Monday, October 10, 2022

SG H2Ku Herrenberg 19 at Spreefuxxe Berlin 28 (2.Bundelisga Women's Handball) - October 8, 2022

Although I would miss Hertha Berlin on this trip, I still wanted to get a look at Olympiastadion, their home ground that opened in 1936 and hosted the historic Olympics that year. It lies on the western edge of Berlin and takes about half an hour on the S-Bahn (the aboveground train) from the station closest to Mercedes-Benz Arena. Before heading out, I spent quite a bit of time online searching for any sporting events in the area and I discovered a second-tier women's handball match that would start at 7:30, just one station away. Ah, sports serendipity! So off I went. Along the way, some visiting players from the handball match boarded the train, which I found surprising, but I guess at that level, team buses are not an option.

I got off the train at the Olympiastadion stop, which is about a minute away from the stadium, and walked over to take a couple of pictures. It is quite majestic and I enjoyed seeing it without people milling about. Of course, I could not enter, but it was still a cool experience. There was even a historic marker that had pictures from the past, including one from the 1936 opening ceremonies when Hitler entered by the south gate here. It hasn't changed that much since then.

With plenty of time before the handball match, I took the train a couple of stops farther west to Stresow, where I stopped at Kaiserhof (on the left below), a jazz-themed restaurant that happened to be playing Vanilla Ice when I entered. It was a rather surreal experience beyond that contradiction. I was running low on cash, and wanted to save some for the handball game, so I asked if they accepted credit cards, which they did. I then ordered a baguette and a couple of beers and enjoyed a delicious meal under the watchful eye of the owner. But when it came time to pay, none of my three cards went through. I had no choice but to fork over some cash, leaving me with just 5 euros. I hoped that handball didn't cost that much.

I then took the train one stop back east, getting off at Pichelsberg, from where the Horst-Korber-Sportzentrum is a short stroll. On this evening, it was the home venue for the Foxes Berlin women's handball team (known as Spreefuxxe), who were hosting Herrenberg in a Bundesliga 2 match. Yes, the second level of women's handball in Germany was the only event I could find on Saturday night in Berlin. I reached the door and of course, at this level, credit cards are not taken. The adult price was 11 euros, slightly more than the fiver I had in my wallet. So I resorted to begging, trying to explain what happened at the restaurant and showing the five euros. When I mentioned that I came from New York, the ticket lady sighed theatrically before saying OK and handing me a kid's ticket (below), which was exactly 5 euros. Yay! Thank you anonymous ticket lady and sorry that I gave another bad impression of American tourists in Germany (rather amusing since I am Canadian).

I was attendee number 126 on the evening, which gives you an idea of how few follow the sport at this level. Mostly friends and family from what I could tell, much like low-level women's sports back stateside, though that is slowly changing.

The gym is really a public use facility, with the doors looking pretty cool when the benches are folded up.  

Having seen handball a couple of days prior, I had an idea of what I was watching and it didn't take long to realize that the home team was superior. They were up 4-1 quickly and 11-6 before a run of three goals for the visitors made things close at halftime.

But that didn't last long as Berlin scored 8 of the first 10 markers in the second half and coasted the rest of the way, winning 28-19. The match started at 7:30 and ended before 9, making handball the fastest sport I have seen and worth attending just for that reason.


Fortunately, my lack of cash did not affect me on the following day, as my cards were again usable.

This was my 960th venue lifetime and certainly one of the most memorable. I expect to hit 1,000 sometime next year and am saving that for a special visit, if everything works out.



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