Frankfurt Adult Education Center (VHS)
After over half a century at the Volksbildingsheim in downtown Frankfurt and then several years at a rather out-of-the-way location in the Gallus district, the Frankfurt Adult Education Center (Volkshochschule or VHS) moved in 2005 to the newly-built Bildungszentrum Ost (Education Center East) on the near east side of Frankfurt, at Sonnemannstraße 13.
So this is where you can now go for adult education courses like Frankfurt OperaTalk, Opern-Gespräche, Cambridge Advanced English or Conversation and more, just to mention a few of the many courses that are held in this new building.
The VHS also provides numerous German language courses, as well as courses for people who want to apply for German citizenship.
Over three thousand courses are offered each semester (mostly in German but a few also in English). The VHS administrative offices and some of the classrooms are in this building at Sonnemannstraße 13, but many of the courses are held in schools and other buildings throughout the city.
Third photo: Entrance to the VHS at Sonnemannstraße 13.
Fourth photo: Diagonally across from the VHS, in the next block of the Sonnemannstraße, is the new headquarters of the European Central Bank, as shown in this photo from June 2013. Now this new building is finished, and it is the seventh tallest building in my Frankfurt Skyline Countdown. The VHS is on the right in this photo, and the square in the foreground is Paul-Arnsberg-Platz.
Location of the VHS on Google Maps
Frankfurt's second river
Aside from the Main (which by the way is pronounced more or less like the English word mine), Frankfurt has another river called the Nidda.
It cuts through the city from the Northeast to the Southwest, coming in from a suburb called Bad Vilbel and flowing by or through the Frankfurt districts of Harheim, Berkersheim, Bonames, Heddernheim, Eschersheim, Ginnheim, Praunheim, Hausen, Rödelheim, Nied and Höchst, where it empties into the Main at the Wörthspitze..
On both sides of the Nidda there are fields, woods, parks and gardens nearly all the way, so it’s great for cycling, jogging, walking, inline skating, picnics and kite-flying. Also there are four outdoor swimming pools right near the Nidda, in Eschersheim, Hausen, Rödelheim and Höchst.
For several years my daily cycling route from home to the office (8 km.) was partly in the Nidda Valley, which was great because there are no cars, no traffic lights, no grade crossings -- the ideal way to get to work.
The only problem for cyclists is that in the summer and on weekends the paths right along the Nidda can get very crowded, so it helps to know alternate routes.
Second photo: Further downstream on the banks of the Nidda, in the Frankfurt district of Roedelheim, is the historic Petri House. This was originally an 18th century half-timbered house, but it was bought in 1808 by a well-to-do Frankfurt citizen named Georg Brentano, who had it re-built as a Swiss house. It became famous as the meeting place of some of the leading literary figures of that era, such as Clemens Brentano and his sister Bettina von Arnim. The house was saved from demolition by energetic public protests in the 1980s. It has recently been restored and renovated, and now houses a small museum.
- Hiking and Walking
At the Money Museum of the German Federal Bank you can see exhibits about the history of money, about the (then controversial) transition from the German currency D-Mark to the European currency Euro, about how coins and Euro banknotes are made, and about why the Germans (and especially their Federal Bank) seem so obsessed with preventing inflation, even in times like ours when that is not the main problem.
All the explanations are in both German and English.
The Money Museum is located at Wilhelm-Epstein-Straße 14, on the grounds of the Federal Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank). It is open daily -- even Mondays, when many other museums are closed -- from 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., except Wednesdays when the times are 1.00 p.m. to 9.00 p.m.
Admission (rather ironically, since this is a money museum) is free of charge.
Update April 2014: The German Federal Bank has announced that its Money Museum will be closed from September 1, 2014, because a totally new permanent exhibition is being prepared, to replace the current one which has been in place since 1999. The museum will remain closed for over two years. It is scheduled to re-open at the end of 2016.
- Museum Visits
This movie theater at the Eschenheimer Tor, one block north of the Hauptwache in the center of Frankfurt, used to show films exclusively in English.
It's a good thing they didn't depend on me for their survival, because I only went there once in forty years. That was in 2004 to see the original English-language version of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911.
There was an American flag hanging behind glass in one of the front windows of the Turm Palast that evening. Several people with clipboards spoke to those who were going in and asked if they were Americans and were registered to vote. (I was already registered, but several others started filling in forms while I was there.)
Update: The Turm Palast closed for good at the end of May 2010, much to the consternation of the American opera singers and other ex-pats in Frankfurt.
Second photo, added in April 2013: This is what the site of the former Turm Palast looks like now.
Street art by herakut
- Arts and Culture
Former Großmarkthalle, future ECB headquarters
When I took this photo in 2004, demolition of some of the smaller buildings of the former Großmarkthalle (wholesale produce market) had already begun, in preparation for the construction of the new headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB).
A modern new wholesale produce market, to replace this one, began operation on June 6, 2004, in the Kalbach district on the northern outskirts of Frankfurt.
Frankfurt Skyline Countdown, the future # 7
European Central Bank
Future site of the European Central Bank
At the time, this seemed like a fine place for an observatory. On a dark street at the edge of Frankfurt, at the top of the new physics building of the newly founded university.
A hundred years later the city lights have long since destroyed any chance of doing serious astronomical observations from here, and the once-new physics building is now the old physics building that is empty because the Physics Department has moved into this century's new physics building up on the Riedberg Campus.
As long as the building was open, the young scientists of the Physikalischer Verein went on presenting entertaining, high-quality lectures and demonstrations for the general public.
For instance: on October 28, 2004, the observatory (Sternwarte) was open to the public free of charge from 3.00 to 7.00 a.m. for observation of a total eclipse of the moon. On a similar occasion several years before (though more around midnight) the place was totally full of enthusiastic people, including some old friends I hadn't seen for years.
They also had lectures on astronomy (in German) on Friday evenings, with a chance to have a look through the telescope afterwards. Despite urban light pollution you could usually at least see Venus, Mars or Jupiter, or the craters on the moon. One night it was so foggy you could only see the lights at the top of the nearby Messeturm, so they simply pointed the telescope at that and did a nice demonstration of how the telescope works.
Second photo: In February 2014 the top of the observatory was wrapped up in a big plastic tarp to protect it from the huge clouds of dust that were produced when the 116-meter AfE Tower, just across the street, was demolished in a matter of seconds by the use of explosives.
Update: As of 2014, the Old Physics Building, including the Observatory, is closed for extensive renovation and rebuilding. This is supposed to take about three years.
Address: Robert-Mayer-Straße 2-4
Concerts at Nebbien's Garden House
This little house is in a strip of park called the Anlagenring, which was created when the old city wall was torn down at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
The house was built in 1810 as a garden house for a wealthy publisher named Marcus Johannes Nebbien, who lived nearby in the Hochstraße. It is one of the few buildings in the center of Frankfurt that was not destroyed during the Second World War.
Since the 1950s Mr. Nebbien's Garden House has been used as a venue for art exhibits and small concerts by an organization (of which I am a member) called the Frankfurter Künstlerclub e.V.
This organization often has chamber music concerts on Sunday mornings, featuring local musicians who sometimes are members of the Frankfurt Opera Orchestra (Museumsorchester).
The art exhibits are open from 11 to 17 o'clock from November to February, and from 12 to 18 o'clock from March to October. Closed Mondays.
The Garden House is located in the Bockenheimer Anlage, behind the Hilton Hotel, between the Old Opera House and the Eschenheimer Tower.
Second photo: Baritone Holger Falk and pianist Stefan Geier taking their bows after a recent recital of the song cycle Schwanengesang by Franz Schubert (1797-1828) in the Garden House.
Third photo: The Leonardo Quartet at a recent chamber music concert in the Garden House. From left to right: Andreas Wilken, cello; Mathias Bild, viola; Donata Wilken, violin; Cornelia Ilg, violin. They played string quartets by Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921) and Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901), as well as the world premiere of an original composition by Mathias Bild.
Fourth photo: Cellist Sabine Krams playing Bach's suites for solo cello at a Sunday morning recital.
Fifth photo: Classical guitarist Heike Matthiesen and violinist Uschi Mehling after their concert at Nebbien's Garden House.
- Arts and Culture
The highest mountain near Frankfurt with more than 800 meters elevation, and a rewarding hike year round. The hike (roundtrip ca. 5 hours) starts at the metro-station "Hohe Warte" in Oberursel. There is also a parking lot should you arrive by car.
From there, follow signs "Großer Feldberg", where the tower of a meteorological station marks the summit. From here, continue to the smaller summit "Altkönig" (small worthwhile detour) and then back to the "Hohe Warte" station in Oberursel.
One of my favourite cycling paths is the Nidda-Route, along a tributary of the Main River. The route starts from Frankfurt-Hoechst where the Nidda joins the Main and goes all the way to its source beyond Schotten (Wetterau), for ca. 100 km. The course is very flat and except for its lenghth not very demanding.
For long stretches, the Nidda does follow its natural course, and there are many bird-watching opportunities. In summer, storks, herons and different kinds of raptors could be seen quite often while cycling.
Cultural highlights along the Nidda route are ...
- Frankfurt Höchst Oldtown and Bolongaro Palace
- Old Town Hall & Moated Castle Bad Vilbel
- Roman Mosaic & "Römerquelle" Bad Vilbel
- Ilbenstädter Dom
- Hofgut Wickstadt & Church
- "Klein Venedig" Staden
- Fortified Church in Ranstadt
- Nidda Oldtown & Market Square
The only downside: If you want to make the return trip to Frankfurt by local train, the train stations of Bad Vilbel, Nidda or Schotten would be the best option. Otherwise, there are few options for a return by public transport. In summer, a regular busline with bycicle transport operates in the area.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
The Synagogue Beth-Hamidrasch is in the Westend district of Frankfurt, at Freiherr-vom-Stein-Strasse 30. It was inaugurated in 1910 as a house of worship for the liberal wing of the Frankfurt Jewish community.
It was set on fire by the Nazis during their night of terror in November 1938, but unlike the other three large synagogues this one was not completely destroyed. It was rebuilt after the war in 1948, and underwent major renovation work in 1980 and 1994.
Before the Nazis came to power there were about 28,000 Jewish people in Frankfurt. This was the second largest Jewish community in Germany, after Berlin. Many Frankfurt Jews were able to emigrate in the 1930s, but over 10,000 were deported and murdered by the Nazis during the Second World War. There are now nearly 7000 Jews in Frankfurt, many of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union or other Eastern European countries.
- Historical Travel
Site of the former orthodox synagogue
From 1907 to 1938 this was the site of a large synagogue belonging to the orthodox Jewish Israelitischen Religionsgesellschaft (IRG). This was one of four large synagogues in Frankfurt at the time.
Like most synagogues in Germany, this one on the Friedberger Anlage was attacked and set on fire by Nazi mobs on the night of November 9-10, 1938. But in this case the first fire did little damage to the building, so in the next few days the Nazis set it on fire four more times, using barrels of gasoline, until the interior was completely destroyed.
Then the police ordered the IRG to demolish the rest of the building at its own expense, on the grounds that it was unstable and in danger of collapse. Later the IRG was forced to sell the land to the city for a small fraction of its true value. At the end of 1938, the orthodox IRG was disbanded and forced to merge with the more liberal “Jewish Community”, which itself was disbanded three years later on orders of the Nazi government.
The site of the orthodox synagogue remained vacant until 1943, when a huge above-ground air-raid bunker was built there. There are several of these bunkers in Frankfurt, and despite their ugliness they have not been torn down because they are practically indestructible. Rooms in some of these bunkers have been used periodically as rehearsal rooms for rock bands, because no matter how loud they played, no sound penetrated the thick walls to disturb the neighbors.
This particular bunker on the Friedberger Anlage served for many years as a used furniture store. I remember spending many cold hours in there in the 1970s trying to find cheap furniture for one of our early apartments. Now the furniture-and-junk company has moved out, and a memorial site has been erected in front of the bunker, with a large photo of the inside of the old synagogue mounted on the outside wall.
Third photo: The same scene at night. Inside the bunker there is now an exhibition, in cooperation with the Jewish Museum, about Jewish life in the East End of Frankfurt in former times. The exhibition is only open on Sundays from 11.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m., and only from May to November. The address is Friedberger Anlage 5/6. Admission is 2 Euros (as of 2013). Guided tours in German are available Sundays at 11:30 a.m. for an additional 2 Euros.
Visitors are advised to wear warm clothing, because it is cold inside the bunker even in the summer. In the winter it is too cold, so the exhibition remains closed.
- Historical Travel
This attractive building at the Eschenheimer Tor, just one block north of the Hauptwache in the city center, is now a multiplex cinema called Metropolis.
For most of its history, though, the building was known as the Volksbildungsheim and was the center for adult education in Frankfurt. It was originally built in 1908, and became the Volksbildungsheim right after the First World War in 1919. Though it suffered some damage in the bombings in the Second World War, it was quickly rebuilt (except for the top floor) and again served for many years as a meeting hall and a highly central and convenient venue for adult education.
Unfortunately the Adult Education Center (VHS or Volkshochschule) gradually let itself be forced out of the building in the 1970s, 80s and 90s. This was because the VHS was run by political appointees, first of one persuasion, then another, who regarded the directorship of the Adult Education Center as a sinecure rather than a challenge or a responsibility. The building was allowed to deteriorate, and the badly needed remodeling and modernization never took place.
After several years at a rather out-of-the-way location, the VHS has now moved to a newly-built Education Center on the (near) east side of Frankfurt, at Sonnemannstraße 13. So this is where you can now go for adult education courses like Frankfurt OperaTalk, Opern-Gespräche, Cambridge Advanced English or Conversation and more, just to mention a few of the many courses that are held in this new building.
Location of the former Volksbildungsheim at Eschenheimer Anlage 40, on Google Maps.
Location of the new VHS building at Sonnemannstraße 13, on Google Maps.
The inventor of the telephone
This monument to Philipp Reis (1834-1874), the “inventor of the telephone”, was first proposed in the 1890s but was not built until 1919. It is located in the Eschenheimer Anlage, near Eschenheimer Tor in Frankfurt.
It was built by an Austrian sculptor named Friedrich Christoph Hausmann (1860-1936), whose design for the monument was the winner of a competition.
The engravings on the monument (fourth and fifth photos) read:
INVENTOR OF THE TELEPHONE
BORN IN GELNHAUSEN 1834
DIED IN FRIEDRICHSDORF 1874
OF THE FIRST DEMONSTRATION
OF HIS INVENTION
AT THE FRANKFURT PHYSICS SOCIETY
OCTOBER 26, 1861
What the monument neglected to mention was that in 1861 the worthy gentlemen of the Frankfurt Physics Society were not at all impressed by Reis’s crackpot invention nor by Reis himself, an upstart high school teacher who didn’t even have a university education.
It wasn’t until thirty-five years later that the next generation of Physics Society members decided Reis had invented the telephone after all, and started talking about setting up a monument to him. But the making of the monument was delayed by (among other things) a lengthy controversy with the inventor’s son, Carl Reis (1863-1917) about how his father should be depicted. He wanted his father to be shown with a full beard, as he had known him, but the Frankfurt Physics Society said he should only be shown with a moustache, as he had looked when he presented his first telephone in 1861.
In 1919 the monument was controversial for a different reason. It shows two naked young men, one talking into Reis’s first telephone (second photo) and one listening (third photo). One of the local newspapers, the Frankfurter Volkszeitung, complained that these naked young men were a danger to morals and decorum because they had “thrown off their clothes before answering the telephone.” The same paper expressed its consternation, a few days later, about this “un-German” style of naked art which had been “borrowed from the French” and was inappropriate for use in true German monuments.
On my Gelnhausen page I have included two tips about Philipp Reis: The inventor of the telephone and The birthplace of Philipp Reis.
There is more about Philipp Reis on my Freidrichsdorf intro page and in the tips The Philipp Reis House, The invention of the telephone and Philipp Reis’s living room.
Philipp Reis really did invent a device which could transmit sounds over a wire by electricity, but it was not very reliable and tended to conk out after four or five words. Still, if he had lived longer and if he had had some financial backing and a good patent lawyer, he might someday have been able to develop it into a successful product.
- Historical Travel
Here in what was once the ballroom of a 150-year-old apple-wine pub in Frankfurt's North End is where you can find the Stalburg Theater, featuring (just about) daily performances of cabaret, jazz, chansons, classical music, drama, and combinations of all of these.
I was there recently for the premiere of a brilliant new revue called "Mozart Motz-Art so zart", a lively celebration of Mozart's 250th birthday by three mainstays of the local classical music cabaret scene, Ingrid El Sigai, Markus Neumeyer und Frank Wolff.
If you understand German and are at all familiar with Mozart's operas Don Giovanni and The Magic Flute you'll love the way these three manage to play all the roles, sometimes doing three different scenes at once in an elaborate counterpoint. Frank Wolff makes his usual weird sounds on the cello, Markus Neumeyer is a virtuoso on the piano and as an arranger and singer, and Ingrid El Sigai aside from being a fine soprano is also a brilliant reader of Mozart's raunchy letters, which is no wonder since she earns her living as a radio and television announcer.
She began the second half of the program with a great parody of herself or one of her colleagues introducing a live opera broadcast on the radio, "live from the Stalburg Theater in Frankfurt", featuring singers with funny invented names from all over the world, along with the "Orchestre de la Radiodiffusion de Stalburg".
They have also done this same show out at the Alte Muehle or Old Mill in Bad Vilbel.
Second photo: In the Stalburg Theater.
Third photo: Theater announcements at the entrance.
Address of the Stalburg Theater: Glauburgstrasse 80.
Location on Google Maps.
- Theater Travel
Bad Homburg is one of Germany's wealthiest towns (possibly the wealthiest), and you can see that from the moment you exit the train station. This is no seedy square covered in the weekend's debris of beer and fast food - instead there's an elegant walk through modern office buildings. Then you have two directions to choose from: One to the park and the other to the palace and old town. Both are beautiful.
The great and good have been drawn to the city of the years, tempted by the spa water and its alleged health giving properties. They were also attracted to its money - the gambling kind. One of the first casinos in the world was opened here, the owner of which went on to open the casino of Monte Carlo. Dostoyevski was one famous patron. Today the gambling continues in the casino, and in the banks of Frankfurt whose directors all live in Bad Homburg.
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