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Cutting Edge

September 28, 2003


Dear Friends and Families,

Last year we had a fun weekend looking for gourmet pots and pans in France so we thought we’d try a similar search for cooking knives. Our goal was Solingen, a couple hours north of Frankfurt, in the heart of the German iron and coal region.

This was a weekend trip so we hit the high-speed autobahns Friday after work and so did plenty of other folks. Autobahns in these conditions are pretty frustrating. Traffic cycles between 100-mph sprints and crawling “Staus”. For this trip, we had to get past Cologne on a main north-south highway that is infamous for traffic jams. The hour spent inching along gave us a chance to see the countryside but I think I’d still prefer more traditional touring.

We had made reservations in a Solingen district called Graefrather based on only a small, fuzzy picture on the internet. Our slow trip up meant we were looking for the Hotel Zur Post in dark, strange roads. Most of what we were seeing was pretty uninteresting and we could see this was a manufacturing area, not a tourist destination.

Then, suddenly, we turned a corner into a charming neighborhood with slate-sided shops, homes, and our hotel. It was a wonderful surprise. We were met by Frau Balke-Lautenschlaeger who explained that her family had owned the place for generations. Since its construction 350 years ago, there had only been two other owner/families.

The next morning, we headed into Solingen proper in search of knives. Again, we were in industrial areas not exactly famous for tourism but we need to see more than the stage-set towns and villages featured in all the regular brochures.

It took us a couple of passes through town but we did find the Zwilling/ J.A.Henckels factory and a very nice shop. Inside there were bargains, more or less. These are high-end knives and such, so even factory seconds had to be considered an investment. The clerk explained that the town’s cutlery industry had lost much of their business to cheaper Asian competition, but Henckels has managed to hang on, in part due to good reception in the US. She said modern Germans no longer seem to value the quality, but some Americans do.

It was a nice sales pitch and, once again, there was a certain advantage in having a car with limited trunk space. We bought as much as we could haul and moved on. Back in Graefrather, we enjoyed a good lunch/dinner and settled into our centuries-old room.

The next day, we walked through the town and ended at the other local attraction, the German Blade Museum (Deutsches Klingen Museum). I love these specialty museums. Where else could you find a peacock made from small scissors or finger-mounted cutlery?

All in all, this trip met our requirements: a bit off the beaten path and still a reminder of how pleasant our new homeland can be.

Take care and keep your edges sharp.


John and Marianne



hotel: http://www.postilion.de/


knife company: http://www.wusthof.com/

Solingen: http://www2.solingen.de/ (German but it is a German town after all)


Hotel Zur Post in Graeferth. A very nice, small, old hotel. hotel zur post A typical house in Graeferth. The slate siding reminded us of pictures of New England. typical building
The Wusthof/Henckels factory shop for serous knife people. knife shop In the olden days, Soligen workshops made some of the best medical equipment in the (then) modern European world. This must have been a high quality bleeding kit! medical
Soligen also made tableware. We learned that, in Europe, knives came first, then spoons and finally, only a few hundred years ago, forks. Where else can there be a full-size peacock made from small siccors?
In the museum garden, the tableware theme was made bigger than life. I'm not sure how practical this is but it might be useful at those Chritmas buffets.




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