We’re All German When Visiting Cincinnati’s Over the Rhine Neighborhood

I watch as my friend’s inner German, never far from the surface, kicks into high gear as we step into Ǖber’m Rhein (Over the Rhine), a historic neighborhood once separated from downtown Cincinnati by the Miami and Erie canal. The Germans who settled here starting in the 1830s, nicknamed the waterway the Rhine and when the crossed the bridges to get to what was called Little Germany, it the neighborhood became known as Over the Rhine.

Looking at the broad tree lined streets fronting over ornate brick buildings many more than a century old, he sees it as it was – a bustling area with several daily German language newspapers and where German was the language at home and on the streets. I see it as it is now — trendy shops, art galleries and studios, businesses and restaurants housed in the largest collection of Italianate architecture in the U.S.

While he marvels at the exteriors with their brightly painted and elaborately worked scrolls and cornices, I poke inside the shops located below. At The Little Mahatma Shop, I take in the sweetly pungent smell of burning incense and gleaming silver and gold, shimmers of colorful beads and stretches of beautifully embroidered materials fashioned into folk art from around the globe.

  Window shopping, I longingly look at the urban style furnishings and accent pieces at Joseph Williams Home and wonder if I can possibly fit into the black dress in the window at Mannequin, a high end vintage and designer boutique whose proceeds benefit empowering charities in the Cincinnati area. Remembering what I ate the night before I decide not. And instead peruse the works of local and regional artists at MiCA 12/v, a family owned independent design store/fine craft gallery/gift boutique  before wandering into Atomic Number Ten, where I admire their vintage home goods and fashion finds from 50s to 90s.

We stroll through the 8-acre Washington Park, its interactive water park, children’s playground, performance stage and dog park, is fronted by the 1878 High Victorian Gothic Revival style Music Hall, a grand pile (almost 4 million of them) of red pressed bricks molded into2 ½-acres of turrets, garrets and gables.

For rejuvenation I order tea and a vegan-friendly treat at Iris Book Café.

At Taste of Belgium, we order sweet and dense Liege waffles thick enough to be eaten like donuts and paper thin Nati crepes filled with roasted peppers, onions, Provolone cheese and goetta.  The latter is totally Cincinnati – a German concoction of pork, oats and spices so popular that there’s even an annual Goettafest.

Not far beyond is the bustling Findlay Market, a swarm of indoor and outdoor food vendors.  When the market first opened in 1855, Eckerlin Meats was one of many catering to German tastes. Now there’s Vietnamese baguette sandwiches at Pho Lang Thang and handcrafted seasonal gelatos at Dojo Gelato. But to my friend’s delight, Eckerlin remains as well, still selling sausages, meats, cheese and, of course, goetta that is made from a hundred year plus old family recipe. It must be good as they sell 300 to 500 pounds of it a week. We’ll find out soon enough when I cook it up at home.