Graz - A trip from farce to almost tragedy
Posted by Jonathan Hall ☆☆☆☆☆ on August 13, 2004, 12:11:52 AM
What should have started out as an easy lift from Northampton to Stansted on Monday morning for the flight to Graz, could have led to Gareth and I not actually making it at all. All this after the date of the game was changed and various alterations to flights at much extra cost made us fly direct to Graz rather than taking the cheap route. Saved us going via Salzburg and an eight hour round trip on the train mind!
It all started on Sunday when Gareth had a problem with his starter motor. Come Monday morning at 08.00 and no car, no lift and two old gets panicking about the flight leaving in less than four hours. Quick ring round from both of us for a lift or taxi fares ends up with me heading off in taxi down the M1 to pick him up and a desperate hope that we could get to Stansted in time for flight.
Three hours later after (luckily) a pretty good cross country trip and we arrive with over an hour to spare only to get held up at check in due to various numpties in front of us. For a change none of them were known to us.
I still hadn't collected my match ticket yet as it was currently sitting with a lad that I hardly knew who had collected it for me, and was presiding in Wetherspoons having a pint (well what resembles one). Various misfits were spotted in the bar otherwise known as Olly, Aidan (The Dave version), Alan and John. Time for a quick pint before the flight and a near crippling of myself when a kid ran in front of me as I approached our gate at speed. I already had a strained side muscle, so falling over, coughing, sneezing or sleeping well were completely out of the question (and that's before my world renowned snoring before pot-kettle-black members of this forum comment).
I don't think I've ever been on a flight which was so quiet, and decided to have a sleep before an anticipated two days on the piss. Arrival at Graz and out was pretty quick although the so called bus service into town was a minibus and was full, solved ten minutes later by taxis for the same price as the bus. Twenty minutes later and in search of our hotel we tried to get somewhere cheaper. The hostel was full and the cheap-looking hotel we tried wanted the same money as the one we'd booked. We decided to slum it at the Hotel Weitzer at a cheap 150 euros a night, as Gareth obviously thought we were both about to win the lottery. After various discussions between Gareth and receptionist we couldn't haggle down the price, but did find out we were in the same hotel as the press and various members of the club and some players family.
We luckily made it to the hotel in time before the heavens opened, and after an hour decided to brave the lashing rain to walk about 200 yards to a bar. We spent a couple of hours "staying dry", before venturing out into bright sunshine and having a walk around to look for decent bars in what turned out to be a beautiful city. After a quick bite of food we met up with the aforementioned Olly, Dave et al and decided to continue drinking as you do in various establishments (no Irish bars for a bleeding change) although we did seem to end up in a right dodgy old man's gay bar. As the other four decided they'd get a taxi to a bar called Venus (not sure why but I think the comment of naked ladies won it for them) Gareth and I wandered off looking for somewhere else to drink, and found a nice small local bar. Unfortunately on this night it was inhabited by a pissed austrian bloke whose grasp of the english language was slightly better than mine, as all he could mutter was FUCK YOU and laughed. Charming lad, so before I got arrested for hitting him I left.
We decided to call it a night, but not before Gareth decided to buy a fucking kebab on the way back and a beer that he put in the minibar to chill. I'm assuming this was the night he sent the usual text messages complaining about my snoring. At least this time he used his own phone instead of using mine the sly get.
Match day was a late start, not out till noon, and the collection of tickets for others who hadn't received them was being organised in our hotel by the lovely Ged Poynton (or not if yer names Gareth). A five minute walk into town led to whatever kind of sausage sarnie was available. Not for me, I'm on a diet and didn't eat till much later that night, plus didn't want to fill the beer carrier up. Arrival of Dan Lloyd added another drinker to the gang, only for us to lose one as Gareth fancied getting changed and joined us again later. More bars and then over to an Irish bar to meet up with others, and the singing and drinking got started proper. Banners were hung outside in the back street with the police looking on, and thankfully not concerned about the red hoardes massed in the street.
Song after song were sung and some which I only know parts (in fact only about three peopel on the face of the Earth know the full words for), but the ever willing Luke the Songmeister sang everything. Does he have a job? He can't have as he must spend all day checking his singing talents.
Match time, and why pay for the tram to the ground when you can just get on and off? Helped by a GAK fan within fifteen minutes we were at the ground. As usual with half an hour to go, chaos in the queue caused mainly by the muppets we seem to drag along who seem to think it's fun to push people around to try and get in quicker, not realising if they waited we'd all get in more quicker. They never learn. As already advised by text if Owen wasn't in the squad then he was off to sunnier climes, but wait he was on the bench albeit to not come on and nigh on confirm the rumour from the night before.
Wouldn't say it was the greatest match I've seen and to be honest wasn't much better than last season, but it'll take a short while before the Rafa's team starts to come to fruition. The tie should be over and done with for the second leg, but we could and maybe should have scored more, but two cracking strikes from Gerrard ensured that the leg was won (with a third strangely disallowed). I don't think GAK have too much threat to offer the week after next.
Back into centre on the 'free' tram and to the Irish bar for more singing and drinking until they closed at about 2am, when the fat duo decided to bugger off for nice and healthy hot dogs, but only after the silly cow selling the food said nicht hot dogs; but then that's all she had. Learn to speak yer own language, oh sorry it's German not Austrian.
Back to hotel by 3am or thereabouts, to see Hoonin getting his lager from the night before out the fridge the jammy fecker.
Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep and snoring hopefully.
Later that morning, Gareth eventually got 46 euros knocked off the bill. Must make sure next time I book the room just in case, and we were off to station for the bus/train to airport (and food). Hopefully someone can explain to me why Gareth looked at wool on the way. Was it because there were no decent bead shops? Or does he really have a sheep fetish?
Just enough time for a beer before the train and check in. As usual Gareth had bag zip problems, and ended up taping the bag up and taking it on as hand luggage, and off to the bar airside for some last Austrian lager before heading home.
More sleep on the plane cos I'm a lazy get and with the car problems put to one side, we were expecting on arrival a lift from Gareth's mother, but unknown to us at the time she'd been taken out by a lorry on the way to the airport, and car was a write off, and mother badly shaken. But less than two hours later courtesy of a kind couple who took care of his mum and the hire car we finally left to go home.
Highlights of the tour? Well copious amounts of drink, lovely sunshine which gave us great views of some stunning women dressed in as little as possible, and of course the win on the night. Graz was a lovely city which I hope to go to again, and the people very very friendly apart from the knob in one bar.
But the major highlight was once again Olly falling asleep outside a bar. And this was over two hours before the match. Nice pic I have of that.
Here's to another Euro trip soon, but with holiday restraints and work, might only get to one or two more before Christmas.© Jon Hall 2004
View Comments | Post Comment