Things are always a little foggy after an overnight flight to Frankfurt, Germany. So even for a couple of battle-hardened guitar journalists, Musikmesse’s cacophony of about a billion guitars, pedals, and amps—not to mention tubas, pianos, accordions, and banjos—leaves you feeling a little spun around. Once you rub your eyes, catch your breath, and enjoy your first sip of beer from some kind bloke at a booth (yes, the Germans know how to do these trade shows right!), you can start to revel in the overflowing guitar bounty at what is arguably the biggest musical-instrument trade show on the globe.

Musikmesse is a feast of the familiar and unexpected. The big companies usually bring something new to tantalize their European fans and dealers, but often the real treats are from smaller manufacturers with unique perspectives and inspirations—and often they’re outfits that have yet to make it to our shores. Some have become a little more familiar over the last few years—like Berlin’s Nick Page, who builds fascinating fusions of the traditional and forward looking with a cosmopolitan/Deutsch-hippy twist, or Claudio Pagelli, with his functional refinement and design irreverence. Other names—like Denmark’s Ole Koehler and his stunning acoustics, or Tonehenge, with their heirloom-grade-amplifiers-as-modern-furniture— are revelations.

A lot of old friends, including Martin and Gibson, debuted cool evolutions of signature instruments at Musikmesse. We also saw great stuff from somewhat less famous, but still legendary names like Rotosound and Carlsbro—both revisiting their own important contributions to the electric-guitar world. And the classic guitars and amps lined up like candy in the vintage dealers hall are nothing short of drool inducing. It adds up to a rather grand guitar tapestry, to say the least. Springtime in Paris may stoke the desires of poets and lovers, but if you’re a guitar freak, it’s the city on the banks of the Main—not the Seine—that you have to see.