The Wrong Freiburg

I apologise for writing this up after the second leg has already happened – with a glorious night at the London Stadium, but wanted to send in some information about the trip to the away leg.

These European adventures have got all of us travelling fans learning about options and trying out many different ways of getting to the games. We’ve found that as a group of us are mostly from the Oxford and Bicester area, we have learnt to sort out in separate groups of three or four (dependent on how many days off can be taken, costs etc.) and try to meet up during the journey and at the destination.

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We’ve found that, if possible, we prefer to head for one place, stay the night, and then get a train to where the game is on match day and stay there the night.

This resulted in young Jack arranging for him, plus me and his dad (East Stand Martin), booking up for Zurich on the Tuesday night. Accommodation booked for one night in Zurich, then trains to Freiburg and two nights there, flying back from Zurich on Friday.

The Bicester group of three (Mick K, Bomber and Shades), ended up booking a similar trip but going out a day later. Mick K had arranged their trip...

A few days before travel, Mick K got an email from the hotel he’d booked in Freiburg: “Dear Mr K, thank you for your booking, this is confirmed. We do however know that a common mistake is made as there are a number of Freiburgs in Germany, so ask you to check that we are where you need.”

Very polite and decent of them he thought. Though sure that he’d got it right, he checked on Google Maps (other location devices are available), and saw with horror, that from FC Freiburg’s ground to the booked accommodation was actually over 400 kilometers! Yes, he’d booked THE WRONG FREIBURG!

He emailed them saying thanks but please cancel as it was indeed THE WRONG FREIBURG. They said, we can cancel but no refunds as passed the cancellation date. All those thoughts of them being polite and decent – bastards! Frantic (and expensive) re-booking complete, all was set.

Our trip via Luton with EasyJet on the Tuesday went smoothly, and we found a good train in Zurich centre and our tram stop to get to the apartment. Being decent citizens and ambassadors for WHU in Switzerland, we tried to work the ticket machine but completely failed. We decided to do the classic stupid tourist ploy and just play dumb and say ‘Sorry, English’ and offer cash if accosted.

We arrived at our apartment in the suburb of Manegg (loved the name, does it mean a very small boy, or something a gent may drop off on the pan while reading the paper in the morning?). We dropped stuff off and got another free tram into town, and found a pub called Oliver Twist after seeing some impressive architecture:

Zurich main Station

In there we found tellies showing footie, beers for £9 and a barmaid from Preston! Humiliated by the other two at darts – first throw I’d had for 20 years FFS! A good night and then a free tram back to Manegg. A couple more beers in the hotel, while the two others humiliated me again, this time at the card game Uno, then kip time.

Eat as much Continental breakfast as possible, then off to the station and our train to Basel SB, where we would change for Freiburg.

Good trains all the way, but very grey ‘English’ weather meant views weren’t great. More free trams and we were at our apartment on the edge of town. The proprietor is a friendly geezer who actually works for the Freiburg youth team.

More free trams into town. Young Jack has been on a social media ‘dating app’ and has matched with a nice local girl, charming and handsome chap that he is. Whilst they are hoping to meet, he asks the Fraulein for tips on eating and drinking. We are directed to a small Malasian/Thai type place which is just fine, curry and beer very good (and cheaper than Switzerland!).

She’s also mentioned a bar nearby – Schlappen – love that name too! I had a look in the windows whilst out having a ciggie, and it looked good. Bill paid, I went in first, bar busy, quite a few West Ham in there. A geezer at my shoulder, I asked him what he was having as I wasn’t sure, ‘some of that cloudy shit will do, always blows my socks off!’, I settled for clearer!

The Bicester crew, Ben P, Doddsy and the Zummerzet boys, all arrived in varying states of wobbliness. By this time we had our own table and our own Schlappen Waitress (I had to type that very carefully) called Theresa who was brilliant, and had caught Jack’s eye... Beers and blackcurrant shots were drunk, with my obligatory Ace of Spades singing accompaniment. A slightly swervy trip home (ESM aka The Raven leaving early as full of a cold and being even more miserable than usual).

Matchday, we head for the Cathedral, another free tram. Very impressive architecture, and vans selling currywurst and trinkets surround it. Unfortunately the agreed rendezvous bar is packed with very limited staff, who are flustered. Cue a casual stroll to the other side of the Cathedral where we find a quieter bar with tables and good service.

Result! Various Irons travelling comrades appear with tales of cancelled flights (strikes & fog), German train strikes, desperate re-bookings, and six to eight-hour replacement bus journeys. It seems that they all got THE RIGHT FREIBURG though.

My favourite arrival is Canal Paul. He has, yet again, driven himself all the way from Staines, and will be going back again straight after the game. I asked if he knew that he was christened Canal Paul by Bomber because of his usual nautical looking headwear.

Unfortunately he was hat-less. We then spot a floral hat hooked on the bar wall as a decoration, let’s try that. We all agree that it goes very well with his Peruvian outfit!This is the result:

Canal Paul

We head back to Schlappen. And are disappointed that Theresa is not there, however we again find a table, and have another lovely Schlappen Bargirl (type slowly Freddy boy!), this time Laura, and then another (name forgotten). We had a Black Forest pizza which I was pleased to note had no cake on it. Beers again flowing. Quite a few Freiburg fans in there now but all good natured, a rousing rendition of Bubbles and then Bowens on Fire worked a treat.

We decided to get another (free) tram to the game as you didn’t sense any lurking danger here, which we’ve found isn’t the case on most of these trips, and thanks to WHU for laying on shuttles. On the walk up to the game, we encounter an enterprising local on a push-bike who is selling bottles of beer from a basket! Myself and Mick K can’t resist having a couple.

These were to be the last alcohol consumed for about three hours. You see, in the ground, they are happy to serve beer which can be taken into the ground, however the beer in the away end is 0%! Home fans get the proper stuff. We had some anyway and got ourselves parked up by an old-school crowd crush barrier over by the home fans.

I catch the eye of a home supporter eating some snacks and signal that I’ll pay him Euros to get a couple of ‘real’ beers to pass through, all looks good until a steward stands right by us. I give it five minutes, then decide why not ask the steward to get us two beers? Tap his shoulder, ask the question, NEIN! Ah well.

Match reports are done better by others, but I thought we played reasonably well and certainly didn’t deserve to lose. Just a one-goal deficit, though. Post game, Young Jack had the presence of mind to have noticed earlier that each plastic beaker issued had a two Euro deposit on it, and loads were lying around. We all did our Wombles impressions and soon enough he was up at the bar collecting 70 Euros for his efforts. Good work!

Now we realise that the shuttle busses have gone and will return – still at least 500 Hammers about. It’s got proper chilly now. We wait a while ten Mick K, Bomber, Jack, and Martin say lets try the cabs and see if we can get an okay deal – got one who would take all six of us. Much amusement as the two tallest – Jack and Martin were crammed in the folding seats whilst Shades and me – both short-arses – had luxurious comfort.

Back to Schlappen, and we managed to work our way around to the back and have our own table and Schlappen Bargirl again! More drinks, more shots, and they then decide to close the bar. We somehow find a dodgy little late bar with young locals and techno blasting out, Mick K is offered a pill as he walks in – classy – this’ll do, and they have beer.

After showing the others some of my moves we decide it’s time for home. It’s late now and trams are limited, but still seem to be free of charge. Myself and Jack have a tram dropping us 20 minutes walk from our gaff, but the lad leads us home despite minor wobbles. Got in at about 3am, not bad for a 60-year-old!

L-R: Me, Martin, Mick K, Jack, Canal Paul (hat now back on the wall) Bomber & Shades

The Bicester boys are getting an earlier train to Zurich on the Friday but we have time to get our acts together, get on the tram (free again) and hop off by the river for a very nice goulash soup with a pint in the sunshine.

Because of the German train strike the day before, there is some disruption so I go old fashioned and find the information desk at the station. A very helpful lady then works out a route. We have to get a train to Bad Basel, change to a local train to Basel SB (Good Basel), then another connection to Zurich.

She prints off the list of trains and highlights our connections and hands it over – then says "thanks for the win last night" with a friendly wink – fair play. On the first train I go to the buffet car, and a friendly steward pours me a pint in a real proper glass and hands it to me – shall I bring the glass back? I ask, no we have cleaners for that he says – bonus!

Bad Basel to Good Basel worked well, and Good Basel to Zurich on the lovely Swiss train was smooth. We decide to have a peak at the Restaurant Car which was very elegant with linen table cloths and a very smart elderly steward.

We asked him for a couple of beers to go. He was just setting up, so looked slightly flustered, and then got properly agitated when the draw with the beer bottles wouldn’t open despite him yanking away, some bottles must have been skewed to jam it. One extra strong yank made the draw below with wine bottles fly out and roll around the floor, only one broke.

Jack and I tried really hard and just managed to keep straight faces, two beers eventually appeared and we left the steward to carry on.

Met up in Zurich with the Bicester boys in the Lion Bar (not chocolate), and had some £9 beers. Mickey T & Scott also there. Discussed and compared our adventures. The main Bicester Boys events were:-
Mick K sleepwalking and using their balcony as an al fresco pissoir.

Shades, who is renowned for the potency of his backside backfires, and had been warned not to in the room, getting the full blame when it was in fact Bomber who had dropped the offending dead rat parp. Bomber having very suspect stains on his duvet cover which he ‘claims’ were caused by a drunken pizza meal…I refer your Honour to the earlier parp to take into consideration.

Myself, Jack, and Martin then have an extra adventure as after a delay at passport control, we get through to the gate for our 7.50pm Easyjet flight at 7.30pm only to see that it has left early! WHAT! Never heard that before.

There were eight other people there also looking around at where their flight had gone. Check for alternative flights that evening, ooh look, BA to Heathrow – yes, £500 each gents. No chance. Booked a budget hotel, and replacement EasyJet for early Saturday. Back through passport control again and the Ibis Budget. Pizza and beer next door, followed by more humiliation for me at Uno.

Early up and our last free tram of the trip and of course we are there hours early and this Easyjet flight leaves 30 minutes late. Of course it does. All in all a brilliant trip with our bunch and the whole West Ham United family. Booked up for Leverkuzen already – looks like via Eindhoven for this one. The adventures continue.

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