Last month, for the first time, I traveled to Frankfurt, Germany to attend the annual Creativeworld show (and its sister shows, Paperworld and Christmasworld).
The shows are put on and hosted by Messe Frankfurt, the massive exhibition center in Frankfurt that also plays host to events such as the Frankfurt auto show, the world’s largest auto show. Before you can begin to really absorb the show itself, it’s necessary to orient yourself to the venue. And the Messe (as it is called in brief) is absolutely massive. It’s so large I can’t even compare it in size to any convention center that I’ve ever been in here in the U.S. A better comparison would be that the Messe is the size of a small college or corporate campus – a series of almost a dozen buildings connected by aerial walkways and a network of roads.
This road runs the length of the center of the Messe “campus” and is served by a shuttle bus service that allows attendees to move between buildings without walking huge distances in the skyways.
Each of the buildings is numbered – inside and out – for easy navigation. And no, the Messe isn’t lazy about taking down its Christmas decorations…Creativeworld shares the Messe in late January with the annual Christmasworld show!
The gray weather in the shots above is pretty common this time of year but we did see the sun a bit during the show, as you can see in the shots below. But it didn’t really matter – due to the short days this time of year, I pretty much traveled to and from the Messe at sunrise/sunset every day.
The Marriott in the background of this shot is one of the few hotels close to the Messe. A large portion of attendees stay elsewhere in the city and take Frankfurt’s excellent public transportation to the Messe grounds. Some of Frankfurt’s famous skyscrapers tower over the Messe. The city is known as the most modern in Germany:
Before you even arrive at the Messe, you have decisions to make because of its massive size. There are multiple entrances to use arriving by foot or by vehicle. Arriving by train doesn’t get you out of making a decision of which entrance to use – the Messe is so huge that it has not one but two train stations within it! One train station is a part of the local S-Bahn (suburban train) network, and one is part of the U-Bahn system (more like a subway).
The U-Bahn train stops beside the Tor Haus building.
On the weekend, so many people need to come and go from the Messe that the RMV (the local train authority) runs extra trains to serve the Messe. Extra trains run from the Hauptbahnhof (central train station) in the morning, and then back to the Hauptbahnhof in the afternoon. Notices were posted in the Hauptbahnhof saying when the extra trains would be running. Even without speaking much German, they were simple to figure out.
The Tor Haus (rough translation: gate house), where the S-Bahn train station stops, is in roughly the center of the rectangular spread of buildings on the Messe Frankfurt grounds. This wedge-shaped building houses some administrative offices, services for attendees, and the media center, among other things.
The train station makes the Tor Haus a very popular entrance. Attendees enter after taking escalators or stairs up from the train station. First thing in the morning, attendees stream through the gates here as trains empty on the platform below. Having the chaos of the crush of people at the gates that have just emptied off of a train be your first impression of the Messe can be very intimidating!
One of the services in the Tor Haus is the media center. Like everything else at Messe Frankfurt, it’s huge – there’s a bright open space with a restaurant/bar, work space, lockers and a coat check, computer terminals, and private interview rooms. There’s also staff on duty to assist media with information and other needs. The media center is both functional and a haven from the chaotic rush of life in the rest of the Messe.
The Tor Haus also houses services for exhibitors. The Messe’s technical services department is there, with a variety of technical assistance products and services available. There’s also one of several convenience stores that are spread across the Messe that sell a wide variety of supplies for exhibitors. A variety of office supplies, paper good and all-around useful items like duct tape are available for purchase.
Leaving the Tor Haus to head to the exhibition halls means heading into the seemingly endless maze of skyways that connect the various buildings. It’s more like being in an airport than a convention center – there’s moving sidewalks and tons of escalators.
So how do you know where to go in all of these skyways that all look alike? Just like in the airport – you have to read the signs! Once you understand the numbering system for the buildings, it’s fairly simple to follow the signs to get around and the signs are bilingual (German and English) so they are easy to understand. (And really, even if you don’t “speak” German, it’s pretty easy to figure out a lot of the German words, like that “Halle” is “hall”.)
Another thing to notice in the photo above – the ceilings are relatively low compared to the cathedral-like ceilings in most American convention centers. The low ceilings mean that there aren’t huge overhead signs that attendees can see from almost everywhere on the show floor, and use to navigate. It’s easy to get disoriented on a floor – and even lose track of what floor you are on – hence the need for the excellent signage.
Be sure to come back tomorrow when I’ll share more about what Creativeworld is and the culture of the show – which is drastically different than the CHA shows!