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  • Writer's pictureNigel

The Ferry 渡し船 わたしぶね 16th February 2022

Updated: Mar 2, 2022

2022年2月16日

"Vermisse nur das Meer und den Kreisverkehr...." That's what a local newspaper wrote about me when I first set up a violin workshop south of Frankfurt. "He misses the sea and the roundabouts". Well, there are more roundabouts here these days, but I sometimes feel very far from the sea. A day out in Sussex on Brighton Beach was a routine event in my childhood.

I had that feeling again last weekend. I couldn't just go to the sea, but I could go to the next best thing. So I made a beeline for the river Rhein at Nierstein, literally on the Hesse/Rheinland Pfalz border. Half an hour with the car plus a small ferry if I wanted to explore the other side of the river. I was soon parking at the high water dyke just before the ferry crossing at Kornsand, a little huddle of farms and a Gasthaus. It was a glorious bright day with blue skies 空は青かった、sora wa aokatta. A flock of geese honked its way overhead....

Exhilarating! I then walked across the fields to the river. It is quite wide at this point, but you can see the low hills of Rheinland Pfalz on the other bank......with the spire of Oppenheim church through the trees.......

Idyllic. Now time to walk to the ferry. But what was this strange thing plonked at the edge of a farmers field? For heavens sake.......!

Here is the inscription: "Here landed Count Zeppelin with his airship on its first long flight on 4th August 1908"

Ah, that count and his airship. Fair enough, all the fields are as flat as a pancake here, and maybe he was attempting to get back to Frankfurt's airship base at the time. Well, it's a nice sunny spot for walkers now.....😊.

Right, I thought, now to that ferry.


When I am walking, and not driving a car or riding a bicycle, I like to explore little details along the way. Before I got to the ferry, a little sign attracted my attention "Gedenkstein 600m" (Memorial stone). But there is only farmland out there (?). I walked down a nondescript path, past some sheep and a few farmhouses. Not very interesting. And then there it was. A huge boulder bearing a metal plaque. The inscription is chilling. I did not want to write about it in this blog, but it has been preying on my mind ever since, and writing about it may help. Here is a detail....

".....21st March 1945. They were shot , innocent, in sight of their home" So what happened here, in this empty piece of farmland? Well, I looked it up. The locals mentioned here had been known to the authorities in Nierstein as critics of the Nazi regime. They had spent time at a prison camp at Osthofen, near Worms, but had since lived relatively peacefully in Nierstein, over the river. At some point they were returning from Darmstadt, where they had had to report to the Gestapo. However the Gestapo, being far too busy destroying files and packing up, had let them go home. After all, the American Army had already reached the vineyards above Nierstein and Oppenheim, and only the Rhine stood in the way.

These luckless people were of course taking the obvious way back home - this ferry at Kornsand. Wrong place; wrong time. The desperate Wehrmacht retreat. Right here. On the 21st of March 1945 the ferry was still intact (unlike most of the bridges across the Rhein at that date). To put it briefly, a petty local Nazi officer, using the pretext that they did not have the correct papers with them, arrested them and had them shot in this field. A war crime. It has to be added that he had difficulty finding a soldier to undertake this, but in the end an eager young 18-year old Wehrmachtsleutnent, who was stationed at the nearby flak station, stepped up. He forced the people to dig their own graves first.

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kornsandverbrechen . The veneer of civilization is thin.

 

So to the ferry itself. I handed my €1.50 to a rather weather beaten ticket collector, who pressed buttons on a contraption which would not have looked out of place on a London bus in the 1970s. In the other hand he had a digital print out unit to hand me a receipt. Honestly.

Inside.....a smell of wood and oil added to the old-fashioned feeling.....

Dodging the huge container barges on their way to the port of Rotterdam....

Once I had arrived at the other bank I began climbing up the hill at Nierstein..

and entering Oppenheim I came across three sorts of buildings. Castle, Church and Commerce. Commerce means wine here....

The first of numerous homes testifying to the wine industry.....their doorways adorned with all the iconography of wine.....

and lots of architectural fantasies......

including a medieval tower converted into a clock tower in 1907...in time for Graf Zeppelin's landing maybe.....

and castle means castle....looks like this one has had a long history...

Indeed....built in the 13thc., burnt down in the 30 years war (who was fighting whom? I have forgotten all those dull history lessons at school) and then blown up by the French in 1689. The Landskron of Oppenheim. I had to avoid getting into a wedding photograph whilst I was there. Good scenic venue I suppose. And there were lots of young families there with kids...they (the kids) love it of course...

However, Church and Wine seems to have survived the ravages of time. Oh sorry, I did not mean that to rhyme....🙄

For such a small place, the church is amazing. More like a cathedral towering over a city.


And so ended my visit. Back to the ferry. Along with the bikers, the cyclists and the families with dogs. Masks required. Such a small place yes, but so much has happened here.


 

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