Monday, September 29, 2014

Swiss summer of soccer

Oops. So it's September and it's my first post of the year. What can I say? After nearly four years of living in Switzerland, things here have now just become part of, well, life.

There are still new things to observe though - I just don't always find the time or inclination to post. It's the same with food, over at the Empress Eats. I've cooked a bit this year, but haven't posted.

But it's the end of summer, so let me catch you up on a couple of things. First, the summer itself. Actually, no - go back six months to winter. This was my fourth winter in Geneva and it was the mildest one yet. It had shades of my first winter, when there was no snow. There was snow in the mountains, thankfully (especially for Emperor D who decided to take up snow boarding), but otherwise there was one pathetic attempt at snow for about half an hour in Geneva in early February and that was it. It didn't even get cold! I was home having Christmas in Australia and remember seeing the Geneva forecast for Christmas Day, when they predicted an unseasonably warm 16C. I don't remember it getting colder than about 5C during the day all winter.

I guess because the Weather Gods thought we didn't get a winter, we shouldn't get a summer, either. This summer has been one of the coolest I can remember. I've been swimming in the lake each summer I've been here but this summer I haven't been once; granted, I was back in Australia for a conference and have been away, but otherwise it hadn't been warm enough. I don't think it's been above 26C!!

Even the bins on the street go World Cup mad
More on summer, and this year it was the World Cup. I've always loved the World Cup, and especially when I'm in Europe for it. I travelled through Europe when the World Cup was on in Germany in 2006; I still remember drinking beer in the summer sun with hoards of Czechs in Old Town Square in Prague and being out on the streets of Amsterdam with the crazy, orange-wearing Dutch.

During the month-long soccer fest, I came to understand two things about Switzerland: one, that it really is a melting pot of nationalities - flags from every team in the tournament were flying from apartment buildings and houses all over the country. Two, that people in Switzerland are soccer mad. I mean, they get really passionate. They sit on the edge of their seats and scream with joy or despair as a goal is scored either for or against their team. Everything becomes about football and the World Cup. There's advertising and promotions everywhere; even the bins on the streets of Geneva became sideline (sidewalk?) Swiss supporters!

And then you could listen to or see a curious post-match spectacle I hadn't witnessed before - the ritual of winning team supporters jumping in their cars and doing bog laps through the streets of town, constantly honking their horns in celebration. Just before the World Cup started, I read an article in 20 Minutes (commuter newspaper) that talked about how the police in each canton would let people "blow off steam and celebrate" for up to an hour after matches. I wondered what they were on about; with some matches ending at 1am, I'm glad the cops put a cap of an hour afterwards.
Hangover: A World Cup promotional flag
still flies in September

The Swiss themselves - ever known for being quiet and conservative - come into their own when their national pride is on the line, becoming every bit as noisy and exuberant as the Spanish or the French. Except when they got knocked out of the competition (in extra time by runners-up Argentina in the Round of 16); the mood the day after their defeat there was palpable despondency.

But beside that, Geneva is no different to anywhere else in Europe during a World Cup; people are keen to escape work early and pack the bars, pubs and outdoor cafes, all within viewing distance of a TV. Even though the party was nearly 9,000kms away, there was definitely a festive atmosphere in the city, making the summer - what there was of it - so much more vibrant and fun.

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