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Short report: best convention I’ve been to in years.

The flight out for [livejournal.com profile] jadedfox and I was uneventful, beyond being envious of Lufthansa’s business class. Even so, the food on the plane was a cut above any American airline I’ve been on in years (with the exception of Midwest, but their dinners are an extra charge!). I’d been preparing for a hassle at customs, but there wasn’t one. We were met at the airport by [livejournal.com profile] goldie_lesuere and driven the 275 km or so—around 170 miles—to Suhl. Since this was my first time in Germany, this was also the first time on the Autobahn, and thus my first time riding 200+ km/h for a sustained time. Goldie was extremely helpful, taking us down to an ATM at one point to pick up some Euros and, later, picking up an international power adapter for Jadedfox.

The Ringberg Hotel is a glorious venue for a con. The lobby is a huge space, with the reception desk and entrance to two restaurants at one end and an open-air bar and exit to a patio at the the other; the Ringberg filled part of the lobby with picnic tables and turned one restaurant into a staging area for a quick service food counter open nearly 24/7, and the other restaurant remained open with a breakfast and lunch buffet and an a la carte dinner service. The bartender, André, had created special drinks for the con (apparently last year, he’d been dubbed—possibly by himself—the “Hairless Master of Alcohol”), and we’ll just say that beer and liquor flowed very freely throughout my stay there.

The practical effect of the layout and the way the hotel staff treated it was to turn the entire lobby into a con hospitality suite with a non-stop party. This contributed a lot to the con’s “feel”; unless you hid in your room, you were going to be in a social atmosphere. I’m by no means a social butterfly myself, but I spent most of my free time around the bar area just talking to people. As [livejournal.com profile] duncanroo noted in his entry on EF, in addition to meeting new people, it was oddly easy to reconnect with more local folks who’d also made the trip.

My panels—a couple with Tim Susman, a couple with the other Guest of Honor Steve Gallacci, and a solo author reading—all went well. For the most part, the dreaded Well-Meaning Fan Guy Monopolizing The Conversation didn’t happen, with the exception of one WMFGMTC at the panel on creating memorable characters who, several minutes into a discourse on Asimov’s Foundation Series that seemed to have nothing in particular to do with character creation, was cut off by [livejournal.com profile] footpad’s outburst of “Would you please shut up!” (Tim was tempted to say, “Now, see, the guy who says what the rest of the room is thinking—that’s a character defining moment.”) I read the last scene of the first chapter of the new “Gift of Fire,” and the entirety of “Narrow Road in Morning Light.”

Speaking of memorable characters, every report is probably going to mention the Pawpet Show, “Dreamcatchers,” and this report will be no exception. I confess I’m not really a fan of the puppet show tradition, which was started by the “Funday Pawpet Show” crew in Orlando as a sort of quasi-interactive improv sketch comedy thing. With puppets. I gather EF’s show started much the same way—mostly comedy, with a set of recurring characters—but it’s evolved into a scripted puppet play. In three acts. With a plot dovetailing three character arcs in a fantasy story about love and loss. And multiple set changes, special effects, and original music. So far I haven’t seen a report on this show that doesn’t sound almost ludicrously OMG-squee-fan! complimentary—and the show deserves all of them. I suspect everyone cried at one point or another during the thing—yes, really—and it got upwards of a 10-minute standing ovation. [livejournal.com profile] cheetah_spotty, in addition to being EF’s chairman and chief con-runner, also wrote the script and directed the show, proving he’s completely nuts extremely talented.

And, yes, I’m biased because the show involved vampire bats.

A couple random notes in closing:

EF is certainly more open about sex of the fandom than American cons I’ve been to. There’s no separation of adult and non-adult artwork, the small dealers’ room had decidedly racy things displayed openly, and oh yes, there was the (admittedly rather tongue-in-cheek) Erotic Fursuit Dancing Contest. Did I mention the flyer about safe sex that came with the con book? Yet there are American cons I’ve been to or heard of (not all of which are furry, mind you) which were considerably more tawdry. I suspect sometimes it really is the attitude you approach such things with.

Euros are worth about 1/3rd more than the dollar currently, which has the net effect of making everything look cheap. Cocktails for €5 or 6! A dinner of a pepper-encrusted boneless pork chop or lamp chops with salad and side dishes for €13! Small coffee for just €1! You don’t necessarily do the conversion in your head to think that the dinner was actually $20 and the “Spooky Special” drink was actually $9 and that the 6-8 ounces of coffee was $1.50. Of course, all those prices include tax and, when appropriate, tip.

That small coffee, by the way, was good, but not great, which was somewhat disappointing. However, where we have Starbucks and [insert regional coffee chain of your choice] as our default coffees, they seem to have LaVazza and Illy. The cappuccino I got at the Frankfurt airport was correctly made, which is something that, frankly, you don’t see in high-volume operations over here. (You often don’t see it even in neighborhood cafés, frankly.)

Yes, I’m a coffee nerd. Don’t hit me.

…anyway, I’d like to thank everyone involved with Eurofurence—the staff, the hotel staff, and all the guests—for an absolutely terrific, and even inspiring, time.

Date: 2008-09-04 17:30 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] rikoshi.livejournal.com
Tim was tempted to say, “Now, see, the guy who says what the rest of the room is thinking—that’s a character defining moment.”

When he comes back, I'm going to let him know that I'm very disappointed that he didn't.

Date: 2008-09-04 19:56 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] footpad.livejournal.com
No doubt I can improvise a more incisive reprimand at [livejournal.com profile] toob and [livejournal.com profile] jakebe's wedding.

Date: 2008-09-04 23:26 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thygrrr.livejournal.com
Footpad does these things. I like him just for that! :-)

Date: 2008-09-04 19:09 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] varjohaltia.livejournal.com
Bah. When I went the rate was still ~$1.5 for a Euro, so I just multiplied by 1.5. Going through that trouble, and noting that Scandinavia is kind of steep to begin with, made for rather persistent sticker shock. Overall, thanks for the report and glad to hear you had a good time! (It'll be cheaper next year.)

Date: 2008-09-04 22:05 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] footpad.livejournal.com
It was awfully nice to meet you, and I'm glad [livejournal.com profile] jadedfox broke the ice where I might otherwise have been too diffident to actually approach a (gasp!) Guest of Honour. See you in three weeks! *wag*

Date: 2008-09-05 01:24 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ladyperegrine.livejournal.com
I'm so glad you had such a good time. :-)

Date: 2008-09-05 06:13 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] suranfox.livejournal.com
Actually we are at $1.45/1eur atm. (We have been at 1.6 a few month ago.)

Date: 2008-09-05 06:16 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chipotle.livejournal.com
I think when I checked a week ago it was something like $1.47 = €1. But it's a lot easier to do $1.50 = €1 in one's head, and it was close enough during that week.

Date: 2008-09-05 07:16 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] vulpesrex.livejournal.com
There are many small towns in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland - usually deep in some famed dark forests - which have had a puppet theater for a century or two. Puppet shows as a traditional and cherished entertainment medium go back a couple centuries.

The EuroFURence production, "The Phantom of the Pawpet-Show", featuring Lionel, Mika, Lori and Poke, - and a surprise guest! - is available on DVD; I understand that the EF 12 and even more so, the EF13 shows, were just as inventive, and inspiring and tear-inducing, as well. I keep hoping that all the pawpet shows performed thus far will also be released as separate, complete DVD's for purchase, there are a few brief "teaser" scenes from EF13 -Unlucky 13 edition, on the EF13 convention highlights DVD.

...AND I am still hoping for a CD release of the music written and performed from "The Fauna Project", to go with my "Furry Fantasies II" CD. ALL of the EF host staff are incredibly talented, in art, writing, and music. Another reason that I wish to be able to snag a registration slot next year.

Date: 2008-09-05 14:07 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] anisama.livejournal.com
Lavazza and Illy were there, but they are actually Italian coffee brands.

Funny, but I live in Italy and the coffee tasted a lot different in Germany than it does here.

Date: 2008-09-05 14:58 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] chipotle.livejournal.com
I know they're Italian -- both those brands show up here in America as well, although Illy seems to have much better availability here. (I don't know any German coffee brands, come to think of it. I suspect what they had in the coffee vending machine at Eurofurence was German, and it was terrible, but I've never had *good* coffee from a vending machine...)

At least the Illy seemed to be pretty close to what I've had here in the USA, although perhaps a bit fresher. I wonder if that might be at least part of what you're tasting as a difference between Italy and Germany.

Date: 2008-09-18 15:54 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] eisfuchs.livejournal.com
I'm glad you liked the Pawpet show :) Seeing the audience enjoying the show and feeling with the characters is the best compliment our team can ask for.

It was a pleasure having you :)

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