Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Hertha Berlin Stadium Tour

The night before our tour of the Olympiastadion in Berlin, Hertha narrowly beat Dynamo Dresden 5-4 on penalties in the DFB Cup, with the away side - a division beneath Hertha - packing their end with over 30 thousand voluble fans. At the same time, at a nice restaurant somewhere near the Gendarmenmarkt back in town, I was going at a plate of over-priced schnitzel and necking over-priced Pilsner. 

Twelve hours later, as we arrived via the prompt and reasonably priced S-Bahn, the clean-up operation is still in full flow. In the Olympiastadion's case, this "clean-up operation" means removing any indication that a football match had even taken place. 

Hertha Berlin may have classed this as their home ground for over 50 years but during that time they've merely been tenants, and, as such, when they're not playing, down comes the bunting. The running track, in "Hertha blue", is the only clue towards this being their current backyard.

Possibly fed up of all this tidying up malarkey, Hertha Berlin will be doing one in the next few years, once they've made that important decision of where they'd actually like to relocate to.

The stadium tour, then, is less about Hertha and more about the arena's history, with a bit of "dodge the forklift truck" thrown in today. 

The old place has seen some sights. There was, of course, the infamous 1936 Olympics, for which the stadium was rapidly built, and more latterly musical behemoths such as BeyoncĂ©, the Rolling Stones, and, erm, Genesis have rocked up at some time or another. 

Influenced by Rome's Colosseum, our tour guide ruminates about that particular Empire and how "nobody got the hint" about what was to follow here. Fair point. It's a grandly formiddable place.

These are known as "The Leader's Steps", and lead from an underground entrance up to the posh seats that, depending on who's playing, can go for a few grand per arse. If it gets a bit nippy - and I imagine even on a warm day there'll be a chilly breeze here - that lot get tucked in with warm blankets.

This is the section where, during the '36 Olympics, Hitler would meet and greet the medal winners. Unless it was Jesse Owens, in which case he suddenly remembered an appointment he had elsewhere and had to nip off. 

Down in the depths, beyond the "biggest party bar" IN ANY STADIUM IN THE WORLD (my photo's rubbish: imagine the glitz of the Ridings shopping centre in Wakefield, circa 1989) is the press room. They're still very proud of hosting the 2015 Champions League Final, when Barcelona beat Juventus and probably had a knockabout in this warm-up area. 

There's a shortened sprint track in here, too, where Usain Bolt, I imagine, did a few lunges before popping upstairs to break the 100m record in 2009.

The tour lasts for an hour and our guide's excellent, chipping in with the pertinent stuff but also fine about folk having a bit of a wander. Indeed, at the end she more or less suggests we find our own way out. 

It works out at 8 euros for each of us. A bit of sleuthing shows that Wembley's about 20 quid a pop, and if the price hike wasn't enough, it's in Wembley.

I'm having a season watching non-league football. Here's why.

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