"As for Maidenhead, the conga (which was amusing) aside, quite a strange bunch really – some the oddest chants I've ever heard at a football match" ~ localboy86, Amber Planet forum, 26th April 2015

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Away Day Diary: Hamburg (March 2015)

^^^ My third visit to Hamburg; easily my least favourite German city. 'Why are you going back there, if you don't particularly like it?' someone asked, quite reasonably, on the Conference South Nomads forum. Well, the date came long before the destination, and the fixtures didn't fall kindly. Still, we got to see three games, and one of those - on Saturday - was at Holstein Kiel, home of the Storks (discussed with Martin and Marie on our first night in delightful Heidelberg back in September 2013).

^^^ Amber Aleman, on the aforementioned Conference South forum, had recommended the Gröninger Privatbrauerei, and we headed straight there for brunch.

^^^ Whereas the others had plates of meat - lots of meat - I enjoyed Brathering (fried, marinated herring) mit Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes, cold). Rather weird, but tasty. The Pils, meanwhile, went down an absolute treat. Beer of the weekend.

^^^ Sure to be sure! We walked past this place en route to the Brauhaus Joh. Albrecht, where we enjoyed another beer (as we had done on our previous visit to Hamburg in October 2010).

^^^ Quick check-in and change at the hotel (Ibis Budget in St Pauli; I was allowed in despite supposedly being barred from the chain following our trip to Glasgow in March 2013) before a stroll back into town and beers in the Old Sailor. Our type of place, this, despite the fug of cigarette smoke: characters and scarves aplenty, decent jukebox  ... 

^^^ ... plus an old skool football lampshade! #want

^^^ The Reeperbahn. As grim as ever. We had a quick drink in the bar - packed full of British stag parties - opposite this ATM before catching a train to the out-of-town Imtech Arena. Our carriage was heaving: mainly boisterous Hertha fans, with a decent sprinkling of riot police.

 ^^^ Pre-match shenanigans. The ground, incidentally, a fair old walk from the station (and the food/ beer tents).

^^^ Only minutes until kick-off, and there were literally hundreds of people, including ourselves, stuck in queues outside the ground. Chaotic (eschewing the Teutonic stereotype). The Macleods and I became inadvertently separated from Craig.

^^^ Seemingly lost, we three had something to eat (meh) and took various photos - it transpires that the one above is with the statue of HSV's John Urry equivalent - before finally finding Craig and our seats ... 

^^^ ... just two minutes before half time!

^^^ Fortunately, we hadn't missed much anything; 0-0 at the break. Unfortunately, the game was as uneventful in the second period. I'm not the biggest fan of the Bundesliga, often preferring the lower league games during our German trips, but this was particularly poor. Somewhat surprising, bearing in mind the plethora of internationals (incl. Rene Adler, Johan Djourou, Heiko Westermann, Valeron Behrami, Rafael van der Vaart, Lewis Holtby, Ivo Ilicevic, Ivica Olic, Per Ciljan Skjelbred, Valentin Stocker, Salomon Kalou etc.) on display. A late red card for the home side, quickly followed by a headed winner for the visitors. HSV got booed off at the end. 53,640 saw it. Hertha would finish 15th with HSV 16th (so perhaps the dismal entertainment shouldn't have been that much of a surprise!). The latter only extended their unparalleled stint in the top flight thanks to an extraordinary play-off win over Karlsruher.

^^^ Far more interesting than the on-pitch 'action' was the HSV Ultras: separated by a line of stewards after large groups fought among themselves!

^^^ The infamous HSV stadium clock. Still ticking. Sadly.

^^^ The plan was to visit some bars in and around Sternschanze, as recommended by various colleagues, but we took the wrong turn after disembarking the train. After walking past an imposing TV tower - that resembled something out of War of the Worlds - we stopped for food and drinks at a Turkish bar/ restaurant on Karolinenstraße, called Peacetanbul; Macleod (M)'s grub was the hottest, obvs. ;-) More familiar was Nachthafen, above. The barman (wearing the claret polo) was a top bloke who spoke excellent English, albeit with a strong Sheffield accent, as he had lived in the Steel City whilst dating a Wednesday fan. Macleod (M) and Craig headed to the hotel, Macleod (C) and I followed his directions to Friedrichstraße.

^^^ We ended up in Die Rutsche; so good that we were having too much fun to take any more photos other than the random and rather rubbish one above. The clientele included a stunning blonde called Brigitte who, coincidentally, resembled an 80s heyday -Brigitte Nielsen, albeit  heavily tattooed and even more androgynous; cheekbones that could cut glass. We would see her again, in McDonald's, on the way back to the hotel.

^^^ The Millerntor-Stadion. At 6:30 am. And, yes, it was raining. Oh, dear.

^^^ Needless to say, I wasn't feeling too good when it was time to get up and catch the train to Kiel. Not even a MiXery - nor, later on, another McDonalds - did the trick.

^^^ Macleod (C) was also struggling catching up on some beauty sleep.

^^^ After arriving in Kiel, we caught a bus (not the one above, sadly) to the ground.

^^^ Floodlight Fancy. At the Storchennest. Tickets purchased for Prisoner Cell Block H.

^^^ Craig had a go on the 'Wheel of Stork' ... 

^^^ ... and 'won' an autographed photo of Marlon Krause Terry von Salmon.

^^^ Graffiti. Double denim. Stickers. 

^^^ Match action. Ground shots. It was pouring with rain, and the game was almost as miserable as the weather. The Storks took an early lead but then flattered to deceive, becoming increasingly jittery as the final whistle approached. The away side was limited but, in uncompromising defender Adli Lachheb, had the game's standout performer. Props to the small band of travelling supporters, who continued to twirl their flags throughout the 90 minutes whilst stood in the uncovered away end, some 500 miles from home! Props also to the Hulk Hogan lookalike, in the stand to our right, who was suitably refreshed and ranting uncontrollably. 6,154 saw it. Holstein Kiel would finish 3rd - narrowly losing to 1860 Munich in the promotion/ relegation play-off - while SSV Jahn Regensburg was, at the end of the campaign, still propping up the division ('the Drei Liga, is upside down ... ')

^^^ Still raining as we left the ground, ergo we got a taxi back to the town centre. Craig consulted the world wide web, using his mobile, and suggested a nearby Scots-Irish bar called McLang's. Initially, we set up shop at the rear - supping pints of Murphy's and watching Die Konferenz (or watching the locals watching Die Konferenz) - before moving to the front when someone wanted to use the dartboard we were obstructing.

^^^ The move was the best thing that could've happened, as it forced us into conversation with some of the locals: (left to right) a Man Utd-supporting Austrian scientist, a short-haired woman who - having once worked in a hotel in Bishop's Stortford (!) - spoke remarkably good English (I feel obliged to report that her boyfriend - not pictured - was a top bloke ... despite the double denim), a bespectacled University of Kiel graduate called Olivier (joker!) and, last but not least, the boxing-mad guvnor. In the above photo, we are about to down one of several complimentary rounds of Mexikaner shots (a Bloody Mary, basically, which I really don't like). On previous trips to Germany, we have labelled Schalke the 'German Newcastle United' and Kaiserslautern the 'German West Ham'. Our new friends were only too keen to join in, and a more complete list was quickly decided upon (the last entry, in particular, amused me):
  • Bayern ~ Man Utd
  • Leverkusen ~ Arsenal
  • Gladbach ~ Liverpool
  • Hoffenheim/ Wolfsburg ~ Chelsea/ Man City
  • Hamburg ~ Aston Villa
  • Hertha ~ Tottenham

^^^ The time spent in McLang's was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip for me. I'm sure that we'd all have liked to have stayed longer, but we had a not-to-be-missed train to catch. Any sense of disappointment, at being Hamburg-bound, once again, was mitigated somewhat by an epic carry out of beer and crisps.

^^^ We headed to the legendary Tankstelle but were, I think, all running on empty. Macleod (M) was the first to retire to the hotel, and the rest of us weren't far behind. It had been a(nother) long day.

^^^ After an early night - VERY early for us - Macleod (C) and I were up at the crack of dawn. We took a walk into town in beautiful sunshine and passed our new favourite nightspot (Die Rutsche).

^^^ Sunday morning beers in Zur scharfen Ecke on Davidstraße. Like the aforementioned Old Sailor, only better! Many of the characters in here had yet to make it home from the night before!

^^^ Craig had arranged for a longtime friend from Scotland, who now lives in the Hamburg area, to pick us up from the hotel. We went for lunch - a Sunday roast, basically - at Landhaus Walter. Michael - more into his music than his football (sensible guy) - then dropped us off in the nearby leafy neighbourhood of Niendorf.

^^^ Niendorfer TSV vs VfL Pinneberg in the Oberliga Hamburg. The big one. The main event. Das Hauptereignis.

^^^ Drama around the half-hour mark when TSV's keeper, Rene Melzer, was injured after a suicidal back pass. A hospital Krankenhaus pass. Literally. His screams of agony, as everyone waited for the ambulance to arrive, were distressing to hear. I hope his recovery is going well.

^^^ Maintain the Union Bell End. Macleod (C) took this photo in the toilets. Upon return, he would inform us that Steven Gerrard had been sent off, just 38 seconds after coming on as a half time substitute, against Man Utd. Cue much guffawing.

^^^ Match action on the neighbouring AstroTurf, which actually looked a better game, TBF, although TSV-VfL did spring to life towards the final whistle when the home side - down to ten men after a disputed second yellow around the hour mark - scored two late goals to shock the high-flying visitors.

^^^ The home supporters weren't happy with the referee, despite the win, and gave him a load of verbal as he left the pitch at the end. One lady - possibly the mother of lively substitute Braima Balde - was especially animated. No idea re the attendance, but TSV finished the season in 8th and VfL in 4th.

^^^ Back into town. We watched Chelsea scrape past Hull City - thanks to a goalkeeping error - in an Irish pub on Friedrichstraße called Murphy's, then El Clásico in a relatively swish bar, either side of dinner in a no-frills Italian restaurant (pizzas all round). As you can see, I wasn't much interested in the SPL (Spanish Primera League/ Scottish Premier League; equally uncompetitive).

^^^ After Craig and then Macleod (M) had retreated to the hotel, Macleod (C) and I tried a few of the other bars in and around Friedrichstraße (bumping into a Leeds Utd fan in one cramped and smoke-filled establishment). We then (hurriedly) ventured down the infamous Herbertstraße - along with a handful of similarly sheepish tourists, all rather repulsed by the scantily-clad sexagenarian woman sat in the very first window - before ending up in Murphy's again. The Scottish gentleman with Macleod (C), above, was on his stag do and MUCH drunker than he appears in this photo. Macleod (C) would bump into him and his mates at the airport the following day; apparently, they were in surprisingly rude health. Jings!

^^^ Some typical late-night tourist photos on the way back to the hotel. The one of me, bottom right, was apparently reported by some prude after Macleod (C) had uploaded it to Facebook (allowed to remain after their investigation); 'I wonder which tit has caused offence?' he quipped. Cheeky so and so! Attn. Nat West: the sex shop frontage would seemingly indicate that the going rate is EUR 39.00, so you'd have to go some to spend 25 times that. Capeesh? You incompetent twats.

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