The draw for the next round of the Champions League was about to be made. Please, please Munich or Madrid. Two sides I’d love to see us beat, and two Cities I’d love to visit.
I packed light. Scarf, wallet, passport, ticket, fags, lighter, Nicorette gum, e-cigarettes and a lightweight tunnelling shovel just in case.
We lift off from Bristol Airport at 2pm on the Monday, and I’m in my hotel in the middle of Munich by 6pm local time. My chum Max doesn’t arrive until Tuesday evening, so I head to the bar where there are already gathered ten or more committed drinking Gunners. Three of us head into town and explore a wonderful City. We launch into a heart stopping Bavarian Meat Fest of epic quality and then back out into town. We visit every one of the famous beer halls (thanks for the tip YanMan), and eventually roll back into the hotel in the early hours.
Match Day. Kick off not until 20:45 local time, so plenty of time to explore. I opted for the two hour trip to Mount Wank. The train journey South and West to The Alps takes you through absolutely stunning countryside. Past Lakes and then into the foothills before journeys end. Turns out Mount Wank is little more than a pimple, so I opt to head up The Zugspitze (Germany’s highest peak at over 9,000 feet with views over four countries).
Step One. I board the small mountain train that climbs the steep snowy base before entering a tunnel gouged through the heart of the mountain itself. Being the only passenger not in heavy footwear and florescent arctic clothing, looks in my direction are curious. Emerging in some ski resort or other, I then head to the cable car for the final push. At this point, curious looks turned to something more sinister. Now I don’t know if any of you have ever in your youth boarded a tube train in rush hour, with dyed orange and black hair, reeking of fish with every square millimetre of your hands bloodied and scabbed, having done a day’s work with sea lions, but I have, and the feeling is one of being highly toxic and infectious. The unsurprising upside is that you find yourself, as I did in the cable car, with a lot of space to yourself and the most terrific choice of views.
Wow, the view from the top was breathtaking on a perfect day. I felt fantastic. Things were going well.
I managed to re-join one old mate as well as my new chums back in the hotel bar around 18:00.
Off to the match and a fast thirty minute express train to the outskirts of the city. Emerging from the underground, the Stadium comes into view. Perhaps half a mile away, it sits isolated on a barren plain sitting there like some squashed glowing poisonous tropical fruit. It is impressive in its Bayern Red luminous robes.
I’m guessing there were three odd thousand Gooners high in the North End behind the goal. For me, our vocal support was somewhat muted in its potential as there were two distinctive areas of noisy support, and being divided by a quieter central group, we never managed to sync and get maximum volume. Nevertheless, we did our best against overwhelming numbers. Incidentally, and perhaps it was just on this occasion, but the Bayern support was nothing like as colourful or vocal as we experienced in Dortmund. Having said that, they all remained until the very end. Now it’s worth remembering, that this Stadium is a 40 minute tube ride to the main Munich rail station, and also, that kick off is a full hour later. Mmmm.
Needing to be at the airport at 14:00 on the final day, there was time to explore the City. It really is a lovely place. Stunning architecture and very friendly people. Time to visit a Palace, and track down some chocolate to bring home. Sitting outside a café in the sun, I pondered the difference between Munich and London. Striking to me was the absence of road markings and hideous signposts everywhere. The lack of traffic wardens and surveillance cameras. Uncluttered by ludicrous instructions. It struck me that citizens in Munich are capable of making their own decisions and not nanny stated. Clearly a very personal view, but it appeared to me that people were allocated individual responsibility, and they used it wisely. It was refreshing. I liked the place very much.
Here’s a question to myself. If I knew for absolute certain that The Arsenal were going to win every single game, would I still go? No, I wouldn’t. We lost to the current European Champions, and these things happen. I don’t mind. The team played with passion and pride, and I banked more very happy memories. I was in Dortmund with Raddy when we won, and that was also memorable but for more reasons than just the victory, and next season I want to try again. I met Gooners who were there when we beat Villarreal and Madrid, but they had to witness losses on their travels for that to be possible. This is football, and it is exciting. To make these journeys with fellow Arsenal fans is a privilege.
Thank you Chas and Ant, as without your amazing away support, I would never have been able to go.
Written by MickyDidIt