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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rheinbach, after the show, plus ranting

Note - If you've missed the first post on Rheinbach, you may want to scroll down a bit in order to read them in chronological order of writing.

As with most pipe shows, the other half of the fun is the after-show activities. Here again, I have assembled a web gallery of after-show pics. We arrived too late for the Friday gathering, but Saturday evening provided an excellent chance to get together for eats, drinks, and smokes. It kicked off at an outdoor restaurant (pictured above) where we had dinner, and then moved down a couple of blocks to Achim Frank's bar, where we generated some amazing low-lying clouds of pipe smoke as we sampled our way through the German beers.

Pipe shows, man, they stress me out... ;)

Everyone got on well and I think I can safely say that a good time was had by all. This seems odd in a way, considering how vehement some folks can get on the online pipe forums, but then again, one thing I've often noticed is that the worst "mouths" of the online forums never seem to actually turn up at shows. I did wonder if Erwin and Nicholas would kill each other at the show, but all seemed OK.... Alas, now after only a few days back, already the FumeursdePipe forum has erupted into new flame wars over the same old, same old. I truly do not understand why there seems to be such an inevitable schism between smokers of high grade handmades and smokers of factory pipes. In fact............

[Cue rant mode]

I DON'T CARE!

I don't look down on somebody who's happy with his Chacom, and I don't feel intimidated by somebody with 37 Bo Nordhs. I don't care, I just don't care. We're all pipe enthusiasts. My INTERESTS lie with the high grade handmades, so I don't spend much time reading various threads comparing drugstore tobaccos and Parkers versus Chacoms. This doesn't mean that I don't respect them or in any way consider them lesser human beings. They're pipes, not social classes. Pipes are for enjoyment, whether you're smoking 1Q in a cob or 20 year old Balkan Sobranie in a Bang. Personally, I prefer the latter, but I can happily enjoy the heck out of both. Unfortunately, there are a lot of small-minded people out there who find any expression from "the other class" so personally intimidating that they're simply unable to resist opening fire any time they feel a discussion or topic may be moving outside of their comfort zone. I still recall one particular idiot who simply could not let any mention of high grade pipes pass without flinging out accusations of snobbery, bragging, elitism, etc. Frankly, I've seen much more "elitism" in the people who claim to be "anti-elitist" than in those they're supposedly protesting.

They're just pipes.

Little pieces of wood with holes drilled in them for smoking.

They're for relaxation and enjoyment, for accompanying good books and good company. They're not for dividing people into armed camps, really. I have cobs, basket pipes, Stanwells, Petersons, Dunhills, Ser Jacs, Castellos, and even a pair of Bangs, and I smoke and enjoy them all. If someone sees me smoking, or talking about, a cob or a Bang, and they have a problem with that, then the problem is theirs, in my humble opinion. And on that note...

[/end rant]

After the dinner (I had weiner schnitzel as my introduction to German food), when we moved to Achim's bar, we had a short time to wander around inside his pipe shop. While his place is dwarfed by the labyrinthine Peter Heinrich's (which I'll post about next), Achim's shop is still packed to the gills with pipely goodness and has a marvelous little hidden rear den full of amazing pieces. The visit was like manna from heaven for me, since it has been a full FIVE YEARS since I visited a "real" pipe shop. The typical French tabac might have a few Butz-Choquins clipped on a display behind the counter, and some pouches of Clan or Amsterdammer (Maybe a few tins of Dunhill Standard Mild if you're lucky..), but I have yet to encounter what I'd consider to be a genuine, full-service pipe shop in France... Something that caters to the full spectrum of the market with a wide range of tobaccos and pipes to frolic through. The gallery photos only give a slight impression of the sheer sense of cozy fun to be found in such a shop.



Sunday ended the show with a smaller and quieter gathering at Jörg's, where I got to meet a fellow Gray Fox member (Bonjour Heinz!) as well as a very entertaining pipemaker. I think we were all overshadowed by Jörg's hospitality, however - Take a close look at the labels on those wine bottles in the photos. We had 1988 Clos de Chateau (amazing) and a 91 Grand Cru red (I'm not normally partial to red wines, but this was excellent). Toppers, however, was the 40 year old bottle of Anguilla rum that Jörg opened - Given that my exposure to rum has largely been of the Bacardi variety, this was a potent and delicious experience.

And before we knew it, the show weekend was over. That wasn't the end of our visit, though, since we stayed on vacation an extra couple of days, spending one day in Cologne (including the visit to Peter Heinrich's that will comprise the next blog post) and a day in Lille. Folks interested in those locations and our touristy observations on Germans, Germany, and vacationing in Europe are invited to peek over at my Life in France blog over the next day or so, as I will be posting our (non-pipe) travel experiences there.