Soccer Trip to Zürich

Chris is gone and my cold is nearly gone. There is still a slight hint of a cough remaining, but I have otherwise recovered. As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, the cold hit me pretty hard and I’m actually very surprised that Chris didn’t catch it from me.

In any case, we were supposed to go Budapest on the weekend of Feb 2, but Chris convinced me the night before that maybe a 6 am flight when I was suffering from a cold and looked awful was a bad idea. I had figured that we could just hang out in one of the thermal baths for most of the day, but the idea of flying with sinus pain also didn’t sound appealing. I was disappointed that I would be missing out on langos and goulash for the weekend, but I think it was the better choice. In any case, I was able to cancel the hotel in time and the flights were ridiculously cheap when I got them.

Despite the cold, I wasn’t going to give up on the weekend. Chris found out that FC Basel was playing Grasshopper (one of the Zürich teams). Somehow, Chris’s scheduled trips out here would have him miss every FC Basel home game in one way or the other, so we decided our Sunday would be spent in Zürich. This meant that our Saturday was reserved for grocery shopping, a trip to the olive oil festival at Markthalle and (perhaps most importantly) a trip to the FC Basel fan shop to prepare for the game.

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We decided to make a day of it in Zürich with an early start to do a walking tour of the city. We met with the group and it almost instantly started snowing. In retrospect, a walking tour in the snow with a cold was the prime recipe to make me more sick, but I did a good job of layering and was pretty warm throughout the day.

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The tour stuck mostly around the Old Town and while it felt pretty short in the grand scheme of things, the cold started wearing me down towards the end. It was a good tour, though, with a good mix of city history and Swiss culture. We even got chocolate at the end of the tour, which is never a bad thing.

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The tour ended around lunch time and we were tired of walking around in the snow. We hopped on the tram to get back to where we met for the tour and have lunch at the Restaurant Zeughauskellar, which was the old armory. They have a lot of traditional food and beers there, which made for a pleasant (and warm) lunch.

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Now, in our initial plans for the day, we were going to spend the remaining time before the game at the most fitting place for a soccer day, the FIFA Museum. The snow must have gotten to our heads, however, because we completely forgot that the museum existed. Instead, we walked around the corner to the Fraumünster Church (built in the 800s!!). It cost 5 CHF to get in (audio guide included). The church is not that big, but the audio guide was pretty expansive and the famous Chagall windows were quite incredible. Unfortunately, there were no photos allowed inside.

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It was around this time that we realized that we had forgotten about our planned visit to the FIFA Museum, but we only had about 30 minutes until we needed to head towards the stadium and decided the time would be better spent in a cafe getting tea and hot chocolate. It was a nice way to stay out of the cold. After a short break, we caught a tram to Letzigrund Stadium for the game.

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The stadium wasn’t too crowded, but it was still a very active crowd. Both of the fan groups were very spirited, as was our section. Interestingly, this was the first time we were attending a soccer game as an away supporter (unless you count the USMNT games we’ve attended where we were vastly outnumbered by the actual away supporters). It was strange to realize that this was the first time we did it, but it just felt like any other game (except when the crowd contested bad foul calls/non-calls).  It didn’t hurt that FC Basel won the game 4-0.

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We jumped on a tram as soon as the game ended to get back to the train station. We wanted to catch a train back to Basel. Chris slept and I read.

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All in all, our somewhat impromptu Zürich trip turned out to be a lot of fun and probably the perfect about of energy expenditure for me with my cold. I don’t think I could have done Budapest with the cold. More importantly, we got our second soccer weekend in a row and we finally got our FC Basel game. We won’t miss out on our chance to see St. Jakob Stadium as we are going to be seeing a Eurocup Qualifier between Switzerland and Denmark there next month.

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Soccer in Freiburg and a Vogel Gryff Dance

I disappeared for a while because I have been sick. As in cancel our weekend travel plans sick. I’m mostly better, minus the nasty cough.

In any case, this means that I’m several posts behind so it’s about time to catch up. We’ll start with a short one. Last Saturday turned out to be somewhat of a double feature. It didn’t mean to be. Saturday was supposed to be our day of touring Freiburg and watching a soccer game. But, we got the added bonus that it happened to be the 2019 Vogel Gryff dance.

This is a day of celebration of Kleinbasel where the Vogel Gryff, the lion and the Wilder Man dance around the city. We only caught parts of it. The morning starts with the Wilder Man’s cruise down the Rhine.

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The lion and the Vogel Gryff apparently dance around the city while people collect money for the needy. We missed that and went straight for the procession across the bridge.

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We didn’t follow the festivities much longer after that. Things got packed on the bridge and we had a train to Freiburg to catch, so we left the event shortly after noon with a quick stop by the cheese festival in Markthalle along the way.

In any case, the main event of the day was our soccer trip and (hopefully first) foray into the Bundesliga. We met with some folks from the office from the office first for a short tour of the Old Town.

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This included a trip to the Freiburg Münster, where I saw the best nativity scene ever.

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From the Münster, we decided to start walking to the stadium for the game. And I mean that we walked to the stadium. We were supposed to catch one of the trams, but they were absolutely jam-packed with people. We were told that it takes twenty minutes to walk to the stadium from old town, but it ended up being a nice frisk 50 minutes. It worked out, though, as we made it to the stadium just in time for the game.

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The game was a lot of fun. Hoffenheim is a bit of a regional rival for SC Freiburg. We were told that their games are almost always high-scoring and this one was no exception. Well, except that Freiburg lost. There was the bad goal the hurt my heart in a way I haven’t felt since I’ve been home at my Quakes games and a pretty lame penalty kick call. It was fun, though, and was accompanied by glühwein, which was good but primarily served the purpose of warming my hands.

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After the game, we got our SC Freiburg scarves from the fan shops. There was some chaos getting shuttles back to Old Town, where the group got separated, but we all eventually found each other. We ended the night at the Feierling Brewery for schnitzel and some very delicious beer before making our way back to Basel.

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Netherlands v. Germany

We knew that we would be throwing some soccer trips into the mix this year. I suppose you could call our Alsace weekend back in July the first one, but now we can actually say that we’ve seen a European soccer game live. About a month before Chris got here, he asked if we wanted to see one of the fall national team games. The European national teams are doing the UEFA Nation’s League right now and after going through match schedules, decided on a weekend in Amsterdam to watch the historic Netherlands v. Germany rivalry. Beyond the fact that this is one of the big rivalries, we figured it would also be cool to see two national teams that are trying to rebuild after pretty big blows (The Netherlands, for those of you not paying attention, also did not qualify for this year’s World Cup). Also, the logistics for this game were the easiest.

The other big thing we needed to figure out was what to wear. We were behind a goal post, which may have meant we were seated in a fan zone. Which one, we didn’t know, so we felt we should dress neutral. For us, that meant wearing our US jerseys. I did briefly think about wearing my South Korea MNT shirt, but thought there may still be hard feelings on the German side.

Getting to the stadium was an adventure. It’s not that hard to get to the Ajax stadium from the city center as it’s along the Metro line. The train, however, was jam-packed with people in Netherlands orange singing soccer chants. Chris was the happiest I’ve ever seen him on a crowded and hot subway train.

Finding the entrance was another challenge. The stadium is enormous and it took us a while to find the right entrance. I will say, even if it’s not my team, it was refreshing to go to a home game for a national team and not be vastly outnumbered by fans of the away team. It’s not something to take for granted, especially in the games against their USMNT’s own rival.

One line, one very invasive pat down, and several escalators later, we did eventually make it to our seats with about ten minutes to spare before the game. As suspected, we were near the German supporters section, but weren’t in it. Other than scattered Germany jersey’s, we were otherwise in a sea of orange and probably didn’t need to stay that neutral in the end.

The game was a lot of fun. The energy was exhilarating. We sat next to some pretty die hard Dutch fans and spent most of half time talking to them about various topics (mostly about the rivalry and the US). The Netherlands got a goal about two thirds into the first half and then scored two more towards the end of the game. We almost missed both because we had considered leaving at the 80th minute to avoid the crowds exiting the stadium. Glad we didn’t. Chris said it’s the first time the team beat Germany in 15 years, which is kind of crazy. The CraleaBump is real.

Getting out of the stadium and back to the city center was also entertaining. There were so many people lined up to get tickets that they ended up just opening up the gates and letting people through. There was also a BTS concert getting out around that time, so the trains were incredibly crowded. Once we got back, we grabbed some late night frites and went back to the hotel.

There will be more soccer trips in the works. Chris had to rearrange his travel schedule a little, which means we may have slightly different game options available to us. At some point, we’ll also do FC Basel.