Soccer really starts, and some would argue ends, with your trip to KAISERSLAUTERN. Many GIs will fondly remember this as a place to party hardy, thereby setting back German-American relations decades, although maybe not as bad as in Nürnberg. This is the home of one of the most hardcore supported clubs in all Germany, 1.FC Kaiserslautern.
Just south of K-town is the small town of PIRMASENS, whose local club FK Pirmasens was once a stronghold of soccer in the southwest. Now they are merely another crappy village team, although if you're there, you should check it out. Heading east from Pirmasens on the road to Landau, we run into the village of Hauenstein, which nobody had ever heard of until they popped up in the Regionalliga a couple of years back. The local club, SC Hauenstein is now back to it's rightful place in obscurity. The southeast corner of the Rheinland-Pfalz is made up of mostly obscure villages that nobody cares about. Some 10 miles east of Pirmasens, on the N-S A65 highway, is the town of LANDAU, which is basically avoidable, although it may be worth a stop if you can catch a game of the local team, ASV Gummi-Mayer Landau. They've probably dropped the "Gummi-Mayer", despite the fact that it's a great name.
The village of BELLHEIM is hardly worth mentioning, except that for one brief moment they held the spotlight. Back in the early 70s, the town became the smallest town in Germany with a "professional" club, as the local FC Phönix Bellheim gained promotion to the old Regionalliga Südwest. I think they lasted maybe two seasons. The only other event worth mentioning is that I think there was a big rock concert with Led Zeppelin about the same time in some nearby cow pasture. (Germersheim?) If Phoenix is no longer in operation, you could head southeast and cross the river and go to Karlsruhe.
Only about 4 km east of K-town is the village of ALSENBORN, which actually only exists because of soccer, SV Alsenborn. In the late 1960s, this tiny village rose to the heights of 2nd division soccer, even making the playoffs for Bundesliga promotion. If they had made it, it would have created a sensation. Their most famous player was Lorenz Horr, who later went on to the national squad and then infamy by accepting bribes at Hertha BSC Berlin. He then had a fine career in South Africa...not.
The town of MAINZ is now the capital of Rheinland-Pfalz. Most tourists favor Wiesbaden, across the river in Hessen. One thing that will be obvious quite quickly is that this town favors wine instead of beer, which probably accounts for the wimpier soccer tradition. There are several good Weinstuben in the city, and you should defintely check them out for a change of pace. Aside from sampling, you might also want to check out the Gutenberg-Museum, which has been improved quite a bit since they days when he was almost run out of town by the scribe union. What?! A museum?! The wine must have gone to my head...So on to matters of greater importance. The local soccer club FSV Mainz O5 was usually a crap team, although recently they have had a couple of decent seasons. They used to play in checker-board uniforms until Croatia became independant and bought all the checker uniforms on the open market.
Leaving Mainz and heading north on the Rhein, we enter the famous Rhine Gorge. This has some spectacular scenary, although it is pretty winding, so it would be a good idea not to have a hangover. The first stop is the village of BINGEN. Most tourist boats prefer Rüdesheim across the river, because it's so quaint and picturesque. Barf. Who cares? They don't have a soccer team! Meanwhile, Bingen not only has a team worth checking out, Hassia Bingen, but also has a rather neat landmark - the Mäuseturm. (Mousetower). Local legend, which dates back about 10 years ago to catch some tourist dollars, states that in the middle ages some mean Archbishop Hatto was annoyed by some bothersome starving peasants (they're always starving aren't they?), so he locked them in a barn and set it on fire. Then he was chased by mice into the tower and devoured. Sounds like a Monty Python episode, but I saw it mentioned in two seperate guide books, so it must be true. The other famous person from Bingen is the 12th century Abtess Hildegard Von Bingen, who despite never having attended a soccer match, was quite the cultural whiz.
As you head to the northeast corner, the Westerwald region is pretty bereft of usable soccer, so you might decide to avoid the area. However, it is home to the world famous "WSV-Szene-Westerwald", an exiled group of Wuppertaler SV supporters, so it can't be all bad. You could probably get a decent beer here somewhere...
Starting in KOBLENZ is an area that could be described as the Mittelrhein and the beginning of the Moselland. At the insection of the Rhine and Mosel rivers is the famous Deutsches Eck. ("German corner"). It's claim to German-ness is the alleged location of a settlement of the Deutsche Ritterorden (Order of the Teutonic Kinghts) in 1216. In 1897, Kaiser Wilhelm had a monument constructed for his forced unification of Germany, which was wiped out in 1945. In 1993 a copy was reconstructed to celebrate the more peaceful reunification with the GDR. Of course the main reason to visit would be to check out the local club, Tus Koblenz.
Most tour guides would then have you take a leisurely boat trip down the Mosel (or Rhein) so you could catch all the castles, wine and the Cliffs of the Lorelei (Germany's version of The Spice Girls). But not Abseits. In fact, we recommend you take something like the Skater Powerboat 36, which has a speed of 180 mph. That should get you to your next destination, TRIER. This is in fact the oldest city in all Germany. In the days of Asterix and Obelix it was known as Augusta Treverorum, duelly named after the captain of AS Roma (Augustus) and a local soccer team, Treveri. There are plenty of well preserved Roman ruins, the most famous of which is the Porta Nigra, all that remains of the old soccer stadium. (This "Black Gate" was the entry for visiting supporters.) Trier is also famous as the birthplace of Karl Marx. He apparently wrote a few books and stuff. His sons Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo and Gummo went on to become world famous actors and commedians. More importantly than all that old stuff, this is the home of Eintracht Trier, which after decades of obscurity has risen like a Phoenix out of the Götterdämmerung (Do I sense a Wagnerian opera complete with Nibelungen und Die Spice Mädchen, err, Loreleis?). Also of note is the nearby small village club FSV Salmrohr.
The rest of the area isn't too important, except for the town of BITBURG, which is the home of famed Bitburger beer. "Bitte ein Bit!"...
(c) Abseits Guide to Germany - www.abseits-soccer.com