WordCamp Europe 2019: From Paris to Berlin

I skipped WordCamp Europe last year but didn’t want to miss this one, as it’s coming from Berlin.

And, as in Paris back in 2017, I’m here as a volunteer.

Wednesday 19th – Flying out

I’m up at my usual 6:30am, as I’m leaving for Manchester airport at 8am. The drive wasn’t too bad and neither was the airport (usual security woes but that’s become par-for-the-course).

I vowed 2 years ago not to use Ryanair again but, this time, I didn’t have much of a choice – they were the only airline leaving at reasonable times of the day. And the flight wasn’t unpleasant – thankfully it was an older plane so it didn’t have the thin seats that feel like you’re seated on nothing but hardboard. However, I hope the pilot was embarrassed by the landing – it really thumped onto the tarmac (if memory serves, this is usually due to having the nose too low during final descent).

When I left Manchester it was 16 degrees. Berlin is 32 degrees. Woah, it feels so warm.

One Uber later and I’m at the hotel by late afternoon. The rooms are nice, nothing spectacular, though.

I unpack and head downstairs for copious drinks and a bar snack (I’ve not eaten since breakfast at this point).

The hotel is huge – these first two photos are just the main reception area…

Over the next of hours various colleagues turn up and join me at the hotel and by around 8pm, we’re ready to head out and grab dinner.

We don’t go too far before stopping at a pizza place (Das Pi). We’ve collected others by this time and we number 12. The pizza place obviously isn’t used to these dizzying numbers of customers as other colleagues who turn up later are told they have no pizza left 🤔

After food, 3 of us hop into another Uber to head into town and a karaoke bar, Monster Ronson’s, that had been organised by another group with open invites to others attending WordCamp.

This finishes after midnight and, although I never got to the mic, I’m sung out to the point of losing my voice. The 3 of us join a friend from Pantheon and get a train back. This was around midnight but it was remarkable how serine everything (and everyone was).

I was asleep sometime after 1am (but only with the air conditioning on!).

Thursday 20th – Contributor Day

I’m awake at 6:30am. Don’t ask. I get up, shower and grab breakfast – a fruit cocktail, low-fat yoghurt and a black coffee.

Today is contributor day and I’ve decided to spend it with .tv. I volunteered for this a couple of years ago and learnt how to create videos for wordpress.tv. Since then, both the process and links have changed, so I’m doing this as a refresher! Apart from slow WiFi, it went well and by the end of the day I’d successfully prepared a WordCamp video, which was approved the next day.

This was just one of the contributor rooms – there were 611 contributors in total, across 25 teams.

Lunch is provided and was, mainly, wraps. The diet I’m on right now is low carbs, so it’s a struggle – I avoid as much bread as I can but it doesn’t leave much else.

Afterwards, a group photo of the contributors (I am in there, honest!)…

After a full afternoon of volunteering, our minds turned to the speaker & volunteers dinner. This was about a 20 minute taxi ride away at a place called The 030 Eventlog, which caters for organised events by the water.

Food was a buffet with plenty of eggs and fish which filled me up! However, I left relatively early in the end, as I was so tired. I got back to the hotel, read and was asleep by 11pm.

Friday 21st

Awake at 6:45am but feeling a lot better than I did yesterday.

How did I miss the good breakfast stuff yesterday? Today I had the same as yesterday but now with added ham slices and an omelette – I felt a lot fuller!

Today the WordCamp starts – two days of talks and workshops. To put the size of this in perspective, 3,260 tickets were sold, making it the biggest WordCamp ever… anywhere. And those people came from 97 countries, which is over half the number in the world.

But before all of that, I head to the sponsor area and the WP engine stall – they owe me! And sure, enough, one of their staff remembers me from WordCamp London and immediately hands over a t-shirt in my size (I asked for one in London but they didn’t have in the right size so promised me one at WC Europe!).

The sponsor area is huge and photos don’t do it justice but here’s a taster…

T-shirt put away, I head for Track 3 where my volunteering starts. Today I’m working with the comms team, tweeting out information about the talks. As in London, this puts me in talks that I otherwise wouldn’t have attended, many of which I end up enjoying.

Lunch is more wraps but now with added pots of salad. I do what I can.

Immediately afterwards, in Track 1 is Matt’s annual keynote talk…

He talked about what’s been happening over the last year and what’s coming soon. A lot of the time, though, is open for questions – he handles them superbly well. I have to admit to being in awe of Caspar Hübinger – his MC’ing skills are amazing and the way he coped with one particular person was outstanding.

To give you an idea of the size of Track 1, here’s a picture I took of just one part of it when it was less busy…

Although Track 1 is the biggest, the other two aren’t small either – when I was in Track 3 the day before, most of the talks filled the rooms too. Needless to say, that was the same for Matt’s talk in Track 1.

And do you know what else I did today? After transporting 2 boxes of Yorkshire Tea all the way to Berlin, I gave them to 2 colleagues that I’d promised them to – all part of my education of others of what good tea is 😉

I had a brief look around the sponsors area before heading back to my hotel room. We have a VIP trial at the moment and I need to write their weekly feedback – it takes me a couple of hours to do and I have time to discuss it with them too.

I shower and change into shirt and smart trousers before heading out for a VIP social event at Herr Lindemann – with VIP, clients and partners all invited. No food, though, so a few of us stop at a kebab shop on the way. After eating so little for the last couple of days it was heavenly food.

I spent the night mingling the best I could, meeting a few clients for the first time, whilst pretending to “adult” with a combination of mocktails and non-alcoholic beers.

I’m back at the hotel by midnight and do some updates on my laptop before heading to bed.

Saturday 22nd

The last day of the Wordcamp 🙁

Up at 7:15 (the latest I’ve achieved but, still, my alarm was set for 8am!). After breakfast, I phone my wife as it’s, ahem, her birthday today.

By 9am, I’m sat in Track 1 to watch my colleague Jack deliver a talk on creating sustainable websites. It’s great stuff and really inspires me to do something with this one – watch this space.

I follow this with more sponsor chatting before getting changed into my volunteers t-shirt and heading back for my task of the day. I’m now helping out the PR team and my one soul job is to find someone and take them to an interview – in this case it’s Jack, so that should be easy, right? Nope. He never turns up. It transpired he had an interview before it so went straight to the next one.

So, after failing at that, I changed back into a normal t-shirt and head out – some gift shopping before I return home tomorrow. And I know what I need to get too… 4 packets of Hanuta from the Netto just up the road from the hotel. Mission accomplished.

Lunch (wraps and salad again) and then I head back to my room for a much-needed rest (the last few days are catching up with me now), including some light packing.

I head back for the 5pm wrap-up, where volunteers are called to the stage for a group photo.

Yes, I am in there somewhere.

They also announce where next year’s WordCamp Europe will be… Porto in Portugal.

It’s now around 5:30pm, and there is a WordCamp party (80s themed) starting around 7pm. It’s relatively light food at these socials, so a group of us head out on a long walk to a vegan restaurant named Neue Republik Reger. The food was great and I particularly enjoyed my rhubarb drink.

I have no idea how to record that in Weight Watchers but I suspect that’s a good job. I’ve done over 15,000 steps today so I think I deserved it.

Rather than walk back, we hire bikes – in my case an electric one which was way too much fun. We end up back at the hotel for 8:30pm but… disaster… none of us can get into the party as it’s full to capacity.

After much queueing, we do finally get in but I’m not around for very long. It’s hot, noisy and very busy and I’m feeling quite tired. The biggest regret was missing saying goodbye to people, as once in, I found it impossible to find anyone.

Much, much later (1am), some got together for a group photo, which is really nice…

Sunday 23rd – Returning home

A 5:45am wake-up for me (grr), before I shower and check-out. I’m at the airport an hour later, check-in and head for security… where I’m turned away. My flight has been delayed by 5 hours, so they won’t let me through.

Not that I’d been told about the delay at the check-in, via their app or in any other way. Thanks Ryanair. At 8:45am, I get a text from them – a bit late now.

So, now I’m a tiny airport with just a diner and souvenir shop for company and a chronic shortage of seating. For 5 hours. Oh, and no charging points for anything so, although I can do some work, I can only do so for as long as my laptop battery lasts out.

Never has 5 hours gone so slowly.

Which then made it even more galling when after about 3 hours we were told there was a further 1.5 hour delay. So, instead of getting on flight at 9am, it ended up being at 3pm (as evidenced in this photo of the gate screen)…

The only good bit of news… I’m due a decent wedge of compensation from the airline for this 😉

So, instead of getting home by midday, as was the original plan, it’s now 7pm when I get through the doors. Exhausted, I don’t even unpack but drink tea, watch some TV and then head to bed.

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