In praise of Nena and her big balloons

“Ninety nine decisions treat, Ninety nine ministers meet
To worry, worry, super scurry, Call the troops out in a hurry
This is what we’ve been waiting for…This is it boys, this is war….”

If there has ever been a finer verse of German music written then I’m a Dutchman. Nena’s seminal 99 Red Balloons was a lesson in life, love, war and peace. When you’re 14 any older woman wearing a short leather dress, knee-high boots and fishnet tights on Top of the Pops looks good, even is she is singing a load of tosh and sounds like a strangled cat. Even my Dad remarked upon it back in the summer of 1984. “Remarkable set of lungs on her, young Stuart”…”She’s German, Dad”….”Really? I met a German Girl once. I was in Düsseldorf back in 1952. Hair everywhere. Piece of advice for you son. When you start courting, make sure the girl knows how to use a razor. And with that my Dad sent me out into the big bad world.

Fast forward near thirty years and I was back in Dussers, and Mr Last is fond of calling it. This is fast turning into our new European HQ for Continental operations. From here German footballing missions can be marshalled, with the borders of Holland and Belgium within striking distance if we ever get bored with German football (i.e never). We also had (mid)Field Commander Legg on patrols in the area at the behest of her Majesty (not in a bad way I should add just in case Mrs Legg is reading) and it was at his request that we dropped tools and headed to the land of Beat Uhre and leather trousers.  After August’s visit (see here, here and here), poor Kenny had run out of PG Tips, Marmite and Immac (obviously his Dad gave him similar advice to mine about German girls) so he sent out a distress call.

“Chaps…low on essentials. Please arrange air drop. P.S got tickets for Fortuna Düsseldorf v Bayern München and Paderborn v St Pauli if you fancy hanging around for a day or two.”

How could we resist?

Gatwick may have gone through a multi-million face lift but at 5am it is a soulless depressing place. The thought of people queueing to get a beer at Weatherspoons so early in the morning turns my stomach. But we were on holiday, albeit for 72 hours and so make mine a pint of JW Lees Chocoholic please. Big Deaksy (He’d been able to keep his “Big” title for this trip as even bigger Stephen Deacon wasn’t present) had joined Danny and I for the very short hop over the Channel, down the A1 and then throwing a right over Strasbourg to land at the heart of NordRhein Westfalen before most people back in Blighty had turned off their alarm clock.

It would be tempting to have simply parked our bums in the nearest Brauhaus, sinking litres of Alt beer whilst waiting for Kenny to finish work. Unfortunately, the work of the British Government isn’t a 9 to 5pm role here in Germany. Oh, no on a Friday they finish at 4pm. So we didn’t want to be gibbering wrecks by the time he changed out of his Derndl (well, no more than normal). Therefore a plan emerged thanks to the combined brains of Fuller and Last.

“What about a tour around Borussia Dortmund’s ground? Biggest stand in Europe, most passionate fans, best football tack in Europe?” Said Danny.

“What about a tour around the DAB brewery? 30 minutes of chat followed by two free litres of Dortmund’s Awesome Beer?” I retorted.

“Can we do both?” Of course we could. Add in an evening visit to Bochum versus Hertha Berlin and you have one of the best days ever – well since as a 15-year-old I found a copy of Mayfair featuring Grange Hill’s Claire Scott in the buff on a bus home from Gravesend (the magazine was on the bus, not Paula Ann Bland unfortunately).  God knows what StuPot must have felt when he saw a copy back in the day! Continue reading

Another Bundesliga Double

Our regular German traveller Kevin Morris was off again a few weeks ago to watch games in Dusseldorf and Frankfurt.  Here’s his latest tale.

“It was back to Germany again last week, my 4th trip this year and again, it was a great visit. Friday was Fortuna Dusseldorf v Energie Cottbus in the Bundesliga equivalent of the Championship. A cheapo Ryanair special saw 3 of us arriving in Dusseldorf early on Friday morning. Weeze airport is not too close to Düsseldorf but it is a straight forward journey and given the time we arrived in Germany, we had a fair bit of time to play with. From the airport there was a 10 min bus ride to the nearest train station followed by an hours train journey into Dusseldorf. Neither journey was particularly cheap (4 Euros for the bus and 14 Euros for the train), public transport does seem expensive at present. Once in Dusseldorf, we had to collect our match tickets from the Tourist Information office which seemed to be in completely the opposite direct to that which the sign posts were pointing and then onto the hotel. Düsseldorf is a great City; it is full of bars and restaurants so we spent a pleasant afternoon by the Rheine having a few beers before going on to the game.

We took the easy route and got a taxi but there is a metro line and a station right next to the ground. Match tickets were booked on Fortuna’s website but they wouldn’t deliver the tickets to England. We paid £16 for a seat in the lower tier, along the side, about level with the penalty spot. The ground is impressive, it is a two tier symmetrical stadium, the concourse was remarkably clean and you could walk almost around the entire stadium with the exception of the blocked access for the visitors’ enclosure. A tabloid newspaper sized programme was available inside the stadium only and this cost 1Euro.

The 1st half of the game wasn’t the best, the highlight being the good looking female referee. It livened up in the 2nd half when the visitors took the lead. Fortuna hit back with two goals and the referee, somewhat debatably, disallowed an injury time equaliser for Cottbus.

The support for the home team was pretty impressive, especially in the 2nd half. The supporters around us made us feel welcome and we made full use of being allowed to have a beer in your seat. I find this much more civilised than rushing a pint at 230pm as we would do back home. After the game it was back into the city for more beers, it really is a superb place, especially around the Altstadt (Old Town).

On Saturday morning we took the train to Frankfurt for Eintracht v Borussia Monchengladbach. The train took just under 90 mins and cost approx £20. Frankfurt Station isn’t my favourite place in the world; the area is seedy and populated by beggars or drunks. We got the tram over to the Cathedral and had a few beers around here. Tram line 21 will take you directly to the stadium and they seem to run a stadium special on line 20, I’ve no idea where this starts from but you could pick it up around the church and the train station. The journey to the stadium takes around 15 mins. If there are more than 2 of you travelling, it is cheaper to buy a group travel card which allows up to 5 people to travel on the one ticket. Having a beer in public seems to be common in Germany (and is to be encouraged!) so you will see blokes carrying crates of lager on to the tram or metro on the way to the game, most unlike the London Underground.

The game wasn’t a sell out and Eintracht will post your tickets to the UK. The ground is unique in that once you get through the turnstile; there is still a 10 minute walk to the stadium as it appears to be located in the middle of a forest/park. A UK style programme was available outside of the ground (but inside of the entrance) for 2 Euro; there were also a couple of fanzine sellers. The stadium is superb and for 40 Euros I had an upper tier seat over looking the halfway line. In Germany they don’t seem too worried about segregation so I was surrounded by Borussia fans unfortunately, not all of them managed to remain silent for the one minutes silence for Enke. The atmosphere after this unfortunate incident was superb but again, the football in the first half was severely lacking in quality. The 2nd half livened up considerably, Borussia were 2-1 winners.

The highlight of the trip was the sausage stall who was offering ½ metre long sausages, my idea of heaven.

After the game there was time for a couple of more beers and a bite to eat before the journey home started. In my haste to get a decent fare, I’d booked a late night return from Frankfurt with Ryanair and it was only in the days leading up to the trip that I spotted my mistake. Frankfurt Hahn airport is bloody miles from Frankfurt and it has no train station. Ryanair do lay on an hourly bus service for 12Euros but the journey takes 90mins. Apparently there are 3 other airports closer to Frankfurt than the one Ryanair use. In their defence, I don’t ever recall having a bad Ryanair experience. The flight home arrived at 1130pm and the following day it was off to WHL for Spurs v Wigan….which is a tale in its own right”