Chalk One Up for the Americans in Berlin

A German American scored the winning goal Sunday as the hometown Hertha BSC snapped a three-game losing streak to win 2-0 over FC Augsburg at Berlin’s Olympic stadium.

It’s no secret that Declan loves everything football, so we booked an ass crack-of-dawn flight from Belfast International to Berlin in order to make this match on time. Seeing the Olympic stadium where Jesse Owens triumphed over racial hatred and Nazis in 1936 was one of the few requests Declan made of us when planning the Belfast trip, so it was great to be able to fulfill it.

After visiting The Emirates, home to our favorite English Premier League team Arsenal, last week, Olympiastadion certainly is a throwback, but in a good way.

When reading about the match and John Brooks’ goal the next day, I saw that Hertha plans to build a new stadium by 2025. Although I loved the feel of Olympic stadium, I understand the team’s point. There was only one permanent set of bathrooms on our end of the stadium. They were supplemented by what I call “piss shacks,” outside facilities where Marilynn refuses to set foot (or bum, for that matter). The concession facilities also were sparse and supplemented with pop-up vendors outside the main stadium.

But I hope the facility continues to get good use following Hertha’s move. It’s well-situated to transit, providing an easy walk to the stadium. And we absolutely loved the fact that our tickets gave us free transport for five hours before the match until 3 a.m. the following morning. Can you imagine getting that for a Falcons’ game? How cool would that be?

But there’s no mistaking the grandeur and history of the stadium. The Olympic rings are still displayed in front of the stadium, and inside you can see where the Olympic cauldron was located and where Hitler watched the competitions. It still brings a smile to imagine Hitler’s reaction when watching Jesse Owens win his race.

It also brings a smile to see a number of Pissoirs along the route, little shacks where one pees. None of us went in one so I’m not sure exactly what goes on in there. But the presence of pissoirs didn’t stop many men, children and even a few women from taking what the French and cyclists everywhere call natural breaks among the foliage between subway and stadium.

More than football, really

Our early flight meant we had plenty of time to drop our bags and check out the city beforehand. We were conveniently located near the Brandenburg Gate and Checkpoint Charlie, places that featured prominently during the East German/West German divide during the Cold War years.

You can find a large section of preserved wall in front of the Topography of Terror Museum, an exhibition documenting the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and following the latter through the post-war years. Declan also had his first taste of currywurst, cut-up sausage with ketchup on top. I had a more traditional hot dog, although the dog far exceeded the length of the bun, and pomme frites with paprika on them. Apparently, paprika is the bad-for-you food seasoning of choice in Germany because it prominently features in both fries and crisps.

So we managed a full day, with two more to go.

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