Ernst May architecture and a lovely day out

The ernst-may-haus

Within the Frankfurt travel zone a little north of Frankfurt is an area known as Römerstadt (take U-bahn U1 or U9 to Römerstadt). Today, it is known as a 1920's housing project conceived and planned by Ernst May. Centuries ago, it was a an area of Roman activity. With an original 'ernst-may-haus' to visit and offering some beautiful countryside along the path of the river Nidda, the Römerstadt makes for a great day out. It's also accessible via several cycle routes. (I've added notes below)

First port of call is the ernst-may-haus (Im Burgfeld 136), run and maintained by the Ernst May Society. Directions to the house are well signposted from the Römerstadt U-bahn station. The ernst-may-haus is a sample house which re-creates the original interior and features of Ernst May's concepts and has a very informative video, in English, about his ideas and planning for the New Frankfurt, as it was called. Other exhibits are in German however, one can still enjoy the aesthetics and ideas which went into creating this 1920's home. In the house is an original kitchen, designed by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, a bathroom, a cellar and bedrooms. Rooms are decorated in the original colours from 1928 to give authenticity to Ernst May's vision.

Once you leave the ernst-may-haus, you'll notice how the housing on every street conforms to the Ernst May principles, front lawns, back gardens, flat roofs and long terraces of identical buildings. Next you'll notice the amazing amount of greenery and nature incorporated into this residential project.

Nearby walks

My recommendation is that after you have visited the mayhaus, you walk back along the street, Im Burgfeld, towards the U-bahn, but instead of going into the station keep walking down the street (Hadrianstraße). Eventually, on the left you'll reach a road called "An der Ringmauer", walk beyond this street and take the next left which is a pathway leading you around the back of the housing and along the Schrebergartens. (Schrebergartens are small allotment gardens) The individuality of the Schrebergartens themselves are are pretty sight in the summer and the other unavoidable view are the imposing boundary walls, to the left as you walk, jutting out like battlements. Walk up upon one and capture some great Frankfurt skyline views.Find a path that takes you through the Schrebergartens and to the banks of the river Nidda. Suddenly you are transported away from housing and into the heart of the country-side with large green vistas and nature all around. Head toward the small bridge signposted as, "Am Bubeloch" and enjoy the views. For a pleasant walk, cross the bridge and walk down stream, in under 2km you reach another bridge where you can cross over, explore Steinbech (a small water inlet) and then walk back up towards Römerstadt. An alternative walk from "Am Bubeloch" is not to cross the bridge but to follow the bank of the river Nidda upstream for 3.5km and you will reach the old Bonames airfield which is today a nature reserve and has the excellent Tower Cafe, serving lunches and home-made cakes. (From The Tower Cafe it is possible to walk into town and catch the U2 or U9 trains at the Kalbach station.)

To incorporate a walk along the river, on route back to Frankfurt, turn left at Am Bubeloch and follow the river path upstream. The path will eventually take you up onto a road bridge. Turn right onto the bridge and cross the Nidda river. Turn right onto Niedwiesenstraße and then left onto Am Brückengarten. Turn left at the T-junction, at the end of Am Brückengarten, and you'll see some steps leading up. Follow the steps up and you'll find yourself on a busy road (Am Weißen Stein). Turn left and you'll see the S-bahn station Eschersheim. Turn right and follow the road down toward the U-bahn stop called Weißer Stein. This stop is served by the U1, U2, U3 and U8 trams. For a treat head to the Lido ice cream cafe, just behind the U-bahn stop. They make the ice cream on-site and the quality is top notch.

For cyclists

The cycle along the Nidda river, from Frankfurt heading north east is lovely. There is a small bridge at Am Bubeloch allowing you to cross over into Römerstadt where upon the Schrebergartens and Ernst May housing is directly ahead of you. Turn left at Am Bubeloch and follow the Nidda downstream and under the road bridge. The ernst-may-haus is across the fields heading north away from the river. After visiting Römerstadt head back to the river turn left and follow the Nidda upstream to Bonames and it's old airfield to rest and grab a bite to eat at the fabulous Tower Cafe.

Frankfurt: from Konstablerwache to Sachsenhausen

January, February and March are cold months in Frankfurt. Even so it's still possible to explore and, by browsing a shop or two or enjoying a new cafe, you get the chance to intermittently warm up. The walk I'm suggesting for such a Winter's day takes you into what appears to be an unassuming part of town, filled with 1950's post war architecture but delivering some lovely cafes, galleries and views which you might otherwise never notice. The walk is simply a straight line from north to south and over the river.
Starting at Konstablerwache, if it's Thursday or Saturday you have the chance to peruse the farmers market, eat a bratwurst and have a glass of Glühwein from one of the wine stalls. From Konstablerwache head south, down Fahrgasse.

Fahrgasse, starting at Konstablerwache in the heart of Frankfurt

Fahrgasse, starting at Konstablerwache in the heart of Frankfurt

Within 100 metres, you'll notice a large wall on the left hand side of the street. It's a fragment of the old medieval wall from the 12th century, the Staufenmauer. It also served as the northern entrance to the Jewish Ghetto, the Judengasse, decreed in 1462 and the first Jewish ghetto in Europe. Destroyed in the late 1800's, nothing remains of the ghetto today.

An der Staufenmauer, at the junction of Fahrgasse and Töngesgasse

An der Staufenmauer, at the junction of Fahrgasse and Töngesgasse

Carry on heading south and the first half of Fahrgasse has a variety of Asian stores and if it's lunch time you might want to stop by one of the authentic restaurants, e.g. Mikuni, and have a bite to eat. If you prefer a coffee then carry on down Fahrgasse, crossing over Berliner Strasse and towards the river. This half of Fahrgasse has antique shops and galleries on both sides of the street that are worth a browse.

Part way down the street, on the right hand side, is a small street called Weckmarkt. At the very entrance of this street is a modern jewellery store called "feinform" which offers some interesting contemporary pieces and is worth a peek. Back onto Fahrgasse and a little further south is a whiskey shop, Whiskey for Life  which is every whiskey drinkers dream. If you're lucky you might catch a tasting. Opposite on the other side of the street is the Holy Cross Brewing Society, reputedly one of the best coffee stops in town. In fact, you're spoilt for choice for places to relax and eat in this area. Check out Cafe Sugar Mama , Naiv and Langosch.

If you're not quite ready for a stop then walk to the end of Fahrgasse and onto the Alte Brücke. As you step onto the bridge look to your left to see the fine statue of Karl der Grosse, aka Charlemagne. He was the King of the Frankish tribesmen and the first person to be crowned Holy Roman Emperor. He's also gave Frankfurt it's name which means, 'the ford of the Franks'. As you cross the bridge, take in the view of the ECB, European Central Bank on the left hand side and get your camera ready for the classic 'Skyline' view of Frankfurt to your right. Once over the river, keep to the left hand side of the bridge and at it's end, cross over the road (Sachsenhäuser Ufer) and head straight down the side street which is the beginning of Brückenstraße. Almost immediately you'll discover the entrance to the Ikonen Museum which has quite the collection of religious artefacts. Next door is the Deutschordenskirche. It's usually open by 12 noon, so step inside and take a look around. If it's January you're in for a special treat because the nativity scene is quite something to behold.

Ikonen Museum, Frankfurt.

Ikonen Museum, Frankfurt.

From the church, continue down Brückenstraße, over the junction. You're now in the heart of Sachsenhausen. Immediately to your left is the Brücke Cafe, serving coffee, home-made cakes, drinks and meals late into the evening. Further down the street are clothing boutiques and plenty of stores for window shopping. One highlight is the Portuguese gourmet shop at number 60 - Casa de Portugal  Here you can buy groceries, port, terracotta pots and freshly baked Portuguese specialities. It's a great little place. Down at this corner of Brückestraße is another great cafe, Schiller Cafe, serving breakfasts and meals all day. 

Wander back up Brückestraße, and turn right (east) along Wallstraße. Again, this street hosts an array of independent shops, restaurants and in particular two classic apple wine taverns, Fichtekranzi and Atschel (Atschel is usually open at lunch time) Next door to Fichte Kranzi is a traditional pottery shop, Töpferei Maurer, selling all things pottery related to Frankfurt's apple wine scene. On Saturdays there is also Markt im Hof, a small venture hosting a couple of food trucks, apple wine tastings and an indoor canteen with innovative choices of food. It's a real favourite with the locals!

By now you've probably seen a few places where you'd like to stop, eat and relax. If you're still in the mood for exploring then look out for my next blog post which will take you across the road and into the heart of Old Sachsenhausen!    

Animal rescue and adoption

Tierschutzverein, Frankfurt (animal shelter)

This post is for my ex-pat readers living in Frankfurt who are thinking of adopting a new pet. Adopting a pet from the local shelter system really does save a life. The Tierschutzverein Frankfurt has a selection of guinea-pigs, hamsters, rabbits, birds, cats and dogs, all of whom need a new home. This shelter does a phenomenal job of caring for the animals and is 100% dependent on donations for funding. They even have a small farm near Florstadt, known as the Gnadenhof, which houses many of the dogs in proper kennels with outdoor runs and it also allows senior animals to live out their days there.

Many pets are available at the city centre location (Ferdinand-Porsche-Str. 2-4, Frankfurt. Trams no. 11 and 12) while the Gnadenhof (Viehweg 1, Florstadt / Nieder Mockstadt) houses larger dogs, outdoor cats and even some farm animals like goats and horses. Check out the Gnadenhofs Facebook page if you wish to find out more.

I recently adopted a cat from the shelter on Ferdinand-Porsche-Strassse and on my first visit it was clear that the staff knew their charges individually and cared for them deeply. I speak fairly good German and had no problem explaining what I was looking for, but do take a Geman speaker with you if possible. Home checks were made to ensure the new home was a suitable environment and once approved I paid the 150€ adoption fee to cover medical costs, vaccinations and microchip, and not only became the proud owner of a beautiful cat but also, in adopting from the shelter, was able to free up space for another animal to have a second chance.

My beautiful cat from the Tiershutzverein, Frankfurt

My beautiful cat from the Tiershutzverein, Frankfurt

The Gnadenhof, Florstadt

Last weekend, out of curiosity and partly because I had some old towels to donate, I visited the Gnadenhof during their open afternoon hosted very Sunday between 13:00 and 15:00. Just as I arrived the staff were having a quick break in the yard and it was apparent that they were a happy and friendly team. Nearby were dogs chasing around in their pens while others were out for walks with volunteers. Cats were roaming the barns and crossing the pigsties where pigs were basking in the warm sun. Horses were chewing the hay, geese were gandering and goats were giddying. It really was a very special atmosphere.

Images from the Gnadenhof

Foster, sponsor or donate

Being an ex-pat, a core consideration before adoption is the logistics of transporting your pet when you are relocated. As a seasoned ex-pat myself I've done this several times, with cats, in and out of Europe and it's all gone smoothly. However, if this puts you off having a pet then perhaps consider helping in other ways. The shelter is often looking for homes who are willing to temporarily foster dogs. They also run a sponsorship program where named animals can be sponsored or monthly donations can be made to cover food costs at the shelter. If you simply want make a one-off donation then this can be done by bank transfer, details below:

IBAN DE28 5005 0201 0000 8813 67
Swift BIC   HELADEF1822
Frankfurter Sparkasse