From The East End To Eastern Europe
When And Where Is The Match Itself?
FC Astra Giurgiu v Celtic will take place on Thursday, November 6th, at 6pm GMT (8pm local time in Romania). The match will be held in the Stadionul Marin Anastaosovici, an 8,500 seater stadium located in the Romanian city of Girugiu. In the days following the Europa League group stage draw, there was some initial speculation as to whether the match between Celtic and Astra would be held here or in Romania’s capital city, Bucharest. However, it has now been confirmed by Celtic that the tie will indeed take place in Giurgiu, in the stadium I have already referred to.
Celtic’s official travel branch today announced its price estimate for their day trip charter to this tie, approximately £370-390 (excluding match ticket cost). As with the other fixtures, this charter will only run should there be sufficient interest (the proposed charter to Salzburg has already been cancelled due to lack of demand).
Who Are F.C. Astra Giurgiu?
That’s a fair question. I, like most people, had never heard of Astra Giurgiu prior to the draw for this season’s Europa League. However, there’s actually a rather good reason for that, because until the summer of 2012, Astra Girigiu played under a different name in a different city, ninety miles away (the equivalent of Glasgow to Dundee, plus a few miles).
Previously known as Astra Ploiesti, their owner made the decision to move them to Giurgiu after playing in Ploiesti since 1921. The “Black Devils” play in black and white, and recorded their highest league finish ever last season, ending the campaign in second place behind Steaua Bucharest by five points. Astra also won the Romanian Cup for the first time last season, beating the aforementioned Steaua on penalties (they repeated the feat in the Romanian Super Cup Final also).
Thus far this season, they sit first in the league table, having won five of their six matches.
In their short European history, Astra Giurgiu have only ever lost at home once, to Lyon, whom they then defeated away from home to book their place in this season’s group stages.
Put simply, whilst you may not have heard of Astra Giurgiu, it would be very unwise to underestimate them.
There are only two international airports located less than two hundred kilometres away from the city of Giurgiu, which can be found on the very southern edge of Romania – so much so that the other side of the River Danube which straddles the city is actually Bulgaria. Anyway, returning to the subject of airports, both of these nearby international airports serve the city of Bucharest. Known as “Bucharest Baneasa Aurel Vlaicu International Airport” and “Henri Coanda International Airport”, they are located seventy-four and ninety-two kilometres (about forty-five and fifty-seven miles) away from Giurgiu respectively.
According to Wikipedia, Aurel Vlaicu Airport is reserved predominantly for business and VIP flights, so it is therefore probable most of you who fly out to Romania will land at Henri Coanda Airport, about ten miles north of Bucharest. British Airways, Easy Jet and Ryanair (amongst others) all fly here from London, so it is relatively accessible for travelling supporters.
As an aside, don’t be too concerned if you happen to spot any military planes or fighter jets in or around this airport, as a section of it is also a base for the Romanian Air Force.
Now, once you’ve arrived at the airport, you will likely wish to make your way into the city. As with most large airports, there are a variety of methods in which this can be done. Shuttle buses run from the terminal to a nearby train station where lines run into Bucharest’s central station, “Gara De Nord”. Equally, the 780 and 783 bus services run from the airport straight to “Gara De Nord” or into the city centre respectively.
Taxis are also available, but there have been incidences in the past upon which tourists have been charged exorbitant fees for the short ride into the city by some less than trustworthy drivers, so its worth keeping this in mind.
Anyway, a fully detailed and fantastic guide to getting from the airport to the city centre can be found here.
Getting To The Ground
By road, the city of Giurgiu is approximately forty miles south of Bucharest.
At this point, it is unclear whether or not any unofficial buses will be organised to transport away supporters (more information on this if and when it becomes apparent). There are also public buses which run between the cities and cost somewhere in the region of £18 each way.
Strictly speaking, if you can find a taxi driver willing to adhere to the distance fares which are supposed to implemented in Bucharest and the surrounding areas, a one way taxi journey to Giurgiu should cost somewhere in the region of one hundred Leu (£20). Now, if you split that between a few of you, it becomes very reasonable indeed. However, nearly every travel site I’ve looked at has said you must agree a price with the driver before leaving in order to avoid being scammed.
There are also trains which run between the two cities, but for some reason I have not yet managed to ascertain, they seem to take well over two hours (sometimes closer to three) to do so. For this reason, it might be an idea to avoid them.
The currency which is used in Romania is the Romanian Leu. Each Leu is made up of one hundred Bani. Romania originally planned to swap to the Euro at the beginning of 2015, but this now looks unlikely.
The present exchange rate means £0.18 equals one Leu. Roughly speaking therefore, you can consider five Leu to be the equivalent of one pound.
According to a couple of websites, pints of lager range in price from about sixty pence to a pound in Romania, so you should be able to enjoy yourselves without spending a vast amount of money.
Note: Remember currency rates are subject to change, the £0.18 = 1 Leu may well go up or down closer to our tie with Astra.
What Will The Weather Be Like?
At this point, I haven’t been able to find any weather information specifically related to Giurgiu, but as there is only forty miles between the southern city and Bucharest, I will refer to that city’s weather instead, presuming the two must be fairly similar. On this area of the continent, there are enormous swings in temperature every year, with the summer months generally reaching highs of about 30C and the winters finding lows well below freezing. For this reason, the beginning of November may not be the worst time to travel, with the average daily temperature sitting somewhere around the 5C mark.
However, the issue with the weather in this area of Romania is that it can vary wildly from expectations on occasion. For example, the record high temperature in November is 25C whilst the record low is -18C.
Basing a prediction on averages alone, hopefully the weather when Celtic visit will be not wholly dissimilar to the Scottish equivalent, with similar temperatures but perhaps a little snowfall.
However, averages cannot always be relied upon, so I’d advise checking the weather forecast in the days running up to your departure just to be sure.
Can I Take A Tour Of The Stadium?
I haven’t been able to find any information in this regard, so if anyone can shed any light on the subject feel free to contact me. In all honesty, with such a small ground, tours simply may not run in Giurgiu.
UEFA regulations dictate that home clubs must offer away supporters a minimum of 5% of their stadium for European matches. This means that as a minimum, Celtic should receive an allocation of approximately 425 tickets for this tie.
Presumably, a number of these tickets will be taken up by investors and those travelling on one of Celtic’s official charters.
Generally speaking, away European tickets are only available to Celtic season ticket holders, with an individual’s recent away European attendance record being used to allocate them with a grade. Grade A season ticket holders have attended the most matches of late and will stand the best chance of getting any desired ticket. As the grades fall from B through to E (E being the lowest), this chance will fall incrementally. If you are unsure which grade applies to you then I would advise you to contact Celtic’s ticket office.
However, above all else, it is the demand for tickets coupled with allocation size which will increase or decrease your individual chance of being allocated an away ticket.
High profile matches in easy to reach destinations (see Ajax last year, where our allocation was the minimum applicable) can prove very difficult to get a ticket for even for those with a high ticket grading; equally, less desirable matches in larger stadia (see Milan last year) were readily available to any season ticket holder who desired to attend the tie.
At this point, it is unclear how large the demand for away tickets will be in Giurgiu and what price said tickets will be.
This information will be updated here when it is made available.
Eating And Drinking
As was briefly mentioned earlier, food and drink is comparatively cheap in Romania. However, simply because prices are fairly low and some stereotypes are perhaps somewhat unkind, much of the food in Romania is supposedly rather good.
According to travel website “Romania Insider”, you won’t have to walk far to find a bakery in Bucharest, with a wide array of pretzels, doughnuts and other popular items on sale throughout the city.
An array of the usual fast food outlets which you would find around the world are also present.
As for bars, three Irish pubs are grouped closely together in the middle of Bucharest, the details and map of which can be found below. Also, it is noteworthy there appears to be a lot of bars and restaurants grouped around the area in which St Patrick’s and Dirty Harry’s can be found.
1. St Patrick’s – Smardan Street 23-25, Bucharest
2. Dirty Harry’s – 3 Franceza St. , Bucharest
3. The Harp – Strada Bibescu Voda 1, Bucharest