The month of January typically is host to two trade shows in the crafts industry. Despite being part of the same industry, their locations on different continents makes them very different experiences. Here’s the first part of my look at Creativeworld 2016, hosted at Messe Frankfurt in Frankfurt, Germany, and what the experience of attending the show was like.
[Disclosure: Messe Frankfurt is a sponsor of this website, and sponsored my travel to Creativeworld 2016.]
Talking the Talk
Creativeworld 2016 was my third year attending the Creativeworld show. When I talk to people about my experiences traveling to Germany for the show, one of the most common questions I get is about navigating the language barrier. In fact, language is one of the smallest concerns in traveling to Creativeworld for English-speaking attendees.
English is the common language meeting ground of many Creativeworld 2016 show attendees who do not speak each others’ native language, and is one of the official languages of Messe Frankfurt. It’s not uncommon to walk into a booth and see people from (for instance) Germany and Russia speaking to each other in English because they don’t know each others’ languages but they both know English. Translator headsets are available in English for organized events like workshops, and signage is created in an easily understandable way for speakers of any language.
But what about outside of the Messe and its accommodations for international visitors? Again, language is not much of a barrier to English speaking visitors to Frankfurt. Many Germans speak English quite fluently thanks to excellent mandatory language programs in schools. Signs in areas like the airport (below) and the major train stations are also in English, as well as critical announcements. Once you get familiar with a few terms and signage system from seeing them on the bilingual signs, you’ll have no difficulty navigating areas without bilingual signs.
Navigating the language barrier is slightly less intimidating to me because (about a quarter century ago) I had several years of German classes in high school. I’ve retained only minor bits and pieces of it but enough to interpret words like bahnhof (train station). I tried, out of courtesy, to do as many small things as possible in German, such as buying my morning coffee. However, my skills are apparently lacking as I was frequently answered in English despite my best efforts. Sorry, Mrs. Heydenberg!
Riding the Rails
Like in any major U.S. city, congestion and lack of parking means that public transportation is the best way to get around Frankfurt. The German train systems are legendary – for a reason – and most passes for the Messe include train passes for the regional rail system around Frankfurt for the days of the show. Should you need to purchase a ticket, there are vending machines in the train stations that dispense all sorts of tickets. The ticket pictured below is a day pass (tag=day, karte=card) for the regional train network around Frankfurt, but it is possible to purchase point to point tickets as well.
These machines are just one example of when it is most convenient to have cash on hand while traveling in Europe. Whereas in the U.S. we are very used to just swiping our cards to make virtually all purchases of any size, Germany is much more a cash society. You’ll want plenty of Euros on hand for purchasing food and other incidentals. I order my Euros from my bank before I leave home. It’s not necessarily the cheapest way to get them but it is the most convenient, and then I don’t have to worry about changing money the moment I arrive.
The German train system is famously efficient. When you are on the train platform, overhead digital signs keep passengers informed of what train will be arriving when. This sign in the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof on platform #104 shows that trains for the S3, S6, and S5 line are all expected shortly. All of these trains go through the station at the Messe, so show attendees can board any one of them.
If you have an iPhone, I highly recommend the app Frankfurt – S Bahn & U Bahn to assist you in finding your way around the city on the trains. You just tell the app where you are starting and where you want to go, and it will tell you what trains you need, where to change, and even what platform you need to go to!
There are no ticket turnstiles in German train stations. Instead, the system operates largely on the honor system with teams of transit police showing up to spot check for tickets. The teams of two to three members, dressed in uniforms and carrying small clipboards, board a train car at a station and work their way through the car checking tickets. Fines are stiff for violators! It’s tempting to take your badge off the moment you leave the Messe but if you are boarding a train, I recommend leaving it on so it is accessible without digging in a bag in a crowded train to show for a ticket check.
The arched roofs on the far right below are the Hauptbahnhof, the central train station where travelers need to change trains to travel between the airport and the area around the Messe. It’s also where travelers can catch long-distance trains to cities around Europe. (Some long distance trains are also available from the Fernbahnhof at that airport.) The Hauptbahnhof sits on the very edge of Frankfurt’s financial district, which is full of high rise buildings and gives Frankfurt the most modern skyline in all of Europe.
Unlike on trains in many U.S. cities, doors on the S-Bahn trains in Frankfurt don’t open automatically when the train pulls into the station. This green button in the middle of the door will blink when the door is able to be opened. Pushing it will open the doors.
At the S-Bahn station at the Messe, the platform is clearly marked for which direction the trains are traveling on each side. (Plus, this is just an awesome train photo!)
At Messe Frankfurt
In the arrival area at Messe Frankfurt, there are show guides and greeters (in red, below) available to help you get to your destinations within the sprawling Messe Frankfurt complex. There’s also coat checks in several areas of the complex so you don’t have to lug your winter coat all day long.
Security has been tightened at large venues all across Europe since the Paris attacks last year, and Messe Frankfurt has recently implemented bag checks at the gate. The checks are efficient and don’t slow down admission too much, even at busy morning arrival time, but you’ll want to leave time for it when planning your morning arrival schedule at Creativeworld. I also noticed for the first time at Creativeworld 2016 that it seemed a significant number of show attendees were actually wearing their badges, a shift from previous years when visible badges were scarce.
Messe Frankfurt is not for the weak of heart – literally! It’s a real workout walking the literally miles of skyways between the various halls that make up the complex to see the different shows that are underway (Creativeworld, Christmasworld, and Paperworld) at the same time each year at the Messe. It may seem like a great idea to go high fashion for Europe and pack those 4″ heels…but hiking boots might be more appropriate.
What’s for Dinner?
For some people, the opportunity to try new foods is one of the benefits of traveling. Others (like me) aren’t so adventurous. The good news is that a trip to Germany has plenty to offer both types of traveler – often in the same restaurant.
My most favorite German food is of course chocolate, and there are plenty of options to choose from. This photo shows perhaps only a third of the selection of chocolate at the grocery market in the airport shopping center.
If you are staying in an American branded hotel, there will be plenty of American style food options, like this pizza from my hotel restaurant.
Caffeine addicts rejoice – Starbucks is almost as ubiquitous in Frankfurt as it is in your hometown, and rdering an Italian coffee works pretty much the same in German as it does in English.
The French have the reputation of being the world’s pastry chefs, but the Germans are no slackers in that department. Their “bakerei” displays are filled with luscious “berliners” every morning which make a great breakfast. Somehow I managed to eat the one above – stuffed with cream on the outside – while walking to my train without ending up wearing it all day. Believe me when I say it was worth the risk!
It seems the one constant in every convention center that I have ever been in is that the food is unhealthy, horrible, and horrifically overpriced compared to eating outside the center. The food at the Messe is none of those. The focaccia below had cheese, tomato and pesto on it, and is pressed hot after ordering. It, along with a glass of fresh squeezed (right in front of me) orange juice was my go-to lunch at Creativeworld 2016.
I’ve never taken the time to eat in them, but the Messe also has sit-down restaurants available in Hall 4’s atrium, as well as in other areas of the Messe. There’s also snack carts serving ice cream, pretzels, and other treats. In all, Messe Frankfurt’s food service is by far the best of any convention center I’ve visited (which is a lot). This may seem like a small thing, but when you are jet lagged, and pushing your body very hard, it’s important to get good nutrition to keep going and stay healthy.
Visit Scrapbook Update this week for more from Creativeworld 2016! Tomorrow, we’ll take a look at Creativeworld’s home in Hall 4 of Messe Frankfurt, and later this week, we’ll look at some of the exhibitors both from the U.S. and Europe – who take part.