frankfurt and fests

i can’t quite believe that it is over five months since i left london and moved to frankfurt. time has gone so quickly and it’s very easy to look back and think, “what have i done in that time?” and only come up with a very short list – continue working part-time, move into and get our flat set up, try to develop an understanding of the city and where to find the things within it that are important to us plus, of course and in many ways most importantly, meet people and start building a network of friends.

thankfully all of these things are happening relatively easily which means that exploring frankfurt and beyond into other parts of the country, are also things we have time for and things that i have been doing.

frankfurt itself is an easy place to be. there’s a very international community who are used to people arriving and needing to find their feet, which means there are plenty of warm welcomes. getting by without speaking german is also relatively simple. the city itself is small, especially compared to london, which makes getting around and discovering the different areas (which are often focussed around an individual street) very easy.

there have also been an abundance of “fests” this summer, which have encouraged us into different areas. these vary in character and size, sometimes being affiliated to individual neighbourhoods or streets - in sachsenhausen, there was the schweizer strassenfest at the end of july and this weekend a few streets away will be the brückenwall fest; next weekend is the leipziger strassenfest in bockenheim - thus providing an excuse for local shops and restaurants to pull all the stops, out as the streets become lined with food and drink stalls plus games for kids and often live music.

one fest with a different approach was the bahnhofsviertelnacht in the city’s hauptbahnhof area (the area around the main station) which had the usual food and drink stalls but was an evening event and therefore had a more adult crowd; it was also an opportunity for neighbourhood artists and community groups to open their studio doors and welcome the crowds. there have also been the specialist fests and activities such as the apfelwein fest which celebrates the local apfelwein (appelwine) which it tastes very like cider - you can order it pur (pure), sauer (sour, mixed with sparkling water) or süss (sweet, mixed with lemonade, and the one most likely to prompt your waiter not to serve you – they take apfelwein very seriously!). there is also the opernspiele which is a fest focused on children and provides a huge range of games for them to get involved with, in the area in front of the alte oper (old opera house).

the large mainfest, located on the banks of the river main (pronounced “mine”) which runs through the centre of the city, reminded me of the nottingham goose fair that i used to visit as a teenager when i lived locally – lots of rides with music blasting out, games of chance and skill plus plenty of stalls selling food and drink. a bright, brash and buzzy atmosphere that was concluded with a wonderful display of fireworks over the river.

as for the food and drink at these fests, it’s hardly gourmet fare – the german love of wurst (sausage) and chips is obvious and there are always many people eating this, usually with piles of ketchup, mayonnaise or curry sauce. in some cases this is all that is available but more often than not there are also options involving grüner sosse, frankfurt’s famous green sauce. this herb sauce is made across the hesse region and the frankfurt-style is made from hard-boiled eggs (which are turned into a puree), oil, vinegar, salt, sour cream, and generous amounts of fresh herbs (they vary depending what is in season but the classic seen are borage, sorrel, garden cress, chervil, chives, parsley, and salad burnet). they vary in colour from a vivid green that resembles a pesto, to the palest green, where the sour cream is dominant. most often i’ve seen it served with boiled potatoes, accompanying either boiled eggs, schnitzel or a large piece of braised meat (usually brisket or pork).

there are often also stalls catering for those who want a more snack-led approach, selling nuts, sweets, popcorn, cakes etc.

wine fests are another variant of fest and a brilliant way to sample a wide range of local wine, while you listen to live music and pick up a snack from one of the food stalls. in early august we went to wiesbaden, 30 minutes away on the train, to the rheingau weinfest where we listened to live rock music in the platz as we sipped our drinks.

it was only a fleeting visit but we managed to make time to call in at the fritz kunder konditorei (patisserie & confectionary shop) where i stocked up on their specialist products – the alcohol praline (plum and pear-based alcoholic chocolates where a sugar case surrounds the liquid alcohol centre, which is then coated in dark chocolate) and the wiesbaden törtchen (a very delicious concoction involving dark chocolate and pineapple jelly). i also had a very delicious lunch at feinkost feickert – they had several vegan options of the menu including the dish i chose which was a wonderfully spicy and well flavoured bean wrap (a bit like a burrito) – well worth a try if you’re local although i think you have to choose carefully as david’s pasta (a creamy pfifferlinge dish) was very average.

apparently the rheingau weinfest arrived in frankfurt this week, which means we have two fests on our list of things to do as we show some family visitors around the city.

as i said earlier, there’s a lot on which is all very welcoming and which helps makes living here very easy.