Erlangen and Comicsalon 2008

Comicsalon 2008 was calling - so we set off to Erlangen again!

Spessart Inn - das Wirtshaus im Spessart

It's a long drive from Cologne to Erlangen, even when there are no traffic jams and building sites on the way, so we stopped for a cup of coffee at a roadside inn. It turned out to be none other than the famous Spessart Inn - site of a tale of cross-dressing and highway robbery written by Wilhelm Hauff in 1828 but based on older stories.

A group of travellers - two wandering apprentices and a countess with her entourage whose carriage had broken down - stop at this very inn to spend the night. They quickly find out that they have fallen into a robbers' den when they overhear talks about holding the countess hostage for ransom. One of the apprentices swaps clothes with the countess and lets himself be taken away by the robbers, allowing the lady to escape and get help.

In 1957, a movie based on Hauff´s story was shot in the area. In this version, the Countess escapes in men´s clothes, too, but returns to the band - still pretending to be a young lad - and offers to serve their captain (who is, of course, young, handsome and noble) as a boots. Although he sees through the masquerade he plays along and of course they fall in love. The film became the highest-grossing German movie of 1958 (and that was during a time when Germany still had a movie industry worth speaking of) and two successful sequels were made in the 1960s. They are cute and worth checking out if you like old movies.

These posters tell the story of the inn and give you an idea how things used to look like:

The original inn had to make way for the highway in the late 1950s. Its demolition is actually where the first sequel movie, "Das Spukschloss im Spessart"/"The Haunted Castle" starts:  The ghosts of the robbers haunting the Inn find themselves homeless now, so they make their way to a nearby castle where they come across the descendant of "their" countess and do their spooky best to help her solve some problems she is facing.

This picture is proof, though, that the movie was wrong! The robbers are in fact still here (this one is rather flat, however... maybe he had an encounter with the bulldozer when the inn was demolished). Only today, countesses to take hostage have become a rare commodity, so it seems to be more profitable to sell coffee at 4.50€ a cup.

I made KB's outfit, by the way - the shoes were a lucky match.


Arriving at our hotel on the outskirts of town.

The interior almost looks like a dolls´ house.

You don´t see many of these today any more. KB: "Tee hee hee!!!"

Can you believe it? I´ve been coming to Erlangen regularly since 1996 but I´ve never seen much of the town besides the Comicsalon and a bit of the city center where we went to have dinner in the evenings. This year, I finally pulled myself together, took a few hours off and KB and I had a good touristy look around the town. Come along, then!

Let´s first enjoy an ice cream in the warm summer sun besides the fountain at Rathaus- platz (City Hall Square) in front of the Heinrich Lades Halle, the main event hall of the Comicsalon. The chillout music sounding across from the stage in the background and the chatter of people around the snack booths create a relaxed festival mood.

We turn right along Nuernberger Strasse, past the CineStar cinema (which was pictured in the earlier Comicsalon travel report) and towards the pedestrian area. Most buildings there are modern but there are a few older gems left in between such as this pretty house that belongs to a fraternity (left) or the baroque Loewenich Palace, in the 19th ct. both home and tobacco manufacture of the Loewenich family, today it houses the art museum.

A quick detour in a side lane takes us to the Neustaedter Kirche (New City Church), built 1725 - 1737 , when the number of Protestants moving into town increased. In its crypt several noblemen have found their final resting place. Its tower is the highest church tower in Erlangen (60m) - the modern city hall, however, has topped it (61m).(left)

Following on along Nuernberger Strasse, we reach Hugenottenplatz (Huguenot Square) with the Huguenot Church (right). The Huguenots were French Protestants (Calvinists).

In 1685, after absolutist monarch and Sun King Louis "l´etat c´est moi" XIV. declared Protestantism illegal and punishable by death, huge numbers of Huguenots fled to the surrounding countries. Many came to Erlangen, and brought with them industries such as the manufacture of leather gloves and combs, hosiery mills and textile production which led to the economic rise of the town. France, meanwhile, suffered a bit of a "brain drain" with all those people leaving. Guess tolerance sometimes brings more than just a moral reward...

In 1686, work started on the first Huguenot church outside France - the "Hugenotten-kirche". Completed in 1693 (the tower in 1735), it is the oldest building in town and one of the best preserved French Protestant central church structures in Europe.

We have now reached the old city centre. Even though Erlangen is actually much older, most buildings here date from the 18th century. Anything earlier was destroyed either in the 30 Years War or by a great fire in 1706, so the town was basically rebuilt from the start with the advent of the Huguenots. It is one of the best-preserved baroque cities in Germany, though.

The timberframe building is actually a cinema - the Lamb Cinema (Lamm Kino). It's not often that you see a movie theatre with a shop sign like that. Behind it, you can see the tower of the Old City Church (Altstaedter Kirche). Following the main street, we reach Martin Luther Platz. KB and I met a Smurf there that joined us on the rest of our city tour.

No, really. As part of an event celebrating the smurfs' 50th anniversary, smurfs that people could take home and customize were hidden all over town. They were even life-sized (given that a smurf is supposed to be three apples high). And we were lucky enough to find one.

Enjoying a break at Altstaedter Kirchenplatz.

A detour from Martin Luther Platz leads us to the remains of the late medieval city wall. About the only thing left over from pre- baroque Erlangen. 

Back on track, we cross Altstaedter Kirchenplatz towards Castle Square. The Castle was built in 1700-1702 for Margrave Christian Ernst who built the baroque city. Today it is seat of the University administration.

Castle Square with the Smurf Exhibition telling the story of Peyo and his most famous creation. You could also buy the smurf figures here if you didn't find one.

Two international and one local celebrity  - Margrave Friedrich (who founded the University of Erlangen), a large version of the smurf that we found and Blythe.

Behind the castle and orangery, the Castle Gardens, now a public park, stretch out.

The statue of Margrave Christian Ernst on horseback was never finished due to statical problems. KB: "Well... the man was not exactly anorexic..."

The Huguenot fountain with statues of leading Huguenot families, classical deities and Margrave Christian Ernst at the top. No wonder the horse alone couldn´t make it!

The Botanical Gardens behind the Orangery were established in 1747. A beautiful, peaceful oasis right in the middle of town.


Back in the lanes of the old city centre around the Castle.

The building on the corner used to be the Water Tower that supplied the waterworks of the Orangery and Castle Garden. It was later used as a student prison(Studentenkarzer). Today it's a music school. The original shape of the building can still be seen in the sign.

From medieval times until 1879, universities in Germany had their own jurisdiction - as had other institutions (for example, the Church). The student prison was one way to punish students, especially for those minor transgressions that were kind of fashionable among otherwise honorable gentlemen - most of them members of student fraternities. Common offenses were disturbing the peace, especially after excessive drinking at night, insulting official authorities, or playing jokes at them, as well as participating in duels.

Depending on the seriousness of the offense, imprisonment would last from three days to four weeks. One was allowed, however, to attend lectures. After classes, the young delinquents had to return to jail. Biding their time, many of the young prisoners "decorated" the walls with graffiti and paintings some of which are still preserved in one of the rooms of Erlangen's Karzer. (Another well preserved example is the students' prison in Heidelberg.)

As the students were allowed to have visitors and bring their own food and drink, the punishment often turned out to be more like a party. By the 19th century, it was considered a must for any student to have been to the Karzer at least once during his studies. Most student prisons in Germany were abolished by 1914 and the buildings put to different uses.

The Sockmaker's Houses, dating back to 1720 - 1740. Sockmaking was one of the industries the Huguenots brought to Erlangen and soom became one of the main sources of income for the city.

Comicsalon 2008

The exhibition on manhua in contemporary China had a really fascinating atmosphere that provided an oasis of quietness in the bustle of the comicsalon.

A darkened room, lit only by some little lamps along the boardwalks and the lights in front of the panels showcasing the individual artists, reflecting in the water below. At first I thought the warning "Don´t step off the boardwalks!" was a nice way of playing pretend but they had really filled half the room with water. Bamboo plants were everywhere, and two huge balls on the ceiling suggested full moons. On one wall, images of modern urban China flickered across a video screen. Relaxing zen sounds playing softly in the background.

KB: "Ni hao! I feel almost as if I was in Shanghai!"

Another exhibition on the image of China and the Chinese in Western comics. Some of the panels were just MADE to take pictures of KB with!

Guy in crowd: "I don´t know why but I don´t trust that little girl!"                                                 KB: "But... but... how can he know... he... that...!??!"

KB: "Aaaaiiiiieeeeee!"  Mongol Guy: <Eeeek!!! Mini demon! Kill it with fire!!>

KB: "Taxi!"

Yet another exhibition celebrated Hans Rudi Waescher, a celebrated German comic artist of the 1950s. One of his best-known creations is Nick the space adventurer. 

KB: "Eeek! Giant hand of doom!"

Fenrir: "Eeee! Big headed goblin of doom!!"

One more of Nick - and his cousin Tibor, or is it Akim, in the background? Although it´s an entirely different style, Waescher´s characters are as stylized and similar to each other as many manga characters...

Comicsalon Erlangen 2006

Every two years in the summer, for four days the peaceful Frankish town of Erlangen is invaded by colorful creatures with or without costumes. The Comicsalon is the biggest comic convention in Germany and an event which involves the entire town.

There is a comic book fair in the main exhibition centre, a comics-related flea market, several exhibitions in galleries all over the place, lectures, discussion rounds, famous and less famous comic artists from all over the world as guests of honor, exhibitors or visitors. There´s cosplay, music on the square in front of the main hall, the local cinemas are showing special programmes with comic-related movies and there´s the gala for the most important German comic book award, the Max and Moritz Award.

It is an amazing, fun atmosphere, even more so for the mediterranean feel of the older parts of the city centre, and the warm summer days and nights.

Our travel girl, B.B., came in cosplay too, having just mugged my Card Captor Sakura doll for her school uniform.

Volker Reiche presents a collection of his satirical newspaper strip "Strizz" while Christian "Mana" Nauck is ready to sign his adaptation of Kai Meyer´s fantasy novels "Wave Runners" (Die Wellenläufer). Check his books out if you like fantasy, they´re a great read!

Charlie Adlard, artist of "The Walking Dead" and French comic artist legend Tardi.

B.B.: "Phew, it´s pretty exhausting walking around when your legs are only 5 inches long. Gimme a lift, sailor!"

Haddock: "Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles, get off me, you macro-encephalic midget!"

B.B.: "Right, Red... would you mind please NOT pointing your huge phallic substitute towards my skirt?"

This is Gosho Aoyama, the creator of "Detective Conan", aka "Case Closed".

And THAT´s the crowd of people queuing to get Aoyama´s autograph!

In the evenings, after the main exhibition hall had closed, we'd walk through the modern shopping area towards the old part of the town centre to find a place to eat.

The cinema always  offers a special program with animation and live actoon comic adaptations. It's lovely to sit outside near the fountain at one of the bistro tables.

One half of this square is called Market Square (Marktplatz), the other one is Castle Square (Schlossplatz). During the Comicsalon, there are often events here, comic related or other. 

The castle nowadays is seat of the university. In the small lanes surrounding it, there are plenty of pubs and restaurants for every taste and every budget. One thing is sure, though: wherever you go, wherever you stay, you are bound to come across fellow comic enthusiasts, colleagues and friends. During the comicsalon, the whole town seems like one big happy family that loves cartoons. No wonder so many keep on coming back year after year!

Bonus Jackie Chan-style End-Credits Blooper:

Don't try this at home, kids!!!

B.B. "Yeah right, like everybody has a huge comicsalon sign at home. Now shut up and gimme those bandaids!"