At long events like the World Cup or the Euro, I prefer to stay in apartments. This way, the neighbourhood you’re in makes for a familiarity and a comfort level, a sense that you’re a part of the city and not so much of an outsider – and besides, four weeks in a hotel room and the walls close in.
After just three days here, I already have a nodding acquaintance with the people running the local grocery, and the German Rasta running the Bar “Life” waved at us last night as we came back from a wonderful local neighbourhood Italian restaurant where the food was fantastic, the service wonderful and of course, there was a TV set out on the sidewalk patio with the Ecuador-Poland game on. Occasionally groups of young German revellers would come by, waving flags and celebrating their opening game victory earlier in the evening down in Munich. Police vans screamed past from time to time, but it’s normally pretty quiet down here, despite the train station being just five minutes’ walk away.
“You’re on the good side of the station,” our liason from the apartment agency said when we moved in, having just driven us through the rather grim red-light district that unfolds on the other side. We're on the river side: Just after dawn this morning, I hopped out of bed, put on my sneakers and around the corner ran along the River Main’s pedestrian path for an hour’s run.
The scene outside the train station hasn’t changed so far. There’s a stage set up where a band plays, and a makeshift beer garden. But no one seems to go there apart from a few loiterers. The real action has been across the street at O’Reilly’s Irish Pub, with its “World Cup Headquarters” banner over top and the past couple days, the English keeping an almost round-the-clock, rollicking vigil on the front patio, while the police keep an eye on them from across the street. Late last night, I had to go over to the train station to buy a toothbrush and on the way back, I detoured to check out how O’Reilly’s was coming along. The place was heaving, of course (a block away, a Chinese restaurant with a patio has been mostly empty). But among its banners (including a Tottenham Hotspur “Yids on Tour” number) somewhere in the middle of the mob was a strange sight: someone was waving a German flag. And no, it didn't end happily ever after for some, those screaming police vans arresting 20 around town. With 30,000 in town, that's a pretty quiet night.