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Mindat.org goes to Munich (2005)

A little photo-report by Jolyon Ralph for Mindat.org

Having never been to a major mineral show, it was with enormous excitement that Ida and I finally boarded the plane at Stanstead Airport to take us to Munich for the 2005 Mineralientage München (Mineral Show). One hour later, still sitting on the plane which hadn't moved from the gate, we were slightly less excited and slightly more frustrated – apparently thick fog at Munich was delaying inbound flights. But we took off, and one hour later than scheduled we touched down at Munich airport. We hailed a taxi to the show, at which point despite my embarrassingly poor knowledge of German, I was able to deduce he was offering us two options. One he described by drawing a wavy line with his hand, and the other he described as 'Schnell!'. The choice was not difficult and we sat back as we zipped along a typically straight and efficiently clean German highway.

We arrived at the enormous show venue, and made our way inside.

For those who have not been before, it's difficult to grasp the scale of the show. The photo at the top of the page shows a view of just one of the three halls, there are two others of the same size.

The halls were:

Hall A6 (the nearest to the entrance) – Museum and special themed exhibits, jewelery supplies, lapidary materials, polished gemstones etc. Here is an example stand from the A6 hall:

Hall A5 – In general, the more up-market mineral dealers. Here is an example stand from the A5 hall:

Hall A4 – In general, the smaller and less sophisticated mineral dealers, including a lot of traders from China and Morocco with flats of random stuff haphazardly displayed on tables. There was some 'overspill' of more serious dealers who couldn't fit into the A5 hall too. Here's an example of one of the chinese dealers in the A4 hall:

The show was buzzing, it was busy, exciting and dynamic. There were plenty of people to meet, some of whom I met for the first time, such as this suspicious character we saw walking past us wearing a Mindat T-Shirt. We later tracked him down to the demilitarized zone in hall A4, and discovered he was none-other than mindat.org management group member Alfredo Petrov:

We also met up with fellow mindat.org contributors Brent Thorne and Paul Bongaerts who we had not met before, and some familiar faces, such as Mark Wriggley from Thames Valley Minerals, and Ian Jones. I also met for the first time some of our advertisers and supporters, such as Rob Lavinsky, Christophe Gobin, John Veevaert (who seemed to be living in some kind of broom cupboard for the duration of the show) and Jordi Fabre. Here is Jordi Fabre's stand:

The main reason I visited Munich is because of the incessant and continual pestering by my friend Ian Bruce, who runs Crystal Classics. He had mentioned to some people that he was going to kidnap me and bring me to Munich if I didn't actually get around to booking the flights. Luckily we did. Crystal Classics shared a stand with Collectors Edge from Colorado and Kristalle from California. Here is one photo from the Crystal Classics stand. The sharply observant amongst you may notice that it isn't actually Ian Bruce in the photo, instead this is Robin, Ian's assistant:

Between the three companies, they managed to put on by far the most consistently impressive display of high quality minerals in the show, here are some that I liked: Firstly, Collectors Edge had this electric blue Aragonite from Tsumeb:

For fans of classic German minerals, Munich is of course the place to go, and Crystal Classics had a whole cabinet of classics – including this rare Clinomimetite that I rather liked:

A HUGE Tsumeb Cerussite cluster was also drawing a lot of attention. This one actually gained the Ida seal of approval, which would mean I would be allowed to buy it if I had the money, which I'm sure you can guess from the quality of this piece that I don't. Still, donations to the 'Jolyon Ralph Huge Cerussite' fund can be sent to the usual address, just in case:

Another biggie in the cabinet was this monster Bolivian Vivianite:

But for those who like Silver minerals, Crystal Classics/Collectors Edge/Kristalle had a great choice. How about this Mexican Silver, if you've got 14000 euros spare?

Is 14000 euros too cheap for you? If you're looking for a genuine classic, and have a cool 100,000 euros spare, then why not go for the king of silvers, the Kongsberg (with Calcite), ex Martin Zinn collection:

But for sheer cuteness, my favourite was this Collectors Edge piece, a Bunker Hill pyromorphite:

Here's a photo of one of the hard-working Crystal Classics team (David Lloyd) in action:

Now, the atmosphere at the show was great, except for one thing – the atmosphere wasn't breathable. There were banners around proclaiming proudly that the Munich show was a no-smoking show. This seemed to be ignored by everyone, from the diners in the food areas to the dealers and the visitors, all who lit up cigarettes whenever they felt like it. On reflection, perhaps I know what the problem is. If I could read the banner saying it was a no-smoking show then it must have been written in English – that must have been the mistake! Later we realised the real reason was that the entire town seems to have the same attitude to smoking. It seems that there are the occasional enclaves for non-smokers with signs that say something like “You are permitted not to smoke in this area”. We left the show and entered once more into the thick Munich fog. Here is a picture of an old building in Munich:

Here is another old building, or at least it would have been a good picture if it wasn't for the fog:

On the Saturday evening we visited a traditional Munich pig roast restaurant with some friends (including Ian, Robin and two Daves from Crystal Classics, Stefan Weiss from Lapis, Alan Hart and Peter Tandy from the Natural History Museum in London), and despite the fact they had run out of roast pigs and their machine for making potato pancakes was broken, we had a rather good time. Except for the inability to breathe:

Sunday Morning, we returned refreshed and showered to the show, and got a chance to stray a little further than the Crystal Classics stand. Travelling a very short distance (about 1 meter), we discovered the stand of Fine Minerals International:

They had a rather nice Chinese Stibnite on display which again Ida was rather impressed with:

Mineralogical Record and Rocks and Minerals shared a stand, and I took the opportunity to renew my subscription to Rocks and Minerals:

I spent some time looking around the Chinese dealers trying to find a decent gemmy red sphalerite, but I wasn't able to find one I liked and in the end the only place I could find that had one was Minservice.com – who had a very nice group of gemmy red sphalerites (with a little damage, but not in such a way that the specimen is badly affected) for 48 euros. - I bought this piece. There were some interesting new things from China, such as these large Vesuvianite crystals:

The Urals Geological Museum were there, selling all sorts of Russian material:

Another especially nice display was from Mineralien-Zentrum:

At the end of the show I ended up buying four rocks – the Chinese Sphalerite, a rather fantastic botryoidal Rhodochrosite from Kazakhstan, a very old Aquamarine on feldspar/smoky quartz from Siberia, and a great Rocket Claim Amazonite from Colorado. None were expensive, and all will end up in my main display cabinets. Ida's quite pleased with the Amazonite, but I've yet to convince her of the true aesthetic merits of the others. Ida was inspired by the little 'rock houses' on one German stand, such as this one. I fear my micromount collection may be in danger of dissapearing overnight due to one of Ida's artistic urges:

We left the show happy, got a taxi early to the airport to have some dinner before our flight back to London. The taxi driver didn't give us a choice, and took us the 'non-schnell' route. This is where we discovered that this was much cheaper, albeit a slightly slower journey. So remember that if you're going to the Munich Show from the airport in future, ask for the Non-schnell route!

As usual at the airport, smoking is only permitted in designated smoking areas according to the tannoy announcements. Which again tends to mean everywhere, as they put smoking areas in the middle of corridors without ventilation, and the restaurants again have small 'non-smoking' areas which are of course full with smokers. Coughing and spluttering we made it onto the plane ready to fly home, only again to be delayed by fog for another 50 minutes on the tarmac before we could get airborne. Now, perhaps if they stopped smoking so much the Fog wouldn't be so bad...

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