A European away trip is a rare pleasure, but when Arsenal drew Bayern Munich in the ’round of 16′ of the Champions League I was very keen to make it happen. Two reasons. First, I’d had a superb time here in 2003, when Arsenal lost 3-1 in the snow. Second: it’s not every day that you get the chance to visit such a dramatic stadium as the Allianz Arena.
Before the football, the railways. Most Gunners fans hit the pub upon arrival in the city, and stayed there all day. My Dad and I decided to do something else: a mad dash into the Alps to ascend Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak.
On arrival at Munchen Hauptbanhof we spotted Bob, part of the Bavarian mountain railway network. We took a lovely red chugger pulling over the Alps to Innsbruck for the 90 minute trip to Garmisch-Partenkirchen. Here we boarded the Bayerisches Zugspitzbahn, the sort of wonderful mountain train you find all over Switzerland and it was a joy to discover on a quick jaunt from Munich.
This train chugs up past ski schools and Alpine farmsteads until it reaches Eibsee, at which potent it plunges into the mountain and zig-zags up through the rock before emerging at the top of Germany. We we both lacking time to get to the 2588m summit and any guarantee of visibility once e got there, so de-trained here.
Five minutes away was Eibsee itself, frozen and still in the snowy silence. Time to throw a few rocks, enjoy an unusual Alpine outing then start the journey back to Munich. No mountain spectaculars but plenty of atmosphere and the ever-pleasant feeling of doing something silly.
Back in Munich, we had time to have a quick beer a the Augustiner beer hall before catching the bus to the ground. Here history repeated itself. On my last visit I’d sat ate the only table not occupied by very jolly Arsenal supporters and been joined by two Bayern fans who were excellent company, speaking impeccable English and chewing the fat over the match to come. They also drank very large glasses of beer that made our pints look somewhat softie.
Off to the ground, striking from outside and a bubbling cauldron of noise from within – until we scored at least.
Pope Francis I was elected while we were in Munich. He nearly pulled off his first miracle in overturning an impossible deficit but it was not to be. After an exciting game, we headed back with sore throats and tired for the flight home, returning to a snowy Luton Airport. I returned to the following charming welcome at work the following day.
Arsenal away: the years roll by but nothing stirs the soul in quite the same way.