The Frankfurt Book Fair is the granddaddy of all book fairs. It is held annually in Frankfurt in their outrageously enormous conference center, the Messe Frankfurt. Easily five times the size of the Javits Center in New York, each of the ten halls are devoted to geographic regions representing publishing around the world. The U.S. publishers are in Halle 8 along with other English-speaking countries including the U.K, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, etc.
Frankfurt takes place in October and the weather is notoriously awful. It is usually in the fifties, grey and rainy. The fair is mobbed with people. For the Germans, the fair is both for the trade and on the weekend for consumers as well. Taxis are notoriously tough to come by and anyone attending should expect to walk and walk and walk both to get to and from hotels and the halls of the fair and to find a cab or reach a restaurant.
My colleague, Wayne, and I decided to attend the fair at the last-minute. This would normally be impossible, but two of our colleagues in the Book Fair business offered us the opportunity to sit in on some of their meetings. Scholastic still had two hotel rooms and, once our flights were booked, we were set. I had not attended Frankfurt since 2004 out of a deep-seated dislike, but this was a different set of circumstances. We made our plans and got ready.
Having decided at the last-minute to attend, we flew coach overnight. The arrival in Frankfurt was only eventful in that the day dawned sunny and bright. Were we really in the correct city? This was a delightful welcome.
We were staying at the Hotel Maritim which abuts the Messe property. This is extremely useful when the weather in Frankfurt is its usual drab and dreary rain. After checking in at the Maritim, we got cleaned up and headed for the fair. This would have been much easier if I hadn’t left my Exhibitor’s Pass on my desk in New York. Happily, my German skills stood me in good stead. We navigated the bureaucracy of replacing this important document and ended up with 50 Euros in our pocket to boot.
Right off the bat our meetings went well. Our app, Storia, is fantastic and there is nothing like it. We had loaded all of our screen shots onto our iPads and launched into the Wayne and Jenny Show at each booth. We shared many meetings with our friends from the Book Fairs and by the end of the fair, we could give each others’ presentations. It was pretty good fun. The response to Storia was extremely positive. This, along with the amazingly tasty fare at the Exhibitor’s Restaurant, made our two and a half days at the fair great fun.
Thursday night was the Scholastic Family Dinner–an annual event. All attendees at the fair have dinner together and Dick Robinson, CEO, gives a speech. The crowd is mostly the international division and it was a chance to meet some new people. Dinner was fantastic. We ate at a true German restaurant,Zum Gruenen Baum, with traditional decor and wooden tables and chairs. It was echt Deutsch. I was in heaven. Schnitzel, Leberkase, kartoffel salad, weiss wein…they fed us so much and so well that I was almost in pain.
Of course, the flight home was to be anticipated. Since it was the return and during the day, it would be an extravaganza of knitting. There are few better places to knit than an airplane. Complete and total attention to knitting is possible. The movies on Lufthansa were awful, but who cares, I had pink socks with cables to knit. The pattern was Errant Socks from Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner’s outstanding book, MASON DIXON KNITTING, and the yarn was Spud and Chloe Fine.
The trip was successful for business purposes. We had some very good meetings which will lead to long-lasting relationships. It was so wonderful to be in Germany again and to remember how much I delight in the German language, in the food, the people and just being there. I feel like I had a three-day vacation with a lot of business meetings. Vielen Dank.