The House Of Small Wonder

A Berlin Icon

Berlin is my favorite European city and also where my daughter, Hanna happens to live. One of our first stops during my visits is always to 'The House of Small Wonder'. Located at Johannisstrabe 20 you wont be able to make a reservation and they only take cash. Monday thru Sunday from 9a - 5p. You will have to put your name on a list before being summoned to ascend up a spectacular winding iron staircase to the dining room. Best described as a Japaneese inspired Bistro the space is bright and intimate, filled with a great energy and my favorite dish is the fig and brie sandwhich accompanied by the soup of the day. One might expect from what I have described that the staff would be very pretentious but nothing could be further from the truth. Attentive, speedy service and everything carried out with a smile. Your table is yours for as long as you want. Relax and decompress. More to come on Berlin and some of my other favorite haunts.

Kiev, Ukraine

Close To The Front Lines

I'll be back at the NSC Olimpiyskiy for the 2018 Champions League Final on May 25th. Last time I was in Kiev was for the 2012 Euro Champs when Spain thrashed Italy 4-0. Driving from the airport to the city center that afternoon it felt like 'the land that time forgot'. I was a guest of Nike and we had flown in on a charter from Warsaw where we had stayed the night after being advised that the 'situation' in the Ukraine was a little tense. Something to do with Russian troops massing on the border. I've been on a few of these trips as a guest of sport brands, but first where the security guards accompanying us were visibly 'packing'. This was a Communist country as I imagined one. Run down buildings, people walking around with their eyes fixed on the ground and such general 'drabness'. As night took over, spotlights broke up the dark night sky, dancing girls appeared on rooftops and we headed to the stadium. A traditional soccer stadium from the early 80's with the running track surrounding the pitch. An absolute 'no - no' for any modern day architect where fan engagement reigns supreme. Wondered what this stadium cost to build in it's day and the politics involved. Such is the speed of travel today that around midnight we had drinks at the Kiev airport, flew to Warsaw and then to Amsterdam where I had breakfast before catching a connection to Portland, Oregon on the west coast of America and landed in time for lunch! This time around it's Liverpool versus Real Madrid in the Champions League Final and will be curious to see and experience Kiev six years on. Shall report back. 


East Side Gallery

Here remains the last pieces of the original Berlin wall. There are 832 segments of concrete that comprise the East Side Gallery. Perhaps the most famous open air gallery in the world which depicts art from 118 artists from 21 different countries. This collection of artists gathered in 1990 to paint these ideas, they wanted to 'paint their mark' and capture a unique and symbolic moment in history. Almsot to preserve the wall as a place of rememberance for generations to come. I've been to Berlin twice in the last month and always feel drawn to walk this gallery and can't help thinking how we take paece and freedom for granted. Berlin is a tremendously diverse and vibrant city that you must visit. Not expensive the way a London or Paris is. Very walkable and most locals have some understanding of English. My daughetr has lived in Berlin for the past year so I have the perfect guide every time I visit and the fact she speaks fluent German certainly helps. If you fancy a forty minute train ride, head to the sea port of Hamburg which I can also vouch for. 

University of Portland

Merlo Field

I'm a graduate of The University of Portland and played soccer on the bluff for 4 years. So, my interest was piqued when I learned that Nick Carlin - Voigt was to become only the fifth Head Coach in the 38 year history of the Men's Soccer program. I've know the four prior coaches (O'Meara, Davis, Charles and Irwin) and responding to a blanket e-mail that Nick sent out to alumni, set up a meeting to have a 'chat'. We've made 14 NCAA playoff appearances but not since 2009. Bill Irwin who made way for Nick is one of the really 'good guys' in all of Soccer, but after 13 years at the helm and with a 2015 record of 3-12-3 overall and 1-6-0 in WCC play the time was right for change. Bill is and continues to be a friend of mine but at a school with a rich and proud history in Soccer, Scott Leyton (AD) made the right call. Those 38 years have seen many highs, especially during the difinitve Clive Charles era where we became a National power on both the Men's and Women's side. Clive (with Bill on his staff) really elevated the profile of the program and instilled a culture with strong values, eternal optimism and shaped not only great players but quality individuals. That 'Charles' legacy even so many years after his tragic passing rightly still surrounds the program, but I would argue perhaps does not permeate the program to the extent it had. Arriving at UP, I parked, walked over to the Athletic Offices and spotted Nick instantly, holding court in front of the dome. First thing you notice about Nick is he has a pressence. I'd read he was a Goalkeeper during his playing days and he certainly had the frame. The next thing that struck me about Nick was how soft spoken he was. You can see the wheels turning in his mind, someone looking to squeeze productivity out of every second of every day. I'm not someone who's easily impressed and have high expectations of people in the world of Soccer; a world which I have played, coached, run brands, dealt with players, managers, agents and headed professional organisations. Siiting in Nick's office with the pleasantries out the way we discussed the outlook and aspirations for UP Men's Socecr going forward. Don't believe it would be right to share the details of that private conversation but I left convinced that we have a real talent taking the reigns; but a guy who needs help, notably from the incredibly talented UP Soccer Alumni. I have no doubt that Nick along with a very accomplished assistant in Leonard Griffin will get results on the field and that includes a pipeline of the very best student athletes. A couple of full size training fields are imperitive, increasing the number of season ticket holders, increasing donations and the alumni base offering 'professional expertise' where applicable and called for in Nick's strategic plan to bring a WCC Champioship and Men's D1 National Championship to UP. Won't be an easy journey, but my takeaways having met Nick is that he sweats the details, inclusive, values community, respects what has gone before but not afraid to bring change - challenge the norm. Respectfully to all, 'the past is dust' and we must under Nick (and Leonard's) leadership starting with Spring practices and the 2016 schedule learn how to 'win again and close games out'. In a short time Nick has affected the incoming recruiting class for 2016 with some promising players but it may take until the 2017, even 2018 class until we 'catch up' and see the 'All American' calibre players committing to the bluff. I caught the first half of the spring parctice game versus Seattle U yesterday (leading 2-0) and saw enough to be encouraged. If anyone doubts that we cannot win the WCC in 2016 then just watch the EPL and Leicester City. As the legendary Michael Jordan said " Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships". Go Pilots!