A tale of three cities.

Yorkshire St. Pauli complete the Sonderzug Challenge intact…10168069_300551306761195_8210811906987048266_n

The story begins back in December, when a message from Chairman Stubbs went out suggesting we might be able to get a few tickets for the annual “Sonderzug” (“Party Train”) to the last away match of the season in May, and was anyone interested…

With my Christmas Bonus newly deposited in my account, I only had time to type back “Yes” before I was booking flights and searching for hotels, and before long we had 15 confirmed from Yorkshire St Pauli. There then followed a short wait until the Fanladen could allocate tickets, as, as usual, places were oversubscribed.

So, nervousness increased (not helped by the DFB changing the kick-off time) until the final announcement in April that we’d got the places, and we could really begin looking forwards to the trip. The booked hotel seemed to be becoming a little redundant though, as the plan seemed to be to stay in The Jolly Roger All night on the Saturday, catch the train at 0750, arrive back at 2330, and then back to the Jolly until Monday morning, and the flight back. Luckily (for me anyway), these plans didn’t quite come to pass…

Sat 3rd May came, and the group travelling on the 12:10 Germanwings flight arrive nice and early to get checked in. At around 10.30, it became apparent the flight was delayed, to around 1400. No problem, Tom, Scott, Luke, Stuart, Mick, Curry and I take it in our stride, enjoy a beer, and let the others who are either already there or en route know we’ll be a little late. Boarding eventually goes smoothly, and the plane is pushed back ready for takeoff. And then we wait. And wait. Eventually the pilot announces that he’s having a spot of bother starting the right hand engine. Mmmm. However, he must’ve recently done an IT course at night school or summat, as he thinks he has a solution. He’s going to turn the plane off, and then turn it on again. Double Mmmmm. This doesn’t work, and Scott and I frantically begin searching for alternative routes to anywhere in Deutschland, coming up with several permutations, the best of which has me (as the only person with a car at the airport), bombing down to Heathrow. Great idea. Now, if only I hadn’t had all of those pints whilst delayed……

By 1500, we’re back at the gate awaiting further instruction, and contemplating giving up, as there seems to be no way of getting us all to Germany, let alone Hamburg, in time. Rather surprisingly, we then get an announcement that Germanwings are flying us another plane out, and we have a new departure time of 1950. Plus, we can have £15 of food and drinks vouchers. We then wait a further hour and a half whilst the lone employee collects the vouchers, and then proceeds to handwrite one for each of us…. So back to the bar we go.

During this further delay, we get to know some of our fellow travellers. There’s the 14 members of the most middle class stag party I’ve ever seen. 13 of them are dressed as fox hunters, and the stag is dressed as a fox. Not once do they chase him through the terminal, and on the rare occasion they raise their voices, one of them tells the others to “shush”. Only one member seems to have got into the idiot spirit, pouring a beer bong over a stranger and falling over a lot. The others seem to just ignore him. Let’s call him Jockey Idiot – more on him later. Then there’s the 14 members of a hen party from North Wales. I ask one of them why they’re not dressed up, expecting the answer of “we’re classier than that” or somesuch. But no, the reply comes “well, I was the hen, but I’ve decided not to get married, but we thought “fuck it, we’ll go anyway”. See – classy. And on the theme of swearing, there’s the old lady with an English name, but a German accent, who keeps repeating “Fucking Germanwings” whilst smiling energetically. I liked her.

As the rescheduled flight isn’t appearing on the departure boards, we get a little nervous, so Tom decides to use one of the service phones to call “the office” to check on the flight status. As he’s got such an air of authority, they assume he’s a staff member and give him the full low-down. The plane is definitely coming. Yay.

Luckily, the delay does mean I get to see Manchester City beating Everton, and we all use our £15 food and drinks vouchers on…. meals. Beer wasn’t included. I say all of us, Tom decides to use all of his in Boots, on packets of Starburst and crisps.

Back to the gate for the flight, to be told that our replacement was, delayed. Finally, at around 2030 or so, we board, having been in the airport for 10 hours. It then becomes apparent there’s another problem. Jockey Idiot has lost his passport. After deliberating for almost a second, the hunters agree they should leave him behind, and let him make his own way home. He wasn’t the only jockey, as the father-in-law had also been left behind – much to the amusement of the rest of the party except the stag, who was now worrying how he was going to tell his fiancée. So, off we go.

We eventually land in Hamburg at 2255, which is lucky, as it became apparent that if we’d been 5 minutes later, we’d have been diverted to Rostock due to the airport noise curfew. The initial plan is to head to the Jolly Roger “for one”, but during the S-Bahn trip, enthusiasm for more drinking seems to have waned, and eventually we agree to head straight to the hotel, after a brief stop to collect Shaun and Nick (Of the YSP Home Counties branch) who are all mojito’ed up.

An early night based on what’s surely to follow the next day seems like a great plan, so it’s good to be in bed at the sensible time of 0100. The Ibis Budget in Altona, which isn’t really in Altona was the best we could do on a bank holiday weekend, but it isn’t too bad. I’m sharing with Nick, who, when he isn’t authoring, takes a keen interest in fashion and furnishings. He’s particularly taken with the neon lights in the showerhead, which becomes the subject of much discussion over the following days, and loves the mood lighting in the room, which it seems you can’t turn off. He also proudly shows me his new “Gola” manbag which he’d purchased for just £80 in Hoxton market that day.

Next morning, and excitement builds. Shaun, Luke, Tom and Scott headed to the station at 0600 to help load the beer, to find that the beer had already been loaded. Suspecting this might be the case, Nick and I sensibly head down at around 0715, ready for the 0750 departure. Here we meet up with the other two branches of YSP who’ve travelled. Jo and Chris, the potty mouths of Manchester, and the legendary Heinz & Christian, the Balecke brothers of Hamburg.

As we set off, everyone except Jo, Chris and I head off to the bar and disco carriage. I don’t want to drink so early, but suddenly find an Astra in my hand, and Jo has set herself a start time of 11am. She fails. Heading to the bar and disco carriage is a feat in itself. There are around 800 people on the train, and each carriage seems to have a distinctive character. They are the old style carriages, with narrow corridors, and six-seater compartments. Most people seem to prefer to stand in the corridor and socialise, so getting through the 6 carriages that separate us and the bar takes some time. Everyone seems to be drinking already, and there are mountains of packed lunches. Food, I’ll remember that next time. By 10am there are already people dancing, and Christian is already being extra sociable. Someone who hasn’t previously met him comments that he won’t even make it into the game at that rate. I assure said person that Christian will be the last man standing….

The Party Carriage. Photo taken at about 10am.
The Party Carriage. Photo taken at about 10am.

Arriving in Kölnat around 1230, we are greeted with a very warm welcome by the many hundreds of police in full riot gear. Herded onto trams for the 20 minute journey to the RheinEnergieStadion, it soon becomes clear that’s it actually a very warm day. And clearer still when we are held on the tram for another 15 minutes or so, with driver shouting something along the lines of “please do not operate the emergency door release, it has been disabled”. We are accompanied all along the journey by a phalanx of police vans, although most of the Köln fans we pass just wave and smile, and even the ones flicking Vs still have a smile on their faces. Eventually we pull into the stadium halt, to find a group of ooo, 5 Köln ultras running at the police “protecting” us. They quickly disperse and we head down the platform to find yet another bank of police holding us in. Once they allow us through, the craziness of the policing operation becomes apparent. Between us and the stadium is a lovely grass field of around 200m², with fans of both sides sat enjoying food and drink and barely any Police in sight! This reminds me of a trip to SSV Jahn Regensburg, where on arrival at the Hauptbahnhof, there are several thousand Polizei operating a seemingly man-for-man (or woman, sister) marking system, from there all the way to the Stadion. On entering the ground, there are absolutely no Polizei, and just a 2 foot fence and 2 elederly stewards separating us from the home fans…

We meet up with the final two members of our party, Johannes and Ina, and grab a beer for our picnic. I say grab a beer, Jo get’s the most expensive round ever in, and then forgets to ask for donations. Luckily she’s an easy going sort and doesn’t think about it for the rest of the trip… Shaun and Nick promptly fall asleep, having had one too many Woo Woos on the way down, and I interrogate Johannes and Ina on schooling and career options for their as yet unborn child. Scott is visited by some English Köln fans, and turns away to speak to them furtively, although I do overhear him saying “these guys? No, not YSP, just met ’em”. I guess we do look a state by now…

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Enjoying the sun. Mixing with home fans. No police in sight.

Into the alkohol-frei ground, and a game of football takes place, although that’s merely a sideline. The stadium is impressive, with steep stands, a large standing area opposite and every seat taken. We have large fences and perspex screens separating us from the home fans, but the St. Pauli fans in the block to the left of us have absolutely nothing and no-one separating them from the home fans. No-one gets hurt though, apart from a number of St. Pauli fans who start to feint as the game goes on, halting the chanting from the capos until they get the thumbs up that everything is OK. Chant of the day is “Zweite Bundesliga….HSV, Ha, Ha Ha Ha Ha”, which even the Köln fans enthusiastically join in with.

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Following the game, we leave the Köln fans to their championship party and head back via tram to the station to await the return Sonderzug. There’s still another hour to departure, but most fans have re-stocked on beer and sit in the sunshine. The Police are back in attendance, but adopt a curious policy regarding public urination. It seems that you can have a wee in the bushes, but in mid flow the nearest policeman will tell you to finish off, and not do it again. Very practical.

Off we go again, and now the disco carriage is absolutely rammed, playing a very strange mix of 80s rock, german singalongs and 90’s dance. Tom has clearly had enough of the “Best Day of His Life” as he goes for a nap. Thomas from the excellent Der Uebersteiger fanzine pops up for a chat, and we’re joined by Greg from the Athens South End Scum fanclub. Christian appears with neat rum, and no-one thinks it’s a good idea. I point out to Luke that he’s not gotten into any bother yet, and he just taps his nose, and says “there’s time yet”. Sönke, our secret Hamburg agent, friend and fixer still looks fresh as a daisy dressed as Lucky Luke (Who?! See here: http://img.webme.com/pic/u/ugurbocegimfon/red_kit1.jpg).

I forgot to mention the fancy dress. About a third of the passengers are in fancy dress. The theme is childhood heroes. I get hugged for no reason by a Super-Mario (of which there are many), get headbutted quite hard by a princess of some sort (swaying carriage), and Scott is attacked by The Undertaker who is carrying a HSV teddy in his casket. Shaun isn’t down with the fancy dress, although he is impressed with the volleyball team. Mainly because they can drink and smoke without once, over the whole trip, appearing without a ball in their hands.

YSP members with Mr Bean.
YSP members with Mr Bean.

Four hours pass rather quickly, and with a traditional Sonderzug Finale of “Barbie Girl” during which I think the carriage will surely come off the rails, we’re back in Altona.

All remaining YSP agree that the Jolly Roger should be the next destination. It is only midnight after all. Half way from the station to the bar, I realise I really don’t need more beer tonight, and head off alone to the hotel. The rest of the information of the night is second hand, and probably unreliable, but here’s a brief rundown.

On arrival at the bar, Chris realises he’s had enough. So does Jo, but she then buys 6 Astras. Greg goes to the bar after some miscommunication and comes back with 4 Astras – meaning more Astras than people remaining. Chris and Jo depart. Luke, Scott, Christian and Tom, decide to head off to Heinz’s local bar with him around 2 am. The longest game of darts ever ensues, even though they’re just playing “round the clock” up to ten. 3.30am, Scott heads home. 4.30am, Luke and Tom head home, but check the bell of every bike on the way home, for safety purposes. Christian is the last man standing. Once again.

Next day is flight home day, but not until the evening. Tom, Luke, Scott and I all meet up at Millers Bar in St Pauli, for a rather excellent breakfast. The other three opt for a full English, even though they’d never have one at home. Because they’re English, and abroad. An impromptu YSP general meeting breaks out. It’s pointed out that many football clubs sell “for a pound” these days, and we decide we’d like one. After much discussion, we decide to buy Farsley Celtic. Tom is tasked with making contact.

A quick trip to the Millerntor Shop follows, before we meet up with Jo & Chris again, and take a trip on the ferry to Finkenwerder. Jo only agrees to come after being told there’s a bar onboard. A fairly uneventful walk through Hamburg City Centre, and we’re soon back at the airport. Tom goes off to buy some water for the trip, but baulking at the price of €4, comes back with 2 litres of Jägermeister & 8 bottles of Underberg instead. Class.

Huge thanks to Sönke for making this happen, and Scott for organising. Also, to every one of the 14 YSP who made it, and those that didn’t. We’ve got a great group of people. Can’t wait ’til next year (or August for that matter). #FCSP

Gary

PS – We lost 4-0.

The  YSP bunch.
The YSP bunch.

Other articles that you should read:

Report from Greg at Athens Scum: http://fcspsouthendscum.wordpress.com/2014/05/08/matchday-33-fc-koln-fc-sankt-pauli-4-0

Ubersteiger report: http://blog.uebersteiger.de/2014/05/05/33-spieltag-a-1-fc-koeln/


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