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  • Writer's pictureNigel

Unexpected 意外


Unexpected things happened this week. For example, on Good Friday I found myself in the Fahrgasse in Frankfurt. Well, you may ask, so what?

It turns out that the Fahrgasse is one of Frankfurt's oldest streets. It is the continuation of the oldest bridge of the city - the Alte Brucke, and runs up to the Museum of Modern Art, where it is it then brutally cut through by the Berliner Allee (a good example of post-war car mania). It continues north towards Konstablerwache, having by this time become a sort of little Asia. Here is Ramen Jun and Mikuni. Iimori Ichiba is nearby. There are Chinese supermarkets, a Japanese pottery shop, a Dippemesse shop, an old sewing machine workshop and even a shop selling vermin deterrent. A strange ensemble.

So what was I doing there on Good Friday? Well, I had decided, out of pure curiosity, to join a Stadttour - a guided tour of the street. I have always looked on guided tours with scepticism, and was curious. I mean, what on earth could one say about this nondescript place, dominated as it is now by crushingly functional 1950s blocks? But our guide was an amusing character, born and bred in Frankfurt. He carried this huge monitor with him, so he could hold it up at the corner of a street and say - "this is what this corner used to look like..." (either 200 or only 80 years ago) etc.... In this manner he showed us the splendid tower gateway that once stood at the end of the bridge.......and do you see those tiny row of huts on the left of the picture?

He had a rare colour photograph of these (they were public washhouses) taken from the spire of the cathedral in 1939. Incredible. Early use of Agfa film. We were then shown the house where Voltaire lived, and the site of some gruesome murder, whose victim Goethe used as the inspiration of "Die Gretchen Tragödie"in his Faust.......

Honestly, this Fahrgasse.

Then, walking into one Hinterhof (back yard) we were astonished to see this Reichsadler (Imperial eagle). Apparently the Nazis had this crazy plan to compartmentalise Frankfurt into different social areas. This particular area of housing was for political undesirables. Maybe they thought that the residents needed a symbol on the wall to remind them of who was in charge. Note the gap between the eagle's feet. The Hakenkreuz (Swastika) would have been affixed here.

The entrance.......

Unfortunately this ghastly Hakenkreuz once turned up in my workshop. A customer of mine had had a violinmaker relative and they gave me his old box.....

...all very familiar stuff for me, except this coin which was in a little envelope......It send a shiver down my spine when I realised what it was. A Pfennig (penny) from 1944. It may be cold comfort to say this at the present time, but dictators always fall eventually.

An unexpected and not altogether welcome addition to my own coin collection.


More of the unexpected: In my homework this week there was a picture of a girl putting in her contact lenses and then doing her make-up. I had to decribe this scenario in Japanese

(in my mind there was this sentence "just coming, darling, just putting in the contacts and getting ready......" ). Now you might use those funny little lenses yourself, so you know the experience. Do you put your contacts into your eyes? or on to your eyes? or what exactly? Well after some research I discovered this week that 👀 In Japanese you can say " コンタクトレンズ ("kontakutorensu") をけています。That little Chinese character 付, or Kanji, means "attach". The verb itself can mean to attach; to join; to add; to append; to affix; to stick; to glue; to fasten; to sew on; to apply........oh, and also to wear. Hmm. And the example given in my dictionary? "He who wears armour falls with a big crash" ( Very Japanese 😅)

(Pride comes before a fall?). Honestly, these dictionaries.


More surprises. The local transport Association, The Rhein Main Verkehrsverband, (RMV),🚉 has made any day ticket bought on Good Friday valid over the whole Easter weekend. So I promptly jumped onto an SBahn today and made an unusual stop at Neu Isenburg - a town I would usually just pass through on the way to Frankfurt. Here I cycled off into the woods in search of a lake which I had noticed on Google maps. A lake only 7 kms away from my home which I had never seen. Why? Well as I followed the cycle paths in the right direction it was quite clear that I was being directed away from the lake. I stubbornly cycled straight on and suddenly there it was - the Gehspitzweiher of Neu Isenburg. Access to the lake is not only discouraged but simply not allowed, as it is a nature reserve. There is however a good path around it at a higher level. My geese friends (who seem to keep cropping up regularly in my blog posts) were not very welcoming and made that loud and clear. There were swans as well I have to say...

This was originally a clay pit, dug out in the 18thc. for the making of bricks. Later on the firm Phillip Holzman extracted sand and gravel, and in the 70's it had a reputation as an illegal bathing venue (oh how risque). The city of Frankfurt even had a plan to build an hotel here and make this all into an official resort. But it was discovered that the water level of the lake rose and sunk dramatically according to the rainfall, and also due to water demand. So in the 1980s it gained nature reserve status. Long may it last.


It is Easter Day, and I can hardly hear myself think as the bells of the local church thunder out. It's called the church of Magnus the Martyr - but I can only think of its mega bells.

And unexpectedly, my local bakery is open every day over Easter. As I discovered when buying some Kuchen this morning. The "bustling lady behind the Theke "(see older blog post) even gave me a little present : a Kuken! n.b. if you are in Germany get the pronounciation of these two words right. They mean Cake ケーキ and Chick 雛 (ひよこ) respectively.

Oh, and whilst we are at it, there is Church and Cherries: Kirche und Kirsche - 教会 (きょうかい) and 桜桃 (おうとう). Not a problem in Japanese at least.

Nature, whether it is the weather......

or the spring blossoms, seemed to be doing its level best this weekend to take our thoughts away from the news. As I walked down by the railway the sound of an well known Easter hymn - not a German Chorale, wafted out of an open window. Lusty singing accompanied deftly on an electric organ. Here's the hymn - the tune is from a collection called Lyra Davidica from1708, and is itself based on an old 14thc plainsong theme "Surrexit Christus Hodie".

The surprise for me was that this tune, so connected to my childhood Easters, was issuing from the Kirche Jesu Christi der Heiligen der Letzten Tage , i.e. a local branch of the Mormon community. Well, well, well. Music is universal isn't it. Someone has even paraphrased the words into Japanese....

Side note: If you ever find yourself in a church in Japan (which I admit may be a rather rare event), singing a hymn is good practice for reading the hiragana alphabet quickly (after all, you have to keep up with the organ). I've noticed that very few Kanji (Chinese characters) are used in music generally - probably because one Kanji often has several meanings. Imagine the confusion 😣.

More of the unexpected.

I have been given an oak tree 🌳 樫の木 as an Easter present.

Well, not a socking great tree of course, but a little sapling.

"Once upon a time there was an acorn, a どんぐり. One windy day it fell to the ground in a park. A wily squirrel 🐿木鼠, thinking of the lean winter months to come, picked it up beween its teeth and hid it in a nearby window box. In Frankfurt's West End. Feeling quite comfortable there, and soon forgotten by the squirrel, the acorn sprouted and became a sort of "bonsai" oak. A kind woman, pining after the garden she had recently had to leave in eastern Europe, decided to give this little oak a chance in the big wide world. And so it was, leaving the city walls behind her and clutching a little plastic bag (out of which said oak was hopefully peeping), she alighted at the railway station in Langen. And it was here, in the shade of the Towers, that the oak was gratefully received and given a new life."

Well actually, its final plantation site is yet to be decided, but a provisional solution has been a pot.....😉.

let's hope it survives!

And that was the start of our Easter Sunday cycle around Langen. じてんしゃで出かけたのですよ!Past the fields of rape seed,

and stopping for a break at the Bruchsee.....

...glinting in the heaven-sent Easter sunshine!

My neighbour had lent us an extra bicycle, which was useful.

And so my report of Easter from Germany might soon end, except that I haven't mentioned that we rounded off the day with an unexpected mix of Ukrainian Olivye (delicious home-made salad), fresh Italian Easter panettone, my local bakery's Käsekuchen, and a bottle of Chardonnay from the Pfalz. Nothing remotely Japanese about this meal, but worthy of this praise.....ごちそうさまでした...gochisousamadeshita...."thank you for the lovely meal"☺


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