A weekend in Hamburg with a visit to FC St Pauli

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Europe » Germany » Hamburg » Hamburg
May 13th 2019
Published: May 25th 2019
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2:30am Saturday morning. The alarm goes off. I can finally get up and admit that I am having no sleep. I’ll sleep in the car on the way to the airport I think. That didn’t happen. I never thought I’d sleep on the plane and I was right. We’re flying Ryanair, I’m 6’ 3”. It’s not going to happen. I’d have to go a week without sleep to even nap on most planes never mind a Ryanair one with all their announcements about scratch cards (that I’ve never seen anyone buy) etc and the minimalist leg room.

Three of us arrive in Hamburg. Dave is joining us by train. Don’t ask. We’re in Hamburg before he has left Manchester. We get off the plane, Suzanne gets on the bus, the doors close. Now there are two of us. Cracking start.

Things improve-our luggage is already on the carousel. No three day wait as I often have, it’s there already going round in circles like it’s been abandoned. How does that happen? You see luggage going round and round when the belt has been allocated to the next flight and a brown suitcase forlornly takes another circuit before being bombarded by a hoard of strangers. And then it’s alone again. And it’s brown. It’s always brown. No-one ever leaves a black one so maybe it’s embarrassment at having a brown suitcase? Maybe. More of this anon.

We reconvene and head to pick up our car. Have you got much luggage the lady asks explaining that there isn’t much room in the car. Not really we show her but don’t mention that there is still one more to come. It’ll be fine. I booked the smallest and hence cheapest and most economical car of course. We’ll be fine.

The lady goes away and comes back with some news. They’ve run out of the car I’ve booked, we’re getting a free upgrade. We head off to the car and find a snazzy white VW Polo GTI waiting for us. Let’s go!

We can’t check in until later so we decide to walk round in a complete circle to get back to where we started, missing the place we were heading for. For this we need to head into Hamburg and find a car park. I have been on Parkopedia and planned where we can park nearby for the cheapest price. We use Google maps to find the Rathaus. We walk for half an hour and find ourselves back at the car park. Brilliant.

We have seen a busker with a grand piano though which is somewhat different than the angry, shouty busker we have in Hanley. The Rathaus is a stunning piece of architecture and well worth a visit. We had the bonus of about 50 people with headphones on doing some strange actions with some people in Unicef T-shirts but have no idea what’s going on. There are lots of pro-European union events going on which again, is very different from the awfulness back home.

I have booked us on a free walking tour but have a bit of time to kill before it starts so we finally find a table at a riverside cafe and I have a double espresso to hopefully keep me awake. We’ve done these free tours in a few places and they’ve always been good, you just pay what you feel it’s worth at the end.

Our guide today is Sabina who is Croatian and does the tour in superb English. She is funny and informative and we learnt, for example, that Hamburg was obliterated many times by the Vikings, that one in 41 Hamburgerians (I made that up) are millionaires and that there are 43000 millionaires in the city (the facts are true of course). Even I’m confusing myself now.

Anyway, it was a great tour but the most important bit was something we found out during a break in a cafe. We were all getting very tired once we sat down but Sabina came round to everyone asking if they had any questions so I explained we came mainly to watch FC St Pauli play but hadn’t been able to get tickets. You’ll be okay she said, just stand outside the ground with a sign and someone will sell you some. She even told us what we needed to write on our sign. I had hope again!

Go back to the last World Cup. We are in Leek at David and Suzanne’s house watching England. David says he is a Liverpool fan….but has never been to a football match… We need to do something about this. It would have been easy to go to Port Vale even Leek Town maybe. But no, we decide to go and see FC St Pauli. In Germany. More of them anon.

After the tour (for which we donate 10e each) we walk miles in the wrong direction before eventually finding our way to near the car park. We stop for a coffee for me mainly as I have a drive ahead of me and I haven’t slept for a long time and have a 30 mile drive ahead of me. The ladies insist I eat cake and who am I to argue?

We are staying at an Airbnb in Gronwohld which turns out to be a leafy suburb and a lovely, quiet area. There’s a supermarket round the corner we have been told but it closed at 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon but the petrol station is open and the guy sells us some overpriced goods.

Our apartment is superb and is the entire upstairs of someone’s home with two bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a bathroom and a balcony. No-one is home but the key is under the mat and we soon have everything up the spiral staircase. Suzanne then finds out that there is a Lidl nearby but it shuts in 30 minutes….so we race out again.

We shop frantically and set the alarm off as we leave. We stand there like dumb English people and do the international sign of the numbskull until a cashier starts talking in English and says he noticed the alarm beep when we went in. I’m so tired I hadn’t noticed but at least we were let out. Back at the apartment I was soon asleep and was expecting to be woken up in time to pick David up from the station at about midnight.

German transport isn’t as efficient as they make out apparently and it turns out he won’t make it until 7:15 the next morning. I catch some more sleep and then the three of us drive back into Hamburg and wait outside the main train station. Then we drive another 20 minutes to pick him up from the station he got off the train at the wrong station by accident. He has been travelling for over 24 hours, has been called a ****er boy for wearing unfastened trainers, been accosted by a Nazi in Cologne and generally had a bad time. With no sleep.

Back to the apartment again and it’s time for a nap for him and Claire. He is soon awake and we head back to Hamburg and find a car park right by the football ground for a mere 4e...bargain! We are at the Millerntour, the home of FC St Pauli who are in Bundesliga 2 and always sell all 30000 tickets for their matches.

In the 1980s St Pauli became a different kind of football club becoming anti-fascist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, anti-Semetic and anti-capitalist whilst adopting the skull and crossbones as their symbol. Now they have more female supporters than any other German club, fans all around the world with bars named after them in a number of places and, as I said, sell 30000 tickets for every game.

We need four.

We hold up our fancy sign….the back of an A4 boarding pass….with SUCHE KARTEN written fancily by Claire in ballpoint pen on it. It also has a smiley face. We’re not entirely sure what SUCHE KARTEN means but Sabina wrote it for us so we brave holding it up. It musn’t say PUNCH US or something as no-one does and others have similar signs so we feel okay.

The smile works and someone soon approaches offering us one ticket for 35e. We have been told they should be about 15e so we say no thank you. While David and Suzanne are in the shop we get offered two tickets for the price on the ticket plus one Euro booking fee. I give him 30e and tell him to keep the change….I am going to see St Pauli!! Claire and I go shopping and I spend too much money but I’m happy and buy things I’ve never seen on ebay.

We move to the area where our tickets are for and reconvene with Claire who has been to put the cameras in the car. The atmosphere is superb with music, a busker and people just milling around happily, both sets of fans together. In fact it is a Bochum fan that tells me someone is selling tickets at the underground station. A bit different from back home…

David’s best mate to be has a ticket and he sells it to us for 10e saying he will help us get another and this is when we realise there are terraces not all seats. I’d presumed all European clubs had gone all seater after Hillsborough but no, it was to be back to the old days and standing up to watch a football match again.

David’s best mate who had invited him to a party after the game had another mate who got us our fourth and final ticket for another 10e. We were all going in! We stood not far behind the goal in the blazing sun 20 minutes before kick off and I was so, so happy. I just couldn’t believe we were there, in the ground after pretty much giving up on getting tickets before we’d left England. I’d tried but had had no luck. This was amazing.

Kick off ended up being at 15:30 instead of 14:30 so we sat on the steps for a while and took in the atmosphere. The others could drink as well and solid plastic collectable cups could be refilled by a guy with a beer pouch on his back. Imagine the fights if this happened in England...bleeeuuurrgghhh…

David and I impressed Claire as we joined in with some of the chants but was less impressed when she realised we were just shouting out the surnames of the players as they appeared on screen. When they sang You’ll Never Walk Alone though we were with them all the way as well as a ditty called Come on You Boys In Brown. BROWN?? Who wears brown?? It’s not like you can buy a replica shirt which is the colour of poo now is it?? It’s pretty much the only thing I’d change!

As the teams walk out there are party poppers going off, tickertape and maybe the odd small firework. Everyone in the standing area of the stand opposite holds up something that spells out the letters FCSP across the whole stand. The whole thing is spectacular and Claire takes lots of film footage of it all.

St Pauli hit the post early on and a Bochum supporter has some sort of smoke creating firework going off which blocks out the whole pitch for a few minutes. How the hell did he get that through security?? It’s the only time we see any antagonism between supporters as a few of ‘our’ fans raise their middle fingers to protest at this interruption and there’s a bit of booing.

All through the match the away supporters and the south stand of the home fans have people who face away from the action and lead the singing and dancing. Yes they pay to get in and then don’t actually watch the match! They do create an amazing atmosphere though. At half time we are handed a sheet of paper with lyrics on for the four sides of the ground to join in with certain lines for a particular stand and some for everyone. When this happens we do try and join in….try….and fail….it’s a bit more difficult than You’ll Never Walk Alone that’s for sure….

Footballing wise the game is pretty dull with the second half being particularly forgettable but no-one cares. They keep singing and the team get roars of approval at the end and everyone stays behind to clap them as they do a lap of the stadium. The south stand have a routine ready for them and the players stand and watch. No-one tries to invade the pitch despite there being no police inside the ground and many people stay behind after.

We leave because we want to see more of Hamburg but many fans stay, others join and music pumps out as they all have a party in the ground. Not quite the same as English football where half the stands are empty way before the end as people get fed up or try and beat the traffic….

There are a few police outside and some fans have left by the time we get to the far end of the ground with some chanting and fireworks going on. They all start heading in one direction as a sort of march with lots of singing. I don’t know if this was because it was the last home match of the season or they do it every game.

Three of us turn round and realise that Claire is up to her old tricks and has headed off at the back of the march. She’d been stopped filming them (we don’t know why) by some random bloke but then decided to join in. We followed as apparently she knew we would and were soon caught up in the atmosphere again as we took to the streets chanting with people in their apartments above joining in as well. There were stops but we don’t know why as we were so far back but we all needed a sit down a drink and ended up in the Copacabana….as you do…. The march may still be going for all we know. Keep an eye out for it and let me know if you see it. My guess is that they headed back to the party at the stadium.

We didn’t have time to do our pre-booked free haunted tour as we still hadn’t seen the Reeperbahn, Hamburg’s famous entertainment district. It was supposed to be seedy and it certainly lived up to that even before dark as single men were almost manhandled by women into dodgy looking clubs. Luckily it wasn’t like Vegas where I was constantly accosted despite holding my wife’s hand but we weren’t too impressed and, after a bit of food, were soon heading back to the car. Then back to our apartment. And soon to bed.

The next morning we left in plenty of time to be greeted by something we hadn’t taken into account, traffic, swathes of it. And then the Satnav took us into the city centre rather than the airport. And then when we finally made it to the airport the drop off procedure was slow to say the least. You drive in, all companies together and then one guy from each company checks the cars. But not necessarily in the order they were brought in as he doesn’t know which cars are his. So I told him. Crap system Hamburg. Sort it out. We still managed to pee before the flight though…..well three of us did….David’s passport wouldn’t work in the scanning gates so he had to join a longer queue. And, at that, the weekend’s incidents/incidences were over. Back to blighty.

And planning a trip back to the Millerntour.


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