Cue the special effects... and the time travel sequence! It's time for Steiffgal and Steiffpal's excellent adventure to Giengen, Germany to the Annual Steiff Sommer Festival! Well, it's not quite as dramatic as that, but this year, Steiffgal did have quite the adventure getting to Germany to take part in the company's annual event celebrating all things "button-in-ear," which this year ran from June 27th through June 29th. But once she arrived, things were, as collector's say, "just minty!" Here's a travel diary of the highlights - and challenges - associated with this trip to the birthplace of the Teddy bear.
Wednesday, June 25th
Night: Steiffgal met Steiffpal at Logan Airport around 4:30pm for their 7:00pm flight from Boston to Stuttgart (about an hour's drive from Giengen.) Over the years, Steiffgal has traveled the world with Steiffpal for Steiff events; this was their third annual trip to Giengen together. After a yummy early dinner at Durgin Park restaurant in Terminal E, they headed to the gate, and awaited their flight.
The flight boarded late, because of some temperature control issues. Eventually the duo got on board and found their seats, located in the very rear of the plane. The cabin was about 90 degrees inside. After a few minutes the captain came on the public address system. It was impossible to make out his words; he sounded like the teacher from the Charlie Brown cartoons - wah wha wha wha; wha, wha wha wha. What he was saying was that the plane has been hit by a cart and was damaged; the flight was cancelled and all passengers had to evacuate the plane immediately. Once back in the terminal, the airlines announced that the next available flight to Germany was in 3 days and that all passengers were to pick up their luggage at carousel 4 and make alternative travel plans. Oye veh!
Thursday, June 26th
Morning: After about 100 texts and phone calls back and forth between Steiffgal, Steiffgal, and the travel agent, the duo were rebooked to Germany, albeit in a somewhat less efficient manner. They again met at Logan airport, and took a plane to LaGuardia Airport in New York.
Noon and night: Steiffgal and Pal took a shuttle across town to JFK Airport, where they waited 6 hours to board a flight to Duesseldorf, Germany.
Friday, June 27th
Morning: Thankfully, the flight was relatively uneventful and the team landed in Duesseldorf at 6am German time. After passing through passport control, Steiffgal and Steiffpal ran to their connecting gate for their final leg to Stuttgart. Once at the gate, the attendant "helpfully" told them that their flight was cancelled, and the next flight would be at 4pm, if space were available. Oye veh - again!
Noon: Steiffgal and Pal headed to the traveler's help desk, to see what the options were. Already, they had lost a day at festival... not good! They decided to take the train from Duesseldorf to Giengen - about a 5 hour ride. After collecting their baggage and finding the station, they boarded a train for a one stop transfer to a connecting line. Once at the station, they discovered their connecting train has been cancelled! Oye veh - yet another crazy curve ball in what should have been a straightforward 8 hour trip!
Night: Finally, four trains later and after much standing in line, waiting on platforms, and wondering if they were traveling on the right trains and in the right direction... Steiffgal and Steiffpal arrived in Giengen around 4:30 in the afternoon! Hallelujah! The team made the quick walk from the Giengen train station to the company's campus. And what a homecoming that felt like - after Wednesday, Thursday, and most of Friday in transit! After a few quick hellos, a kind friend took them to the Lobinger Hotel - a five minute drive from downtown Giengen - where they could finally put away their baggage, freshen up, and start enjoying their time away! The Lobinger Hotel is pictured above on the left. After a few beers, dinner with friends, and a quick walk to the convenience store across the street from the hotel, Steiffgal and Steiffpal hit the hay in anticipation of a fabulous weekend at Festival.
Saturday, June 28th
Morning: The day started with a great German breakfast including lox, muslix, and of course, hearty bread chock-full of seeds and nuts! Steiffgal and Steiffpal squirreled away two giant pretzels from the buffet for a later-in-the-day treat. Then they took the shuttle from the hotel to the Steiff campus.
Immediately upon arriving at Festival, Steiffgal and Pal headed off to the vintage dealer area, where they met with longtime friends and sellers - and "circulated the economy" in a pretty enthusiastic way. Steiffgal purchased a number of unique items from several dealers in this area for friends, colleagues, and her store. She felt like Santa Claus with her long "Steiff wish list" from friends in hand; however, she was only moderately successful in fulfilling these purchase requests. This was probably because she arrived a day after opening day and many of these highly sought after items had already been sold. She bought a 35 cm sitting German Pincher from the 1920's for her own collection; this beauty is pictured here to the left. He is sitting, head jointed, and made from brown tipped mohair. He was produced in 17, 22, 28, 35, 43, and 50 cm overall from 1914 through 1931.
After a few hours, Steiffgal and Pal found themselves in the Steiff sales area, which was a large tented space filled to the brim with new Steiff items from the Steiff warehouses and overproduction areas. This sales area is traditional to the Festival and there are always great treasures to be found - including some one of a kinds and hand samples! The company constantly refreshed the displays throughout the event, so it was important to keep checking back. Here, Steiffgal purchased a number of gifts for friends, as well as a few unusual items for the store. For herself, she found a somewhat unusual five ways jointed golden Winnie the Pooh, which she thinks was made as an exclusive for Japan a few years back. Pooh, who is five ways jointed and is 24 cm standing, is pictured here on the left.
Noon: After a quick lunch of a giant pretzel and a cold beer, Steiffgal and Steiffpal toured the wonderful Steiff Museum, which features exhibits for kids, families, and vintage collectors as well. As part of the weekend celebration, the lobby of the museum had a handsome display of two important Steiff Japan projects: a collaboration with BMW, and a youth soccer (or football if you are not from the USA!) program for children impacted by the severe earthquake of 2011. The museum has many permanent, dynamic displays and vignettes, including one about Margarete starting the company which takes place in her early workshop, and another about Richard Steiff, which takes place in his creativity studio. The museum also features a huge display of studio animals, hands on kids play areas, a multi-floor slide in the shape of a snake, and of course a breathtaking display of vintage Steiff treasures from the late 1880's onward. Steiffgal's favorite museum treasure was a fully jointed felt baby doll - something she had only read about in the past - who is pictured here in the upper left. This dear dolly was produced in 28 and 35 cm in 1916 and 1917 only.
Night: For many, one of the major highlights of the Steiff celebration weekend is the annual Teddy Dorado auction, which is held the Saturday evening of the event. This year, Steiffgal read the catalog descriptions in English from the stage, while Pal wore the white gloves and presented many of the treasures to the audience. The auction featured 78 hand selected items at a spectrum of price points.
The auction was especially meaningful for Steiffgal because it was there that she got to meet a new friend from the UK in person - one she had been Skyping and emailing with for almost a year! This friend had discovered a very special item in an auction lot; this treasure turned out to be an extremely rare black Steiff bear! After much consideration, the friend decided to sell this black bear, whom she named Black Jack, at the Teddy Dorado summer auction. And what a good choice that was! He realized over 18,000 euro! He is pictured here above on the left. Other auction highlights that evening included a one of a kind mohair owl from the collection of Ava Steiff which realized over 9,500 euro; a Teddy Clown that realized almost 6,000 euro; and an unusual Teddy bear on a green mohair mat which realized over 9,500 euro (prices shown include the buyer's premium). After the auction, which lasted over 2 hours, Steiffgal, Steiffpal, Black Jack's family, and the Teddy Dorado team all enjoyed a wonderful celebratory dinner at the Sud Italia restaurant in downtown Giengen.
Sunday, June 29th
Morning: There was no rest for the weary and after a quick breakfast, Steiffgal and Pal were back on the Steiff campus. The first stop of the morning was back to the sales tent, where the team scored a few more good deals. Pal picked up a few early style bears, and Steiffgal purchased more gifts for friends as well as an unusual long blonde mohair dog that looked like a cross between a lab and a chow chow. He is pictured here above on the left. They then again walked the vintage sales area, where Pal bought a special black and white cow that she'd been after for awhile.
Noon: After a light lunch of pretzels and beer (are you starting to see a theme here?) the team decided to brave the rain and wind and take a foot tour of Giengen. The town itself is quite small, only about 17 square miles total. The downtown has a few banks, restaurants, convenience stores, and retail stores all set within turn of last century or earlier buildings with cobblestone sidewalks, fountains, and lots of flowers in window boxes. It is really quite charming! After wandering about for an hour or so, Steiffgal and Pal found themselves at the birth house of Margarete Steiff, located just a stone's throw from the factory on Lederstrasse, or Leather Street. The front of the house is pictured here above on the left. This turned out to be one of the highlights of the trip for both travelers, and you can take this tour yourself (albeit virtually!) by clicking here!
Night: With jetlag and the frenetic pace finally catching up to them, sleepy Steiffgal and Pal grab said their goodbyes to friends on the Steiff campus and took the shuttle back to the Lobinger hotel. Upon arrival, they dropped off their bags and met a group of friends from the US and UK for drinks in the hotel lobby. Over time, the group slowly migrated to the dining room, where everyone enjoyed a leisurely traditional southern German style dinner. Steiffgal had a salad and pot roast with onion gravy, while Pal had veal schnitzel with fries. Then it was back to the rooms for packing - and repacking - bags to fit within the airline's travel regulations, and a good night's sleep.
Monday, June 30th
Morning: With bags packed, Steiffgal and Pal met friends for a quick breakfast in the lobby, and then checked out of their hotel. They caught a ride with a colleague to the Stuttgart airport. Although it was pouring rain, the drive was interesting and very scenic. Once at the airport, they breezed through security and the plane - heading to London - took off and landed right on schedule.
Noon: At Heathrow, Steiffgal and Pal did a little window shopping after the elaborate security screening. A delightful surprise was seeing a Steiff bear featured in the window of Hamley's airport store! Next on the airport agenda was the team's annual "last meal before crossing the pond" at Wagamama, where Steiffgal and Pal each had a delicious lobster and seafood salad and split an order of edamame - this yummy meal is pictured above on the left. The plane did indeed board on time, and except for an hour long ground delay, took off and landed "relatively" on time and in a completely uneventful manner! Yay! Apparently the travel curse has been broken!
Night: Steiffgal and Pal say their goodbyes in Logan Airport and promise to return to Giengen together in 2015!
Steiffgal hopes this travel log has convinced you to attend Steiff Sommer 2015 - without the travel hassles, of course!
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