EuroCup 2008

I’m going to throw this out there: I don’t like soccer. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is the fact its non-American name desecrates the title of our greatest sport, but in the end it’s just not something that appeals to me. I sort of view soccer the same way most girls view any sport – that is, it’s just a silly thing that guys get worked up about for no real reason.

Anyway, for those of you who haven’t been paying attention to European sports (and if it wasn’t continuously bombarded into my face, I would be in your ranks), the EuroCup 2008 is a giant soccer tournament held between all the European nations. Well, the European nations that qualify for it – England didn’t make it this time around, so pretty much every other country here is laughing at them. I think it’s played every four years, partly to offset the fact the World Cup is played every four years and there’s a lot of time in between wherein nothing really happens. Why am I telling you this, you ask? Well, this time around, Switzerland is the host country; more specifically, the park half a block from our apartment is the site of one of the "fan zones", meaning we get all sorts of hooligans roaming our streets.

But, it could be worse. Depending on how you feel about hooliganism, you might say Geneva dodged a bullet; the teams playing in this fair city are teams that nobody bothers traveling to watch. We have Portugal, Switzerland, Turkey, and I think Czech Republic, whereas other Swiss cities have teams such as Greece or Holland playing.

Again, why am I telling you this? Well, one of our friends had the bright idea to go to Bern this past Friday night, to go see the France / Holland game. Not actually go into the stadium, but just to the "fan zone" there, to "soak in the atmosphere".

Well, let me just tell you – I have never been to a sporting event more insane than this. Holland ended up winning, which was great considering we were surrounded by about 50,000 screaming Dutch fans. As Bern isn’t exactly a teeming metropolis, it got crowded very quickly. I would use words like "chaos" or "pandemonium", but I think they’re overused, and what was going on in Bern was well out of the ordinary. There were people climbing parking signs, gutters, port-a-potties; we ran across two impromptu brass marching bands, one of which we followed for a couple blocks because, well, it’s a lot of fun following a marching band. I have to say it was really cool after having lived in Switzerland for almost a year now, to see the complete craziness that Bern became on this one night. The party was still going strong a couple hours after the match, although we had to catch the midnight train back to Geneva.

So, my advice to anyone who actually does like soccer is, follow the Dutch fans. Obviously the English are also crazy like this, as are apparently the Scandinavian countries (that is, thousands upon thousands of them travel to watch their sports teams in international events). Considering Bern is much closer to France than Holland, it was interesting that there were easily 50 Dutch to every Frenchie (or clogs vs. frogs, if you want to use the local slang). No exaggeration – it was almost all Dutch.

The Dutch rule.

The only unfortunate thing is that I didn’t get to see much of Bern. They apparently have a bear-pit (with live bears), so I’ll have to go back another time. Looks like a fun place though.

Next week: Soph’s back!

Cave ouverte!

Ahh, a weekend to relax in Geneva…but who can relax when it’s the only day of the year that all the vineyards are open to visitors? Not us – so we donned our wine-drinking caps and headed out to the countryside for one of the few days you’ll ever get something for free in Switzerland!

Now, a word about Swiss wines; I’ve had a couple since I’ve been here, and I’ve spoken to quite a few people about them as well. The Swiss don’t export much wine, and they claim it’s because the wine is so good that they drink it all themselves. Well, I’m here to tell you, that’s a load of nonsense – Swiss wines are simply bad. Really bad. In the winter, they warm it and put sugar and spices in it, and it’s still bad. It’s just not something that the Swiss are particularly gifted at, much like electronics or getting along with other cultures. Hey – don’t be offended, Switzerland – your chocolate and cheeses are world-renowned, and more than make up for your shortcomings. That being said, I do exaggerate slightly, as their white wines are actually ok, and go well with fondues. The reds are atrocious though.

Back to the story – so one day each year, the canton of Geneva opens up its wineries to the public, and everyone walks around tasting wines at the various caves. It’s kind of neat that they do this, although in theory, California’s wineries do this every single day of the year, so I guess that kind of puts it into perspective. Anyway, we took this opportunity to meet up with some friends and head out to the various wineries, hitting the sub-appellation of Dardegny (we ended up here more because we just wanted to get off the crowded shuttle, rather than actually seeking this place out). Dardegny is basically a street with a couple of wine producers located on it, and a bunch of vineyards stretching in every direction. All the other sub-appellations are essentially the same thing, which is probably why it’s impossible to find any useful information about any of these places online. The fun thing about this area is that it’s very rural, and while you’re only a ten minute train ride from the center of Geneva, you’re still in the middle of pure countryside. This tends to happen a lot in Switzerland, which is one of its strong points.

We of course took the early train out there (because we’re hard-core), and started our rounds of speaking to the producers in broken French. Wendy, our soon-to-be-leaving roommate, has reached the point in her Genevoise stage where she doesn’t even bother with the broken French, which is very admirable. It’s good to have a girl around who will do this, because the locals like to practice their English with a girl, whereas if I start with English, it would result in not getting any wine. So we talked with a few people, drank some wine, and moved further and further into the heart of the city.

Like I mentioned, the heart of the city is just the one street, so it didn’t take long. However – the day turned out to be really beautiful, and with tents and benches set up, it was nice to just sit and relax in the sun for a few hours. As an added bonus, I did learn quite a bit about the local wines, and even found some that were pretty decent. I might also go so far as to say that Geneva makes very good dessert wines, but I haven’t had many of those so it’s hard to say.

The rest of the weekend was uneventful, with the exception of almost blowing our deck up. We had bought a cheap barbecue grill awhile back, and were setting it up, when the gas tank caught fire. Thanks to some quick thinking by Soph, and some risking of life and limb by me, we were able to get it out – but we are now sadly retiring from our grilling days in Geneva, before ever getting started. This is probably for the best, although now we have to figure out how to get rid of that piece of junk grill we have…

Next week: Nothing!