To see all of the photos please click here
Following my first visit to the Ensisheim show in 2014, I had been looking forward to my next visit all year, and eleven months, three weeks and five days later I was setting off for the show again. Driving down the motorway towards Graham Ensor’s house I had a few chuckles to myself as I recalled various antics from the year before. I was having a stopover at Graham’s for a few hours before we headed off to Gatwick Airport for an overnight stop and a rendezvous with Luther Jackson, in time for an early flight on the Friday morning. I had brought with me a selection of microscope eyepiece adapters and cameras as Graham had recently acquired a large desktop polarising microscope and wanted to mount a camera to take decent quality photos. Having experimented for a number of years with different microscope and camera setups I had accumulated a number of different adapters and extension tubes and so was confident we could find a working solution. Before we had a play with the microscope we headed off for some lunch and to try and get Graham’s phone repaired, which had stopped charging that morning. We eventually found a small independent phone repair shop where they diagnosed a faulty battery and supplied a genuine replacement for a few quid. Small local shops like this are a godsend, often doing what is required much better than the large chains. After a Panini for lunch we headed back to Graham’s to experiment with his microscope. It was a huge heavy beast built to last and although needing a bit of a clean was in excellent shape. Within a few minutes we had it fired up and had taken some half decent images. After a few more adjustments and some experimenting we had some images we were really pleased with. I left Graham with the adapter to have a go with at a later date, and we loaded up Graham’s car ready to set off for Gatwick.
After an easy two and a half hour drive we arrived at the hotel and hit the restaurant and bar. The hotel was five minutes away from the airport and we were glad to be so close so that we didn’t have to leave too early the following morning.
We met Luther by the bag drop at the airport and after repacking our single hold bag and checking it in we were on our way. After a quick one and a half hour flight we arrived in Basel-Mulhouse Euro-airport and with no fuss picked up our hire car, a nice small 4×4. We set off towards Ensisheim and promptly missed the correct exit off the motorway! After scrabbling to switch on the Sat Nav on the phone we soon found our way again and before long we pulled into the car park of the ‘Le Domaine du Moulin’ hotel. This is a fantastic hotel and the many flowers in the hanging baskets and flower beds are a wonderful sight to welcome you on arrival.
We booked in and quickly dropped our bags in our rooms before heading straight for the main square. We saw Anne Black first and then bumped into Jaouad Chaoui and Giorgio Tomelleri. Jaouad had some nice specimens with him and we persuaded him to open his rucksack so we could have a sneek peek. More people arrived and we waited for the organiser Zelimir Gabelica who had the keys to the ‘Musee la Regence’ where the show is held.
At the show every year there is small exhibition that is separate to the main show and is held in the museum in the same building. Normally, this exhibition has a theme and is put on by one person or group. Last year, Graham, Luther and myself put on a display of meteorites from the UK and Ireland. This year however Zelimir had opened up this exhibition space to all visitors with the following invitation:
“The most beautiful meteorites probably reside in world museums, but also in private collections. So how about showing your best specimens to the public? We have therefore decided to open the Regency Museum windows for you. Everybody is invited to exhibit there between one and five of your meteorites that you enjoy the most, for their beauty (intrinsic or subjective), rarity or general (scientific, historical or anecdotal…) interest. It is you who will have to justify your selection by summarizing (on the label) the criteria of your choice. And the public will vote to award a prize to the three most appreciated meteorites.”
Both Graham and myself had brought along some pieces to exhibit. Graham had brought his 1.471 kg Taza used as a tool in ancient times and I had brought my 93.5 gram Barwell specimen with associated photos and letters contemporaneous to the time of the fall. Whilst waiting for Zelimir to open up so we could display our specimens and the dealers could set up we had our first beer in the Square. In such historic surroundings and accompanied by good friends, the wait wasn’t a chore – no better way to spend an hour than sitting, beer in hand, in the main Square in Ensisheim!
We also had our first meal at ‘Le Yacht’, an Ensisheim institution whose blue plastic chairs are featured in the background of many show visitors’ photos. Whilst sat outside we watched deals taking place as cars were unpacked and boxes and bags were opened and unwrapped. The best pieces often don’t even make it onto dealers’ tables……..
Luther and myself headed back to the hotel to catch forty winks before heading back to the Square to meet more new arrivals. We caught up with Graham who had been busy with his first deals of the show. He had acquired a nice large Eucrite fragment and a beautiful fresh 214 gram fusion crusted individual covered in contraction cracks. A small fragment had already been analysed and this indicated it was a Rumurutiite. No wonder Graham snapped it up!
Zelimir had by now opened up so dealers were busy carrying boxes to and fro and up and down the old spiral staircase. The three of us went to the museum to see if we could set up our specimens for display, and found folks busy organising the display cabinets. Sigrid Wengert had a beautiful sculptural 7kg Gibeon ‘Bowl’ that was displayed alongside a painting of the specimen done by her husband. Moritz Karl was unwrapping some awesome historic pieces including huge slices of Bencubbin and Eagle Station pallasite and Greg Hupe had the main mass and a large slice of NWA 5000, which were simply mind blowing. As Graham and I found an empty cabinet and arranged our pieces for display, Marc Jost turned up with a bag of goodies including the huge 1.2kg main mass of Tatahouine. With large areas covered in fusion crust, which is rarely seen on this meteorite, it was indeed a spectacular specimen. This specimen actually changed hands during the show and now sits proudly in Vincent Jacque’s collection. All in all our pieces were in the company of some very illustrious specimens indeed and it was a truly incredible, world class display that we were rightfully proud to be a part of.
The change in the nature of the thematic exhibition was not the only change to this year’s show. Sadly the Ensisheim meteorite guardians (Confrerie Saint-Georges des Gardiens de la meteorite d’Ensisheim had been disbanded due to health issues with the ‘Grand Maitre’. The Confrerie, Zelemir assures us, will be back in place for next year’s show in a similar fashion to it’s previous incarnation. I for one missed the pomp and ceremony of the red gowns and speeches and enthroning ceremony, which is so intrinsically French. I hope that this tradition does continue in some form as it would be a sad loss indeed if it didn’t.
Zelimir officially opened the show with everyone stood around in the main Square. Unfortunately unless you were at the very front you were not able to hear anything that was said due to the lack of a PA system. People moved about in intermingling groups enjoying beer and wine before the official show opening meal. This year we didn’t opt for this but instead wandered off to ‘La Diligence’ a local bar and restaurant that we remembered from last year. We were joined by Andries Goedhart and Rene Rudolphie from Holland. We had a selection of nice pizzas, salads and local ‘Alsatian’ specialities all washed down with local beer.
Andries was someone whom I had got to know via Facebook and this was his first year attending the show. He had spoken to me many times in the run-up to the show and it was great to meet him in person. His friend Rene was actually not interested in meteorites but had just come along for a fun weekend. And a fun weekend they certainly had! It was brilliant to hear nice comments about the great atmosphere and friendly welcome they had experienced during the weekend from collectors and dealers alike. Suffice to say that Rene left with a few meteorites in his bag and they both said as they were leaving that they would be back in 2016!
After our meal we headed back to the Square and congregated around the beer wagon along with Mike Bandli, Rob Wesel, Dave Gheesling, Svend Buhl and his brother Henning, Marc Jost and Peter Marmet amongst others. Rob pulled out of somewhere a bottle of Maker’s Mark Bourbon and a bottle of Lemon Sour, which went down very well indeed. There is always a fantastic atmosphere at the show and in particular in the evenings in the Square. Regardless of collecting experience, whether a dealer or a scientist or even an interested local, everyone gathers in groups that intermingle throughout the evening. Russian, Polish, British, German or American, all these nationalities and more just enjoy a shared passion, and great times are had by all.
After the beer wagon closed a group of us headed over to ‘La Diligence’ to carry on the fun. Just before we left we were approached by a couple of local lads who were asking what the show was all about. After a quick chat to enlighten them they said they would be around the following night and would try and come down to the Square to join the party. As we then walked over to the bar it transpired that Andries and Rene were not able to find a taxi to get to their hotel which was out of town so I asked the bar owner if he could sort a taxi out. Unfortunately, it became apparent that they weren’t going to be able to find a taxi and the bar owner’s wife very kindly offered to drive them back. Meanwhile, Dave, Marc, Graham, Luther and myself enjoyed knocking back a few doubles of our various choice of spirit. However, after the bar owner’s wife came back it soon became clear that they were staying open only for us so we decided to let them close up and get to bed.
Dave headed back to the hotel but Marc invited the three of us back to his rented house for a nightcap. En route we stopped for a photo opportunity at a conveniently placed deckchair on a roundabout, fun times! We ended up having an early morning feast of bread, cheese and salami washed down with a beer. Finally it was time to call it a night and so we headed back to the hotel. We arranged that we would be up for around 9am and then retired for some well-earned sleep.
The following morning I was up at 8.30am and grabbed a shower after which I messaged Graham and Luther and decided to head straight back to bed! They headed down to the Square to be there when the doors to the show opened and I joined them later around lunchtime after a further restorative sleep! As I left the hotel I caught up with Dave and we wandered down together and decided to grab some food at ‘Le Yacht’. We were soon joined by Graham and Luther, and also Darryl Pitt. The meteorite talk continued over the pizzas and cheeseburgers until Darryl had to shoot off to head for a meeting in Zurich.
After lunch was my first proper look at the show hall and I wondered around checking out all the dealer’s offerings. The first room had a couple of stalls with plenty of NWA unclassified specimens on offer, a table full of Libyan Desert Glass, a Russian seller with some nice Seymchan slices and a table full of impactites and shatter cones. The second room had some more Russian sellers whom I didn’t know with more Seymchan, Dronino and Chelyabinsk on offer. Chelyabinsk was not as visible as it was last year and certainly by all accounts the year before where tables were apparently covered with choice specimens. In this room were also Sergey Afanasyev And Dima Sadilenko from Cometshop, Pani and Sergey Vasiliev. I stopped to drool over Sergey’s large Orgeuil specimen which I remembered from last year. The next room housed the consignment cabinets with a plethora of specimens laid out on display to tempt you. Of note, I saw some very nice Anda tektites on offer. Anne Black was in her usual spot with a huge selection of meteorite thin sections, from common to rare types and including some very historic ones too. As I walked past Anne beckoned me over as she had a couple of thin sections she had put to one side for me knowing that I collect French meteorites and thin sections. Agen and Plancy de L’abbaye were both just up my street and I jumped at the chance to acquire both. Thank you Anne!
Into the main hall and there were many more dealers, too many to remember but I recall, Laurent Jaworski, Uwe Eger, Art Met, Alain Carion, Luc Labenne, Mike Farmer and Moritz Karl. Also Greg Hupe, Pierre-Marie Pele, Fabien Kuntz, Thomas Stalder from Sahara Gems, Giorgio Tomelleri, Stefan Ralew, Fransesco Moser, and of course Peter Marmet and Marc Jost. All with an impressive array and huge variety of specimens on offer. I stopped at Pierre’s table as he had a number of books and manuscripts on French meteorites that I had already reserved and needed to pick up. Plenty of reading material on which to practice my French reading skills!
We headed outside and enjoyed a drink with ‘Chely’ Greg whilst discussing Graham’s Rumurutiite specimen. Greg introduced us to Dr. Karl Wimmer who had a magnetic susceptibility meter and we played ‘guess the type’ with him and Harald Stehlik. Harald wasn’t convinced but Karl said the reading given on his SM-30 was in the range for a Rumurutiite and guessed correctly. It transpires that a fragment of Graham’s stone had already been analysed and confirmed to be a Rumurutiite but not yet officially classified. Graham, Luther and myself then went back to ‘La Diligence’ for a meal, picking some more Alsacian specialities from the menu. We were becoming regulars here and the owners welcomed us with a smile. We were sat on the terrace outside and halfway through our meal a side door to the restaurant opened and through puffs of cigar smoke emerged Marc Jost who had been sat in the private back room along with Peter Marmet and others. Always good fun to be around, Marc regaled us with talk of his meteorite hunts and we all enjoyed listening and laughing to tales of his exploits over the years.
Last year after Graham, Luther and myself had put on our exhibition we were very kindly given two crates of Ensisheim wine as a thank you. As we were flying home not long after we gave a few bottles to Sergey Vasiliev to help him celebrate his birthday and the remaining nine bottles were kindly taken by Laurent Jaworski who offered to keep them safe in his cellar for us to have this year. Earlier in the day I had recovered these bottles from Laurent (Merci Laurent! ) and deposited them with the barman who kindly agreed to store them for us. On our return to the Square I disseminated the bottles around the various tables for everyone to enjoy, which seemed to go down well. The favour was repaid as Rob brought out the last of the Makers Mark and we both finished it off in two large shots. I was then approached by the local organiser who had clocked that I spoke French. He asked me if I could ensure that everyone vacated the marquee by midnight and if we could keep the noise down later. I asked if anyone had complained the previous night but he said not and he was just wary that the event be welcomed by the locals and that we didn’t alienate them by causing noise in the early hours. He said that a security guard would be around at midnight to shut up shop. As promised, a security guard turned up at just gone midnight and we were ushered away from the Square. Keen to carry on the fun Graham, Kally Wombacher and myself followed Dave Gheesling to the bar but to our disappointment it was closed so we all headed back to the hotel with our remaining three bottles of wine. In the reception area we found Luther, Rob and Mike, but reception was closed as was the hotel bar, so there were no glasses and no corkscrew. No matter, Dave made do with a teaspoon to open the first bottle and the used glasses on the tables were soon washed and ready to be reused! We sat around, told tales and shared wine and laughter into the early hours, a fantastic end to a fantastic day.
The next morning we all had a leisurely start, meeting at 9.30am as I joined Graham and Luther to pack our hold bag, which strangely proved to be heavier on the way back than the way in! There was a moment of panic as Graham couldn’t find his bumbag anywhere. This was the bag that was attached to his waist virtually 24/7 and contained all his purchased specimens and money, passport etc! We had a mass scramble in the room, looking everywhere with no joy. We worried that it had been left in the bar the night before or in the marquee in the Square so we hurried downstairs with Graham having a very worried look on his face! I asked at reception just in case and very luckily it had been handed in earlier in the morning along with his jacket. Phew! That could have been a nightmare! After finishing packing we checked out and left our luggage in the car before heading down town for breakfast.
We went to a little café that we remembered from last year and had a nice breakfast of coffee, baguettes and brioche to set us up for the day. We then headed to the Square and after bumping into Rob Wesel and Mike Bandli and picking up Jason Utas and Bastian Baecker we headed to the outskirts of town to see the monument that marks the Ensisheim meteorite fall location. We took a few commemorative group photos before heading back to the hotel to show them the second meteorite monument right by the hotel entrance. This is a mock up of the fiery Ensisheim thunderstone making its mark on the Alsacian countryside and along with other references spread around shows how proud the town is of its meteoritic heritage.
Mike Farmer had recommended a pizzeria that apparently served the best pizza he had ever had so we arranged with Rob and Mike to meet them for lunch later. More mingling and browsing was now on the cards, spotting new specimens on tables even though I had looked there previously and bumping into folk I hadn’t yet chatted to or caught up with.
After finding that the pizzeria was closed the three of us took Rob and Mike to La Diligence where we introduced them to some of the local specialities that we had tried over the last two days. Rob’s goats cheese and bacon starter was no smaller than the one served as my main course the previous day although it didn’t stop him attacking his main course pizza with gusto! We were sat at the next table to Vincent Jacques, Arnauld Mignan and Ludovic Ferriere. Ludovic is the curator of the amazing meteorite collection at the Vienna Museum and during conversation it transpired that he had spotted the Rumurutiite that Graham had acquired and so that was the topic of conversation between them during the meal. As we chatted the owner/chef came out to our table with a huge pistachio and caramel ‘Vacherin’ (ice cream dessert) that he had made that day; we couldn’t leave without trying some and we were tempted by a few slices to share between us. Mike especially was in raptures as he tasted it, it was truly delicious and the chef was absolutely right to have brought it out to tempt us!
Feeling nicely full we slowly wandered back into the thick of the show to search for last minute bargains and to have a few last beers in the Square before having to leave. It was over all too quickly as we tried to catch up with everyone. With hugs, handshakes and smiles we said our goodbyes and farewells until June 2016 beckons.
Although not as hot and sunny as the previous year, it had still been warm and we had managed to avoid rain. That is until we left the Square after our final goodbyes only to have to run to the hotel to avoid the deluge that was just starting.
We set off for the airport and after handing the hire car back we had a nice hour sat with a coffee on an outside balcony watching the planes landing and taking off. We noted quite a few private jets amongst them and pondered on who was ensconced in the plush leather seats within…….
After a slight delay in our flight departure we arrived back at Gatwick at 22:15 British time and headed for the long stay car park to unpack and distribute the contents of our one hold bag. Graham and I said goodbye to Luther and then headed for Graham’s house, only stopping for a brief coffee fix en route. We got back at about 3.15am and headed straight for our beds. The following morning I got up for a morning brew to see Graham examining his new meteorite additions whilst munching on some toast. Always a good feeling to have new pieces to put into the display cabinets that only hours before were sat on a dealer’s table. The Rumurutiite covered in those gorgeous contraction cracks was simply stunning!
I had promised my daughter Phoebe that I would be home in time to attend ‘Father’s day assembly’ at her school so I had to head off by 11am. I arrived back just in time for the assembly and afterwards all the dads got the opportunity to go to the classrooms to work together with their children to make a portrait. The end result of Phoebe’s and my collaboration was pretty good I thought.
Well, that was Ensisheim 2015 over and done with, new specimens added to the collection, new friendships made and old ones cemented and of course many more great memories. I have now set up a timer on my website homepage that counts down to Ensisheim 2016, the days, hours and minutes can’t count down quick enough for me! See you all there next year!
To see all of the photos please click here