I’ve lived in Germany for over 20 years. Stuttgart has become my second home (third? fourth? It’s hard to say when you moved every few years as a child). Stuttgart is the ideal city, with all you could want:
- great restaurants
- parks & public spaces
- outdoor cafés
- public transportation
- proximity to Nature
What a great place to live! I used to think, If only Germans would relax and have more fun… and then the World Cup came to Germany.
It was 2006. May was cold and damp, and June was no different. Everyone waited anxiously for the start of the soccer tournament and prayed for good weather.
The weather gods decided to smile. Our prayers were heard and a few days before the tournament opened, the skies cleared and the temperature rose. We suddenly had perfect, sunny summer weather. The country let out collectively held breaths and said, Let the Games Begin!
Stuttgart set up 3 gigantic outdoor viewing screens in the heart of downtown.
Every restaurant and café had flat screen t.v.s. For once, patrons all wanted the set on and the sound turned UP!
I arranged my work schedule around the games and each afternoon my friends and I headed in to town to watch the afternoon matches. We never knew what we’d see on the UBahn trains or on the streets. An Aussie might be carrying a life-sized blow up kangaroo, or we’d spot French fans with their hair and faces dyed in the tricolors of the French flag.
Downtown Stuttgart swam in soccer fans.
The entire city turned orange on the days the Dutch team played.
One early afternoon several hundred British fans partied hard, getting more sunburned – and more inebriated – by the minute as they cheered on England.
Another day the Brazilians draped themselves in flags and samba-ed their way up our main pedestrian street, the Königstrasse, accompanied by musicians.
My husband joined us each night after he finished work. We’d grab a bite to eat and then head back to the main plaza for the evening match. The sides of the area that erupted with cheers when a team scored let you know: that was where the Italians were sitting. Or Portuguese. Or Americans. Or…
The German team was coached by Jürgen Klinsmann, a Schwab whose family still runs a bakery in a Stuttgart neighborhood. The team kept advancing! The mood in Germany grew more animated! EVERYONE stayed in a good mood.
It didn’t matter who won. (Okay, it did, it did!) Let me rephrase that: Fans cheered and groaned and stayed civil and good-natured no matter how the matches ended. The crowds swelled to over 100,000 people as it got closer to the finals.
The Königstrasse literally became a sea of happily excited fans.
It was a social happening: people from all over the world came to Germany to share these games together. You wanted to be in a beer garden or plaza or outdoor café, anyplace with a crowd of people. The 2006 World Cup Games is the greatest international event I’ve ever attended.
My adopted country is one hell of a host. Forget dour and uptight: these people know how to throw a party! Now if they could just hold the World Cup annually instead of every four years. And let Germany host it again, soon. I’ll be wearing a team shirt and face paint. And I will be hollering, Let the Games Begin!
(All photogaphs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)