Eurofurence XI

Fursuits and Frankenwein!

You have probably read about it here, or here, or here already, but I love going to Eurofurence. It is the oldest currently-running furry convention in the world, predating Anthrocon by two full years. It is usually held in Germany but periodically skips around to other European nations. This was my fourth straight year attending, and every year that I have gone they have outdone themselves. This year, Eurofurence XI, was no exception.

(Skip the prattle and go right to the pictures!)

The flight out was quite comfortable. I was traveling with the artist Gideon, who is a dear friend to me. I had a first-class seat but Gideon was trapped in the very rear of the aircraft. All of my attempts prior to the flight to get him into First Class with me had met with failure, so I instead employed a little social engineering on the plane itself. I will not go into details, but in the future if anyone asks, Gideon is the "executive vice president of Anthrocon Inc." You can read his version of the story here.

I took my little digital camera with me (and by "my" I mean "my employer's") so I was able to take a crapload of pictures (and by "a crapload" I mean "more than 300"). I spent the whole flight home plus many evenings afterward adding little captions to them and adjusting the light levels (Germany is very cloudy at this time of year) and shrinking them for easy web viewing.

The location of the convention was the city of Nürnberg (Nuremberg, to us Americans). Eurofurence adds another award to their growing list of accomplishments: "The Most Kickass Venue" trophy. They held it this year in a castle. A CASTLE! We arrived, and I said to Gideon, "Holy shit, Dude, we're in a castle!" and he was like, "Whoa! It really IS a castle!" and I was like "It's a real castle!" and he was like "And we're in it!" and I was like "OMG, we really are!" and he was like "And it's a castle!" and I was like "Holy shit!" and he was like "Yeah!" We were in the portion of the castle that used to be the stables. They really treated their horses well back then: the building was eight stories high and big enough to contain an entire youth hostel (Jugendheberge Nürnberg).

Eurofurence has also snatched away from Anthrocon an award that the latter has held for a long time: the "Dammit, the elevator broke and now everyone has to take the stairs!" cup. I hope that the reader will forgive me for figuratively jumping up and down and shouting "Neener neener boo boo!" to my esteemed hosts. Indeed, the castle was constructed in the 11th century, and after some extensive renovation generously provided by the Royal Air Force in 1945, a little elevator was installed in the stable building. This elevator was approximately the size of two standard telephone booths. With more than 300 furries trying to get their luggage to any one of seven upper floors, and then riding up and down and up and down and up and down and up and down all day, it was only a matter of time before it broke down. Welcome to my world, folks!

Frankly, I was impressed that it lasted as long as it did.

So whereas Anthrocon became known as "Staircon" in 2001, I now dub Eurofurence "Stairmastercon." That is because not only did one have to negotiate multiple flights of narrow Medieval staircases to get to one's room, but the castle itself sits on a hill that is approximately 153,000 feet above sea level, while the town of Nürnberg itself is located in the Marianas Trench. The angle of the hillside is just shy of ninety degrees, and hence going down into town requires simply falling from the battlements (parachutes are provided by the hostel) whereas returning requires climbing gear and oxygen bottles. My legs got more of a workout than I give them in my daily exercise regimen. It is no wonder that the Germans always win the gold medal in the long jump in the Olympics.

Still, it was worth the climb (and the fall). I made many sorties down into town accompanied at various times by Gideon, by "2" the Ranting Gryphon, by Timothy Albee, or with random friendly European furries whose company I treasured. In fact, I spent more time exploring the town and eating bratwurst (for which Nürnberg is famous) and drinking lovely local wine (known as "Frankenwein") and ordering ice cream (I actually managed to do that in German and was very proud of myself) and just admiring the sights than I did attending any of the daytime events at the convention. For that I am a little sorry since I am sure I missed some extremely fine programming, but the lure of such a charming and vibrant town was too strong for me to resist. Our room on the sixth floor even had a balcony that overlooked the town.

I learned some important things:

  1. Nürnberg is in Bavaria. At least, on my map it is. The people who live there, though, insist that it is called Franconia (Franken). There's some sort of political thing about the name about which people are extremely sensitive, to the point that accusing the region of being called "Bavaria" too loudly in public can quite literally start a brawl.

  2. Even at 40, I can still walk for miles and climb mountains without getting any more winded than the 20-year-olds that I am with. Yay, me!

  3. Germany cannot be counted on to provide any sunshine in the month of July. It was, at least, not hot.

  4. Germans, while sensitive to the unhappy events of the past, can still manage to laugh about them a little. Sometimes it is the best way to heal.

  5. A building in Germany is not considered "old" unless it was built before people universally accepted the notion that the Earth is not actually flat. Nicolas Copernicus, in fact, published his treatise in Nürnberg in 1530. I know that because I was listening to a scholarly man telling that to a group of schoolchildren at the castle. He rolled the R's so much I thought he was going to rattle the ancient walls apart. "CopeRRRRRRRRnicus."

  6. "2" is a far more talented comic than I can ever hope to be. But then, I knew that already. Damn, did he outdo himself there. What a fine first impression he made on the Eurofurs!

  7. I am not the only one in the fandom with furry-friendly parents. Jaryic's mom is a proper sweetheart! You'll see a picture of her in the pages that follow.

  8. Germans measure distance and time differently than we do. The German phrase a two-minute walk translates to "a three mile hike." In German, It is a three-hour drive means "It is a six-hour drive," and It is only a few more kilometers means "You had better be prepared to shave when we arrive."

I had some lovely experiences, the memories of which I will treasure for years:

  1. The castle is a big tourist attraction and was constantly filled with little kids. You should have seen the effect the fursuiters had on them. It cannot be described in mere words.

  2. Late on the night of Friday, July 22, several people saw Uncle Kage being questioned by a German police officer and then turning his passport over for scrutiny. This event did indeed happen, and we got quite a kick out of the variety of rumors that were flying about by morning. If you want to know the story behind it...well, you can look through my pictures to find out what happened.

  3. My fine hosts treated me to a lovely tour of the cities of Bayreuth and Köln (Cologne). Bayreuth is the location of the Richard Wagner Opera House, built by Wagner himself specifically for the performance of his Der Ring des Nibelungen. It was also home to a rather eccentric Count who had a fixation with water fountains, and built elaborate ballrooms and dining rooms fitted with water jets for the sole purpose of spraying his guests. Hey, whatever gets him through the day, right? Köln is dominated by a truly mammoth cathedral more than 500 feet high and capable of holding more than 40,000 people. It was spared any major damage in World War II due to very determined efforts by the Allies to keep it intact. Sadly, the reason they wanted it around was because it was very easy to spot from the air and allowed the bombers zero in with great accuracy. The remainder of the city of Köln was almost totally destroyed.

  4. "2" and I each got an hour on stage on Friday night, and then had time to share the spotlight for a while. I enjoy performing with a proper professional! I imagine that we did all right, because the audience wouldn't let us go until well after our allotted time was up.

  5. The Pawpet Show was as brilliant as ever. The amount of work they put into the sets, the props, and the script is incredible. I will not give anything away -- you'll have to buy the DVD when it is out next year -- but when they introduced the villain of this year's story, I laughed so hard I thought I was going to give myself a hernia.

  6. A large group of us, led by Akeela, went to explore a former German steel mill that has been turned into something of an industrial museum. The catch is that we went at night! The place is fascinating, and I am not sure I can describe what it is like climbing 50 meters or more onto the top of a drop furnace on a pitch-black night and being given a description of how steel is produced with only a flashlight beam to illuminate the machinery.

I wish I could have stayed longer. I am grateful to (and miss) my Eurofur friends who made this such a special trip for me. Thanks go to Cheetah ("the PRODUCER"!), Tani, BBF, Jaryic, Nightfox, Luwe, Fairlight, Lynard, Akeela....and everyone else that my poor old brain can't quite name right at this moment, but who are nonetheless dear to me and whom I am greatly looking forward to seeing next year.

A note about the pictures: All are in JPG format, and all are 600x800. They are meant to be viewed on a monitor that is set at 1024x768 resolution or better. If you do not know how to do that, right-click on your desktop, click [properties], then [settings], and look at "Screen area." It might also be helpful to close some of the menus at the top of the browser screen (Netscape and I.E.) so that the full picture is shown, without the need to scroll to see all of it. I've put a handy "jump list" at the bottom if things start to get too boring.

With a nine hour airplane flight home, I had plenty of time to caption all of the pictures and to try to adjust the brightness and contrast to make up for my incredibly inept photography skills. For those pictures that do not please the viewer, I shall apologize in advance.

The trip begins with a view of the city of Nürnberg from the window of my very comfortable room in the castle...