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Slow Drive To Work

April 5, 2009

Written April 12

Dear Friends and Families (including Marianne),


I have a temporary new assignment that has me working back up in Offenbach, near Frankfurt. Long-time fans will remember this is where we started our German adventure, but now I have to "commute" from down in Pommersfelden. Normally, this would be a two-hour drive on the A3 autobahn. (Actually, with traffic, it can be MUCH more than two hours.) So, I have to drive up at the beginning of the week and stay in a hotel. Not my favorite.

Today, however, Marianne is still in California, so I have the option to leave on Sunday morning and just take my time. It's actually possible to make it all the way to Offenbach without hitting the dreaded A3 and it's a lot more fun. On this particular Sunday, I stopped and took pictures of the colorful Easter decorations in a few of the villages and also went through a street fair / prison tour in Ebrach, not too far from home.

In this time of year, almost every village and town sets up a flower and egg display as some of the first post-winter color of the year. I've taken pictures of these Easter grottos before, and even shared them in these diaries, but, each year, they seem fresh and quaint all over again. I guess that's the re-birth one hopes for in this season.


About mid-way on my trip to Offenbach, I encountered the annual Ebrach street fair and prison open house. It's a combination that needs explaining. Ebrach has a large set of church and palace buildings, many of which date from the early middle ages. I suppose it was originally a monastery or convent, but after the secularization of the region in the early 1800's the Ebrach buildings were converted to a prison. The secular rulers didn't want to waste small monastic cells.

Today, the buildings still serve as a prison, but for youth offenders, and on this pre-Easter weekend, the church and palace buildings are opened up. Meanwhile, in the street, crafts are sold that were made in the youth training workshops. This is not one of the bigger and more well-attended German Spring fairs, but it has it's own charm. Besides, seeing inside the buildings is a treat.

The palace entry is quite grand. The double spiral staircase is topped by paintings intended to teach lessons about the crafts practiced here for hundreds of years and the long hall on top seems quite fitting for a religious or penal setting.

In a few of the rooms are displays of prison life in the"olden days". The simple cell and rough clothing were from the 1800's and, I suppose, were almost interchangeable with the simplicity of monastic life. The iron hand and foot cuffs, were something else and, according to the display, these were in service up to the 1980's.

Not all the local iron work was so grim. The same shops made door hardware and even ornate iron gates that were a common feature in churches and palaces.
Speaking of churches, the Ebrach church is grim on the outside but a pleasant surprise inside (except, on this day, the old stones had not yet shed their winter temperature, so it was COLD.) The large rosette window over the entrance is particularly nice.

From here, the trip was a German-standard assortment of villages, towns and one city (W├╝rzburg) After two or three hours of such quaint driving, I opted to drop onto the A3 near Aschaffenberg. The road was relatively empty on this Sunday afternoon and traffic "moved right along". In fact, "moved right along" on this stretch means I could cruise at 100+ miles-per-hour, as long as I paid attention for the Mercedes, Beamers, and Porsches who wanted to go "truly fast". Germany is an interesting place to drive.


John and Marianne (in absentia)


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