One Night in Hannover

I’ve been very good about procrastinating when it comes to this blog, but hey, do what you’re good at right? Right now I’d like to express some feelings about the events that took place about a week ago, now that I’m a little more removed from them.

I’m a sports fan. I love seeing new stadiums, and the atmosphere and fans that surround them. I am also a huge German national football team fan. When Lauren and I began to think about this trip, I looked to see if there would be a game we could attend. It turned out an international break was scheduled and the Germans were playing a friendly against the Netherlands in Hannover. Yippie! I was going to see the current world champions.

Unfortunately, once we were in Hannover and were looking forward to the game, the attacks in Paris on Friday, November 13 happened. I won’t go into detail, but I will say I was worried that they’d cancel the game. It was on Sunday after the attacks that the teams announced that they would play. Yippie once more. Luck was on my side.

Matchday finally came and it felt like Christmas morning. I was too excited with childlike glee to think of much else. As game time approached, I couldn’t do anything expect try to sit quietly in my Miroslav Klose jersey and watch Empire Strikes Back to pass the time.

The time finally came and we were on our way to the stadium. The trick to get there was simple: follow the other people dressed like me.

We walked from the underground station for a few minutes until we arrived at the fan zone. There were beer, food vendors, tents and other spaces ready for the chance of rain that was forecasted. I got a free flag to support the German team fan club. The team employee, a young 20-something woman, was a little surprised when I said we came all the way from Canada for this.

Lauren took my picture outside the fan bus and we made our way around to our gate. I wanted to get in as soon as I could. Maybe even catch some warm-ups.

Geoff Bus

The police presence around the HDI Arena was intense. Riot squads, swat teams and general police carrying sub-machine guns. They were ready for anything. It felt nice to know we were protected but I also felt uneasy about all added police with too many weapons.

It was just under two hours before kickoff as Lauren and I waited to enter the stadium. Time passed at a snail’s pace. All I wanted was to be inside. Then it happened: about an hour and a half before the match, they began to let people in. It was happening! I was going to see Die Mannschaft.

That’s when I saw a gate security guard run and heard him yell something forcefully. The people who were let in came back out and the gates closed. After a few minutes we heard an announcement over a megaphone. It was the police, but we couldn’t understand the fast-spoken German. I asked the man behind me if he spoke English and he informed me that the game was cancelled. I then asked a policeman what was going on, and he said to leave this area immediately and return to our home.

In case of situations like this Lauren and I discussed, as we have throughout the trip, where to meet if we split up and how to get our bearings in case something happened at the game. It was a good thing we were prepared I guess.

As we walked, the number of sirens and police barricades grew exponentially. The people of Hannover calmly left the stadium and although it looked crazy, it was very civil and orderly. It was as if the people of Hannover knew there was no real threat and were just going through the motions without getting upset.

We didn’t have WiFi, we don’t speak German, and we’re strangers to the city in a foreign country. But we didn’t need to know any of that to know we needed to get the hell out of dodge.  We assumed it was a terrorist scare due to the amount of police and from recent events in Paris. I was disappointed the game got cancelled, but at that moment I only cared about getting Lauren and myself to safety.

Having walked the city core a few times I knew the way by foot back to our rental apartment. We decided it was better to avoid public transit and walk until the tram came back up to street level and take it for the few stops that we needed.

More than an hour later, we arrived back at our apartment around the same time the game was scheduled to start. It was only then we heard reports of a mysterious piece of luggage at the stadium and train station, an ambulance full of explosives, and a “concrete threat,” plans to detonate several bombs inside the stadium.

We informed our families and friends to let them know we were okay. A little rattled, yes, but that’s about it. Hannover authorities were telling residents to stay inside and the city was on high alert. The only problem was we were leaving Hannover the next day for Munich.

Thankfully, we were able to take our train without any problems or delays. Now we’re in Munich, away from danger (we hope). Reports say that there were no immediate threats at the stadium that night and that there were no less than four explosions planned. I guess they’re still trying to figure it out.

I can’t help but think that fear has gotten the better of the world. I know it’s for the best that we evacuated the arena, and even though I’m upset about not seeing the German national team play, I’m infinitely happier to be safe from physical danger. We have three more soccer/football games to attend and I hope those games go off without a hitch.

I think it’s best to not live in fear of something happening and for this reason, we’re not cutting our trip short because of these terrorist scares. Instead, we’ve decided to extend our trip longer than we initially planned. As the saying goes, “Your life starts when your comfort zone ends.”

– Geoff

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