My favourite European away games: #2

Rob Halligan 06/04/2021 15comments  |  Jump to last
My favourite European away game #2: BSC Young Boys on Thursday 19 February 2015, a 2-night stay.

Steve booked all the arrangements for himself and me for this one. We flew early afternoon from Manchester to Bergamo, about 30 miles or so from Milan, and also the home of Atalanta. Upon landing, we jumped on a bus to the city centre and found our hotel. We were to spend a night in Bergamo before catching a train the following morning to Milan, then on to Bern.

Bergamo is a fantastic city, especially the old medieval town which is up a hill and is accessible by a cable car. After checking into our hotel, we had a little wander round, had a pint or two before heading to the cable car station. The cable car only took a few minutes to get to the top, however the last one back down was around midnight, so we had to make sure we didn't miss that, otherwise it would have been a hell of a walk back down!

Upon reaching the top, Steve wanted to do one of his walking tours and, to be fair, it was one that I quite enjoyed. There are some very old churches & chapels up there with some amazing architecture, as well as other buildings worth seeing, particularly some of the living accommodations up there. I won't bore you any further with all the details, except to say, if I found it interesting, then anyone would.

After an hour or two, we found a very old fashioned bar for something to eat and drink. There was also a Champions League game on but I can't remember who it was? At the end of the game, we made our way back to the cable car station. Bergamo old town is definitely well worth a visit; when we were drawn against Atalanta a few years back, I was delighted, as it meant another trip to Bergamo, until that game was moved 120 miles away!!

Anyway, we got back to near our hotel and found a bar for "a nightcap". Why on earth do we do that when we know we have to be up about 6 hours later? The one we found had two lads behind the bar who supported AC Milan. We got talking and they thought we were mad travelling abroad for a football match, particularly when the game we were going to was in a different country!!

One of them got his laptop out and googled Everton songs. Next minute There was a sing-along of all Everton songs. A great couple of hours was had before heading for our hotel. I say 'hotel' ... it was more of a boarding house with around half-a-dozen bedrooms. Around 6am, the old landlord gave us a wake-up call and kindly gave us each a packed breakfast before we left for the train station. As I said earlier, we had to get a train from Bergamo to Milan, then from Milan to Bern.

The train to Bern took around 4 hours, with amazing scenery, passing alongside the Italian lakes and through snow-covered mountains. We arranged to meet Jon at Bern train station, where we were due to arrive at just after midday. Upon arriving at Bern, we made our way to our accommodation, and this is where Steve let himself down, for he had booked us into a youth hostel!!

We were in a room to accommodate four people, as it had two bunk beds in it, but more about that later. We threw our bags in, trying to hide them as best we could, as someone else was already checked into the same room. We headed out and made our way to Bern's most famous attraction, the Bear Pit. Every year, there is a festival in Bern to welcome the awakening of the bears from their winter hibernation. While we were there, we didn't see one single bear. They probably didn't fancy getting pelted with things thrown by a few nutty Scousers!!

There was also a decent-sized bar which was full of Blues, so a good couple of hours was had. Later, we walked on to find somewhere to have some food and a few more pints before catching the tram to the stadium. Every tram we tried to get on was full of Blues, but we finally managed to get on one. Needless to say, it was pointless the tram stopping en-route as they were just all full of Blues!! The locals must have gone loopy, not being able to catch a tram home from work that evening!

Following the game, a good 4-1 win, we made our way back to the city centre. Every bar was chocker, with bands playing in virtually every one, and people dressed up in fancy dress costumes. As I said, it was the festival for the bears awakening, and it went on well into the early hours of the morning.

The three of us got talking to some Bern fans in a bar, who insisted on buying us all our ale for the night, and didn't want anything in return. How could we refuse such an offer! Around 3am they invited us to a party somewhere, but we politely declined, seeing as me and Steve were due to leave our Youth Hostel at 7am.

We finally got back to our accommodation, and the other bunk beds were occupied! The noise from me and Steve must have scared the shit of them, but they never flinched, even when the alarm on my phone went off at 6 am, there was still no movement from them. To make matters worse, I was on the top bunk, and trying to climb down in the dark was horrendous, as I managed to somehow fall down, landing with an almighty thud! Never again, Steve!!

We eventually made our way to the train station for the journey back to Milan. I felt as rough as fuck (why do we do it?), but managed to get at least a couple of hours kip on the train. Upon arriving at Milan, we made our way to the bus station for the journey back to Bergamo airport. We had an hour to two before our bus, so guess what? Yep, found a bar!!

We arrived back at Manchester airport around 8 pm Friday evening, where the missus picked us up (Steve's missus dropped us there on Wednesday morning). After dropping Steve off in Old Roan, it was home and then bed for me, absolutely knackered but great memories of another brilliant European away!!

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Reader Comments (15)

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Michael Kenrick
1 Posted 07/04/2021 at 11:25:51
Great tale, Rob. Good to see you are mature enough not to be sucked in to pubescent mirth about the wonderfully named Wankdorf Stadium!
Andy Crooks
2 Posted 07/04/2021 at 11:36:11
I love this series, Rob, really brilliant stuff. I've never been to an away game, never mind Europe. I suppose Goodison Park seems like a European away to me.
I enjoy the little bits of "culture", Rob and your feigned reluctance to partake. You fool no one! You are ToffeeWeb's very own Michael Portillo.
Really good read.
Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 07/04/2021 at 14:04:41
Another great instalment Rob. Culture, football, and Everton win and a well earned hangover summarises that! How you kept your nerve when you realised it was a hostel? Respect but I suppose dumping the bags and finding a bar was the best course of action!!

I haven't been to Bergamo but know what you mean about Italian hilltop towns. Not much to Milan mind, so hopefully you did just pass through the train station. The Italian lakes and Como in particular are something special. I was due to take in a trip to Bern just before Christmas. Currently rescheduled for July; won't be the same but looking forward all being good to travel.

You are unashamedly wetting the appetite. Still raw from Monday but in typical Everton fashion, the hope is still there that many can enjoy similar memories in the not too distant future.

Mike Gaynes
4 Posted 07/04/2021 at 14:16:12
Great anecdote, Rob. Picturing you plummeting out of the top bunk has given me a badly needed morning grin.

I took that same train trip from Bern to Milan 43 years ago, dragging a backpack and an obnoxious younger brother. I can still remember that scenery. Hope to go back next year with the wife.

Thomas Richards
5 Posted 07/04/2021 at 14:23:20
A great couple of nights in Bern Rob.
We stayed in Basle for a night then on to Bern.

Bergamo a great little place to visit mate.
Up the funicular and step out into what seems like a scene from 100 years ago. Buildings havent changed in decades.
Full of character.

Brent Stephens
6 Posted 07/04/2021 at 14:25:12
These are good reads, Rob. Well written - I'm also in the bar with you (and the next one, and the next one...).
Andy Crooks
7 Posted 07/04/2021 at 14:27:17
Thomas was the "we" you and Liz?
Thomas Richards
8 Posted 07/04/2021 at 14:46:55
I wish Andy.

She wouldnt go with me.
Tried to persuade her all night but gave up in the end.
Left her outside Ned Kellys crying.
"Has anyone seen my Dave"

Dark horse Mr Abrahams

Tony Abrahams
9 Posted 07/04/2021 at 15:33:33
Great story Rob, and the reason we punish ourselves is usually because we are having a wonderful time!

It’s great meeting different people, from different countries, and as Oliver Reid also once said, most of the greatest characters he ever met was in the pub!

I never went to this game but did stay in the “historical old town” of Bergamo, a couple of nights before the Fiorentina game, and it was that nice, we also went back the night after the game, and was having a laugh until the place just shut down in about 15 minutes, which I was obviously gutted about. (Weird)

Anyway Rob, keep it going, some great tales about your trips down memory lane watching The Toffees, until you get to do it all again mate, hopefully starting soon!

John Raftery
10 Posted 07/04/2021 at 22:01:22
Another brilliant tale Rob from ‘ToffeeWeb’s very own Michael Portillo’ to quote Andy Crooks! Somehow I can’t see you in one of the former politician’s colourful jackets!

For the Young Boys match I went with the official club trip which included an overnight stay in Zurich after the game. I remember dragging my mates along to the Altes Tramdepot for some proper beer. After the match we had a great celebration in the hotel including free food provided by the hotel at about 1.00 a.m.
Peter Mills
11 Posted 08/04/2021 at 09:15:21
Good tale, Rob.

I love the Italian hilltop towns. Many of them are in earthquake zones, and are regularly monitored for seismic activity.

I suspect there was an unexplained but substantial flicker of the needle on the Bergamo Richter scale gauge as you hit the deck from the top bunk.

Steve Carse
12 Posted 08/04/2021 at 14:36:53
Once we got over the price of a McDonalds we proceeded to have the best ever post-match. The bands playing at every venue, indoor and outdoors, the costumery, the friendliness of the people (even if in the traditional pre-match kick around one or two balls went through shop windows). Brilliant.
The match, sandwiched in the middle, was all over by HT, cue the HT singing -- 'We've got a diamond' and 'The School of Science' to the fore. Seems so long ago.
Stephen Vincent
13 Posted 08/04/2021 at 15:05:02
Great story Rob. Loved the Bergamo part which seems so left field, who on earth picked that route?

Living down south we flew from Heathrow to Geneva. One of the lads was into rock climbing at the time and wanted to see the Eiger so we left on the Monday before the game and got the train and after only one change (Isn't the Swiss rail system wonderful) found our selves in this unpronounceable Swiss village gazing at the most evil piece of rock I have ever seen. The place we had booked into was the Hotel Bellevue, where the movie the Eiger Sanction had been filmed, we were only there one night (thank God so expensive) but we were fortunate with the weather, great views of the Eiger and Jungfrau.

We went for dinner took one look at the prices on the menu and settled for bar snacks. We sat at the bar and the first thing we heard was a scouse accent saying to the barman 'I only want a glass not the whole friggin barrel' the beer was pricey and because of the isolated location there was no alternative. We obviously introduced ourselves and discovered that in addition to us four there were another nine blues in this hotel. Had we known this in advance we could have saved ourselves the cost of the room, because we never actually got to bed. Having complained bitterly about the price of the beer we did our best to drink all of it and had a whip round for the barman who served us all night.

We had arranged to meet other friends at a bar I will never forget the name of, The Trappiste Bier Cafe, on Rathaus Street.

Great trip, great game and lifelong friends made.

Can't wait for your number 1 Rob. Perhaps you should write a travel guide.

Rob Halligan
14 Posted 08/04/2021 at 18:33:56
Stephen, my mate Steve picked the Bergamo route. He said it was one place he would like to visit, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to spend a night there before getting the train to Bern. As I said, the old medieval town up in the hills was a fantastic place, and as Thomas # 5 says, it really was like stepping back in time. A place definitely worth visiting.
Stephen Vincent
15 Posted 08/04/2021 at 19:20:50
Rob, hopefully we will get to play Atalanta again, next time in the big cup. Will make a point of doing the old town.

Looking forward to the travel guide.

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