Monday, August 2, 2010

Visit the Eppstein Castle

Visiting the local castle, Burg Eppstein, first mentioned in 1122, is always a fun activity. Because it is basically in ruins, it is a real bargain (50 cents for children, 2 € for adults). If you pack a little picnic, you can sit under the tents set up in the summer or on the grass, and enjoy the scenery. When my boys were younger, they used to take a couple swords and reenact sword fights.

The museum has an old school desk with a number of children's books about knights and castles. If you have trouble finding reading time at home, you can sit at the desk and read the books in a real castle, after looking at the castle models and knight's armor.

Going up the medieval tower is always a highlight. Count the stairs. Take in the views of the old city from above.

Take a photo overlooking the red rooftops from the herbal garden. Drop a cent down the old well. Look in the Beggar Boy (Bettelbub) Tower, where debtors used to be kept in the dungeon until their debts were paid.

After your hour on the castle grounds, walk to the playground below and let your children amuse themselves on the teeter-totter, carousel, and slide while you enjoy the view of the impressive castle ruins towering above. If you don't have children with you, or even if you do, have a cappuccino in the Burg-Cafe and look out over the old town's marketplace.

Opening hours in the winter (Nov-Mar):
Castle open daily 11-15 except Mondays
Castle museum open Sundays and holidays 12-15
Birthday parties can also be scheduled 06198/ 305-131

For year-round opening hours, click here.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Castle Museum

The museum in Eppstein's castle is in the one building within the castle walls which was spared breakup in the early 19th century because it was still in use as a Catholic chapel.

The museum is very light and airy and nicely signposted--unfortunately only in German. Anyone can understand the models though and imagine how the castle looked all in white with a pointy turret on the top of its high tower. The models illustrate the castle's expansion over the years. The last defense walls were built in the 16th/17th century.

Although the building which houses the museum was built in the 13th century as an armory, it was then used as a kitchen (big oven in the back built in the 15th/16th century); you'll notice the baroque altar, which Eppstein's Catholics acquired when they used the building as their chapel after the valley church (Talkirche) became Protestant during the Reformation.

Different posters tell about the Eppstein castle as a divided castle since 1492 when the Lords of Eppstein sold half the castle to the Counts of Hessen. They also tell of its destruction after the French Revolution when the castle fell to the Duke of Nassau, who allowed it to be sold for its materials.

Upstairs are some books written by early travel writers who refer to Eppstein; also upstairs is a copy of Dumas's Le chateau d'Eppstein, as well as paintings of the castle, in particular some painted by members of one of the first painters' colonies in Germany--the "Kronberger Malerkolonie," founded in the 19th century.

The museum has many brochures about the castle's activities and those of all the castles in the Taunus. The old school desk also has books for children to read about knights and castles. The museum's hours are Saturdays 2-5 p.m., Sundays and holidays 12-5 p.m.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Read Alexandre Dumas's Gothic Novel "Castle Eppstein"

Just finished reading Alexandre Dumas's Castle Eppstein--enjoyed the descriptions of dark forests and howling winds on this gusty day in Eppstein. Dumas was one of the first Romantics and published The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and Castle Eppstein all in 1844. A couple years ago I attended the open-air production of The Three Musketeers against the backdrop of Eppstein Castle, not realizing that Dumas had actually used the romantic ruins for one of his tales--Le Chateau d'Eppstein.

Had it not been for our castle's name in its title, I probably would not have bought the French novel, but reading the Gothic romance with its woman in white, demon lover, tapestries, castle backdrop, and storms at night was addictive (kept going back for more over the course of my busy day).

Although Dumas obviously was not that familiar with the area and just used Eppstein for a German setting, it was fun to pick up on some of his Eppstein allusions. He mentions the Taunus Mountains several times, nearby Frankfurt, and the Main River (which he puts much closer to the castle than it actually is). His young hero's name is Everhard, which calls to mind Eppstein's 11th-century legendary founder, Eberhard. Dumas's minor character, Bertha, reminds us Eppsteiners of Bertha from Bremthal, who was allegedly rescued by the castle's founder from a giant's net.

If you are in the area, Alexandre Dumas's novel of "romance and horror" makes for a complementary, entertaining read.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Hike to Eppstein's Kaisertempel

If you feel like a short hike while in Eppstein, take a walk along the panoramic path (Theodor-Fliedner-Weg) behind Eppstein's newly renovated, turn-of-the-century train station, and up the steep hill to the Kaisertempel. The Kaisertempel with its Doric columns was built in 1894 as a memorial to commemorate the Prussian victory in the Franco-Prussian War (1870/71), which unified the German Empire under King Wilhelm I of Prussia.

The views of Eppstein's old town are gorgeous as you walk past Villa Anna, then take the forest walk (rather than the shortcut up the paved road) along Eppstein's stream, the Fischbach. Finally you get to the Kaisertempel with its Italian restaurant and view of the entire valley.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Have a Meal Overlooking Eppstein

Sept. 2016//Restaurant has closed, hope it reopens next year!

The views from the balcony at Ristorante Kaisertempel are wonderful: on the left, you see the classical temple (1894) after which the restaurant is named; below, you see Alt-Eppstein; beyond, the valley all the way to Niedernhausen.

The panoramic view and tasty Italian food are well worth the drive up the windy one-lane road (Gimbacher Straße) to the top of the Staufen.

If you have extra time, take the forest path to the right behind the restaurant's parking lot to visit the Mendelssohn Memorial. The composer Felix Mendelssohn stayed in Eppstein several times between 1837 and his death in 1847.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Have a Drink at Eppstein's Bahnhof

Eppstein's turn-of-the-century train station (1903) has been newly renovated and houses not only an RMV counter (Rhine-Main bus and commuter train information counter), the Bürgerbüro (citizens' information center), but also the Wunderbar Weite Welte, a restaurant with fun atmosphere.

The Wunderbar's windows look over the train tracks and you can watch the trains criss-cross Eppstein's station every fifteen minutes. The restaurant, with its international menu, exhibits original artwork and occasionally hosts live music; on Sundays they have a popular brunch buffet. I enjoy meeting friends there for a cup of tea or drinks in the evening.
They also offer a daily two-course prix fixe lunch for 6,50 €, which looks fairly good. Try one out and let me know how it is!

Bergpark Villa Anna

In the late 1800s, a wealthy banking family from Frankfurt built their country villa in Eppstein and had the famous landscaper Andreas Weber (who also designed the Frankfurt Zoo) plant a park around it with 200 exotic trees and bushes. Only experts can find the rare trees now, but a group is trying to change this and is raising money to clear the overgrowth and have the rare trees clearly identified.

Apparently the park around the Villa Anna--now used as a drug rehabilitation center for youth--is one of only two "Bergparks" (mountainside parks) in all of Hesse. Today we had beautiful weather, so on our Sunday walk to the Neufville Tower, we decided to take the meandering paths around the von Neufville's former summer home. It was fun to discover a number of different buildings on the paths--a couple of guesthouses, a coach house, and more. We look forward to when the exotic trees are marked for visitors.

Frankfurt Activity: See a Show at Frankfurt University

The Chaincourt Theatre Company of the English department at Frankfurt University puts on at least one production a semester.

Last night we saw the company's outdoor production of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town," directed by university lector James Fisk. Students and others from the academic community sat on blankets and benches to watch the very professional production, which made good use of the campus's terraced lawn. I never cease to be amazed by the students' ability to perform at such a high level in a language not necessarily their own.

The Westend campus, where the shows are performed (Grüneburgplatz 1), is an easy 30-minute drive from Eppstein. If you missed this production, check the Chaincourt Theatre Company's website for their next one.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Eppo the Knight

Eppo the Knight is Eppstein's legendary founder. The way I first heard the story was that Eppo the Knight was wandering through the Taunus hills when he heard the calls for help of a lovely young maiden named Bertha. He rescued Bertha von Bremthal from a cave and vowed he'd capture the giant who had captured her. He did so with a giant net and rolled the monster off a cliff to his death. Sir Eppo then built Eppstein Castle on the site where he'd done away with the giant, and he and Bertha lived happily ever after. One of the giant's ribs still hangs over the castle entrance.

John Murray's account in Hand-Book for Travellers on the Continent (1836) is somewhat more gruesome and fanciful--the maiden is chained to the cave by a giant who has slain her kindred; the net Eppo retrieves is magical, having been brought back by the maiden's father as booty from Palestine.

In Eneas Sweetland Dallas's Once a Week, Volume 7 (1862), the giant is overcome by "Rhine-wine," so after Eppo envelopes him in the "hunting-net," the struggling monster breaks his neck in his struggle to get free.

The blushing damsel herself captures the giant in Lewis Spence's Hero Tales and Legends from the Rhine (1915). Sir Eppo then rolls the "howling monster" over the precipice.

Eppstein elementary school students still write down their versions of the Eppo the Knight saga, and his image is everywhere, from the wall of a local restaurant above to the logo of the local Burg-Schule (castle school).

A real knight named Eberhard (nickname: Eppo) from the noble Frankish Konradiner family most likely laid the first stone of the castle. This small stone tower was probably built already 200 years before the castle's existence was documented in 1122.


Our "Stadtteil" (district) of Eppstein is called Vockenhausen. It was founded around 1100 by the Lords of Eppstein and belonged to them until they died out in 1535. Historically, the area was a site for manufacturing. A number of mills (e.g. for grinding grain, dye-making, leather-tanning, and iron extraction) made use of the stream that runs through the town.

The sculpture before the Vockenhausen turn-off between Alt-Eppstein and Bremthal is a reminder of Vockenhausen's "Schmelzmühle" (smelting mill) as well as Vockenhausen's two well-known artists Robert and Ella Bergmann-Michel, who lived at the mill from the 1920's until their deaths.

The sunny hillside of Vockenhausen is home to many families and Eppstein's elementary and middle schools; the valley has a number of traditional German, as well as Greek, Italian, and Chinese restaurants, a few bakeries, guest houses, hair salons, doctors' offices, a tanning and waxing salon, drugstores, dry cleaners/post office, and local grocery stores.

The "Bergstraße"--also called the "Schmerzberg" ("Pain Mountain") during the annual May 1 bike race--goes over the hill to Alt-Eppstein. A tennis club with clay courts is at the top of that hill and popular in the summer; guests can play for 10€ a day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Walk to the "Pionier-Tempel"

Today's Sunday excursion took us to the "Pionier-Tempel," a five-minute walk from the train station.  The iron structure, earlier nicknamed the "omnibus" or "tram temple," was built in 1889 by the 2nd company of the "pionier" (engineer) battalion XI from Mainz-Kastel.

The forest path between the Eppstein train station and Wildsachsen was cut by the army engineers for the transport of timber.  Amazingly, 500 men did the job in four days. 

When they finished, in keeping with the late 18th century English tradition of landscape gardens dotted by gazebos and observation points, they built this scenic overlook. 

Walk to all the overlooks kept up by Eppstein's beautification society, most of them built over a century ago during the flowering of Eppstein as a "Luftkurort" (climatic spa town). 

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Excursion: Day on the Rhine

After a 45-minute drive to the Rhine, you can enjoy the beautiful view of the Rhine Valley from cable cars, a walk in the forest, and travel on a boat as well.

From Eppstein, take the B455 towards Wiesbaden, then the A3 towards Frankfurt, then the A66 towards Wiesbaden. Keep driving until the A66 ends and you will be driving along the Rhine. Drive until Rüdesheim. Pull over on your left at the tourist office. Get a free map of the Rüdesheim-Assmannshausen area and a 10-euro ticket that will pay for your cable-car, chairlift, and ferry tickets. Then park in the nearby free parking lot (ask the tourist office where it is).

Walk on the main street along the Rhine until you hit Drosselgasse, a very quaint alley leading up the hill. Walk by all the little tourist shops and go to the cable car ("Seilbahn"). The cable car will take you up to the giant statue of Germania, built after the Franco-Prussian War. The views are impressive. Kids can try to see if Germania is wearing a crown. Walk along the hiking trail with its fun stops, such as fake castle ruins built by a duke for his visitors. Walk through the Enchanted Tunnel ("Zauberhöhle"); bring a flashlight if members of your party are scared of the dark! Feed some deer carrots and apples in the fenced-in animal area ("Tierpark"). Then after the hourlong hike, you can take the chairlift ("Sesselbahn") down to the valley of Assmannshausen. If you walk to the main street along the Rhine, you'll find a little restaurant with super Apfelstrudel and English menus. My youngest son had the kids' fish sticks meal with yummy peas and what really tasted like homemade mashed potatoes.

Enjoy the ride down the Rhine back to Rüdesheim. If you are in luck, you might catch the ferry that has a playground on the upper deck. Keep walking along the Rhine when you get out of the boat, and you'll be back to your car. Perfect getaway afternoon.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Go Greek at Kalispera

  • Kalispera (Tel. 06198/ 1238) has a friendly atmosphere and is run by one of Eppstein's own families.

I love their Greek salad so much that I order it every time, and the friend I usually meet there always orders the Gemüseplatte (vegetable platter) with eggplant and other Greek specialties. It is on Eppstein's main street (Hauptstr. 32) and is open 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday to Sunday and on Sunday from 11:30-2:30.

Go to St. Jakobus for a Church Service

St. Jakobus Catholic Church is three streets down from our home in Vockenhausen. On Sundays, the church bells start ringing at 10:30 a.m., and I used to tell the boys, "The bells are calling us." In contrast to attending anonymous churches in Frankfurt, just walking down the walkways to church and seeing neighbors in the pews around is very appealing.

Masses geared toward families are on the second Sunday of the month, often followed by coffee and cake. Once a month the lay minister says mass without the priest, but with incense and eight altar boys and girls at her side. A number of church holidays are still German national
holidays. Traditions for these holidays are kept up, such as having processions through the town, chanting Latin around bonfires, and creating images out of flower petals--as the youth group did yesterday for the Corpus Christi mass (see photo).

The church itself was built in 1785 for the village of Vockenhausen. When we moved here, it was being renovated and feels very modern with a pastel interior design. The marble baptismal font (1750) already served the Vockenhausener in an earlier half-timbered chapel. The stained-glass windows were created in 1950 by Frankfurt artisans; the bronze tabernacle and the altar made from travertine are the newest additions (1981).

Church services are held at 11:00 on Sunday mornings and Wednesdays at 6:00 p.m.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Relax in a medieval terraced garden

The first mention of Eppstein Castle's Altangarten was in 1630. The original terraced garden was not merely decorative. Its yields were part of the payment given officials of the Hessian revenue office, which had its seat at the castle.

The Eppstein Castle Society (Burgverein) has tried to remain true to the garden's original purpose and planted apricot trees, grapevines, and healing plants.

According to an article in the Frankfurter Rundschau, the Society was inspired in their historic restoration by Albert Magnus, who in a 13th century manuscript sketched the ideal medieval garden: beds of herbs, fruit trees, flowers, and a bench, which invites its visitor to bide a while.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bike to Eppstein-Ehlhalten

A few years ago a bike path was constructed between the Eppstein "Stadtteile" (districts) of Vockenhausen and Ehlhalten. Today we took advantage of the nice weather and biked to the village of Ehlhalten, founded in the 11th century by a religious order, to look at their church, built in 1732 on the site of an older medieval chapel.

The church is dedicated to St. Michael, my youngest son's patron saint, so we appreciated the painting, statue, and stained glass window all depicting the archangel slaying the dragon Satan. On the Sunday after September 29 (Michaelmas), the Ehlhalteners celebrate their town festival.

The boys were eager to get back to Vockenhausen for an ice cream cone, but if you have time, you can also check out the old farmhouses on Gräfliche Straße.

Castle Activity

The boys recently attended a work-shop at Eppstein Castle on how and what people wrote in the days of Knight Eppo, the legendary founder of the castle. Not only did the workshop participants get to write royal warrants and deeds with quill pens, but they made seals impressed in beeswax, similar to those which were attached to documents in the Middle Ages.

The castle offers a number of
activities for adults and children alike throughout the year. You can find their list of events on Eppstein's website: This workshop was entitled "Gänsekiel und Königssiegel" and was 6 euros a child for the two-hour workshop. To sign up for the next one, call 06198 305 101.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Take the Train to the City and Beyond

Eppsteiners appreciate their direct train connection to Frankfurt's city center. S2 trains leave every half hour throughout the day, every fifteen minutes during peak hours.

To continue on to almost any European city, get off the train at Frankfurt's Hauptbahnhof. Berlin, Brussels, Paris, and Amsterdam are all four-hour direct train rides away. We've even taken the night train to Venice (Venedig) from there. Check out the current schedule with the Deutsche Bahn (German Railway). To return to Eppstein from the main train station, go to the underground S-Bahn track #103 (S2-direction Niedernhausen); trains leave at :22 and :52.

To arrive in the middle of the city, get out at Hauptwache,

the second stop after Frankfurt's Hauptbahnhof. Café Hauptwache, a baroque building originally built in 1729 as Frankfurt's main police station, is just above.

So is Kaufhof, an American-style department store where you can find most everything and enjoy a panoramic view of Frankfurt from the rooftop. From here, you are within walking distance of most Frankfurt sites (e.g., the Alte Oper, the Römer). To return to Eppstein from Hauptwache, go to the S-Bahn track #3; trains leave at :18 and :48.

Train schedule: The trains from Eppstein in the direction of Frankfurt leave at 11 and 41 minutes past the hour and go through Frankfurt to Dietzenbach During the peak hours, trains stop at :26 and :56 as well, but end at Frankfurt's main train station. You can check the train schedule on the Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV) website or stop by the RMV counter in Eppstein's main train station. You can also call 01805/768 46 36.

Purchasing tickets: If more than one person is going into the city, it makes sense to buy a group day ticket for 14.60 euros. With a day ticket, unlimited travel within Frankfurt is included. Buy tickets from the machine on Platform 1--punch in "Gruppentageskarte" for group day ticket, "50" for Frankfurt, then "1" for "via Hofheim." One-way single tickets are € 3.90 each. If you buy a one-way ticket, you'll need to buy your return ticket in Frankfurt--punch in "Einzelfahrt" for "one-way," "6620" for Eppstein and again "1" for "via Hofheim."

S-Bahn map: Click here

BEWARE of purchasing the BahnCard if you are taking a longer trip and the DB agent recommends getting one to receive a discount. It automatically renews unless you write a letter to the DB. If you are only in the country temporarily, keep this in mind; if you don't, you'll end up paying a collection agency (Universum Inkasso) for the never requested renewed card because you'll get the notice after the deadline! For my experience and contact info in case this has already happened to you, click here.

Unfortunately, you cannot park at the Eppstein train station (P+R parking lot) anymore unless you can make it to Frankfurt and back in four hours. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Goethe House in Frankfurt

 Johann Wolfgang Goethe (1749-1832) is, of course, one of Germany's most famous writers. Whenever we have visitors from out of town, we like to prepare Goethe's favorite meal
Grüne Soße (green sauce).  A fitting follow-up activity is going into Frankfurt and visiting his place of birth am Großer Hirschgraben. 

Only the first four stairs inside the house are from the original house; the rest was destroyed during the War. Those stone stairs are interesting though because Germans have the expression that if people are very rich, they are "steinreich" (stone rich), and that is because only the very rich could afford such stairs in the home; the rest had wooden staircases.  
Another special artifact in the Goethe house is its "wundersame Uhr," the astronomical clock that Goethe had admired as a child.  It was designed by his tutor, a lawyer whose hobbies were astronomy, math, and mechanics.  Clocks in those days (ca. 1750) were only beginning to show the correct time. Hüsgen's clock is amazing even for today's standards and shows the zodiac sign, the date, and the phase of the moon, as well as the time.  

Other than that, we appreciated the house's "Frankfurter Schrank," the large cupboard in which the 100+ sets of linens were kept in those days when wash day was only a few times a year. And I found the high writing desk inspiring, where Goethe began Faust.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Frankfurt Excursion: Städel Museum

Check out Boticelli and Vermeer at the Städel art museum. If you are going with children, go on a “scavenger hunt” looking for the 7 most famous paintings in the museum (according to my DK guidebook): Ecce Homo by Hieronymus Bosch, the Lucca Madonna by Jan van Eyck, the ballet dancers by Degas, the Blinding of Samson by Rembandt. The cappuccino in the museum café is excellent and the museum shop has gift ideas for young and old.

The museum is on the "Museumufer," an easy ten-minute walk from the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof by crossing the Main via the Holbein footbridge. In nice weather, you can combine the cultural activity with a walk along the Main promenade.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

May 1 Bike Race Through Eppstein

One of the most exciting days of the year for Eppstein is the May 1st holiday, when professional bikers cycle through Alt-Eppstein's quaint cobblestone streets, peddle up the painfully steep hill towards Vockenhausen, then whiz down our Bergstrasse. The atmosphere is always electric with TV helicopters overhead, police motorcades, team cars with bike carriers, and buses for the injured passing through, not to mention the cyclists themselves biking past at breakneck speed.

The professionals cycle 201.7 kilometers through Eschborn, Frankfurt, and the Taunus for the race called "Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt" (last year: "Eschborn-Frankfurt City Loop," successor of "Rund um den Henninger Turm"). Our family tradition is to cheer them on as they come down the hill near our house, then walk down the hill and indulge ourselves with some delicious sundaes at the local Italian ice-cream cafe.

Take a Scenic Walk Around Villa Anna

During a tour by Herr Bauer of the grounds of Villa Anna, he brought our attention to the exotic bushes and trees that were planted over 100 years ago when the wealthy Frankfurt businessman Alfred von Neufville and his family landscaped their summer residence in Eppstein.

After passing by the blooming century-old rhododendron bush, a group of about 35 of us got to the main villa, then took the narrow path off to the right of the villa. If you do the same, you'll come to the scenic view of Alt-Eppstein above.

If you continue clambering up the path you'll get to a fenced-in area with a goat, pass by the historic pigeon house, a few impressive marked trees, and 40-meter high Douglas firs, which were imported from North America as "collector's items" when the grounds were originally landscaped. In keeping with the fashion for Alpine buildings at the time, the path ends at a Swiss chalet.

So nice that today anyone can have the pleasure of exploring the grounds of the nineteenth-century rich and famous. The trick is just knowing what to look for.

Neufville Tower

The Neufville Tower is the perfect Eppstein destination for a short hike (15-20 minutes), which can be taken even with young children. Walk up the narrow paved road behind the train station. Stay on the paved road rather than going to your right towards Villa Anna or to your left on the Panorama Path. A small café in the tower serves lattes and cake on the weekends and holidays from April to September (1-6 p.m.).

For years I'd seen the illuminated old tower from our balcony and just assumed it was a medieval watchtower set in the hills. Once I learned it was built by the wealthy banking family who built Villa Anna in the 1880s, I supposed the tower was a romantic destination for strolls around the family's grounds. In fact, it was built in 1894 to house their private art collection and to serve as their "Jagdhaus" (hunting lodge).

Frankfurt: Night of the Museums

Last night was Frankfurt's Night of the Museums. The atmosphere on the streets along the Main River is particularly dynamic during the annual event--young and old walking along, taking advantage of the 12€ ticket with which one can visit around 50 museums in Frankfurt until 1 or 2 a.m. and ride the shuttle buses for free. Last year I took advantage of the ticket to go into the Jewish museum for the first time, meet a friend at the Städl art museum, then show him the models of pre-war Frankfurt in the Historical Museum. It was fun to be able to pick and choose from the museum buffet.

This time I went with my 15-year-old son, but we didn't have time to go into any museums, just enough time to enjoy the stimulating atmosphere. We walked from the Hauptwache past the lines of people in front of the Goethe House and across the Römer, where a concert stage and additional museum ticket booths had been set up. After crossing the footbridge to Sachsenhausen, we were in good company all along the Main footpath (see photo at top) to the Städl art museum.

On our train ride home, it was fun to see so many people waiting at the S-Bahn stops to go into Frankfurt for the mass cultural event.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Day in Frankfurt: Alte Oper

Take the S2 train from Eppstein to the Taunusanlage.  Get out at Taunusanlage and walk a block to the Alte Oper.  Admire the architecture of the former opera house, built originally in 1880, almost completely destroyed during WW II, then rebuilt and reopened as a concert hall in 1981.  "Dem Wahren, Schönen, Guten" is engraved on the facade, which means--depending on how you interpret it-- "to the true, the beautiful, the good" or "for truth, beauty, and good."   In a metaphorical sense, the phrase implies preserving what is finest in art.

The Lucae Fountain in front of the landmark is popular in the summer, with children wading in it and adults sitting on its rim eating big ice cream cones.  Every second winter, an ice-skating rink is set up on the opera square.

In the evening, the Alte Oper is beautifully illuminated.  Afterwards you can visit my favorite wine bar, Fidelio, two minutes away (Bockenheimer Landstraße 1-3).  Along with their excellent selection of wines, they have a short food menu.  

The Alte Oper program includes chamber music, symphonies,  jazz bands, musicals, balls, and other big events; their family concerts are very popular.  They have web information in English (, so check out what appeals to you and make a day or evening out of it.  

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Tour the Old Town

Every Easter Monday, Dr. Picard, Eppstein's archivist, conducts a walking tour of old Eppstein-- from the train station to the castle ruins. Today I took the tour for my third time. In particular, I enjoy hearing about turn-of-the-century Eppstein as a tourist destination. It seems once Eppstein got on the train line, vacationers would come by train from the Rhineland to spend the week in the spa town ("Luftkurort") with its romantic castle ruins. In 1900, as many as 3000 tourists would make the trip out to Eppstein on a beautiful day such as today.

The tour went by what used to be Hotel Seiler (Burgstr. 6), built in 1878 by an engineer who was involved with the train line. You can still see the pavillion, where the guests would take their breakfasts. The story behind the medieval "Mord- und Sühnekreuz" (murder and atonement cross) a few steps further on was new to me--when someone killed someone in the Middle Ages, part of the punishment was for the murderer to put up a cross on a well-traveled road in the victim's name, so travelers would be encouraged to offer a prayer to the departed.

After going into the St. Laurentius Church, we passed by the old city wall and heard that Eppstein got its "Stadtrecht" (town charter) in 1318, very early considering medieval Eppstein only had 100-150 citizens. Dr. Picard pointed out the tower in the quaint building which used to be the town hall and now houses the Eppsteiner Zeitung (Eppstein's newspaper); the narrow tower used to hold the town's firehoses! Then we went into the Protestant church, the Talkirche, which was built in the early 15th century by the Lords of Eppstein and was Catholic before the Reformation.

The walking tour's final destination was up to the castle (first mention in 1122--"Ebbensten"), where coffee and cake awaited us in the "Kemenate" (ladies' chambers). A perfect Easter Monday tour, which can be walked any day of the year.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Eppstein's "Fast Food"

Nothing beats Eppstein's Pizza and Kebab place for fast food. German cities have Pizza Huts and McDonald's, but once you get to the smaller towns, Döner shops and grilled chicken waggons are generally the only local sources of fast food.

This kebab shop on the Burgstrasse (71.1) below the castle is always great for a quick, fresh meal out with the children. They've opened up the back, so they have a number of tables.

The new owners are friendly and responsive. Güney Kebaphaus is open Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-11 p.m., Saturday/Sunday noon-11 p.m. They have free delivery in Eppstein for orders of 10€ except from 2:30-5 p.m (06198/ 57 1662). I can recommend Eppstein's kebab place again!