I landed an hour late at Flughafen München where I was met by two festival representatives, who then drove me into Munich. I'm not usually able to see much of the city on these trips, and often my most touristy experience is the lift from the airport! On this occasion the autobahn took me past the infamous 1972 Olympic Stadium and the Allianz Arena (each a former and current home of FC Bayern Munich).
I had a bit of a comedy of errors introduction to the festival - pointed to the wrong hotel and then left at the Bier Oktoberfest Museum (dating from 1327) where the comic creators and guests were to dine that night, with no idea quite who I was supposed to be attached to or where they were. Luckily I was rescued - first by Spy vs. Spy artist Peter Kuper and his friend Tony - we enjoyed the beautiful Munich evening with a little stroll to Marienplatz and the town hall - and then by the Danish comics delegation, who very kindly invited me to sit at their table for the evening. I'd only just seen them in February in Copenhagen, and it was lovely to see them again. I was also able to say a quick hello to Paul Gravett and Peter Stanbury, who I hadn't seen for a few years.
Towards the end of the evening I was discovered by Michael Gref from the Salleck crew, and was able to join them for an adventurous journey back to the hotel - involving getting lost at the central station and a number of visits to 'Platform 2'. But it's a good way to get to know your new fellow travellers!
The (right) hotel, Hotel Krone on the Theresienhöhe (opposite the famous Oktoberfest grounds of Theresienwiese), was eventually reached, bang on the stroke of midnight, and the impossibly fluffy pillows were very welcome. Perhaps less welcome was the early wake-up due to the huge windows having very thin curtains and the 5.30 am sunrise - but I'd had a decent sleep and felt ready for my first day at the festival (which had actually already been running for two days).
The Kongresshalle was just a 10-minute walk from the hotel and my first signing session was 10 'til 1. I was kept busy throughout and, once again, German comic readers proved themselves to be among the most friendly and welcoming of comic fans. This festival saw me drawing in more sketchbooks than books, I think, each with their own paper thickness, tooth and size. It wasn't too kind on my pens - which usually get used on the more glossy paper of my books - and they only just made it to the end of Sunday where the whole lot were starting to dry out.
The festival had a really nice atmosphere and was compact, though of a decent size. It never felt crowded, and the gorgeous weather with an outside beer garden, public square, and nearby park made for very pleasant 'time outs'. There was also a wonderful set of exhibition rooms - including a comic stamps display (the collection of Jason, one of my chauffeurs from the airport), and galleries of work by various artists - my favourites being Olivier Schwartz, Isabel Kreitz, Klaus Voorman and the work of the Danish creators, who were the festival's special international guests.
On Saturday night the Salleck posse walked to Pettenkoferstrasse for a lovely outside meal at Lenz, and then it was back to the hotel for a much-needed slightly earlier night. I had excellent company throughout - including the Salleck crew, most of whom I had met on previous trips, but it was also a treat to meet and spend time with Eckart's two Spanish guests, El Torres and Jesús Alonso Iglesias, who had produced the excellent Gaudi's Ghost together. It was also a treat to meet the incredible artist Herrmann Huppen, and the prolific Pica (Pierre Tranchand) and his wife Annie, who I had last seen in Erlangen.
With such a meeting of so many terrific European comic creators and publishers, it was perhaps inevitable the topic of Brexit would come up. The universal opinion seems to be that the Brits are crazy to leave the EU - that it's an act of monumental self-harm, something I can only sadly agree with and which the facts tends to support. Apart from that, it was lovely to escape the current toxic atmosphere of Brexit and the General Election, and enjoy the temporary hospitality of a far more enlightened and forward-looking country.
Sunday was another mix of a couple of signing sessions and wandering around the festival. Over breakfast, at the hotel, I had a nice conversation with Taiwanese comic artist Sean Chuang and his translator, and lunchtime saw my 'most German' meal, seven small Bavarian sausages on a bed of sauerkraut, accompanied by a huge pretzel. At last the end of the festival came, and it was time for me to make my way to the airport. I was seen off on the airport train by my friend, Wolfgang Klingel, who I've now had the pleasure to meet on three trips, and bided my time at the airport by reading (Dickens' Oliver Twist) and people-watching. The flight was delayed by half-an hour, and I got home at about half-past midnight, and my first cup of tea in three days.
A very big thank you to my generous publisher, Eckart Schott, and to Heiner Lünstedt and the festival for having me in Munich. As ever, I was so well looked after and I always enjoy meeting my fellow German comic readers, as well as comic creators from across Europe - it's an honour to be a small part of such a friendly and interesting community.