A guest report this week as I have been effectively been serving a week football ban from CMF. Just because I cannot have fun abroad doesn’t mean the rest of you have to suffer….so its over to Kevin for his trip to Germany…
“For the European football traveller who doesn’t want to miss too many of his own teams domestic games, the Champions League and UEFA Cup scheduling is an ideal opportunity for an overseas trip or two during the season. It is announced far in advance and it doesn’t tend to move at short notice on a TV company’s demand. This time last week, I was off to Germany again for three new grounds for me.
Tuesday started with a trip to Stuttgart. Armed with the best of European stadium literature (European Football – A Fans Guide by an chance – ED), we boarded an early morning flight from Stansted with the stereotypically efficient Germanwings. They are fast becoming my favourite airline, they never seem to be too busy, they are incredibly reliable, pleasant and comfortable and they are always reasonably priced (£35 single). With time on our side, we took the easy to navigate local rail service from the Airport to the central station and then a local tram to our hotel near the Gottlieb Daimler Stadion. The stadium is undergoing renovations which will see the end of the running track so it is only 3 sided at present. This made tickets difficult to get hold of, but not impossible. What was more troublesome was that Stuttgart had Glasgow Rangers in their group so the club would not sell tickets to UK residents until after the Rangers game had passed. We also experienced something similar to this at Wolfsburg. It was inconvenient for a traveller trying to arrange flights etc in advance but tickets eventually became available on the official website, as well as on eBay.de and Seatwave. When we arrived at the ground, they were also available on the night.
After a few beers in the City, we made our way closer to the stadium and there were a couple of reasonable sized bars, well populated, near the club shop and Porsche Arena. The match programme was free and piled up on the floor inside the stadium. Our seats cost 35 Euro and were in the back row of the upper tier, about level with the goal line. As one side of the stadium was completely open, it was about now that we first spotted the temperature difference between Germany and UK, it was a touch chilly. As for the game, Seville ran out easy 3-1 winners and it featured some comedy goal keeping from Jens Lehman.
A reasonably early start was needed on Wed am as we had a train to catch to Wolfsburg for our 2nd game, VFL Wolfsburg v Besiktas. German trains are superb but they are not cheap, this journey took 3 ½ hours (1 change) and cost £60 single. On arriving in Wolfsburg, there appeared to be a vast number of Besiktas fans displaying their colours proudly. A quiet afternoon in the bars kept us out of the dropping temperatures. In one bar, we got talking with a couple of locals who couldn’t quite believe what we were doing there and were even more surprised when I told them that European football travelling is popular in the UK and people go to more obscure games than I had chosen. These gents showed us where to get the bus to the ground from, although the ground was only a 20 min walk from the train station.
As mentioned earlier, tickets for this game were not easy to get hold of, it was Wolfsburg’s first ever season in the Champions League, the stadium only held 30,000 and they had a well supported Turkish team and Manchester United in their group. This meant Wolfsburg were only selling tickets in packages for all three games and initially, they would not issue tickets to a UK address or someone without a booking history. Again, they eventually relented on this, once tickets went on sale for individual matches and they realised that we didn’t want tickets for the United game.
The game itself was pretty terrible. I had been looking forward to this one as I’d seen a fair bit of Wolfsburg on TV last season and they had a great centre forward pairing (Dzeko and Grafite) but Grafite is currently off form and got himself sent off. The game finished 0-0. Much more entertaining were the Besiktas supporters, I had been fortunate to visit their stadium with Tottenham in the UEFA Cup and it was a superb experience. You end up watching them as much as you do the action on the pitch, (this wasn’t so much of a problem today!), they had travelled in good numbers and were prominent in 3 of the stands with no hint of trouble. Their vocal backing is excellent.The match programme cost 1 Euro and was available from vendors outside of the stadium.
Thursday, it was back on the train to Berlin for a couple of days. Hertha Berlin were at home to Heerenveen in the Europa League. Berlin was an excellent venue, easy to get around and obviously plenty of history to keep you busy, the Olympic site itself was enough to take up the best part of a day, I’d recommend a visit up the Bell Tower. Berlin has a vibrant nightlife in the East and you are never going to be short of a midnight kebab. It was really, really cold though. Tickets for this game were easy to come by on Hertha’s official website although they would not send tickets to the UK so we had to collect them on the match day.
There is a U-Bahn and a S-Bahn station at the Olympic Stadium. If you use the S-Bahn as you leave the station, on your left, there is a programme vendor selling a vast array of programmes from many clubs and dates, this is something you very rarely see in the UK nowadays. There is also a huge bar in front of you and you have to cross Jesse Owens Strasse. If you use the U-Bahn, the route to the stadium is more photographic as it brings you up on an approach where the Olympic rings are displayed.
The ground obviously has a running track and due to the low attendance, the upper tiers were not open. The game finished 1-0 to the visitors, Hertha are not having a good season with just 2 points and being bottom of the table at present. The stadium does present some excellent photo opportunities. There was a programme available but it was in the form of a free 8 page miniature card, it was disappointing.
I very much enjoy my visits to Germany, I find the people hospitable and the diet of sausages and lager is much to my liking. The atmosphere the supporters generate is better than anything you will experience in the Premier League. I’ll be back over in November for Fortuna Dusseldorf v Energie Cottbus and Eintracht Frankfurt v Borussia Monchengladbach.”