PPF – Passport Friday
When I arrived in London four years ago, my friend was going away with a group of guys on a boys trip into Europe, on something called PPF or Passport Friday, which I thought was simply brilliant. The premise is simple. One of the guys, chosen by people on the previous PPF, is given full control over booking the next trip, and everyone who is interested in coming pays £250 to him. On the day of the trip, we are given a meeting point after work on the Friday by the organiser, usually a central train station, where we are presented with boarding passes of the place we are going to, and the organiser fills us in with all the details of where we are going, and some sort of event he has planned on the Saturday at the location.
The name comes from the fact that we have to use our passports to get to the location – it therefore cannot be in the UK, but it could potentially be a Eurostar trip so it doesn’t have to be by plane. The locations so far have been Berlin, Madrid, Prague, Tallin/Helsinki (the first double city and only double country PPF so far!), Lisbon, Budapest, Copenhagen, Majorca, Dusseldorf/Cologne (the one I organised), Stavanger, and Bratislava. The first few trips began with a group of mates who weren’t married, and none were looking like getting married, who wanted an excuse to go on a bachelor party type weekend away with the lads. It now has grown into a regular group of at least 20 guys each trip (with at least one newbie) and does focus a bit more on the event, as well as the drinking! So far, one guy has made it to every single PPF (to the dismay of his fiancé!) and I have attended all of them since the Lisbon trip, PPF 5 – “Back to Basics”.
Dusseldorf and Cologne
I decided to take my friends to see a Bundesliga football game in Germany. Germany’s football teams in the Bundesliga are highly concentrated in the North-Rhine Westphalia area of Germany, including Borussia Dortmund, Schalke 04, Bayer Leverkusen, 1. FC Koln and Borussia Monchengladbach amongst others. One issue with trying to book ahead is the actual game times sometimes are not until a few weeks before the game. If you are interested in buying tickets to a game, this is important to note – some websites will show game times as Saturday afternoon but this can be subject to change, the official Bundesliga website is the only place that has actual game times (in English it is located here).
Dusseldorf – a great base for German football
The Bundesliga is unique amongst European football in that it still has standing zones in their stadiums. This is obviously the craziest place to watch the games, with many of the die-hard fans located here. I wanted to take my friends to the Borussia Dortmund’s 20,000 people standing area, but I couldn’t guarantee the game would be on the Saturday afternoon. So I decided to book flights and accommodation to Dusseldorf, having heard great things about the strip of bars at Dusseldorf in the Aldstadt, or the old town. The weekend I chose to go to Germany there were three different potential teams within half an hour of Dusseldorf by train – which makes it a great location as a base if you want to go to see a game. Unfortunately, Borussia Dortmund’s game ended up being on the Sunday, so I decided to go to the FC Koln game instead. The bonus of choosing Koln was that it has great Christmas markets and cheaper tickets, and a good standing zone at the game.
Dusseldorf is a large metropolitan city, and there are many airlines with connections with Dusseldorf all over Europe. We flew from London after work on Friday, landing at around 10pm local time and by 11pm we were out in the Aldstadt. There are many bars there, so to start with it is worth it to walk around and soak up the atmosphere. The Aldstadt is full of thousands and thousands of Germans and tourists having fun and drinking beer, particularly the Altbier, the locally brewed beer that is generally sold in 200ml glasses. Interestingly, in Dusseldorf most of the bars give you a card when you go to the bar, which they proceed to mark off a beer at a time on the card and when it is full or you are ready to leave, you go to the cashier and pay your bill. A good summary of the options in the Aldstadt is in the Independent, here.
Gameday and Christmas Markets
The next day, we woke up and made our way down to Cologne. As I had only a small number of tickets in the standing zone, and normal tickets for everyone else, I organised an ‘amazing race’ to decide who would get the standing tickets, with the winning team having to get photos of Dusseldorf and Cologne locations with their ‘mascot’, something each team had to bring with them on the trip, that was easily able to be carried with them and to be in each photo. I was waiting for all the teams in one of the Christmas markets in Cologne (there are many throughout the city), where I was enjoying some hot mulled wine (Gluehwein) and potato fritters (Kartoffelpuffer) to get rid of the hangover from the night before.
Once everyone had got to the markets, it was time to head to the stadium for the game. I had bought the tickets on viagogo, which is the easiest way to get tickets, but you do pay a premium. One of the sellers also only got in touch a few days before the game, which added extra levels of stress to the whole trip!! Overall, I do recommend Viagogo, but if possible getting electronic tickets is the best, or get tickets delivered by secure post, rather than picking the tickets up on game day.
The actual game and experience was to date, was probably the best footballing experience I have ever had, and up there with the best sporting experience I have had to (although the semi final and final of the Rugby World Cup at Twickenham last year topped that, watching the mighty All Blacks beat South Africa and Australia!). Following the Koln game, my friends and I have wanted to go to a Borussia Dortmund game, which we have finally booked in April. Stay tuned for an update on that experience!
Getting to Dusseldorf/Cologne
Dusseldorf and Cologne both have many flights from around Europe, and Cologne is also on the Thalys fast train line between Paris, Brussels and Germany. Dusseldorf’s airport is close to the city centre so it is great for a weekend trip from the UK.
We stayed at the A&O Dusseldorf hostel, which was completely fine for a boys trip and cheap!