Now this may shock you, but we are quite partial to a weekend away once in a while, taking in some local culture, fine foods and wine and even, dare I say it, a football match or two. No really, we never plan to go anywhere where there is football on – it is complete coincidence that some of the biggest games just happen to be on when we are there for a book festival or art show.
Nah, sod that. Weekends away are designed for football. Pure and simple. It may be the crappiest city in the world, with the worst weather, most awful food and no beer but if it has a football match full of flares, chanting and basically all the things we cannot get at home then it’s great to us. Well, OK, perhaps not one without any beer then.
In 2012 we ventured far and wide again, but three trips stood out above all others, and these were our winners last year. So without further ado I give you the top three weekend destinations of 2012:-
3rd place – Belgrade
Let’s go to Belgrade and take in the Partizan v Red Star derby he said. Just like that. No ifs or buts. And before you knew it Danny, Kenny Legg, Andy Hudson and I were waking up on the overnight train from Zagreb in Serbia. What followed was an outstanding weekend. Four games in two days, including one of the most volatile atmospheres I have ever seen and an exchange rate that made us all Dinar millionaires. Add in some stunning scenery (both architecturally and otherwise), some amazing history and temperatures in the high 30’s and it was a tip-top weekend.
2nd place – Rome
Granted we have the inside track on Rome thanks to the legend that is Adam Lloyd. High up in the hills of Frascatti Mr Lloyd plots world domination, but on his days off he likes nothing better than a trip to the Stadio Olimpico. He was only too pleased to act as our chauffeur, tour guide and hostess for a weekend that was heavy on the culture, very heavy on the stomach but very pleasing on the eye when it came to the Eternal Derby. Rome is a brilliant city full stop. But add in some stunning countryside around Rome, a fantastic atmosphere in the stadium and La Dolce Vita and you have a weekend that should be on every football fans itinerary at least once a season.
Best weekend away – Düsseldorf
We all love German football – that’s a given. The food, the drink, the atmosphere, the tickets that cost less than an Emirates Burger, the club slippers. It’s the whole package. But in 2012 we discovered Düsseldorf. Discovered? Well, OK thanks to Kenny Legg’s secret mission with the British Government, we were invited. What a place. Fantastic drinking culture that starts in the High Street no less at 10am on a Saturday, a dozen stadiums holding 30,000 plus within an hour’s (luxury) train ride away and enough sausages to keep even the most ardent meat-eater at bay. We loved it so much we went twice, and are going again in February. If you are lucky enough to go then we can thoroughly recommend an afternoon at the Esprit Arena. 50,000 lucky souls in one of the most modern stadiums in Europe AND they serve Alt beer. It is a must!