Ben McJunkin – An Essen First-Timer: Day 0

Well, folks.  This is what you’ve been waiting for: Essen is here.  Yesterday was officially “setup” day, while today was “press” day.  Tomorrow the halls will open to the public.

As a first-time Essen attendee, I thought it would be helpful to share my experiences with you, though to be honest the first day and a half (we got in late last night) has been such a whirlwind, it is hard to find the time to translate my thoughts into posts.  Let me start by sharing a few lessons already learned in my brief time abroad.

Lesson 1: Cash is King.  While my wife and I were well-prepared for the fact that most of the venders during the SPIEL fair will only take cash, we were entirely unprepared for just how rarely our American credit cards would work outside the Messe.  Throughout Europe, merchants have switched to a chip-and-pin credit card system not yet adopted in the States.  That means that our chip-less plastic was utterly useless even at places that ostensibly take credit.  Our meals, our train tickets, even a brief visit to the vet, all required us to hand over the cold hard cash we had been saving to spend on games.

Lesson 2: Carbs are Your Friend.  Roaming RuttenscheiderStrasse (the large street of shops and restaurants near the Messe), my wife and I were both struck by the sheer number of bakeries populating Essen.  Gleaming pretzels, gorgeous cakes, and fragrant breads drew our attention in nearly every direction that we walked.  More importantly, the various baked goods that we’ve tasted since arriving have been far-and-away the best items we’ve tasted while in town.  Even when offered as a mere accouterment to a meal, the breads have been the real star.  Don’t restrain yourself.  Carb it up.

You want all of this. Trust me.

[More life lessons, pictures, and…oh yeah, games(!) after the jump.]

Lesson 3: The Train is Not Worth It. Our plane landed in Dusseldorf Airport at 5:30 pm and it took us until after 7:00 pm to reach our hotel in Essen’s Ruttenscheid district.  During nearly that time, we were packed like sardines (sardines carrying massive suitcases we eventually intended to fill with games) into three different trains: the air train from the airport to the station; the commuter train filled with – surprise! – commuters between Dusseldorf and Essen, and the Essen subway taking us from the central station to our hotel.  With the exception of the air trains, none of these was particularly luggage friendly and we often were not in position to have a seat.  The train cost 21 Euros for my wife and I; the cab would have cost double that, but would have saved us an hour of hassle, frustration, and body odor.  Next time I’ll know better.

Lesson 4: You Will Get Sick. You hear this every year, but it’s true.  Between all the people you meet, the hands you shake, and the various plane rides full of delicious recirculated air, you’re going to catch something.  Since I stopped in Norway on the way here, I was a couple days ahead of the curve and I am already coming down with something.  It’s the cost of doing business, I guess.  Be prepared.

Okay, okay…on with the show!

I guess it’s sort of official.

Alright, so as I mentioned today was “press” day.  For the most part, “press” events at the Messe involve everyone mingling around someone’s booth at a given time, often with alcohol involved.  This was fun.

Me with artist Klemens Franz.We were admiring the beautiful Caverna.

Gordon & Friedemann: hard at work.Mush! Mush! turned out even better than I expected.

However, the day wasn’t all fun and games.  Stands were rather barren this morning, meaning today involved far more setup than press time for the exhibitors.  Many company’s shipments didn’t arrive until the late afternoon, requiring some rush work to get everything in order.  Most of the people I spoke with cited the lack of familiarity with new hall layouts as part of the reason that setup was not going as smoothly as in previous years.

Even by late afternoon, the halls seemed rather empty.

Though by the end of the evening most companies were ready for tomorrow’s big opening.

This was actually taken pretty early. Days of Wonder was just on the ball.

After a delicious dinner of veal sausages and pig knuckle, I retired to my room to admire my early loot (pre-orders and the like).

This will get much larger over the next four days.

That’s it for tonight.  Tchuss!






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4 Responses to Ben McJunkin – An Essen First-Timer: Day 0

  1. Fraser says:

    That doesn’t look like mead that Gordon and Friedemann are drinking ;-)

    We predominantly used cash in Europe. Australian credit cards started switching to chip & pin some years ago but both with and without are still accepted here, but in Europe we just hit ATMs periodically and used cash.

    I am assuming that you can get in early on the normal days. If you can, do so one day and watch the crowd surge through the halls when the gates open for the public. it is quite amazing!

  2. huzonfirst says:

    Great report, Ben. Glad you’re enjoying things so much. But only you could travel to Germany, home of meat, MEAT, and more meat, and focus on the carbs! You partially redeemed yourself with your Weisswurst dinner.

    Have fun at the opening of the festivities tomorrow. We’ll be anxiously awaiting your haul once you get home.

  3. lornadune says:

    Nice meeting you Ben!

  4. will sargent says:

    Ben, make sure you get currywurst with fries and mayo before you leave – even better if from some brightly lit roadside vendoing caravan. Thanks for the updates – keep em coming.

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