Why I went to Frankfurt Book Fair 2018

I must be crazy. In the midst of illness, aches and pains and escalating domestic duties which are as unpredictable as they are demanding, I volunteered myself to fly off to Frankfurt – incidentally, when did flying as a means of getting from A to B morph from a guilty pleasure into a mind-numbing trudge? It can’t simply be that I have acclimatised to my husband’s view of the time and exertion that air travel demands, surely? – and immerse myself in the atmosphere of commercial Frankfurt at its busiest.

The Messehalle, a complex of twelve halls and outdoor areas in the centre of Frankfurt that hosts conferences all year round – 226 upcoming, according to its website – is so vast we can probably see it from the moon. Covering four hundred thousand square metres and with ninety conference halls, the ‘ten thousand hotel spaces within walking distance’ are a mere drop in the ocean of what is required to meet the annual demands of the Frankfurt Book Fair. As one of the biggest annual exhibitions – and certainly the biggest bookfair – on the planet, hotel rooms anywhere near the vicinity are fully booked years in advance. Almost the first thing a delegate organiser will do on the way home from the Fair is look for next year’s availability.

So why did I go? In this short series of articles, I’ll be considering why I went to Frankfurt Book Fair 2018; what it is about public spaces thronging with people that so appeals to me, and what I have learned from my experiences of travelling there.

In 2017 the Frankfurt Book Fair attracted 286,500 visitors, and in 2018 visitor numbers were only slightly down, at 285,000: more than I was expecting, given the surprisingly quiet restaurants and absence of crushing queues in the main entrances. Or perhaps I’m merely becoming accustomed to the hubbub, which can have a dizzying effect. With my rucksack on my back, wearing my most comfortable shoes, why on earth would I submit to such a strange and alien form of entertainment?

(To be continued.)

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