Dortmund may not be able to offer stunning historic architecture like Cologne or beautiful walking opportunities like Bergisches Land, but this city in North Rhine-Westphalia is perfect for football fans the world over. Packed tightly with modern, grey buildings built after it was badly damaged during World War II and overrun with models of winged rhinos, the city is home to the largest football stadium in Germany and the country’s National Football Museum.
Incidentally, our local guide told us that the rhinos form a trail around central Dortmund and were an idea introduced by the concert house. The rhino is said to have fantastic hearing, much better than humans, and the wings represent a limitless approach to life and an encouragement to chase one’s dreams. The image of the winged rhino has now become the unofficial symbol of the city.
The Secrets Behind A Ferocious Atmosphere
Back to the beautiful game and we were lucky enough to enjoy a guided tour of Borussia Dortmund’s home ground. In a world where more and more stadiums are lending their names to companies in return for sponsorship money, the ground has been known as Signal Iduna Park since 2005. However, just as Stoke City fans still refer to their home as the Britannia Stadium and Derby County supporters still call their stadium Pride Park, fans of Dortmund still remember it fondly as the Westfalenstadion.
Before the tour, we were treated to a typical meal of Currywurst and fries, which fans regularly tuck into before a match. The tour itself offered a brief history of the club, which included details of how the stadium has expanded over the years and how, to the current fans’ horror, the team’s first shirts were the same colour blue as local rivals Schalke. The growth of the ground has been propelled by the city’s desire to host World Cup matches over the years. This resulted in the team moving to the current stadium in 1974 and was also the reason behind a capacity increase in time for the 2006 competition. The Signal Iduna Park can now hold just over 80,000 people, more than any other football arena in Germany.
As we toured the various different areas, it was easy to see how the famous match day atmosphere is created. The crowd are wound into a frenzy whilst the players emerge from the narrow tunnel to the sound of ‘Kashmir’ by Led Zeppelin to greet ‘The Yellow Wall’. This is the nickname given to the south stand as it holds 24,454 standing supporters all wearing the clubs vibrant colours. Something else that adds to the ferocious noise inside is the fact that refreshments are not served at all during the 90 minutes of football, not in the public areas or the private boxes. This means people stay in their seats, cheering the team on right up until the whistle.
Transfixed By ‘66
Across town, we also got the chance to take a look around the National Football Museum, which features artefacts and stories relating to the various successes of the German team over the years, as well as a look at the history of the Bundesliga. From the match ball used in the final of the 1954 World Cup to the penalty spot dug up after the 1974 victory and video packages displaying their latest triumph in 2014, the museum gives excellent incite that would interest both German natives and tourists.
One thing was obvious, though. Although the national team has won the ultimate prize in football four times, the country is still fixated with the one that got away. Numerous exhibitions are devoted to the 1966 final (which England obviously won), including the chance to watch the entire 120 minutes in real time and slow-motion clips to help you decide whether the ball did indeed cross the line. It did. Not that it mattered in the end anyway.
Although most of the video exhibitions are only in German for the time being, it was still fascinating to look at these various events through the eyes of one of the most successful national teams in world football. What is clear, though, is that even if you don’t support Borussia Dortmund, don’t speak German, and rue the way Germany have a distinct knack for knocking England out of major tournaments, a Dortmund city break is a superb choice for fans of the beautiful game.
If you would like to book a dedicated trip to Dortmund or a holiday that visits the city along with other destinations in the area, contact us and we will tailor-make your desired itinerary.