Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Departure

A man takes his young teenage daughter to the train station to drop her off for an overnight school field trip.  As usual, the man is ahead of schedule.  The girl is used to appearing stylishly late.  She is concerned about being the first one at the track.  Her father escorts her to the international news stand to avoid embarrassment.  They each buy their favorite periodicals.  They are still early.  Now she's worried that she'll be the first girl there.  She says: "ich will nicht da stehen wie ein Lauch." (I don't want to stand there like an idiot.)   Suddenly, at a distance of twenty yards, she notices a small group of girls from her class, and her face brightens.  She gives her father a hug, tells him she loves him, grabs the suitcase and heads off, not looking back.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

European Central Bank

Moving on to more respectable topics, the Ostend will be altered significantly when the European Central Bank headquarters is completed.   The site of the ECB is directly on the Main near the mouth of the Eastern Harbor (Osthafen).  Frankfurt's huge Wholesale Market Hall was located there until it closed in 2004.  The market hall stood under landmark protection, having been built in 1928 using a design by architect Martin Elsaesser and being considered a major example of expressionist architecture.  The new tower will be
"inserted" into the old market building.  As with so many historical places in Germany, the Nazis also left their mark here, having converted the market to a collecting point for the deportation of Jewish people.  The renovation project is supposed to include a memorial for the deported Jews that will be created in cooperation with Frankfurt's Jewish Museum.

The Wholesale Market Hall Before it was Gutted

If you enter Frankfurt along the Main from upstream, the new ECB headquarters site will offer an impressive view of the city.

View of Skyline from Main near ECB Site

Here are a few pictures of the current construction site.  As you can see, there is a viewing structure for visitors to see where their tax euros are being invested.

Finally, here is an artist's rendition of what the new headquarters will look like when completed:

Recently, we rode bikes in Frankfurt with German friends from Heidelberg.  The husband has been active in promoting European integration since his student days.  We stopped in front of the construction site.  Given the current Euro crisis, I made a remark to the effect that by the time the building is complete there may no longer be a Euro currency to manage.  I was not trying to be snarky, but I did want to see what our friend thought of the current crisis and hoped to get a conversation started.  I sensed, however, that the topic was too painful for our friend when he looked away and simply said that, no, the Euro will survive.  He really was not in the mood to discuss things further.  Time will tell what happens to the Euro, but the building is a testimony to the seriousness of the goals, and the site's location, a reminder of the need for some level of European integration after two devastating 20th century wars.  People often forget the urgency of the EU project after WWII now that everything seems settled, peaceful and irreversible. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Farewell to an Ostend Institution

Near the New ECB Headquarters

(Warning:  some of the links in this post are to web pages that contain pictures of naked people.  For that reason, you will have to cut and paste the links if you wish to view the pages, and by doing so you declare to me that you are legally entitled to look at naked people, and that you won't hold me responsible for the consequences of having exposed yourself to such pictures.)  Continuing our tour of the Ostend neighborhood near the new European Central Bank headquarters site, as you head back towards town along the river you pass an innocuous-looking building next to a hotel. It looks pleasant enough, with plenty of flowers on the balconies. The only thing that tips you off that the building might contain something unusual is a small sign “FKK Südfass”. For the uninitiated, FKK stands for “Freikörperkultur”  (, which is the German term for naturism or nudism ( Yes, Germany is where the nudist movement started back in the early 20th century as part of a focus on getting back to nature and concentrating on health and fitness. I’ll write more about that later. The business known as Südfass really has little to do with naturism. You see, it is a famous Frankfurt Bordello.

Prostitution was legalized in Germany in 2002.  Before that, there were certain areas in each major German city where prostitution was tolerated.  I’m writing about Südfass because it recently closed its doors after almost 40 years.  The building is scheduled to be torn down to make room for more upscale uses consistent with the proximity to the ECB headquarters and the major urban renewal project in the Ostend these past years. I know some cynics will say that having a bunch of central bankers running around is worse on a neighborhood than a few prostitutes. I am a witness to change, having been here for twenty years, and this post is dedicated to the archival purpose of documenting what I’ve seen since I’ve been here. Let me be more precise: I’ve never been inside the Südfass, but many Germans and visitors, some of them prominent, have been. There have even been books written about the Südfass.  Compared to the houses in the red light district near the train station, Südfass almost seems respectable. While it still exists, I’ll also post a link to Südfass’s website with the warning that it contains erotic content:  There even are English language pages (well almost English) at the site, but the pictures speak an international language. For someone not familiar with German ways, visiting the website might give you an impression of a part of life here that one does not normally associate with the frequently staid and bourgeois Germans (I can hear the cynics snickering again).

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Deutschherrnufer -- The Main Triangel

This building is directly across from the site of the new European Central Bank headquarters.  It is called the Main Triangel, and it is one of the more interesting buildings near the Main.  The architects clearly had a sense of play and of humor, because, depending on the angle from which you view the building, it may look like a sail or even a sinking ship.  I'm always amazed at the different perspectives the building offers at varying distances.

From across the river it looks fairly straightforward.

Downstream a bit, and you start to appreciate the difference.

She's sinking.

Sail Away (upper right portion of pic)

The area near the Main Triangel is known as the Deutschherrnufer, and it is a new, upscale mixed use area with nice apartments along the river.  The Main Triangel itself is actually two buildings with a common roof angle (the sail and the boat, so to speak).  There is very little car traffic in the neighborhood, and I occasionally leave the congested river bike path on busy weekends to browse through the side streets.

The last picture is from one of the Sachsenhausen websites.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Another American in Frankfurt

I was riding my bike near the site of the new European Central Bank headquarters that is under construction. The site is just outside the old city near Frankfurt's Osthafen, or eastern river harbor, that has a long history of light industrial use. Normally, there is no car traffic along the river at this point. I was getting ready to take a picture of the crane when an American cousin, driven by Germans, headed my way. They drove past me until there was nowhere to go, got out, and began discussing the site of an event that they were planning along the river. What a great photo op for me.

Cruising on a Saturday Afternoon

OK, I'm envious

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Poached Eggs

I started working part-time in restaurants when I was 16 and continued on and off through undergrad. I rarely made it past dishwasher. I did have a stint as a burger slopper at McDonalds in high school, but otherwise, dishwasher. Later on, I had the good fortune of working in two high-class joints: one a French restaurant and one, well, just a fancy place with a neat setting and a real mish-mash of upscale food, including a really hot Sunday brunch.  (Of course, when you are up to your elbows in dirty dishes, pots, and pans, even the fanciest restaurant is pretty plain.)  Both restaurants used chefs with professional training, including some from the CIA. The Sunday brunch shift was my first encounter with poached eggs made the old-fashioned way. I was familiar with Egg McMuffins from my stint at McDonalds, and the parents had one of those funny-looking Teflon egg steamers that pass for egg poachers, but I knew from my perch at the sink overlooking the brunch chefs that the poached egg, not to mention hollandaise sauce, involved some of the first principles of cooking. The head chef made large batches of both poached eggs and hollandaise sauce for Eggs Benedict and Eggs Florentine, and he leaned over his boiling water and sauce pan like a priest performing transubstantiation. Young and inexperienced as I was back then, I was in awe of this man. Now, many years later, I approach learning with much more self-confidence and, voila, I have stripped cooking of much of its mystery. The following video describes the way I make poached eggs. It's actually quite easy, and the eggs come out much more nicely than either the teflon steamed or McMuffin variety.

Erotic Tomatoes

That should generate a few hits. Yes, I had what I can only describe as an erotic experience with tomatoes the other day. I developed a hankering for Huevos Rancheros and, instead of slopping something together, I spent a couple of hours on the web researching different recipes and techniques for making not only ranchero sauce, but also poached eggs. I'll relate my experience to you over the next couple of posts.

After researching ranchero sauce, I found one poster who opined that roasted tomatoes make the best ranchero sauce. That sounded good to me, so I googled "roasted tomatoes" and found a recipe at Every Day with Rachel Ray that looked quite simple. Back in the day, I often watched Rachel on the Food Chanel during family vacations stateside and loved her wholesome ways. There really is nothing like Food TV here in Germany, just a bunch of cooking shows on different channels. I spent too much money at the Kleinmarkthalle on Roma Tomatoes that could have been riper. The next time, I'm going to look for overripe tomatoes at a street market and try to cut a deal with the vendor. I left the skins on the tomatoes, scraped out the seeds and seasoned according to Rachel's recipe.  I then baked the tomatoes in accordance with Rachel's time, using my trusty internet converter to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius. I had to take them out a bit early, because they were starting to get black around the edges. The aroma in the apartment was quite nice by the time I took the tomatoes out. After they had cooled a bit I removed the skins by hand, and that's when I had my erotic experience. The aromas were hypnotizing, and my hands were all squishy with the "tomatoey" paste that I scraped off the skin. Garlic, lots of garlic aromas, too. I've never felt this way about tomatoes. After I was done, I licked my fingers and tasted a sweetness that I normally don't associate with tomatoes.  Of course, my fingers still smelled of garlic the next day, but that is a small price to pay for such fun in the kitchen.  I'm going to add roasted tomatoes to many of my dishes in the future.  Back in college I already had adopted the trick of adding a bit of sugar to my spaghetti sauce to bring out the tomato and other flavors in the sauce.  My ranchero sauce had a natural sweetness from the roasted tomatoes that did not require adding sugar.  The peppers added heat, making a great blend of sweet and spicy, perfect for a breakfast dish.

Not much to look at, but boy do they taste good!