Alan Flyng

Alan Flyng

Thursday, 25 August 2011

9th 501st and Friends Stormtrooper Meeting, Bayern Park, Germany.

The day was finally upon us and Derek Lyons, Pam Rose, John Chapman and I were finally there in the deep south of Germany for the 9th Annual 501st and Friends Meeting in Bayern Park, Bavaria!

We flew from Heathrow with Lufthansa and made excellent time, arriving in Munich 10 minutes early. Met by Ulli Pallor of the Austrian Garrison, Michael Robl of the German Garrison and some of the girls also of the 501st German Garrison, we headed off in the direction of Reisbach, in the vicinity of Bayern Park.

After heavy rain the last few days, we appeared to have brought the good weather in tow and, indeed, the temperature was 31 C today.  We continued first to the hotel, Das Hotel Schlappinger Hof, which Derek and I had previously stayed in the year before and checked in. Ulli took us out to meet with the members of the 501st already setting up on the camping ground by the park and we then went to meet the charming family who own and operate the park.

I must say, this park is a country idyll, with clean paths and rigorously maintained lawns and borders as well as state-of-the-art rides and amusements for the whole family. I wish our amusement parks were of this sort of standard! Children can run free in safety and the staff are delightful. One price on the gate and and everything is free within!

The latest ride inaugurated for our visit - Der Freischutz

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped off for a pizza and relaxed in the heat of the late afternoon, as the heavens decided to open and pour down for 20 minutes. It refreshed the air and we had a delicious meal.

Day 2 started with a blazing hot sun and the drive back to the park. On arrival, even though we were early, a large queue had already formed and so we went straight in and met up with Garrison members from Austria, Switzerland and Germany and members of the Rebel Legion, who were also trooping the event. In all, over 150 costumers in full costume, as well as children in brilliant costumes as good as those of their parents, were there to troop!

The next generation is already in training! LOL
The day got underway with welcoming speeches given by Ulli Pallor, who then introduced each of us to the crowd. We also expressed our appreciation for the opportunity to appear with our friends and to meet so many of the public. The gate was in excess of 10,000, but not all could crowd into the small plaza where we were being presented. I picked up my camera and discreetly made a quick pass of the crowd to give an impression of the numbers present...

I applaud all of the 150+ costumers of the German and visiting Garrisons for trooping tirelessly in full costume in the heat! This day the temperature rose to 34 C before midday and very humid!!! But you can't keep a true Star Wars fan down and all trooped with amazing good humour! The public gave all the guys and girls fantastic receptions as they toured the park, posing with kids and parents alike and joining in the fun.

The crowd massed to see what photos we had brought with us and any other novelties, as Derek and I had done the year before. I had sat down a few days earlier and made up a load of bookmarks for each of us and we had all brought a variety of cards, figures and t-shirts to help the event along. As in Stockholm, Her Majesty The Queen was in attendance on my table waving cheerfully to the public!!! I told the kids and their parents it was my way of getting my taxes back for all she cost us! Don't suppose I'll get a knighthood now!!! LOLOL

John Chapman was very popular with his comic books of the adventures of Jonnie Rocket - great books for kids of all ages, and especially those learning English!

Lunch came and went and I once again remained signing throughout, missing my Wienerschnitzel and fries! But I didn't mind - I had the very lovely Daniela Hofman helping me with the throng and we battled on in good humour to the end of the day. The public spoke confidently to me in the certain knowledge I would understand them, as I had made my little opening speech in German at the beginning. I was met with accents and dialects I had never heard before. Truly, people had come from far and wide for this event!!!

Amongst the highlights of the day were three particular children. Firstly, the one month premature baby daughter of Andrea and Michael (who had collected us from the airport and driven us to the park), just two weeks old and pushed by her father in costume in a converted buggy made to look like a Sand Crawler! :)

Another little darling, Rebecca, settled happily into my arm and stayed with me a long time - I was reluctant to hand her back as she was so well behaved.
Baby Rebecca with me, Daniela and Ulli's daughter, Constanze.

The Sand Crawler buggy! :)
Baby Rebecca with her mother Nicole! A perfect little bruiser with a sunny disposition - the baby that is LOL!!!
Hardly a baby anymore, but #3 - this cheeky little chappy preferred to stand on my hand!
The day was a huge success and we all felt we had had a really satisfying experience with the children and their parents! Although I was exhausted from the heat and the fact I had managed to stand up just three times during the day, I felt blessed to have met so many friendly and good-natured people.

That evening, we all returned to the park for a BBQ with the 501st members camping there. The sky was bejewelled and clear and the International Space Station tracked acroess the sky on queue! Amongst the attendees was a lovely girl, Katje, with her dog, Sophie - a cross Miniature Pincher/Chihuahua. Katje Beham lived a while in the States and her English is really great! We chatted for quite some time and Sophie made my lap her bed. A nice feeling of home-comfort and lovely food and company!

Sophie and her 'Mum' Katje. Andrea Rilli and Ulli Pallor behind.
Next day, we travelled out to Passau to have lunch at the same outdoor restaurant as last year (yummy Schweinshaxe!) and then on to the Cathedral for a quick look round. The Cathedral is beautiful, with a wonderful mixture of Gothic, Baroque and Rococo. We could all have spent longer there, but tempus fugit!

A view down the aisle towards the Gothic Choir.

The beautiful painted roundels in the ceiling of the nave.
We then moved on to visit a vast and sprawling castle on the Austrian-German border at Burghausen. This, we were informed, if the longest castle in Germany - 1 km long!!! I am afraid, as beautiful as it was and as much as I wanted to see it all, I managed to walk only a third of the way in and back out! The castle seems to have originated in the late 11th century and been added to century by century. The only direction it could grow was backwards along a ridge between two rivers and thus the longest castle grew out of the rock!
The entrance to one of many courtyards across a wooden bridge.
And another courtyard, dated above the arch 1533....panting by now! LOL
A courtyard too far!!!!!!

Michael Robl in his Lederhosen by a plan of the castle.

Pam and I stuck together as the others went on ahead. We found a small door in an outside wall and found ourselves above the town and by a sign asking us not to feed the goats!!! Believe me, only goats could have lived on that vertiginous slope!

Pam with the town behind...
And so, back to Reisbach and the hotel for an evening meal in company with Ulli and some of the others with whom we had travelled far and wide that day. Exhausted, but happy, I fell asleep before my head hit the pillow! :)

Our final day was to be a brief excursion to a German traditional dress outlet to have a look at Lederhosen and Dirndls. Only John Chapman and a couple of the girls tried anything on. John declined to show us! :)))) But Elisabeth and Daniela were game.

Daniela in her dirndl. The headwear is not traditional! LOL :>)

We left the shop and tottered into a brilliant Chinese restaurant, where we had a fantastic buffet as Ulli and Michael's guests.So generous!!! Thank you guys!

And with that done and our tummies stuffed full, we went on to Munich and the airport. The flight was on time and comfortable and we were soon back in my car and heading back to London. I think I can certainly say that we all had a fantastic time in the company of our hosts and the German/Austrian and Swiss 501st. Long may they continue to attract such wonderful and welcoming people!!!

Farewell Germany, until the next time.......

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Claudia Con, The Renaissance Hotel, Heathrow, London.

Today was the first day of this event, ostensibly organised by Claudia Christian herself. I had anticipated that the day would be quite quiet, as the entry was set at a whopping £50 pre-booked and an additional £10 if paid on the door!
Claudia giving her speech of welcome.

Claudia had done all she possibly could to publicise the event, but really to no great avail. The opening ceremony was held in a theater in the hotel and Claudia gave an interesting and entertaining speech of welcome, explaining the ethos of the event - an anti-convention, where full access is granted to the guests and the attendees are encouraged to mix,greet and be photographed with anyone that wants. But we, the  guests, outnumbered the public by a sizable majority.
Peter Roy

I found out too late that I had forgotten to charge my camera, so, apart from one, the photos that  appear are all my exhausted battery could manage - sorry!!!

As it turned out, the attendance numbers never really increased, but we had a good time in each other's company. I met a really nice guy called Mark Shepherd (, who appeared in the various spin-off incarnations of Star Trek and who played 'Morn'. He and his wife were over from Germany en route to the States and dropped in to see what was happening. A truly nice guy!

Mark Shepherd of Star Trek and his wife. Photo courtesy Pam Rose.
I found myself sandwiched between Derek Lyons and Pam Rose and we were kept amused and entertained by the few visitors, who were enjoying unlimited access in an otherwise empty room.
However, the organisation was patchy and with too many arranged panel events going on with too few attendees, it became obvious that no business was going to be conducted!  It was obvious many had cancelled thanks to the proximity in date to the recent civil unrest in London (miles away!). So, we became mischievous, as most actors are really children at heart, and endeavored to entertain ourselves with jokes. To be honest, I have seen more life at a seance, but we did our best.

Lindsay Muir and Toby Philpott mid afternoon!

Also in attendance were the Galactic Knights, of whom I am an honorary Senator. These guys are a great bunch and deserve to be accepted by other groups to co-troop with! But they too were thoroughly hamstrung by the hotel, which forbade any 'weapons' within the building!!! Being on the A4 outside Heathrow Airport, there was no footfall of passing potential customers for them to interact with, but they did their damnedest and I applaud them heartily for their good-natured efforts under the leadership of their very charming CO, Jo Beck.

As the day progressed, I could no longer stand the heat of the room we were in. I was uncomfortable and looked forward to the end of the day. Unfortunately, by the time Claudia came to her auction, which assembled everyone in one room for the first time all day since the opening, I was packed up and making my exit via the back door - I shall not be there for the second day.

I am sorry for Claudia - she seems a genuinely nice person, but the venue was too large and far out, the programmed events too ambitious and the concept under-promoted. I hope that Claudia will seek the advice and help of an established organiser in the future - if there is a next time....