Kim's Austrian Adventure

My year as a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar in Graz, Austria. Yes, there are other cities in Austria besides Vienna.

24. Juni 2006

I don't need sleep -- I need football

  • Reading:

  • Listening to: French announcer in an X-box football game

  • German Word of the Day: umbuchen

  • Translation: to change a reservation

  • Example: Ich habe meine Karte nach Graz auf morgen umgebucht./I changed my ticket to Graz; now I'm leaving tomorrow.

I boarded a bus in Vienna at 20:30 last night. After a bumpy ride through the Czech Republic, where some of my fellow travelers, who were on their way to the Tunisia v. Ukraine match today, got kicked off for not having the proper visas, we headed down the bumpy roads toward Germany…bumpy roads which kept me awake until about 3:30 when we were making our way in to Dresden. By then it was pre-dawn and I had managed to sleep for about an hour. My sunglasses were no match for the sun, so I dragged a brush through my hair and tried to contain my Berlin-related excitement. When I arrived at the apartment I rang the bell on and off for 20 minutes until someone straggled to the door. Poor Peter, who went to bed around the time when the sun was rising, was gracious enough to let me in and show me around. My brötchen saved me from certain death.

You see, Berlin in my favorite city in the world. It was the first place where I actually tried to speak German and people somewhat understood me, and the place where I first understood the insanity that is football in Europe…well, in the world, really. Some team (I think Ukraine) qualified for something way back then in 2000 and the streets were clogged with cars for what seemed like miles. People were hanging out of cars, waving flags, and getting out of their cars and high-fiving the people stuck in traffic behind them. My American friends and I were highly confused – all that for a simple qualification?

Fast forward to 2002. I was living in Hamburg. The World Cup was taking place in Japan and the Germans were amazed that they had made it out of the preliminaries. Second place in the World Cup translated to madness: songs celebrating Rudi Völler (the coach) on TV, mass celebration in Frankfurt when the team flew home, German flags everywhere. Football took the place of hockey as my favorite sport. There was no gratuitous violence, but I could yell at the TV even more, and that with a delicious German brew in my hand.

When we arrived on the outskirts of Berlin I could already feel the football fever: every other car had a German flag waving out of the window. A tingle ran up my spine as I spied footballs on the windows of the subway and on every other available space.

I am running on one hour of sleep, caffeine and adrenaline. I don’t need sleep – I need football.