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German/French weekender Feb 2-4


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Feb 8, 2018, 11:40 PM

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Location: South Birmingham
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German/French weekender Feb 2-4 Can't Post or Reply Privately

The first weekend of February usually signals my first foreign jaunt of the season and thus catchagogoal joined me in escaping freezing Blighty for freezing Germany, not a simple or straightforward trip as it involved seventeen trains and two airports and trusting a tad to luck with some tight connections along the way. .

Friday February 2nd
We left Birmingham on the 11.00 Flybe to Dusseldorf, this and the return from Stuttgart coming to around £95. I’d bought all the train tickets on line which came to about 135 Euro each, 25% discount having been obtained by the purchase of a 3-month Bahn Card which cost 19 Euro so obviously an incentive to visit Germany again before early May to utilise it further.
Into Dusseldorf by the scheduled time of 13.30 with ample time for lunch we thought; Dusseldorf Flughafen has its own main-line station but beware that you must take the Sky Train shuttle from arrivals to the station which takes six or seven minutes. We made the 14.32 connection to Frankfurt Flughafen with at least twenty seconds to spare. That station has both inter-city and local stations with the best part of fifteen minutes walk between platforms but we weren’t under pressure to catch the frequent regional stopper for the 40 minute journey to Wiesbaden. There’s not much of interest in the vicinity of the station so we shoved our bags into a locker and turned right for the kilometre-long walk to the Brita Arena. This was the only game we hadn’t reserved tickets for but with Wiesbaden drawing poor crowds, we didn’t think this would be a problem. I didn’t think it would be 22 Euro admission either though it’s 2 euro cheaper if bought in advance on line; standing behind the goal was 11 euro on line/13 walk up charge.
Bundesliga 3 : Wehen Wiesbaden 1 Karlsruhe 1. Admission 22 Euro; Programme free. Attendance : 4,860
Our booked connection was a tight one, leaving Wiesbaden at 21.05 which got us into Karlsruhe at 23.00, the next arrival not being till 01.40. Imagine our glee then to find out half an hour before the start that kick-off was to be delayed by 15 minutes due to 2,000 Karlsruhe fans on late-running trains. Great!
The Brita Arena is an unlovely if functional ground and could be made from Meccano. All covered, seats on both sides, standing behind the goals with a capacity of 13,500. The club moved here from nearby Taunusstein in 2007 as they had outgrown that stadium while progressing up the pyramid and should they go up again, there are plans to enlarge this ground.
Catering was pretty much just sausages and the local fizz, Licher. Programmes are a monthly issue and with this being the first of 3 home games in February, there were plenty about. Nowhere to hide from the bitter cold, but the 2,000 had arrived in time for a 7.15 start in a game between 3rd and 6th. Karlsruhe should have won, scoring first and seeing Wehen down to ten just before the interval. However they eased up in the second half and on 80 minutes came a deserved home equaliser. That was our cue to scarper for an 8-minute dash to the station, sadly missing the last few minutes but at least not missing anything major.
Changing trains at Frankfurt Hbf, we arrived at base camp in the Hotel Avisa, a few minutes from Karlsruhe station. Good value at 57 euro/night for a single ensuite room including excellent breakfast with views across the street to the Zoo where red pandas could be seen in the trees.
The first bar we spotted was Sockenschuss which did the job as it had choices plus you were allowed to smoke as is the way in this state. The station area is very pleasant and quiet and is a good couple of km from the city centre. A long day ended about one-ish….

Saturday February 3rd
A leisurely start with an 11.00 departure for the hour-long journey south to Freiburg which gave us time to spend a couple of hours in the pretty city centre with its mediaeval buildings and water channels and time to sample a gluhwein in the cathedral square along with the local brew, Gunter.
The Schwarzwald Stadion is about 4 km to the east in a residential area. There are trams from the centre but as we needed to be on the 17.55 train out again, we chose to take a local train to Freiburg Littenweiler, a kilometre away from the ground so went out that way as well to do a reccy. A brisk ten-minute yomp to pick up programmes which were on sale on the forecourt and a swifty in the adjacent bar at the lido preceded chaotic queues at the main entrance so we chanced to go down the lane at the side to find much shorter queues at the river end. Freiburg have become a fairly solid Bundesliga side in recent years and have outgrown the Schwarzwald so a new stadium is under construction to the north of the city which they hope to occupy during the 19/20 season. This is a bitty stadium with a mish-mash of stands, all covered, with a good atmosphere and I was hopeful of seeing a decent game with both the hosts and second-placed Leverkusen on decent unbeaten runs.
Bundesliga 1 : SC Freiburg 0 Bayer Leverkusen 0. Admission 39 euro; Programme 1 euro. Attendance :24,000 (ausverkauft)
Loads of various food and drink outlets under the stands but not good fare on the pitch in a game of minimal goalmouth action. Leverkusen’s star man Leon Bailey was kept quiet and there was rarely a sniff of a goal - both sides seemed happy to keep their unbeaten runs going. On our toes again at the end to make the 17.39 local train back to the Hbf and two trains later, changing at Offenburg, we pitched up at Krimmeri-Meinau station, just across the Rhine in the southern suburbs of Strasbourg and just five minutes from the Stade de la Meinau. I gather that Strasbourg is a really attractive city but the centre was too far away to explore with kick-off at 20.00 so we went in promptish to allow catchagogoal to do his photography stuff.
Ligue 1 : RC Strasbourg 0 Bordeaux 2. Admission 12 Euro; Programmes free. Attendance : 24,662
It’s been a tumultuous decade for Strasbourg with two relegations followed by demotion to the fifth level after a financial implosion. It took some time to get back but this season, after ten years away, they are back in the top flight and the fans are loving it, not least becoming the first side to down PSG just before Christmas. I suspect some reverse crowd-fudging here as there were no more than a few hundred empty seats in a stadium whose capacity is listed as 29,230 – we had to buy tickets in what would be the old paddock in front of the stands in what’s now a safe-standing area with rail seats. A bit tight and not a great view but this was the most enjoyable game on the tour with Bordeaux, under new boss Gus Poyet, fully deserving their win despite a quiet game from Arsenal target Malcom. I was surprised to see Martin Braithwaite in the visitor’s line-up as I thought he was still at Middlesbrough.
A great selection of food on the concourses including pasta boxes with various sauces, roast chestnuts, fried fish and all kinds of meaty offerings; why do we have such poor footy fodder on offer at home in the main? The home end was raucous throughout after a 5-minute silent protest at the start, as you do. Trains back east run at 2 minutes to the hour and we might have caught the 21.58 with a sprint; instead it was a leisurely hour at the nearby Studio 80 where the Licorne Black was wonderful.
So the 22.58 to Appenweier where we changed for Karlsruhe arriving just past midnight in heavy snow. Across the road from the station next to the zoo entrance was Lowe am Tiergarten which had lots of choices, the best being Black Nizza Motor Ol, a 9% imperial stout; it would have been churlish not to. Lights out just before two……….

Sunday February 4th
Still sub-zero, we took the 09.28 north, changing at Heidelberg and arriving at Darmstadt Hbf two hours later. The ground is 4 km away to the east and on match-days, tram 2 (I think) and bus R take you to the Merck Stadion am Bollenfalltor in 15-20 minutes. Again, the station is out of town in an uninteresting area so we made for the ground which had lots of food and drink outlets, some covered with a degree of warmth. Definitely not a day for cold beer so thank the Lord again for gluhwein!
The area was coated in a film of snow and slushy but with under-soil heating there was no danger of a postponement. Darmstadt have just been relegated after a very short stint in the Bundesliga and I guess it was due to their lofty status that ground “improvements” had to be made. Older photos will show a classic bowl of open terracing with a main stand opposite. Now, crude stands (one seated) have been plonked on top of the terracing at each end and the result is pretty ugly. The open terrace on the side is still there but with various fences and pens to keep rival fans apart. Good viewing but badly in need of some TLC.
Darmstadt are in danger of going down again and today’s match was against promotion-chasing Duisburg.
Bundesliga 2 : SV Darmstadt 1 MSV Duisburg 2. Admission 17 Euro; Programmes free. Attendance : 15,100
Duisburg scored first and last, the winner coming very late but merited against a poor home team. Save for a brief interlude of sun, the weather was bitter as it had been all weekend and we were glad to get back to the station for a warming noodle box costing all of 4 euro.
Just the two trains to get us to Stuttgart Flughafen which is half an hour on the s-Bahn from Stuttgart Hbf. A very easy check-in at a most efficient airport with loads of time before the 20.00 back to Brum which gave time to sample their local fizz Dinkelacker which might explain why we were last to board.
Back indoors by 21.45 and cheers to catchagogoal for his company over the weekend; a good haul of decent-standard grounds but the action we saw was pretty average for the most part. Who’d have thought the French game would be the highlight!

(This post was edited by buncranaboy on Feb 8, 2018, 11:42 PM)


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