What a crazy last few days that was... :)
The event at Dusseldorf was packed, and as elsewhere in Germany, the event attendees were supportive, enthusiastic and gracious. I was starting to flag a little by then (I never really got over my jet lag before leaving) but came awake quite suddenly when it was time to start. I hated the idea of all these people coming just to watch me fight my own exhaustion. I think it went okay, and even if it didn't, those attending never let on, so thank you. I had a long line of book signers, and couldn't seem to stop smiling. After, the four of us went out for a drink and I stayed up talking perhaps a little too late, given that we were driving to Munich the next morning (six hour drive) and would be having a late night event (10 O'clock).
The drive to Munich was filled with both conversation and silence. I struggled to sleep, but was mostly interested in watching the scenery go by. I love the black forest, and those towering, skinny evergreens. We drove through wine country and watched the sun finally burst through the morning gloom to light up the fields on either side of the highway as far as the eye could see.
We got into Munich with enough time to actually get out and see some of the city. We went to the city center and visited the amazing, open air market. Then - something magical happened. I drank Augustiner beer, the dark version. It was probably the best beer I've ever had in my life! There were a group of men sitting next to us, older guys who (you could tell) enjoyed their beer on a daily basis. My guide struck up a conversation with one of them and introduced me. The man proceeded to tell a story of being a young boy at the end of World War II, sporting blonde hair and lederhosen. He explained how tough those times were. No milk, little food, no extras at all. But then his mother started ironing clothes for some of the GIs, and one of them, without prompting, brought his mother regular packages of powdered milk, along with chocolate for the boy. I watched this old man get emotional for a moment. "A lot of people were angry at the Americans then. A lot of young people today don't know everything that happened. But I do. The American helped us because we needed help." (This is a paraphrase - his German was being translated by my guide, whose English was a little spotty. But that was the gist of it.) Before we left, I plopped a 20 Euro bill on the table and said: "The next round is on Colorado." Wow, were they happy. Those guys really like their beer.
I tottered off to dinner, hopeful that the Augustiner would level off a bit. It had hit me pretty hard, and I was starting to be pretty thankful that the event was at 10:00, and not earlier.
The event itself was great. It was also humbling. It was in the forensics department (sorry, I don't know the exact name), in the room where lectures are given. We had an authentic autopsy table (I definately checked that out) and 420 people sitting and waiting for me. That was the humbling part. Look, it's not an affectation, okay? Having a crowd of people interested in my writing is something I don't take for granted. I hope I never will. It was pretty lively. We had a good Q and A with the audience (I told them if they didn't ask any questions, someone would be randomly chosen for the autopsy table...) The book-signing after took forever, which is NOT a complaint! :) I got to meet Verena's parents (you'll see her comments somewhere on this blog), as well as a fellow author. Once everyone was gone, the exhaustion hit, so it was straight to bed after... or so I thought! No, more beer and conversation was involved, so it was in bed at 2:00 and up at 7:00. No regrets - sleep is for the weak.
The next morning we drove to Leipzig, and this was probably my favorite drive of the whole trip. The countryside as you head in that direction really changes a lot. There's an older feel to things (true or not) and though I was tired, I tried to take it all in. Upon arrival in Leipzig, I checked in, showered, and then we headed to the book fair. I did a TV interview and signed for various random readers/fans that walked by or searched me out. I got to relax and talk with a number of the Luebbe staff. Like all the staff in all the publishing houses I've met thus far, the thing that struck me the most was this truth: they really love books.
The event in Leipzig was in this 'trippy' area of town. I think it was in the old GDR area (if I'm wrong, my apologies.) A lot of bars and a very young, hip feeling. I felt a little out of place, to be honest (I'm no longer young and hip, let's face it), but the crowd was as friendly as anywhere else. I shouldn't have been surprised - these are fellow readers, after all. People not necessarily there (at that event) to see me, but people who were there because they love to read. It was the perfect cap to the perfect trip.
By the end of all that, I was practically hallucinating. I suppose it was the fact that the pressure was now, truly, off. I let myself relax and found myself falling down a dark, deep hole of exhaustion. But wait! This was Germany! So more dinner and much drinking was yet to be done. So I drank dark beer late into the evening, both at the restaurant and later at the hotel, until I was absolutely certain I had to either go to bed or start dancing around with a lampshade on my head. As I'd managed to keep my dignity so far, I hugged those who needed to be hugged and said my goodbyes and good nights.
I woke the next morning surprisingly refreshed. There was a minor travel adventure: the plane to Leipzig arrived 20 minutes later than planned, which meant it arrived in Frankfurt at the time I was supposed to be boarding the plane to Denver. By the time I made it through the passport line, it was long past the boarding time, and I was certain I was going to miss the flight. So I ran. I wasn't alone, thankfully. A mother and three kids were also jogging alongside me, and it seemed we ran the length of the Frankfurt airport. We arrived covered in sweat and breathing heavily, but we got on the plane. I promptly collapsed in my seat and woke up hours later with a head full of cotton and a strong need for water.
Now I'm home, and rested again. We had a mini-blizzard last night, so the snow is piled outside and blinding in the sun. I'm remembering all the people I met on this trip,and how well they treated me.
Everyone who came to see me: thank you so much. Thank you for your patience with my nervousness, thank you for your thought provoking questions, and most of all - thanks for reading. I hope to have many excuses in the years to come to travel to your beautiful country. Maybe with a little more time to sleep and a little less beer (on second thought, scratch that last), but whatever the circumstances, I'll be glad to come.
And if anyone feels left out, or if I forgot to mention some aspect of the trip adequately (I'm afraid Hamburg and Unna got a post I wrote mid-trip, when I was still pretty tired, for example), please rest assured: I enjoyed every stop along the way, and have a long memory for people and their kindnesses.
Time to hunker down and tuck in so I can finish the next book. It's not quite as far along as it should be, because like many writers, I procrastinate and call it "contemplation." Sometimes I even contemplate with my eyes closed. Sometimes (rare times) my contemplation is accompanied by a sound very close to snoring...