A little while back in early March I took another weekend trip, much like the previous month's venture to Louisville, yet this time making my way to the much larger city of Cincinnati, OH. I had wanted to do another expose and write-up of my travels, something similar to the Louisville trip but in short, found myself uninspired and struggling to come up with something that sounded remotely interesting. Not that I found myself bored or lacking entertainment, but it was just different. I think the visualization of having another revealing experience from the hosting city was more of an expectation than a random curiosity into finding myself enlightened.
Despite my misgivings in lacking the inspiration, I will compose something of a backdrop for the trip, though in this instance, it will be much more picture-fresh than the last.
Over the first weekend of March and for the last 20 some years, the rich German influence of Cincinnati plays host and taps kegs to the Cincinnati Bockfest. Held in the culturally rich and brew happy area roughly 6 square blocks around 14th & Race Street, the 'Over the Rhine' district of Cincinnati, just north of downtown, was a brewing center in the late 1800s and early 1900s. At least a dozen breweries, all of which were founded by sons and fathers of the German immigrant movement, helped Cincinnati flourish and up until Prohibition, made it known as one of Americas brewing capitals.
With prohibition, the great depression, and world war II taking it's toll, Cincinnati all but faded from the National brewing scene. As I walked the ten or so city blocks from my hotel to the OTR district, I saw an amalgamation of architecture. The modern skyscraper, grand in not much more than the shining influence of money and power, quickly gave way to the smaller, older, and more characteristically intriguing buildings of a preserved historical district. Even further north and away from downtown, the Over the Rhine district is sadly decrepit and full of ramshackle houses laden with trash, empty beer bottles, and many other signs of a ghetto. Walking these streets, I couldn't help but feel remorse and anger. Not simply towards what the filth of poverty does to human living conditions, but what it has done to the historic affluence of the architecture once vibrant with immigrant shops, stores, and restaurants. Now laden with unkempt siding, peeling paint, garbage and the ill feeling of pure disgust and disdain for its inhabitants.
Keeping any further personal opinions aside, here's how the Bockfest went. A minor history lesson on a Bock-styled beer. The early German immigrants choosing to settle in the Ohio River valley, due to it's likeness and reminder of the Rhine, brought much of their beer knowledge and brewing prowess to the area. Bock beers, brewed as early as the 14th century, were often brewed through late winter to be ready by Spring time. Due to their higher nutritional content, the beer was often a substitute for the early settlers as their winter food stores ran out and they awaited the spring harvests.
Hosted by the Christian Moerlein brewing company, one of Cincinnati's original breweries and recently reintroduced in the early 80's, the main events, attractions, bands, and vendors were hosted on underneath the brewery in Bockfest Hall. Though Bockfest Hall was the center of attention so to speak, the entire weekend and festival was sponsored by multiple venues, restaurants, bars, and hotels. Each with their own supply of festivities, Bock beer, music, food, and general Gemutlichkeit!
Honestly, I was quite impressed with the organization, community involvement, and planning for the festival. Each venue had plenty of bock beer to go around, many full of German food and polka bands and every one offering their own take and contribution to the festival. Hell, even transportation was taken care of by volunteers driving donated school buses from venue to venue in a rotating circuit, each being marked by a blue and white checked banner outside. Buses arrived in intervals of ~20 minutes at each venue and I know it saved many from drinking and driving. The bus was free and besides my walking 7 blocks from the hotel to the nearest drop/pick location, it served as my main transport for the weekend.
Outside of the Bockfest activities, I made my way around the city roving, snapping pictures, and taking in the brisk air. I made my way down by the Reds and Bengals stadium, but neither did anything for me. I made my way around the Cinci museum of art, a Jazz club, and ate at a great 4-star Spanish/French fusion restaurant, trying to get my fill of the city in addition to the festival.
Sure, there are some drunken exploits from Bockfest involving haunted bars, an afternoon with the crowned 'Sausage Queen', goats, Jagerschnitzel, and employing some of my old acting skills in becoming Australian for a venue or three in order to make sure the weekend wasn't lacking any female action. It's strange how much fun I can be when out on my own in a big city, I turn into a completely different person. I relax on the subdued and reserved self that so many know me by.
Anyway, here are a lot of pics. And give me a break, I'm a bit buzzed on this first draft.
Looking over the Ohio River by the Cinci Art Museum
The Mt. Adams district of Cinci has some great older buildings with crowded street reminiscent of Europe.
An overlook over the downtown area from the Mt. Adams area.
Start of Bockfest Parade at Arnold's Bar. Cinci's oldest bar.
A goat leads the parade.
Last year's sausage queen. "I love Big Sausage" reads on her apron.
Some fantastic old architecture in the OTR district
I'll go ahead and say it; pretty much everyone was drunk all weekend long. Pics from the parade.
Some interesting things in the parade