Although I enjoyed the jaunt, for me it wasn't as good a trip as Palermo. Possibly it was the weather (not that cold, but a lot cooler than Sicily had been), but I think it's just that Palermo was a much more interesting place. And of course there wasn't any sea to plodge in in Frankfurt. Anyway, here's an account of my trip.
Unlike most of the Yorkshire Mags who'd flown out from Manchester ridiculously early on the Wednesday morning, my flight was a very civilised 11.50. I was surprised that there were only about a dozen other Toon fans on the plane (including some of our Paul's group), but then again it was only a fifty four seater. I'd arranged to meet up with Paul K at Frankfurt airport. He was flying out via Zurich and was due to land an hour before me; I'd said I'd pick him up from the bar in Terminal 1. However, while I was on the shuttle train from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 I received a text from Paul saying that he'd missed his connection and would be about an hour behind me. So it looked like he'd have to pick me up from the bar instead. But then I got to Terminal 1 and found it was absolutely f***ing massive. There was bound to be a load of bars and I could see it being unlikely we'd manage to end up at the same one. So instead I headed for the airport station, which was much smaller than the terminal; and not far inside the entrance was an inviting bar. I got a pint in wondering how long I would have to wait for Paul, but within minutes I got another text from him saying he landed. I replied with instructions to head for the station, where he'd find me in the bar with the big green sign above the door. I can't be bothered to describe the fun and games we had over the next half an hour, but I think I can safely say that Paul didn't find the bar as easily as I thought he would. In fact, he never found it at all (despite walking past it at one point!). And I hate to think what my phone bill will be (more of that later).
Getting to the hotel was easy enough - the train from the airport dropped us off about 300 yards from the door. When we checked in the bloke on reception said "Oh yes, you got the very cheap rate so you must pay now". Not a problem mate! He then said something about it being their mistake. I didn't quite take in what he said, but to be honest I didn't care. I just knew that it was an absolute bargain - 50 euros a night for a twin en-suite including breakfast. That's half what the other Yorkshire Mags were paying.
By now time was getting on (about half 4), so we just dumped the bags and set out in search of drink. There was an Irish bar that gets good reviews just around the corner, so I though we'd at least check out where it was. When we got there and Paul saw the menu his tongue was literally hanging out (he was desperately in need of food), so we decided we may as well go in. Naturally there were a few Toon fans in already even though it was well out of the way. And naturally there was an Aussie barman (wearing a blue star tee shirt!).
A couple of pints later we headed off to the other side of the river to Sachsenhausen, which I'd read was a good drinking area. Well I knew there were a few bars there, but I couldn't believe how many! There must have been best part of a hundred in a tiny area. We got settled into a canny little place. To begin with we were the only people in (virtually all the bars only open at 5, so it was still early), but before long loads more Toon fans piled in. We got in touch with the other Yorkshire Mags and they said they were on their way from the hotel to Sachsenhausen, so I told them where the bar was. Half an hour later there was no sign of them. Texts and phone calls ensued, but we were no closer to meeting up. More texts and phone calls. Eventually Aaaarrrrooonna said he'd meet us at the end of one of the bridges (the one starting with 'I') and take us to the bar the rest of the lads were in. So off we trooped. We gets to the end of the bridge and guess what? No Aaaarrrrrooonnaa. Another phone call. "Where the hell are you?" "I'm at the end of the bridge." "You can't be, we're at the end of the bridge and we can't see you". "I am. Can you see a big red sign?" No big red sign anywhere. This went on for best part 10 minutes and I was beginning to lose it. I thought "F**k it, I'm gannin back to that bar", but then Aaaarrrrooonna says "Hold on, I'm on WK Strasse". I gets my map out and finds Walter Korb Strasse. He was at the end of the wrong #*&@%#@ bridge! "Don't move, stay exactly where you are and we'll come and find you". So me and Paul jogged along the river and sure enough there was Aaaarrrrooonna at the end of the next bridge. He then took us to the Sports Bar (lots of big screens showing the Bolton-Chelsea game amongst other things, lots of chrome fixtures, you know the sort of place). Lots of beer was consumed, and then people started drifting off. Paul B and the Toon-based lads had set off to the airport just after midnight and were knackered, so it was understandable that they were tiring. Next to go were Aaaarrrrooonna and Paul Mck (too many Pauls!) who went off to get something to eat. Paul K went at the same time; he was also flagging due to an early start and a few beers in Zurich airport.
Brendan and me were the last to leave. I'm not sure what time it was - we tried to work it out next day but failed miserably. So I don't know how long it was after Paul K had set off back to our hotel. But however long it was, I couldn't believe it when I got back to the hotel and found he wasn't there. I'd thought he had a good idea of where the hotel was relative to the bar, and it was only a 10 minute walk, so I didn't think he'd have problem getting back. I sent him a text saying "Were are you? Should I send out a search party?", and went to bed and fell straight asleep. Paul did make it back eventually. He didn't have a clue where he ended up (possibly not far from the hotel, more likely the opposite direction completely), but he'd eventually called in a bar for a drink and then caught a taxi. What he would have done if he hadn't know the name of the hotel as anyone's guess!
Next morning we set off for a look round Frankfurt, to kill some time as much as anything. There isn't a lot to see as it happens. We wandered through the Christmas Market once or twice (it was virtually impossible not to) and also took in the red light area by the station. I'd put a quote from a travel guide site on the Frankfurt travel page warning "Doormen will practically pull you inside to view porno movies, sex shows, sex shops, and discos teeming with prostitutes." I didn't expect it to happen at 11 o'clock in the morning though! Yet that's what happened to Paul and me. This woman grabbed hold of my arm and tried to drag me into one of the many dodgy establishments. "Just look, just look" she kept saying. I eventually managed to break free, but then she got hold of Paul and started on him. It took him a lot longer to get away. I'm still not sure whether that's because she held on harder or because he resisted less!
It was about half 12 when we arrived back at the hotel to sort ourselves out for the game and pre-match beers. We hadn't made any plans with the rest of the rest of the lads, but we thought we may as well head to Sachsenhausen for starters. We got there to find the place pretty dead (only 4 bars open out of a hundred, so not surprising really). We settled into one that was open. After half an hour I sent a text to the lads saying where we we were. Virtually before I sent it they walked in the door - they'd been heading for the same bar themselves. A couple more beers, not to mention complimentary schnapps, later and people were getting in the mood. There was then a bizarre interlude revolving round four Stone Island / Burberry lads. I can't be bothered to tell the story in full - you'll have to ask someone who was there. But they came into the bar we were in, they were loud and very funny and totally dominated the place for half an hour. But you could tell they were a walking time-bomb, and so it turned out. Shortly after they left they were apparently chased thought the Sports Bar by a group of Turks. Then one of them turned up on his own later on in the Sports Bar with a big lump and cut on his head. What happened to the rest of them I've no idea.
We moved on to the Sports Bar ourselves. Lots of familiar faces came in at various points, including Pigeon on a flying visit from Barcelona. Some of us moved off after a while to a quieter and more traditional place a couple of hundred yards away. We had good crack in there with some locals, including a bloke who suspiciously insisted on buying AAArrrroooonnnaa a drink. As usually happens on these trips, time started accelerating and before we knew it it was time to get the train to the ground. A local copper had earlier recommended that we set off around 6. We'd stood there nodding our heads even though we had no intention of going anything like so early. It was probably around half 7 when we set off, although my memory's starting to get hazy here. We had to leave in reasonable time though because we knew it was a hike from the station at the other end. And it was! Still, I was in the ground well before kick-off. My ticket was for the lower tier. I fancied being upstairs though, and managed to sneak into the upper tier. Once in there I was surprised to find that there was minimal segregation between our fans and theirs. Downstairs there was a fence, a no-go area and a row of stewards/police, but upstairs there was just a few rows of empty seats. That was quite handy for me because I'd been wanting to swap my free scarf from the Portsmouth game for one of theirs, and I was able to negotiate a swap within seconds. As time went on the two sets of fans became intermingled which was a very strange experience in this era. Even more surprising was when I went to the toilet at half time and found that we were sharing the same 'facilities'. Still everyone seemed quite ok about it. Sad to say though there was a very minor skirmish down at the front of the section during the second half. I expected it to really escalate, but fortunately it didn't. In fact, once it was sorted out the police and stewards disappeared again.
A bonus and a big surprise at the end of the game was that we were let straight out (very unusual in Europe). I made my way back to the station wondering how long I would have to wait for a train considering how many people seemed to be ahead of me. About 5 minutes was the answer! Once back in the city I decided that I wasn't in any real shape to go back on the beer again - I'd had a couple more than was sensible before the game, plus I had a relatively early flight to catch. So I made do with a pint in the local Irish bar, then turned in. Once again there was no sign of Paul when I got back to the hotel, but it was still pretty early so I wasn't surprised. I heard him coming into the room a couple of hours later. "Where did you get to then?" "I ended up at the zoo"! Next morning I got the full story from him. When he left the ground he 'followed the crowd'. That particular crowd were going the opposite direction to the station though. Eventually he asked someone where the station and was told that he was miles away, but that he could get a tram from not far away form where he was. That took him back to the centre, and from there he wandered back to the hotel following our route from much earlier in the day, calling in for a few pints along the way. But then he overshot the hotel! Probably not by much though, because the zoo is only a few hundred yards away.
Paul's flight was a few hours after mine, so I left him having breakfast (managing to lock him out the room in the process!) and set off to the airport. I needn't have hurried - the flight was an hour late. Fog was given as the explanation. Funny how ours was the only flight affected! Still, there was a couple of Toon fans that weren't complaining - they slept in and would have missed it if it had left on time.