A few hours after going to sleep it was time do get up. Despite the many beers drunk and the very few hours slept, I felt surprisingly chipper as did Zanne. She put it down to German beer being of better quality than the crap we get in the UK.
We drove to the central Hamburg station, the Sunday morning roads being very quiet, we got there quickly, but no David. Being overtired and unsure, he disembarked at another Hamburg station and was a further 19 minute drive away. We found him looking rather sheepish and worn, but after the food Zanne had brought him and a rest in the car, he soon was laughing and joking about his epic adventure that will give him much to talk about at parties for years to come.
We went back to the accommodation, where David was planning to have a couple of hours nap but I was the only one successful at sleeping.
The reason we had originally booked this trip was to go to a football match. I don’t like football but agreed to come as it’s St Pauli. This 2nd division German footie team have been around since
1910 and during the mid 80s they transitioned from a standard traditional club into a “kult" club and its ground is situated by the Reeperbahn (centre of the city's night life and red-light district). An alternative fan scene began, built around anti fascism, anti racism, against sexism and homophobia and as a result there is a party atmosphere at the club's matches that is safe for all. Supporters have long since adopted the skull and crossbones as their own unofficial emblem which is now on all of the merchandise. St. Pauli became the first team in Germany to officially ban right wing nationalist events in the ground and is a breathe of fresh air compared to so much football hooliganism where far right parties often recruit new members.
However due to its popularity and having a capacity of 30,000, the tickets sold out long ago and we were unable to buy any. Ticket touting is also banned, so we’d given up hopes of going to the game. A stadium tour was also impossible as the tours don’t happen on match day, so we just planned to visit the shop.
Lucky for us, we’d joined a walking tour of
The beer refill man
Hamburg yesterday where our guide Sabina, advised us to go to the ground early with a sign that reads “Suche Karten” which means you want to buy tickets. We felt nervous doing this at first but saw a few others with similar signs. I presume that there were groups who had pre-booked, but some of their party dropped out had spares to sell.
The area outside was getting busy with fans and a bizarre busker singing badly but earning a lot of cash as fans had their photos taken with him.
The first guy who tried to sell us a ticket was after €35 and we knew it should be around €10-15, so we declined. We didn’t really want separate seating as we wouldn’t be together. We didn’t have much hope, but whilst Zanne and David went to spend all their hard earned cash in the shop, we managed to get two standing tickets. A guy sold them to us at face value of €12.50 each plus booking fee. Glyn gave him €30 and said keep the change as he was so happy at getting tickets.
The atmosphere was getting more party like, with people drinking beers,
chatting and greeting friends. There were also families with young children plus couples. It was relaxed and friendly, with no drunks or anti social behaviour and I enjoyed people-watching. A couple of people offered us single seats but we didn’t want to separate. One lady supporter of Bochum (the away team) told us that people were selling at the underground and another old lady told us to try around the corner where it was busier.
Zanne and David returned for their stint at sign holding as Glyn and I perused the packed shop where every type of merch was available including hot water bottles, babies’ bibs and wellies. Glyn bought a jacket and I got him a birthday present and a tote bag. Zanne and I held the sign a while as the menfolk spent more time shopping but we didn’t get much luck.
I volunteered to take the shopping back to the car whilst the others honed their best ‘pathetic English people in need of help’ looks. Walking through the thick crowd of fans with expensive camera gear, I felt perfectly at ease (Bokum fans mingled with St Pauli fans with no trouble) and eventually found the
car at the €4 car park.
Upon my return, Zanne and I found a loo where an elderly gent charged us 50c each for a pee. Glyn and David found a new friend who was convincing them to buy his single standing ticket. Our concern was that if we only had 3 tickets, someone would be stuck alone outside. But at just €10, we took the risk as David’s new friend said there was a party inside afterwards and he wanted to share a beer with him.
The sun was shining, so I was happy to volunteer to be the outsider and take a wander. But David’s new buddy managed to get us another ticket - hurrah! So to our joyous disbelief, we got inside and after a friendly search by staff, we found our way to the stands, almost at the front behind the net. Sitting in the sunshine, we saw fans drinking beer which isn’t allowed in sight of the pitch in the UK. Zanne and I queued and were served with reusable plastic mugs which could be kept as souvenirs or you get some cash back upon return.
It was 2.30 and we thought
that was when it was due to start, but it turned out, it was 3.30; this didn’t matter though as we were sitting in the sun with cold beer (and coke for Glyn) in a great atmosphere. A man was walking around carrying a large cylindrical backpack full of cold beer that he served with a little hose at €4 per refill. This blew my mind that I didn’t even have to return to the bar, but had it brought to us!
St Pauli has the largest number of female fans in all of German football and this was visibly noticeable as the Millerntor-Stadion filled. St. Pauli is also a worldwide symbol for punk and similar subcultures, so there were a lot of alternative types about.
By 3.30pm the stadium was packed with many flags waving including the rainbow LGBT flag. It was time to stand up for the next two hours as standing at football matches is allowed in Germany unlike the UK. The teams were doing silly jumps around the pitch (some call this warming up) as the announcements began and the crowd was shouting in unison. I was impressed that David and Glyn were joining
in, word perfect, until Glyn admitted they were shouting the players’ names which were projected on a screen.
As the match began, the crowds let off bangers and glitter as much cheering was had. Various football chants resounded, mostly in German but occasionally in English. St Pauli almost scored a goal and some Bochum fans let off enough smoke to stop play. This was the only time people were (understandably) annoyed and some St Pauli fans flipped them the middle finger.
Play restarted and everyone was singing as both teams continued to avoid scoring. Weirdly though, the fans still cheered whenever a goal was missed. Apparently this is because getting close to a goal is worthy of applause due to being well played. I didn’t cheer, I need a goal for that kind of commitment.
On the opposite end of the stadium, two guys were jollying up the crowd in time together and encouraging much jumping up and down. I was so grateful not to be a part of that as I was beginning to need a pee and it looked like hard work in the heat despite them being in the shady end.
sun slipped behind a cloud giving us a break from being grilled. I was so close to the toilet but the crowd was too packed to get through and I’d not had the foresight to learn ‘Excuse me please’ in German. I only know how to count to three, say thank you and shithead - the latter I learnt whilst reading ‘The Book Thief’. None of this was useful now, or to be honest, at any time (apart from Thank you).
Just before half time, the guys in front of me also had the same problem and moved away, giving me a bit of space to get through to the loo and avoid the queue. The break was just long enough to get another beer and be offered lyrics in German.
The second half was uneventful apart from the continued singing and chanting. Glyn and David made valiant efforts to join in, having been given the German lyrics. Despite no one scoring and St Pauli not playing so well during the second half (so I’m told, it all looked the same to me), the crowd was cheery and we exited red from too much sun.
the crowd towards the Reeperbahn where a march began. A few people were taking photos and filming on phones. I had my Osmo Pocket but was gently asked not to film, so I did it a bit more covertly. The fans were chanting and singing and I think this was just a celebration as it was the last match of the season. One guy was on the floor, not sure what happened there but apart from that, all was good. A few smoke bombs were let off for atmospheric effect, so I found myself joining the march and Glyn, Zanne and David followed me for fear of losing me. The march went through a nearby neighbourhood where residents joined in the chanting from their windows. Bored looking riot policemen and women prevented any wrong turns, and my camera battery ran down.
Eventually the others decided we’d seen enough of the march and we ducked into the nearby Coca Cabana bar for beers and an espresso for Glyn. The comfy sofa seats were most welcome after being on our feet so long and after very little sleep the last two days. We decided to go to the Reeperbahn as it
has to be seen. But really it doesn’t, it’s pretty seedy with stag parties and hen dos, yet people glaring at Zanne’s pink hair. We got some food and used the toilets, but unanimously were unimpressed and decided to head back to our accommodation after getting a few beers to take back.
The journey back was long and Zanne and I both realised that there’s no way we would stay awake to drink all the beers we’d bought and just had one more each. David didn’t even try and went straight to bed. It must have been well after 11pm when we did get to bed, looking forward to the 5.30 alarm to catch our flight in time!
Hamburg was good fun, I would happily go again but plan for a bit more sleep so that I can see a lot more, as there is far more to see. I definitely would go to another St Pauli match - if all football was like this, I could understand why it’s so popular, but I never would bother watching it on the telly as the actual fun part isn’t the game!
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