A v Slovakia (WC 2018 Qualifier1)
With Euro 2016 still fresh in the mind (aghhhhhhhhh) it was time to turn our attention to the prospect of a delightful trip to the World Cup in Russia! (Marseille and meeting our Russian "friends" is still fresh in the mind - double aghhhhhhhhh). So first up was a trip to Slovakia. The last trip from 2002 (click here) was not so fresh in the memory but after reading of the shenanigans last time I will add my final (possibly) aghhhhhhhh as the memories of the pre and post match violence in Bratislava came flooding back. This time the game was to be played in Trnava rather than Bratislava so we decided to do a bit of country hoping. Gatwick to Budapest (plane), to Bratislava (coach that went via Vienna), to Trnava (train), to Vienna (boat), to Gatwick (plane).
Friday 2nd September
Just a half day off work as it was an afternoon flight from Gatwick. The place was heaving so the usual beer in the flying horse flew out the window, we ended up in a Lebanese Restaurant and I have to say the food was delightful (if spicy) and the beer was superb, a new one on me.
We landed at Budapest late evening. It was a bus then the subway to central Budapest. I had travelled with usual companions Kev and Fi and we soon met up with our mate Scott who had flown out earlier in the day. He actually managed to do some sightseeing, we didn't and that reminded me of my last brief visit to Hungary (click here) back in 1999.
I took a photo of where we were staying in case too much alcohol meant location problems, looking back it would not have been much help! The reception to our apartment was tucked away and hard to find (they had only moved there a couple of days before) and by the time the nice young lady had escorted us to our apartment my inbuilt broken compass had given up working!
Budapest is superb. We soon met up with Scott and were soon tucking into the local beers. We somehow end up in a Karaoke bar, now I hate Karaoke, but after several beers and some delightful cocktails (Lady Tara one was viry nice and very strong!) I even did a couple of tunes with Fi. One was Night boat to Cairo as I picked one with as few lyrics as possible! Seeing 1.30 intro and 1.23 outro with no "signing" required was fine by me.
I think the cocktails may have been kicking in at this point!
I have seen new faces on TV, accidentally a few X-Factors and every now and then you come across a talent, a future star in the making. We got Scott, Scott singing Delilah, well actually Scott singing his version of Delilah which is a bit different to the Tom Jones way of singing it! Scott was not invited back to sing again, shortly after he finished and the place had recovered we quietly left! Anyway it was 4.30am!
Saturday 3rd September
Having been out of the drinking game for a while I have to say I felt ermmm dreadful. No I don't think that quite describes it, death like is nearer the mark, whose stupid idea was it to hit the cocktails?? We had to check out by 11am so I think we got out about 10.59.59am and found somewhere for a relaxing breakfast. Coffee and bacon and eggs went down superbly. I felt slightly better but the prospect of 4 hours on a coach was a grim prospect.
As this trip appears to be about transport we had the delights of line 3 heading to the central bus station being closed for Engineering works. So we had to hop on a replacement bus service. On our short half hour trip I finally got to see a little more of Budapest, although not a lot. I did manage a couple of quick snaps out the window, but mainly got trees!
We soon arrive at the bus station and its right next to Ferencvárosi FCs ground. It looks like it is undergoing some pretty major renovations.
So we leave the lovely coach station and its unhelpful staff! Scott's bus did not appear on the departure boards so we queued up and asked a perfectly civil question of "excuse me can you confirm where this bus leaves from/". We were met with a quick glance up from the member of the staff with the response "probably from outside". Head down now goodbye and leave me to stare into space! Luckily we went walkabout and found Scott needed to be at a slightly different location, but he just made his bus!
Out of the bus station and over the Danube. Next stop Bratislava, ermmm no Vienna Airport!
So where do we want to go, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary or Gasometer City?? Actually Bratislava please driver.
They do like wind-farms in Austria, I think it was Austria by now, but as we had started In Hungary, moved into Austria and on our way to Slovakia I am not 100% sure. I did by this stage no longer feel like death and was looking forward to arriving in Slovakia and some more food and beer. Its amazing how a few bottles of water can make you feel better.
So we arrived into Bratislava Bus Station, well the one near the Danube as there are apparently 2 as the coach driver had tried to explain to us. He kept laughing at the destination shown on our tickets and saying No! As we arrived on the outskirts of the city we came to a halt in the middle of nowhere and indicated that was our stop! We politely declined and remained on board. Weird!
We check into our Botel (great find Mrs Jones) and head to the bar. It only serves Staropramen, oh we thought, that will be expensive. Luckily its 1 Euro 30 cents a pint. Another pint please barman, oh and go on one more. Scott has arrived so better get him one and another round!
|Scott is delighted to be drinking on a boat|
Sunday 4th September
After a good nights kip it was a reasonably early start as we wanted to be at the ticket collection point for 10am as the train to Trnava was just after 11am.
|Our floating hotel, yes our Botel|
We walk through Bratislava to collect our match tickets from the FA and meet our mate Sara who was staying in the same hotel as the ticket collect point - which was handy!. We then head up to Bratislava train station as we decided to head to Trnava before most England fans were probably awake. Bratislava is beautiful, but we sadly did not have much time there this time.
So it was soon time to jump on the train to Trnava
So after about 45 minutes and a cold can of Czech beer that soon became a very warm can of beer we arrived into Trnava. Trnava looked very small on the map, Trnava was in fact VERY small!
|Yes this confirms we are in #TRNAVA and not Trnava as we thought it was called.|
It was warm, very warm, so we needed cold beer. The first bar had one of those lovely water sprays built into the roof to keep you cool. We decided to move on and I was delighted to be served a large beer called Bernard.
As time was moving on we decided we better head towards the ground. Every bar was heaving with England fans, I think we had about 2,500 tickets officially but as usual a lot more than that had made the trip. We visited quite a few of the local bars and eventually drank a few pints of Slovakian (rather than Czech) beer which was pretty good. It was a beautiful day and on days like this you cannot beat following England away.
We finally got into the ground after a fairly robust body search, I am not sure what he thought I had in by underwear but he made sure he had a good feel! Also every fan going in had to show ID to match the names on tickets and then you were photographed as you went through the turmstyles. All a bit OTT IMHO as the atmosphere was calm, well more sleepy than calm as the beer and warm weather continued into the evening.
The atmopshere in the away end was almost non existent as we watched a terrible 93 minutes. However we did celebrate just a little with the late late LATE winner! All the added time was down to terrible time wasting by Slovakia and especially the keeper. I was delighted to see the ball slip between his legs for the winner! I think the apathy built upon a terrible Euro 2016 and for much of this game the same old rubbish was being served up. I am so glad we don't go just for the football.
It was still very humid after the tremendous game of football we had just watched. We had time for a couple of cold beers in Trnava before our train back to Bratislava. The bar was a little warm in the queue for beer, the 18 stone man in a vest top was sweating profusely and managed to press himself into Kev a couple of times leaving a tidal mark on Kev. By the time we had been served and headed out for fresh air the man was now a 14 stone weakling!
Anyway we finally got back to Bratislava and finished the drinking off in a fine craft pub. The IPA was delightful, the monkey nuts on the table a treat, the monkey nut shells all over the floor a disgrace! Oh well! Time for a kebab before bed! Yes please!
I was not sure at the time if not much beer caused the castle to look blurred and hazy but this picture proves it was and it was not me or the effects of all day drinking in the sun!
Monday 5th September
So today was the day we would find out if Scott had sea legs, or would he end up being violently sick as he normally does as the slightest contact with anything that moves on water. Our ferry was booked for 11am. The first challenge was a rather wet walkway down to the boat. We all took it nice and slowly, as a few more hungover England fans arrived we watched from the bar above waiting for slippages, but none happened. Scott had a pre boarding beer before getting onto his nemesis ie a boat.
|Hurray, finally a non blurry picture of the Castle|
So it was about 1 1/2 hours to get from Bratislava to Vienna. I think they said that this castle marked the boarder crossing, but luckily we didn't have to stop and show our passports.
Scott is bearing up well with a beer and a boat, but as we cross back into Austria Scott takes a power nap. The boat was pretty smooth, you only really felt the movement if you ventured out the back, but you don't often get the chance to speed down the Danube so Scott and I risked a few minutes outside.
We arrive into a warm and sunny Vienna, but before you could say "oh this means nothing to me" the storm clouds had gathered and it started to rain, then rain a bit more and then start to get stupidly heavy rain. We sought refuge in a bar, we sensibly sat in the outside bit, partially covered and the waiter said you will get wet at that table so moved to a dry one. Before we had ordered the drinks the thunder and lightening arrived followed by a torrential downpour and it was soon raining in the pub, but we were dry! The storms circulated for several hours so we were "forced" to stay put to while away the time!
The final bar we found was a cracker. A few locals arrived and were drinking more heavily than Scott and Kevin, we soon found out the reason as they put on Georgia v Austria. We were soon toasting Austria going 2-0 up before half time. We were treated like long lost friends of the group watching and it made for a jolly end to the trip. Sadly we had to leave at half time to get to the airport.
Sadly it was time to say goodbye to Vienna, so we headed to the airport on there version of the Gatwick Express. Scott got over excited by find a paper with a picture of Angela Merkel in it and subsequently took a selfie of himself and the paper. The lad needs help, therapy, saving. He thinks only Angela can provide that for him.
We were greeted at the airport by several delayed flights to Gatwick, ours soon joined the list. We were due back just before 11pm and eventually landed just after midnight. Gatwick was heaving, passport control was manic and when we eventually found our taxi got caught up in major roadworks around the South terminal! Anyway we got home so it was time for bed and my final argggggghhh of the trip was for setting my alarm for 7am ready for work on Tuesday morning. Yipe!