Saarland (The Saar)

The Saar is basically somewhat of a dump that makes you wonder why the French and Germans would go at it every once in a while. One of the smallest German states, it's history in the 20th century has seen it move in and out of Germany. After WWI, it was under a League of Nations mandate, and essentially occupied by the French until 1935. After WWII, a similar situation existed. Surprisingly, in 1952, the electorate voted against rejoining Germany, and it wasn't until 1957 that the Saar was officially German again. In the meantime, the locals kept their independence by doing things like sending teams to the chess olympiads. (For more details on Saarland football during "independence", check out the short essay Saarland for the WorldCup) Today, the whole region basically survives on massive government subsidy to prop up the declining mining industry. Yet beyond the industrial wasteland, there are lots of interesting villages, and a surprisingly vibrant soccer culture that makes this region worth a visit.

The major town, and only city, is drab SAARBRÜCKEN. There isn't much worthwhile for yuppie tourists, but for the rest of us, you could head to the streets around Johannismarkt for lots of pubs and restaurants, and the student area of the Chinesenviertel also is worth checking out. Also worth mentioning is the Gasthaus zum Stiefel, which has it's own house brewery. From the soccer standpoint, 1.FC Saarbrücken is the city's flagship, and the weak sister is Saar 05. Just west of the city is the town of VÖLKLINGEN, which was host to the poetic club named Röchling Vöklingen, which I believe to be defunct. If you head north on 623/41 or via train, you soon come to the town of SPIESEN, and it's district of Elversberg, which is the home of the scrappy little club SV 07 Elversberg, and this is worth a stop if they're playing. Continuing north, we come to NEUNKIRCHEN, home of the traditional Saar powerhouse Borussia Neunkirchen . You may also want to see if there really are neun kirchen. NE of Saarbrücken off BAB 6 is the town of HOMBURG, which is the home of current Saar powerhouse FC Homburg. This club was once renowned throughout Germany as having more foreigners than Germans. They became less famous when a few years later Cottbus fielded teams with no Germans...

If you have time you may try and find the village of THELEY, and the local club VfB Theley, although you'll probably get lost and end up in the village of Tholey. This club once made a cameo appearance in the old Regionalliga SW in the 1970s. I'll give you a hint: head west from the village of St. Wendel. Or take a east turnoff of BAB 1.

(c) Abseits Guide to Germany :