Go there on a Saturday!
Saturday is Fresh Market Day, and Flea Market Day. The market is the meeting place and shopping place on Saturday. Even if you are going to eat your meals in a hotel, this is still worth it to go here, because you get to see Germany how it lives. And who can resist buying a pound of cherries fresh from Turkey, Italy or Germany, from the friendly young man, harking his wares.
There are 3 fine cost shops (specialty food stores) that sell fine liquors, chocolate in every imaginable form, special coffees and teas and mediterranean food stuffs that you usually cannot purchase in Germany, which all make really nice gifts for your friends and family at home. They are so service oriented, that they can even help you send your gift directly from the store to your home.
Even if you don't want to buy food here, you can relax in one of the numerous cafés here that line the square and watch the world go by, or read the sunday paper in your language from the Newspaper Kiosk on the corner and leisurely eat your breakfast. Because the cafés are crowded between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. you can always meet someone new, because typically if space is available at your table, someone will ask to sit with you. Buying an rather large etching at the flea market in Offenbach. The flea market is along the Main bank (left bank) every Saturday morning from the beginning of April until the end of September. When the weather is nice, it's full.
Anyway, the etching was an angel decending to a child on a balcony from the end of the 19th century. The etching had a lot of water damage, but it somehow made the picture more interesting. I was able to dicker the person selling it for 50 DM! Then I had it appraised, and found out it was worth well over 3000 DM!
This kind of treasure hunt can only happen if Offenbach. Although Frankfurt also has a flea market on Saturday, they mostly sell new brand new products. In Offenbach, they still sell garage sale items, antiques, old books, long-play records, and sometimes antiques and pieces of furniture. My tip is bring money, and search for nothing. I never found what I was looking for there, but I always found a nice surprise!
Offenbach vs. Frankfurt
Offenbach has been a rival city with Frankfurt for centuries. They even fought a war with each other, when Frankfurt tried to take over Offenbach. But Offenbachers are tough cookies.
At the turn of the century, a popular postcard appeared for Offenbach, which is pictured on this house wall. In the meantime, they even have a bronze sculpture of it in front of the city hall.
It depicts a man from Frankfurt, on a visit to Offenbach one winter, where he attacked by two mutts. In an effort to scare away the mutts, he tried to pick up a stone on ground to throw it at them, but it was frozen to the ground. He tried to pick up another, which was also frozen. In his rage, he cried out, 'This is making me sick, this crazy Offenbach - they tie down the rocks, and let the dogs run free.'
Anybody can drink beer, but only true Hessians live to drink Apple Wine, or Apfelwein, as it's properly called. The Offenbachers just call it "Ebbelwoi" or "Ebbler" or "eine Schoppe".
Keep in mind that this stuff for the untrained tongue will taste like vinegar to some, or brake degreaser to others. If any true Frankfurters bother to read this page they will be insulted.
This wine is traditionally made from Speierling Apples, small, sour tasting apples that produce lots of sugar acid when it ferments, to give the wine it's characteristic taste.
There are different forms of this product, including Cidre, which is cut apple wine with lower alcohol content. The real McCoy has approximately 5.8% alcohol, which puts it near the alcohol content of German beer. What most people don't realise is that apple wine doesn't stop fermenting when it hits your stomach, and can even turn the food you just ate into alcohol too, especially if you have eaten anything sour.
The good and bad news: Apple Wine is a double-whammy drink.
They serve it traditionally in the glasses like in the picture, which are quarter liter glasses - two glasses and you need to take a taxi home.
For those who aspire to become one of the natives, you can ween yourself into liking it by ordering a "Suss-ge-spritz-ter" or half wine, half 7-UP. Then move on to "Sau-er-ge-spritz-ter" or half wine, half soda water. Then you can graduate to the real thing, and experts can wait until Fall, then they order "Rauscher". Rausch is the German word for "stoned", or for Apple Juice that has just turned into wine. Whoever can drink a half a liter of Rauscher and walk a straight line can honestly claim he cannot get drunk.
Doctors claim that a few glasses every now and then are actually healthy, because the acid content is high enough to kill virus-loaded bacteria, helicopter bacteria, fungus, mold and other forms of alien life in your intestines.
Offenbach am Main
Just ask any German - Offenbach is a world of it's own. An Offenbacher is a unique individual, and you can't compare this place or the people who live here to anywhere else in the world. But most countries already have such a place; in Holland it's called Urk; the Swiss have the Raeto-Romanish; the French have the Lyonese, and Germany has Offenbach am Main.
It's important that we stress AM MAIN, because we wouldn't want to confuse it with the two other Offenbachs in Germany.
Offenbach is located to the south-east of Frankfurt am Main, across the Main River. To make it perfectly clear, Offenbach is NOT part of Frankfurt; it never was part of Frankfurt; and Frankfurters are Frankfurters and Offenbachers are Offenbachers. Throughout the centuries they have learned to tolerate each other, but if you should ever get the notion that only a river separates the bothers and sisters of Hesse, just watch a soccer match between FSV (Frankfurter Sport Verein) and OFC (Offenbacher Fussball Club).
They even have different dialects, but it takes years of practice to hear the differences.
I lived nearly ten years in this city, and learned to love it and loath it. Why? Well, I'm not really sure. Maybe because it's so different from what Americans think Germany is.
To start with, Offenbach was never a place that too many people really wanted to call home. Not now, and not even centuries ago. Offenbach was not Frankfurt's little sister - it was the Holy Roman Empire's bastard neighbour city. Offenbach has changed hands so many times throughout history, that the poor city could almost be entitled, "Offenbach - the City Nobody Wanted". The best example is the city's own castle. I really had to do some digging to find out anything about the Offenbach Castle - the Isenburger Schloss. This castle was hardly built, when the owner moved out and became the Bishop of Mainz, then it was rented out throughout the centuries to the most obscure noblemen, because..... well whoever rented it already had a big ancestrial home somewhere else, and well what could you say about Offenbach? It wasn't exactly the hub of the Empire now, was it?
Offenbach was the collection place for all of the people who couldn't afford or weren't allowed to live in the nearby Imperial City-State, Frankfurt - Jews, foreigners, religious fugatives, such as the French Protestant Huganots - in fact the last tennant of the Isenburger Schloss were members of the Russian Zar family - you see, once again foreigners. And so, Offenbach received it's reputation of being the "melting pot" in Germany.
But a melting pot isn't something bad - in fact that's the very reason why Offenbach is an interesting place. Keep in mind that Offenbach is not really a tourist city; however, it represents one of the most interesting opportunities to observe human behavior, because the most amazing thing about this city is despite the huge ethnical diversity here, the people pretty much get along with each other. Neo-Nazis are not a problem here, and this is not the leading criminal pit of Europe, as some tourists have reported. Offenbach is much safer than Frankfurt, Berlin and Hamburg. This city is a mixture of proletarian provence and small big-city life. Offenbach is not a city to tour to - it's a city to live in.
The Main Lock - Interesting to See and For Free!
"The Main isn't as Flat as it Appears"
Main Kilometer 38.5 marks the border between Frankfurt and Offenbach on the Main river. It also marks the limits of the 1 hour riverboat cruise that tourists take on the Main river, because otherwise the ships have to go through a lock here.
Locks are industrial wonder, actually. If you were to read an older atlas of Germany, you would see that the Main is a stream and not a river. This is evident if you visit a town located higher along the Main, Kitzingen. In Kitzingen, the Main is a torrent raging stream, that many have under estimated. There used to be a U.S. Army base in Kitzingen, and some soldiers used to play a sort of truth or dare game after one too many beers – swim across the Main, which is only 20 meters wide in Kitzingen. But the current is white water level 4, and for some this adventure proved to a trip, where they never reached the other side alive.
Meanwhile down in the Taunus valley, where Frankfurt is located, the Main used to be a raging river in the spring, and a swamp in the summer. Not very practical for shipping goods. So they damned the river every few miles, and installed locks. Now the Main is about 300 meters wide at its widest point. But the dams had to be built higher, to make the Main wide enough to allow barges to haul goods all the way to the Main-Danube Canal.
If you want to see something interesting than you can use the pedestrian bridge over the main, to watch the ships and boots use the lock to go up or down the main. For pedestrians it doesn't cost anything. And sometimes it's pretty interesting and pretty funny.
"Wow, It's Really Narrow Here!"
One of the first things you'll notice, is that if a ship is already in the lock, the ship doesn't have a lot of room, and some people wonder how they even go in here, in the first place. Typical reaction for must people, is to say, “Why didn't they build a bigger lock?” or “What are those big boats doing in that small lock?”. The answer is simple. The ships are Rhine ships, designed and built for the Rhine river, which is bigger, wider, deeper and doesn't have locks. The Main is narrower, shallower and has a lot of sharp curves, and even in places where it's wider, the ships cannot use the space, because of the rocks in the shallows. So they limit space. The lock is a short of keyhole, if you ship doesn't fit in, you can't go any further.
"3 Locks for 2 Ship Sizes"
The Offenbach Lock has two locks for commercial vessels, so that one is always available for the ship heading "uphill" (German "zu Berg")and the other one is available for the ship heading "downhill" (German "zu Tal"). The third lock is for sport (small craft) vessels. Even if you padel with a row boat or a kayak, or use a motor boat or a sailboat - they all use the locks.
The commercial locks ideally exchange water amongst themselves, with the help of two gigantic underground pumps on the bank behind the lockman's house; that is when both locks are in operation. Otherwise only one is use and pumps the water into a huge underground holding tank.
The river is a road, and just like roads have, the river has traffic lights for entering and exiting the locks. 2 red lights in the verticle position means "park and wait". 1 red light means "turn your motor on and get ready". Green means "motor your boat in slowly". 2 red lights in the horizontal position means the lock is closed until further notice (out of order).
"Lock Gates (German "Tor")"
When the lock gates are closed, the have a chevron form. The peak of the chevron form points upstream. This is to butt against the forces of water flowing downstream. On the other side of the gate (the opposite side of the chevron peak) is a metal support and weight called a "Drempel". The Dremple is submerged, and this is why they have a yellow line on the side of the lock. That means you can move your boat up until this point and no further, otherwise you'll crash into the Dremple.
When the lock water falls, it falls about 4 meters in about 20 minutes. So there is one thing nobody ever does here: NEVER NEVER tie up your boat in the lock. The lines have to have slack so they can fall.
It cost the State of Hesse millions of Euro, but the environmentalists and fishing clubs pushed it through: Fish Ladders! It wasn't until the late 90's that fish could move free up and down the Main River, and now there are more fish and wildlife in the Main, than there were prior to WWII.
At the moment, fishing associations are introducing Salmon eggs in the Nidda, so that the Salmon will swim down the Main and the Rhine to the North Sea, and back when they are mature. Other fish native here include white fish, eels, trout and bass.
"When the Gates Open"
When the gates open, the ship pilots have to concentrate getting out of the lock. Important is leaving one at a time. The commercial ships have gigantic propellers, which create alot of turbulent water in the lock. If the guy behind them leaves the lock too soon, the ship may collide against the lock walls. While this isn't to dangerous for commercial barges and ships, this can be life threatening for sport vessels. Sometimes they have use the lock together with the commercial vessels if the sport lock is closed.
"The Dam (German "Wehr")"
The rest of the plant consists of the dam section, which the Germans call the "Wehr". These are mobile boots in tracks, which can move up or down, depending on whether or not they want to retain water in the upstream Main section or let it flow to the downstream Main section. The Wehr has 3 section with movable boots. During the Fall and the Spring, usually one section is open, while the other are closed to allow for rain runoff. In the Summer they are all up during dryspells, and during flood conditions they are alternatively opened and closed to control flooding, so that the flatter part of the river doesn't turn into a lake.
"Watching Boats Manoever"
Watching boats manoever in and out of locks can sometimes be interesting and sometimes really funny. If you have nothing better to do on a Saturday, take a pick-nick lunch to the lock. I once heard about a story about two super motorboat skippers who didn't know how to use the locks. They crashed into to each other and were so furious that they started wacking away at each other with their boat hooks until the police came. The locksman locked the gate so Capt. Ahab and Gilligan's Capt couldn't get out.