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Friday, July 1, 2011
Tale of two cities at the World Cup

Public viewings of sports can be dicey -- either the city digs it and there's a chance for people to randomly hug and high-five in public, or the whole thing is ignored and massive screens of athletic action play in front of empty patio furniture. In Germany, biergartens -- vast picnic tables lined up for drinking dunkels, smoking rollies and watching footie -- are like second homes, so you'd think Women's World Cup would be a natural draw. After all, the German's love their women's footie … or do they?

A look at Berlin vs. Bochum in a head-to-head public-viewing competition:

Choose the city based on its population. Berlin had one match scheduled during the entire tournament and it was on opening day. All the other games are being played west and south of the cultural capital. In return, the artsy natives are indifferent.

Bochum, primarily a college town, will drink in the Bermuda Triangle -- a well-organized triangle of promenades populated by bars and restaurants -- on any given night. A near riot broke out when Germany scored against Nigeria.

Bochum 1, Berlin 0

Do you want to concentrate on the game? The sparse support in Berlin means there is no problem finding a seat and no distracting conversations. In fact, I pulled up a lounge chair at Kiki Blofeld and could fully appreciate the England vs. Mexico game, even though the game itself was pretty bleh. In Bochum, you have the energy of the city coursing through the triangle, as every seat is filled with rapt fans. But you have to deal with a yelping German jam-band kicking it on their glockenspiel 100 meters away.

Bochum 1, Berlin 1

Choose the right night. Thursday, Friday, Saturday and anytime-the-Germans-play-day, that's when you'll find the biggest crowds and the most energy. But for games on the off day, Bochum's setup is best. You can sit in the main angle of the promenade or choose from ten different restaurants that spill out into the sidewalk, all blaring the game on massive screens. At Kiki, an off night means more people are watching drunk pingpong or lounging by the river.

Bochum 1, Berlin 0

Choose the right setting and the right people to sit next to. Kiki is so scenic and undiscovered that it's tough not to revel in the space. You have to know which parking lot to crawl through, the right hole in the fence and which shed to pay one euro to (the entrance looks like a mobster kill-zone and is so hipster, it's unmarked), and then you sit on makeshift crates right on a beach by the river surrounded by the city's notorious tagging and refurbished warehouses. It's really cool. Bermuda Triangle feels like Orange County or the Third Street Promenade -- lots of people but not a lot of character. Both places were friendly.

Bochum 0, Berlin 1

Just barely, Bochum eeks out a win, 3-2, but really kicking it with a beer, soccer and the Northern light is tough to beat.