million soccer fans (in a nation of 82 million) who all want to experience the stadium atomsphere but don't fit into the stadium.

In the small city of Gütersloh (pop: 96,000), more than 5,500 fans packed themselves into a small area to cheer on their national team from afar.

A picture of the "Public Viewing Area". You can see the giant screen in front of the old courthouse.

Celebration after the first goal.

After the game, as is popular with the Turkish, Russian and Croation minorities after a win in this tournament, fans got in their cars and hit the streets. They drove through the city for hours honking, waving flags and cheering. A line of cars full of boisterous fans was still crawling by an hour and a half after the end of the game.

I had a great time at the game, and I know I'm pretty lucky to be in Germany during a tournament like this. The only people I'm jealous of are those who got to experience the World Cup here in 2006.

In other news, today was my last day of school. I got my report card, which turned out to be a very good one, and said goodbye to teachers and some classmates. On Sunday I'll be going to Austria with my host parents and one of my host siblings for a week of hiking in the Alps. After that, I'll come back and say goodbye to all of my friends here before embarking on my travels around Europe. Until next time!


Catching up

A whole lot has happened since my last significant post. A brief update to try to catch up:

Last month, I took a trip to Dresden on a long weekend with my host family. During my first trip into former East Germany (other than brief time spent in the Eastern part of Berlin), I got to experience Dresden, which is a beautiful Saxon city that was a cultural, musical, and architectual center before heavy bombing during World War II flattened cultural landmarks and crippled the city. During 40 years under East German rule, very little was rebuilt and dozens of a type of building called a Plattenbau were erected. The Plattenbau, which was an especially popular method of construction in East Germany, is a cheap apartment building made out of prefabricated concrete slabs.

An example of Communist-era cookie-cutter apartment buildings.

An example of a beautification project.

The Zwinger, an example of the beautiful architecture that was destroyed during the war but rebuilt afterwards.

The end-of-year seminar in Berlin was a great weekend. We reflected on our year, visited the Bundestag to tour the Bundestag and meet with the respresentatives who organize the government side of the program and prepared ourselves for arriving in the United States and the possibility of "reverse culture shock". Angela Merkel even stopped by and said a few words to all of the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange participants.

One of the highlights of the weekend was definitely our thank-you presentation. We sang a spoof of the '80s German hit 99 Luftballoons in front of cameras, a couple hundred other exchange students and the American ambassador to Germany.

Another exciting part of the last few weeks has been the Euro 2008. Every day there's world-class soccer on TV, and there's always something fun to do when Germany is playing. This whole country is absolutely crazy for soccer and it's a great time to be here. Hopefully I'll have another more detailed update about the Fussballfieber here.