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.

Champions du Monde

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I know I’m usually categorically opposed to saying this, but we have to make exceptions sometimes. Allez les bleus! When France made it to the final, we rearranged our tentative Zurich plans to do another weekend in France. We celebrated in Italy in 2006 when the Azzurri won the World Cup, and it was an absolute blast, so we wanted to keep it going this year in France. We are happy to report that the #craleabump hits again as we are now two for two for watching the (Men’s) World Cup final in the country of the winners. We’re definitely accepting offers from future World Cup finalists to have us cheer with their fans as we are sure this is 100% due to our presence in France and not the hard work of the team.

As with most things from this past weekend, it was a bit of an adventure getting to the fan zone in Riedisheim. We logged 12 miles of walking today and while some of that was from touring Colmar and Mulhouse, a pretty substantial part of it can be attributed to trying to find the fan zone in the Mulhouse area and slogging through hills, wilderness and some rain to get there. We made it in the end and, despite the periods of rain and the eventual thunderstorms, it was absolutely worth it.

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In any case, we made it to the viewing area a few minutes into the game after walking from the center of Mulhouse to the fan zone in Riedisheim, which is the next village over. My “follow the flags” mantra we were using to try to find the public viewing areas almost veered us the wrong way a few times to very crowded sports bars, but eventually did get us to the right place, despite the long stretches of empty streets.

We were both leaning towards Croatia because it’s always cool to see a first time World Cup winner, but the atmosphere was absolutely infectious so it was hard not to cheer along with the fans in the crowd.

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It periodically poured, which is an experience we’re familiar with from some previous Earthquakes experiences, such as the Great Deluge of 2011 (real thing; home opener against RSL). I was mostly concerned about the electronics, which appear to have made it back all right. It wasn’t until the lightening started that we decided we may want to start heading out. While this was minute 93 and we were pretty sure that absent some major screw ups, France was going to win, it meant that we missed seeing the crowd’s reactions when the game ended. We heard it, though. We certainly heard it. And saw all of the cars honking as they drove past us on our walk back to the train station in the pouring rain. Had it not been pouring, we probably would have stayed around a little while to watch the celebrations, but we were really mostly onlookers at the end of the day.

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All in all, even though neither the USMNT nor the Azzurri qualified, this year’s tournament was an absolute roller coaster. There were a lot of shocking results, including that exhilarating game between South Korea and Germany, and it all ended in that high scoring final. France was a fun team to watch throughout the tournament, so it was perfect to close out the World Cup in France in such a memorable way. There were some sacrifices made along the way, including my Kleen Kanteen (which they forced me to throw away and not just hide in the bushes to find later) and our can of Pringles from lunch. Our umbrella may have also broken, but we’re trying to fix that.

Congrats, France! We’ll be back for the Women’s World Cup next year.