Bayern beat Dortmund in the Champions League last night. They were a bit better. They scored one more goal. There's nothing to argue with. Even disregarding the game, the win is deserved. If you make it to the final three times in four years and beat Barcelona 7:0 on aggregate in the run for the win as Bayern did, you have a good claim to being the best in Europe. For the manager who's leaving the team in mildly dodgy circumstances after this season, it must have been the sweetest victory.
The game was all right. It started out extremely nervous, with both team highly respectful of each other and didn't gain any measure of playfulness or levity until deep into the second half when the first and then, shortly afterwards, the second goal fell. The last twenty minutes were exciting, with quite a few hairy moments.
In a break with tradition, I didn't go to the Famous 3 Kings or The Goose to watch the game. Instead I headed up to the Kensington Roof Gardens, a venue high up above Kensington High Street on the roof of the Derry & Toms building. This former department store, with ambitions as high as they were absurd, sports three distinct formal gardens around a central hospitality area that together cover one-and-a-half acres of roof. The department store has long vanished; the gardens remain.
They are not normally associated with such plebeian pleasures as the public viewing of football. During the day, locals and tourists in the know can gain access to these gardens for free and hang out among flowers, trees, ponds, ducks, and even flamigoes, relaxing in lawn chairs and forgetting about the madness six floors down where the Gap and Marks & Spencer flog their wares, commuters flood towards the tube station and traffic soils the air. At night, the gardens are turned into one of London's more unusual night clubs.
Last night, an association of Germans in London had rented the space for a few hours, letting us mingle almost exclusively among compatriots and watch the game in style. This being Kensington, style came with prices to match: 20 quid to get in, twice that for a round of five drinks (one of them a coke), ten pounds for a burger from the grill.
It's not a place I'm likely to return to, but it was fun to be there. When the game was over and a DJ took over, we stayed on, chatting in the Moorish garden. The drinks kept coming despite the cost. After all, five people equals five rounds. The conversations were all in German, something that I don't get much of these days. Though I write in English and probably speak English better than German by now, German is my first language and speaking it touches different nerves. Debating regional differences in usage is suddenly not a philological exercise but a question of identity.
I've long maintained that moving back to Germany as such doesn't appeal to me. I'm not whatever the opposite of a xenophobe is, but there are too many advantages to being a foreigner. Regardless, the move it drawing closer; it's probably going to happen early in July. Last night, I got an unexpected buzz about it. Maybe being among Germans isn't so bad after all.
When we left, late for a pub but much too early for a night club, the Kensington jet set was just arriving, jostling for positions in the line that was forming by the entrance downstairs. Even deep pockets and sharp smiles were no match for the bouncers in black. We felt as if we were giving something up by leaving.