My favourite European away games, #3

Rob Halligan 31/03/2021 8comments  |  Jump to last
After much consideration, I've decided to go ahead and give a detailed description of my favourite European away games, in reverse order.

Number 3: Dynamo Kiev, Thursday 19 March 2015. A two-night stay, which turned into three!!

Steve had booked the flights for himself, me and Jon. Jon had found a lovely hotel right next door to the stadium in Kiev. Dave was making his own way, don't know why, but he was booked into the same hotel.

Our flight details were pretty straight forward: late-morning flight with Lufthansa on the Wednesday from Manchester to somewhere in Germany (can't remember where exactly), then on to Kiev, arriving early evening. I was in work on the Tuesday when I suddenly got a text from Steve. Absolute disaster, all Lufthansa flights had been cancelled for 24 hours, ours included, because of a pilots' strike. Steve was in contact with Lufthansa customer services trying to arrange alternative flights.
He eventually managed to arrange alternative flights with Austrian Airlines, via Vienna then on to Kiev. Great news, with one major hiccup, the flight was from Heathrow on the Wednesday morning, about 6:30 am!! How on earth were we going to get to Heathrow, bearing in mind Steve had been assured by Lufthansa that our return flight back to Manchester was definitely secure? Simple answer really, Steve "persuaded" his daughter and future son-in-law to drive the three of us down to Heathrow!!

I was picked up at about 11 pm on the Tuesday night, ready for a 4- or 5-hour journey down to Heathrow. We got down there pretty quick, about 4 hours if I remember rightly. I just felt sorry for Steve's daughter and future son-in-law who then had to drive all the way back up to Liverpool!! Anyway, we checked in at one of those automatic check-in machines, and went for some breakfast, courtesy of Lufthansa who had provided us with vouchers.

Our flight to Vienna left on time, along with the Welsh U18s team, accompanied by Craig Bellamy, jeez he's small!! We got to Vienna and caught our flight to Kiev, arriving early afternoon local time. The hotel Jon had booked arranged for a taxi to pick us up, so all was looking rosy. We got to the hotel, checked in, threw our bags in our rooms and then naturally hit the bar in the hotel. At 50p a pint it would have been rude not too!!

Dave turned up in a couple of hours and, after a couple more drinks, Dave, Steve and Jon wanted to do what I loathe – a walking tour of Kiev. Reluctantly I agreed to go. Jon had googled the details of the tour and we had to be at a designated meeting point not far from the hotel. Never again as far as I'm concerned. I was bursting for a Geoff Hurst about half-way into a 3-hour tour, and couldn't find anywhere to go!!

After finally arriving back at our hotel, a couple of hours kip was badly needed, so we arranged to meet up in the hotel restaurant for something to eat about 8 pm before going out.

After having eaten, this is where I lost the other three. They went to the lobby bar while I went to the toilet. I met someone I know on the way who literally dragged me to another bar in the hotel. After a couple in this bar, he dragged me to another bar on the top floor, but a bar with a difference, for it contained pole dancers, minus the pole! The place was ram-packed full of blues, I wonder why? These girls would come and sit up next to you, really close, and were game for anything, at a price. Naturally I declined any such offer, but plenty seemed up for it. Eventually I hit the sack around 2am totally shattered!!

Next morning, I told the others where I ended up, and they seemed quite miffed at missing out. We decided to take it easy during the day, ie, no ale, so just went for a quiet walk around. Twelve months earlier in Kiev, there had been some kind of protest march, when nearly 50 protesters were massacred. The site where it all happened had photographs of each person killed, along with a lit candle. A very harrowing experience seeing all this. We also came across Dynamo Kiev's old stadium, which I think is still used by their reserve team, or such like. The pitch looked in excellent condition as we could see into the stadium from a walkway high above one end of the stadium.

We got back to the hotel around 3:30 pm and went for something to eat. If I remember rightly, the game was due to kick off at 8 pm local time, so food was essential before a few pints. After half-an-hour or so, Steve or Jon, can't remember who, got a message on their phone, and it was not good. Our return flight with Lufthansa the next day had been cancelled. The pilots' strike was still on-going. What the fuck were we going to do with regards to getting home?

I phoned the missus to try and get us flights, and amazingly, within an hour, she had the three of us booked back to Manchester, via somewhere else in Germany, but on Saturday morning!! Relief, and luckily we were able to book another night in the hotel in the same rooms we had. So onto the game, and afterwards we just headed back to the hotel for a few before hitting the sack.

Come Friday morning, and Dave had left us to return home. What could we do, other than the usual? For anyone that doesn't know, not far from Kiev centre is a place called Babi Yar. A place were over 33,000 jews were murdered by the Nazis and buried in a ravine. We decided to go there as there is also a museum to look around. We had to get the underground out to Babi Yar. Once there, you would really not know you were potentially walking over 33,000 dead people, as it was just a grassy hill with very few plaques etc to tell you what it was all about.

The museums were very interesting though, and it was quite harrowing to think what had gone on there. Anyone who's been to Auschwitz will know what I mean. After about 3 or 4 hours, we headed back to the underground to head back to the hotel. We found a restaurant near the hotel, before going to the "Top floor bar" in our hotel for some entertainment. Was a bit naff really, seeing as there was only the three of us in there, so we decided to call it a night.

Saturday morning we were up, had breakfast and got the taxi to the airport. I'd arranged with the missus to pick us up at Manchester airport sometime late afternoon. After dropping Steve and Jon off, I finally got home, absolutely knackered, and despite the traumas, which I feel is all part of the fun, a really good trip, and I found Kiev to be a very enjoyable city – although not one where I'd spend a 2-week holiday!!

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Reader Comments (8)

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John Raftery
1 Posted 01/04/2021 at 14:41:04
Thanks Rob. My journey was a lot more straightforward; KLM Manchester to Amsterdam and Ukraine International Airlines to Kiev. I stayed two nights in a hotel near the stadium. Everything was cheap, except perhaps the ladies looking for sponsors in the hotel! I remember the hotel breakfast buffet had among other things broccoli and something called milk sausages which were disgusting.

One of the places I visited was the Chernobyl museum which told the story of the 1986 nuclear disaster including details of those who perished after helping to bring the fire under control and stabilise the reactor. Kiev is the eighth biggest city in Europe with enough to keep a visitor interested for a few days but like you, I wouldn't want to spend a fortnight there. Generally I found the people to be quite reserved, occasionally sullen and sometimes depressed. Maybe being lodged between the west and Russia in the east they have plenty to be depressed about.

The outcome of the match itself was disappointing but not surprising. Martinez had been losing the plot through the season and picking Atsu in an attacking line-up was crass, especially when Alcaraz was one of our defenders.

Tony Abrahams
2 Posted 01/04/2021 at 14:41:20
Lovely story Rob, especially the way you don't let those massive headaches bother you mate, and just treat it as part and partial of the whole experience. The dedication shown by you and many others, both amazes me and also makes me proud, and I just can't wait for Everton to win something again, for yourself, and some of the loyalist fans in the country.
Danny O’Neill
3 Posted 01/04/2021 at 19:27:46
Rob, given my lack of following Everton in Europe in person, I intended to refrain from commenting on your experience. Given my extensive travel experiences, I thought I might be able to chip in with a tale or two of visiting the same place but you done me by choosing somewhere I haven't been to!

That said, great story. A theme from the start is you were tired! I felt tired for you reading it form the early start to get to Heathrow, let alone your stamina in seeing through the cultural tourist stuff. Respect.

Great story, can't wait for the next one and look forward to next season's European travels!

Tony Abrahams
4 Posted 01/04/2021 at 19:40:56
I can't believe he went for an afternoon sleep, Danny, because there is plenty of time to sleep when you get home!
Dave Abrahams
5 Posted 01/04/2021 at 20:50:15
Lovely story, Rob, nothing seems to phase or bother you as long as you can see the Blues, wishing you many more years, successful ones, following Everton in Europe as well as the Premier League of course.
Peter Mills
6 Posted 01/04/2021 at 22:25:39
Mrs Halligan seems an understanding lady.
Stephen Vincent
7 Posted 02/04/2021 at 13:46:13
It was a trip I missed, I was in New York for work and watched it with half a dozen NY blues in Mr Deneheys. But not sure I would have made the effort anyway, eastern European trips are a pain and Bucharest pretty much finished me off.

Peter is absolutely correct, your wife sounds very understanding.

Great tale though and well told.

Stephen Vincent
8 Posted 02/04/2021 at 13:48:20
By the way, really looking forward to 2 and 1.

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