Classic European Trips - Bucharest 2000

Posted by john_mac on November 6, 2003, 04:15:35 PM

john_mac writes:

The UEFA cup 1st round draw for 2000-1 saw us seeded and unlikely to play any of the better known teams in Europe. When the draw was made we were handed an away tie first, out in Bucharest, hardly the most glamorous of locations, against a team I had never heard of. The lads who went to the semi in 1984 hardly had glowing praise for Bucharest as a city, but a few of us decided to make the trip anyway, rather than wait for the more prestigious trips ahead.

The day of the draw was a mates wedding, and one of the lads, up from Bournemouth, booked a flight in Thomas Cook. He told us what he had booked as we were waiting to go to the church, and it was quite funny phoning Thomas Cook on the way to the wedding, and then waiting outside the church, for them to phone back with confirmation of the flights, especially as I had to borrow the best man?s mobile to make the call!

We booked to fly from Heathrow with Tarom Airlines on the Wednesday morning for the Thursday game, with four nights in Bucharest. At the time I thought four nights in Bucharest combined with an overnight in London was a bit excessive, but, who cares, I?ll try anything once. We got the train down to London and stayed in The Cottage on the Tuesday night, anyone who doesn?t know The Cottage- its the small hotel facing The Jolly Gardeners by Euston Station. The hotel is best described as a dive, and even with a belly full of cider and an Indian meal, topped up with lager, no kip was to be had, as lorries rolled all night outside the window.

The next morning we headed across to Heathrow on a chocka tube, whiffing considerably of the Cottage and a repeating vindaloo. I?m sure that Bobby Wilcox has got an agreement with The Manager there, he always seemed to book it no matter how much we complained. Anyhow, after this debacle, that was it- no more cottage! Bobby is probably one of the best known Liverpool followers, at twenty odd stone and without a tooth in his head, he could suck a steak to death at twenty paces. He has been watching Liverpool all over Europe and this country for forty odd years, and knows every trick in the book.

The queue in Heathrow for Tarom saw a few familiar faces- from Bournemouth to Kirkby to Wallasey. Discussions on the plane quickly led everyone to the conclusion that nobody had anywhere to stay, the only place I had found on the net was a hostel- so we had booked the first night in there, and decided to take it from there. The Rough Guide to Bucharest enthused about The Hostel being the best place to stay- don?t trust those rough guides, they talk bollox.

To get into Romania you need a visa, but unlike most East European Countries, these are not applied for at an Embassy, but issued as a stamp at the airport. The guard issuing the stamps was funnily grabbing passports and stamping them with an illegible red ink stamp, while taking thirty dollars each off everyone in the queue. This must be the most corrupt visa system I?ve ever seen, with no forms, no records just a stamp and a rich guard. It?s rumoured he took the job when the tolls on the Mersey Tunnels came on top!

Our arrival in Bucharest saw us transfer into a scruffy looking City with packs of dogs roaming around. We got in a six-seater cab from the airport and asked the cabbie to take us to the hostel, a wry smile on his face as we arrived. You have never seen anything like it, this place made The Cottage look like Caesars Palace, bunk beds with auld woollen blankets, four in a corner room the size of a Vauxhall Viva! Not a lock on a door and situated in a dark, dingy passageway with more dogs than Battersea. We immediately decided that this was not for us, and asked the lad on the reception if he could recommend anywhere else to us. To be fair him he was very helpful and arranged for both a hotel and taxis to take us there, we paid him ?half bat? for the night we were supposed to stay there. We should really have put two and two together with the name of the Hostel - ?Villa Helga? does sound like something from a shady Dracula film.

Central Bucharest is a much cleaner area, although a short walk from areas of relative affluence you will still find hundreds and hundreds of dogs, along with bare-footed homeless kids sleeping on, and under, the streets. We booked into the hotel and entered the bar adjacent, the first round was five pints of Bergen Bier at a cost of 70p. That set the tone for the trip. The hotel was still a bit of a dive but was only $15 a night, and dead central so no-one was too bothered. To give you an idea of what the hotel was like, one of the lads went up to the room to put his trackie bottoms on. The hotel lobby was outdated with an old fashioned pully lift, the lift being about three foot square. He got into the lift to go to the 2nd floor and three young ladies immediately jumped into the lift behind him, by the time he got to the 2nd floor he needed a can opener to get out the lift. Once out, the three young ladies followed him out and were waiting while he went into the room, he decided to take the stairs down.

For the first night we did the tour of Irish, Australian and even English bars (to get ripped off), and picked up a few stray scousers on the way. Everyone had a good laugh at the Karaoke in the Sydney bar before we headed back to the Romanian quarter for a sing-song. Danny Giles, decided to walk back to his hotel from the Charlie Chaplin?s bar, about two-hundred metres walk from his hotel, this short walk took about 2 hours via Danny?s shortcut! Danny, from Birkenhead, hasn?t got the best sense of direction when sober, but then again, he?s never sober, and once he?s had a bevvie he can be guaranteed to get lost anywhere.

It became immediately clear that the Irish bars (as usual) were a complete rip off, so we decided to use the local bars, bottles of Amstel were about three quid in the western bars and 30p in the local ones. Next to our hotel was an alleyway with 5 bars, three of which stayed open 24 hours, all were cheap and had good atmosphere and one included a lap dancing bar upstairs. We decided that it was probably the best area for a bev, and soon loads of others were in the neighbourhood.

The day of the match saw the arrival of Sully and the two Hogo?s, from Manchester via Frankfurt. Sully, from Walton, is another who has spent a lifetime watching the reds, and is particularly fond of the Eastern European lifestyle- this may have something to do with his role as a Trade Union convenor in the City Council during their infamous battles with the Tory government in the mid-eighties. They booked into our hotel, and on our advice, sought out the delights of the alley.

The afternoon of the game saw most of the reds in the bar in the central square, and a fine auld time was had, by all. On the food stakes the order of the day had to be chicken or omelettes, there were far too many dogs knockin about to opt for dark meat. The weather was surprisingly warm and most of the lads were clad in shorts and t-shirts sat around the obligatory fountain, next to a large bar.

Rapid?s ground was quite away outside the town centre and many of the locals took great pleasure in telling us that Rapid were a "gypsy" team and that they were Steaua supporters. The area around the stadium was one of the roughest places you are ever likely to encouter. The local police were out in huge numbers, dressed in blue camouflage boiler suits, with white helmets, guns and batons, they certainly frightened the shit out of me.

A Nick Barmby goal was enough to seal a 1-0 victory in a game more notable for the drunkenness of the fans than anything that happened on the pitch. The players, as well as the coaching staff, and even Davey Moores all received a rapturous reception from the travelling reds. One or two of the lads were very much the worse for wear and saw little of the actual match, yours truly is reputed to have seen about ten minutes but I reckon it was nearer twelve before my rapid departure.

At the end of the game, the fella who runs Towns travel refused to let stranded reds onto his half empty coach, a move he later regretted as he was unceromoniously thrown into the fountain in the square. Further reports suggest that when he returned to his room to dry off, he found one young wag partaking in pleasures of the flesh with a local lady of the night, in his bed! The party again continued late into the night.

There were not too many scousers left the day after the match, but those that were ensured that the revelry continued. The afternoon was spent lounging by the pool in the Hilton Hotel, where the players had stayed, with plenty of cold lager, to stay cool of course. Westerveld was sat in the bar updating his website and fell for the auld ?See he?s got a new web??, ?who?? asked the bemused Sander?? ?Spiderman? came the reply to the red faced goalie. The hotel was followed by a jaunt round many of the local bars around the palace followed by another evening down the Bucharest Alley, singing and dancing into the small hours.

The Saturday afternoon was more of the same, with a trip around Bucharest followed by another tour of the city?s bars and clubs. There were some strange looks exchanged as Hogo blurted out scouse renditions of songs about The Wine Lodge and his mother-in-law. The cabs were booked for Seven O?Clock Sunday morning and some of the lads fell out of the bar as the cabs arrived!

Checking out on the Sunday morning the receptionist pulled Paul Hogo ?Wait sir, there is something missing from your room!?, ?yeah ?..? replied Hogo ??? a toilet and a shower? as we set off on our merry way. That morning saw a totally knackered crew of about a dozen or so reds board the 9.00am Tarom flight back to London. Hogo tried to get the party going again, with some Dracula Brandy on the flight, and Sully didn?t take too much persuasion???.I was far too rough to partake.

We returned Sunday 17th September to go straight to West Ham to see a 1-1 draw straight from the bottom shelf. As four of us sat outside the Firkin boozer at Mile End before the game not one of us could manage a drop of the ordered bevy. The train journey from Euston to Lime Street was full of tales of the Capital City of Romania, and Mr Wilcox?s cream cakes!

? john_mac 2003

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