Norwich City fans drive 17 cars 2200 miles on nostalgic UEFA Cup pilgrimage
PUBLISHED: 16:09 15 October 2019 | UPDATED: 09:58 16 October 2019
Thousands of miles, cars full of Canaries fans and a trip to remember. Dan Wynne shares his highlights of an epic journey through western Europe almost 30 years after the UEFA Cup run that saw Norwich City conquer Bayern Munich.
Last week 17 cars completed an epic 2200-mile journey through western Europe, calling in at the three venues Norwich City visited during their 1993 UEFA Cup run, in order to raise money for the Community Sports Foundation's Build The Nest campaign.
Dan Wynne and photographer Alex Guest from the Foundation's Communications team tagged along in an attempt to document the remarkable trip.
Norwich - Arnhem
423 miles, 9 hours 19 minutes.
Countries: Four (England, France, Belgium, the Netherlands).
It began in darkness at 5am in Sprowston as I picked up a bleary-eyed Alex from his mum's house.
As events transpired, an unfortunate crash on the M20 had brought the chasing pack to a standstill, and the rest of the group were to miss their original, and five subsequent, Eurotunnel departures.
An early setback for sure, but a sense of perspective for those caught up in the accident was by far the overriding mood.
Alex and I drove through scenery that Alex described as "four hours of the Acle straight in the rain", as the realisation that the eight hours we'd already spent in the car was less than 20pc of the driving we had lined up over the next five days.
We arrived in Arnhem and grabbed dinner with a German friend of ours called Valentina, and even she, who will quite happily nip to another country just for dinner, was astounded at the trip that lay ahead of us.
Arnhem - Munich
455 miles, 8 hours 53 minutes.
Total distance covered: 878 miles, 18 hours 12 minutes
Countries: Two (the Netherlands, Germany).
The delay on day one meant that the teams met at the Gelredome on Thursday morning instead, where we staged pictures with the cars and captured a lovely group shot of everyone.
It was amazing to see the different cars taking part, including a Bentley GT, a Tesla Model S, and a souped-up, retro-looking Golf.
We reached Munich in beautiful twilight and plotted a course to the Olympiastadion, scene of the most famous Norwich City win of all time, but our dreams were dashed as the stadium itself was locked up for the night.
We wandered into the hotel in Munich City Centre, a quick turnaround and we were back with the group and following someone's lead to the Hofbräuhaus, a famous Bavarian beer hall, for a sausage platter and a stein of the Hofbräuhaus original.
The weary travellers enjoyed their evening in fine spirits.
Munich - Milan (and back a bit)
Stage distance: 331 miles, 7 hours 43 minutes
Total distance covered: 1,209 miles, 25 hours 55 minutes
Countries: Four (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Italy) and one principality (Liechtenstein).
We were up at the crack of dawn and in the car to begin the 300-mile journey to Milan and the iconic San Siro stadium, at least two hours ahead of the other rally-ers.
At the point the Alps came into full view everything began to look how we'd imagined it to be when we first put our names down to take part in the rally.
As we crossed into Switzerland and began to get a bit hungry, I suggested that we hop over the river and see what Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein had to offer; it was probably the best decision of the entire trip.
We jumped in the car to make our way back onto the Swiss A13 and cue my trip highlight, as our route out took us past the Rheinpark Stadion, the 7,500 capacity home of the Liechtenstein national football team, the most incredible setting for a stadium you are ever likely to see.
Conveniently a large gate was open on one side and we pulled over in the car park, grabbed the camera and wandered in completely unchallenged to grab some shots for the Instagram account.
We had been there for less than a minute when a group of lads in tracksuits appeared holding washbags, the unmistakable off-pitch look of the footballer. It was the Liechtenstein national team! What a brilliant chance encounter.
After going to the San Siro stadium and taking a ground tour, we caught a handful of the group including Kyle and Keith from Team Ovamill, and the guys and girls from Team U Pukki, who stood in the stands and reminisced about their visit in 1993.
Technically, that's where the journey home began as we made the short trip back to Switzerland and our hotel next to Lake Lugano, a scene straight from a bond movie.
A dinner and celebration evening had been arranged for the evening that included the presentation of a number of prizes, the most popular of which was the Scavenger Hunt trophy, which was awarded to the members of Team U Pukki, who had very sadly lost team member David Powell just weeks before the challenge.
They received the trophy to a large ovation and raised it to the sky in David's honour.
Lugano - the Nürburgring
Stage distance: 429 miles, 8 hours 30 minutes
Total distance covered: 1,638 miles, 34 hours 25 minutes
Countries: Two (Switzerland, Germany)
With all three stadiums in the bag, Saturday was simply a case of getting to the Nürburgring in our own time, stopping when and where we fancied along the way.
We got there around 10pm and joined the teams in the bar as we waited for the tail-enders to trickle in. I glanced at the location map and noticed that peculiarly Team 12, Michael and Ben, who had claimed to be 35 minutes away, were now heading in the opposite direction towards Frankfurt. I sent them a message via WhatsApp to point this out and indeed, their navigation app had let them down.
Their new arrival time was now 1:15am and although our communication was text-based, you could sense their hearts sinking. By this point of the rally, the camaraderie was such that nobody had gone to bed by the time they finally entered the hotel reception to be greeted with a round of applause and celebratory beers.
Day Five: The Homecoming
The Nürburgring - Norwich
Stage distance: 512 miles, 11 hours 47 minutes
Total distance covered: 2,150 miles, 46 hours 12 minutes
Countries: Five (Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, England)
We began the long haul back to Norwich through the Netherlands, Belgium and France, while reading out the stream of messages on WhatsApp from the rally-ers who were thanking Simon, Fran, Tracy, and Ian from organisers and event sponsors Credo Asset Finance, and discussing the friends they'd made while arranging reunions and plans for next year. Sweden anybody?
We finally rolled back onto Alex's mum's driveway where it all began, in the dark once more at 10pm on Sunday night.
All the teams took part to raise money for the Community Sports Foundation's newly-launched Build The Nest campaign, which is aiming to raise £1 million to build the second phase of our community hub on the edge of Horsford.
If you're not familiar with the plans, you can find out more about it at www.thenest.org.uk and perhaps, ever-so-kindly make a donation, which will be matched pound-for-pound by Norwich City Football Club.
We'd be really grateful, and you'd be helping us to make a difference to so many people in Norfolk, which is why we all do what we do on a day-to-day basis. Unsurprisingly, this was a fairly non-standard week for us. But what a week it was.