Published: Thursday, 29 August 2013 Written by Walter Marthaler


This time, luckily for me, Stefan did not rope me in to write the official travel report (Reisebericht), but gave me the much less demanding task of bringing along presents for the different opposing teams (Gastgeschenke), which consisted of the newly designed (copyright Bruno Schurter?!) shoebags, which happen to be produced somewhere near where I live….

The actual travel report will be done by a new Bruno, i.e. Bruno Affentranger from Lucerne. He is a journalist, and I dare say he will be doing a smooth job describing our great memories of an exciting time spent in Italy’s Piemont area. So I can simply concentrate on noting down some personal IMPRESSIONS with no claim whatsoever for completeness or accuracy. And, naturally, my impressions will be of an absolutely personal and potentially biased nature. ENOUGH of this disclaimer stuff!

August 1st, 2013

On Swiss National Day I spent most of the time in Stefan’s or Toni’s car, especially the latter, travelling from Horgen to Bra and thereafter to Torino (for registration purposes) and back again to Bra.

The hotel in Bra, the’Albergo Cantine Ascheri’, was a splendid surprise. I would rate it as the BEST accommodation ever on a Flying Hoppers Tour.

After a joint welcome dinner together with the lady hockey players, the after dinner evening/night consisted of what was to become a regular feature, namely a visit to the TERRAZZA to sample some of the excellent wines of the region and to have a good chat. Pleasant indeed, as the weather on this tour was simply outstanding – perhaps a touch too hot for playing hockey, but most certainly ideal for imbibing red wines at night on the terrazza ! The first women to join in the wine drinking at the beginning were Dawn, Natalja or Natascha (originally from Russia) and Silvina. But soon enough plenty of hotel and non-hotel guests (but all from the Flying Hoppers or the ‘Zurich Sox & Co’ sides) occupied the TERRAZZA night after night, often into the early hours of the morning. Fantastic! At dawn the scene looked as if Hannibal’s elephants had trampled through, consuming vast amounts of wine, leaving scores of empty bottles… Well, in about 218 B.C. those elephants must indeed have passed through the very area, perhaps stopping in Bra after Ivrea?!

August 2nd

A hockey game in Torino against a South African side of a younger age category ended in a loss to us. (End result 3 : 5). The Flying Hoppers, particularly Toni, were quite unlucky in this game. Toni hit the post 3 times! What are the odds of this happening in any given game?!

Back in Bra in the evening, we took a bus to the BALADIN BREWERY. This visit is definitely worth a short description, since the old saying “they could not organise a piss-up in a brewery” came quite true….!

The marketing man, Fabio, constantly referred to a visionary guru, someone by the name of Teo, who had made this whole ‘Baladin experience’ happen in the small village of Piozzo. Fabio explained at great length the relatively short history of the Baladin brewery.

Some points/highlights from what I remember of Fabio’s explanations:
- It needs guts to start a micro-brewery in a wine region
- Teo took the name ‘Baladin’ from a travelling French circus troupe
- It all started off in a small pub in Piozzo (the pub is still there)
- Beer was first brewed in the kitchen area of the pub (originally a garage)
- They expanded and transferred the brewing to a chicken farm place nearby

The basic marketing ideas at play:
- Go against wine with high quality beer (to be enjoyed in a ‘wine-manner’)
- Package such niche-type high grade beers in wine bottles
- Offer many different varieties of speciality beer flavours
- Aim to be seen as an artistic company (design features etc.)
- Promote the beer as the only one in Italy made with 100% Italian sourced raw materials

After all the explanations both at the pub and in the former chicken farm, we finally went to visit the recently built new factory.

As is so often the case, in parts of such factories the temperature is quite high and the thoughts of an ice-cold beer must have been on a lot of the Hoppers’ minds. NOT TO BE, however. What we learnt was that the Japanese wanted some speciality beer for the Christmas season, but that they had ordered too late. Those pesky Japanese had not taken into account that people do not necessarily want to work hard (if at all) during August!

After the whole explanation tour ended we assembled at their speciality restaurant, part of the ‘Baladin experience’, and also part of a small boutique hotel with 3 differently themed bedrooms, a 1970’s Barbie room, a Zen room, and an Africa room. Mmn. If ever anybody should actually want to stay there, I would suggest the Africa room which at least has a nice balcony.

Seated in the restaurant, we waited for the ladies to arrive by bus from their late hockey game in Bra (a 2 : 2 draw against the Wasy Ducks). And finally they arrived, and we could all start with the beer drinking, but always in little quantities, i.e. a kind of wine drinking style beer drinking experience – you catch my drift. The many different varieties of NICHE-TASTE Baladin beers were being matched to the food being served. Towards the closing part of that evening, our Basel contingent, Andi and Carlos, became so thirsty and eager for a real beer that they sneaked out to gulp down a couple!

Of course nobody knows if Baladin beers will be a great success story in years to come.

What we did notice is that their marketing efforts are not quite up to scratch. At no point in the proceedings were we encouraged to BUY some of those boutique beers, nor was any pricing ever mentioned. Research done by Jaap and Pat later on in Torino revealed that such beers were selling in stores at about Euro 9.00.

From the Brewery expedition and dinner back by bus to Bra and … terrazza time!


A rest day and hence we could sleep in a bit. During the morning we went for a stroll in Bra, which is a very pleasant little city and apparently the birthplace of the Slow Food Movement. Towards noon and in the early afternoon different cars left at different times for Torino. Toni managed to take the wrong turn several times, prompting Natascha to phone from another car and ask why he could not simply ‘Tafeln nachfahren’?! However, despite these little detours we still arrived early in Torino and had some snacks/drinks before we all assembled at the Piazza Vittorio Veneto to march to the Piazza Castello for the Opening Ceremony of the World Masters Games 2013. A long wait ensued at the Piazza and, as so often on such occasions, the FLYING HOPPERS were recognised and admired for their ‘uniform’, i.e. the gentlemanly look with blazer and tie, worn regardless of the really hot weather.

The procession was a nice affair with ordinary Torino citizens lining the street and waving! Perhaps they do not have too many big international events in Torino? Once we had arrived at the Piazza Castello (a really impressive Piazza!) the event was over and we could all disperse to find our own place for dinner. Under the astute guidance of Coen we managed to get a table for 9 persons in a restaurant where the manager had at first resolutely refused us. Coen’s charm and tactics worked a treat and we had a very nice dinner.

Back to Bra thereafter and, you guessed it, terrazza time!

As this is not meant to be a regular travel report I can dwell more on personal impressions. A Flying Hoppers tour is always an event were I reconnect with longstanding friends, sometimes people who have been friends for many decades already, but I also enjoy meeting newcomers.

For me, this time around the newcomers were Bruno Affentranger and Andi Stuehlinger.
From Bruno I learned about the ‘Bolero’ magazine in Switzerland, and I was repeatedly told by other Hoppers that Bruno is extremely well connected, has met with lots of high ranking personalities, e.g. Bill Gates etc. etc. Well fancy. What was such a paragon doing in among us ordinary mortals?

Andi Stuehlinger said in his much younger days he might have played against me on the very old hockey field at the Hardturm, long gone now. But I somehow doubt this as he is quite a few years younger than me. However, I really liked his great sense of humour from the word go, and as a fellow defender I truly admired his still very skillful playing style.

I also very much appreciated meeting Monika Malzacher at long last, a lady I had heard so much about over the years. I admired her great hockey skills when watching the ladies play, and I really enjoyed having a chat with her.

And last, but certainly not least, I very much enjoyed chatting to Sophie de Montbron during a leisurely dinner. I did my best to put my rusty French to good use and just hope Sophie really understood what I was trying to say.

The women hockey side overall was very impressive and growing in confidence game by game, remaining unbeaten during the whole tournament and deservedly winning the GOLD MEDAL. An individual GOLD also for Silvina. Well done, all you ladies!

August 4th / August 5th

On the 4th, both the men and the ladies played their respective games in Bra, both teams winning, and in the evening we simply stayed at the Bra Hockey Clubhouse to eat and drink and celebrate.

On August 5th, we men lost the game in Torino, whereas the ladies won again in Bra.

In the evening we all went to the small town of Scaparone, where Willy on a previous trip had stayed in a romantic hotel which was known for its good food. Indeed, a most enjoyable evening.

On behalf of all participants I would very much like to thank Willy for his great initiative and skilful efforts in organising several sightseeing outings, which made this whole FLYING HOPPERS TOUR a culturally most interesting one.

To me, among all these fascinating sightseeing venues, the absolute highlights were:

CHERASCO, which I found even more interesting than LA MORRA and BAROLO.

CASTELLO DELLA MANTA and SALUZZO, which I preferred to ALBA.

And in terms of impressive landscape, well, the trip to the source of the River Po, i.e. up to over 2000m, would be hard to beat. All very fascinating. I shall treasure these great memories in years to come. Many thanks, Willy!

August 6th / August 7th

August 6th was a sightseeing day. On August 7th , we had another game in Torino, the team newly being reinforced by the arrival of Fedor, whilst Bruno (shoebag Bruno) was still missing. Luckily Jumbo had made his way to Torino without relying on the support of the chief of transport/logistics.

Fedor was kind enough to organise at short notice a pizza dinner in Torino. For once we were eating at a perfectly ordinary place, a down to earth kind of restaurant, which was indeed a change after our elaborate dinners at that Slow Food speciality restaurant in Bra. I enjoyed a good chat with Corinne and Michelle who had just returned from a successful shopping outing to Milano.

August 8th / August 9th

On August 8th , we played again in Torino – for once a very one-sided win to us. The opposing South African side selected Stefan as best player from our team to drink a substantial amount of beer! The ladies watching during that day also got into the mood of drinking, and rumour has it that seven bottles of white wine somehow evaporated?

And lo and behold, on this 7th day of the tour, towards the evening, our logistics chief Bruno finally turned up.

August 9th was one of those nice sightseeing days.

In the evening, and at short notice yet again, Fedor managed to book tables at a great restaurant for all the players of both teams as well as their supporters – amazing! I hugely enjoyed the elaborate meal at the ‘Albergo dell’Agenzia’ in Pollenzo. Many thanks, Fedor!


We had qualified for the FINAL game against the Italian side with which we drew in an earlier game 3 : 3.

But in the playoff we were rather unlucky, and the Italians prevailed during the very end of the game which resulted in 5 : 3.

Well, after Melbourne and Sydney winning the SILVER MEDAL for the THIRD TIME is surely an impressive success story. As to our dream of finally winning GOLD, this will have to wait at least until Auckland in 2017.

The ensuing medal ceremony took quite some time, but most certainly the farewell dinner party took up even more time of that day – and night. A splendid time was had by all, I believe.

A subjective list of BEST achievements hereafter to round off my impressions:

BEST NEW PLAYERS: Andi (Stuehlinger) and Bruno (Affentranger)
BEST PHOTOGRAPHER (as usual): Reinhard
BEST CFO (as usual): Coen
BEST TACKLE (in the FINAL): Carlos
BEST SUPPORTERS (MALE): Bruno, Patrick, Retus
BEST SUPPORTERS (FEMALE): Billy, Corinne, Evi, Irena, Kava, Michelle, Muus, Pat and all the hockey ladies

Do hope I have not forgotten anyone!

Long live The Flying Hoppers and CHEERS to many great tours ahead.

Walter 'Wasabi' Marthaler