If you happen to go to Dortmund in September and you are willing to pay € 19 entry (sic!), you could visit Inter-tabac, the greatest international tobacco fair in Europe.

Be warned: you won’t be able to buy even a box of matches, because the fair is for insiders. So, if you are interested in someone getting you some thousand boxes of matches, then it’s the right place for you, otherwise you better look for a nearby tobacconist. It’s hard wandering through stands showing everything a smoker wishes without being able to take something home.

So why did you go?- you could ask. I say:-For two good reasons: to scour closely “the tobacco industry” and follow a group of pipemakers friends at the conquer of some space for quality artisan pipe.

Well, as for my first reason, I have been definitely impressed by the atmosphere permeating the fair. Unlike Chicago pipes show ( an extraordinary hippy feast in honor of the object pipe), you can smell here, besides the smoke, the scent of much, very much money. The goal is not to meet pipemakers from the entire world and exhibit the product they create with love in their workshops, it is rather the profit one can get from the so much argued tobacco, on one hand sure death icon, on the other huge business no one really wants to stop, let alone governments covering cigarettes boxes with mournful slogans while getting millions of euros through tobacco taxes.

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Men in suits, ostentatious luxury and half naked stewardesses represent these concepts very well. Capitalism cannot do without this never aging symbolism: money, power, eros.

Sure, together with this reality a romantic aspect resists and it is well represented by fine connoisseurs smoking their big cigars, looking for an orgasm of the taste, or by usual dealers hunting sparse high grade pipes exposed in small stands drowned out by the enormity of those of the Scandinavian Group, for example.

Here comes the second reason for my visit to Dortmund.

For some years now, in fact, one of the corridors in pavilion 7 has been occupied by an eccentric fellowship who can definitely make pipes: Zibi pipes, Hermann Hennen, Croci, Ascorti, Gabriele Dal Fiume, Mimmo Romeo, Antoine Grenard of Chacom. Along with them is Claudio Albieri with his leather creations and, this year, the very delightful Todd Johnson of the American Briar Works.

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The idea of “hallway 7.06” is to promote, with no mediators, the high grade pipe, beyond parochialism, designed and realized by craftsmen. And it seems to work: they have been able to create in few years an oasis of simplicity and high craftsmanship alongside the magnificent stands of “tobacco capitalism”

So, luckily, at the end of this amazing tobacco circus there is room for everyone, from the fanciful Polish Zibi to the rigid managers with briefcase, from the polyhedral Mimmo Romeo to the Victorian classicism of Dunhill, from Gabriele’s delicious potbellied pipes to gorgeous Cuban cigars in precious inlaid wooden boxes.

More pictures on Dortmund here