All content, including photographs and text is copyright © 2011 by Maria Richard. All rights reserved.


Frankfurt am Main

(photo of the cathedral or DOM)

February 2011: Arrived at Frankfurt Flughafen (airport) at 7 am Sunday morning but my checked bag did not make the flight. Apparently, I didn’t follow the instructions for going through customs in Toronto. The English was not clear and my Canadian French is not that good. I’m probably lucky I got out of Canada at all. My bag was searched and then forwarded to Frankfurt later that afternoon.

Lessons learned: 1) When you make a connection in a different country, allow plenty of time to get through Customs. Even though you are only visiting the airport, the local government still wants to know you. 2) You may have to retrieve your luggage when you go through customs. No worries, you will put it right back on the conveyor belt after your passport is stamped.

The hotel (NH Frankfurt) was modern and comfortable. The complimentary pot to boil water in the room, tea bags and instant coffee were a nice touch. The hotel chain (Amsterdam) claims the beds are custom made. Mine sure was plush and a joy to sleep in.

The day was sunny and pleasant, so after a two-hour nap, and a shower that also washed the bathroom floor, I started walking in the general direction of the Konstablerwache S Ban (subway) station. A meeting was scheduled for the next morning in Darmstadt, which is south of Frankfurt. Online research told me which line to take; I just needed to confirm the station. Finding the correct track was easy, negotiating the ticket machine in the morning, well that took some doing. I finally went to the ticket booth and purchased my ticket from a live person.

Hint: Many modern European ticket machines allow users to select another display language. Look for the British flag for the English-language display.

The underground station was like those of many cities, with store fronts, food vendors, flower and umbrella stalls, and so forth. One can eat well at these food vendors for a small price.

Back to the surface to discover that I was in the main shopping area – the Zeil. Think of a pedestrian mall maybe 10 blocks in length with restaurants, food stands, beggars, and street performers. The musicians all seemed to be playing light jazz. Many of the beggars were old women in kerchiefs, jackets, and long skirts. They crouched in corners, with their palms out and faces turned toward the wall. There was one beggar with a miniature pony complete with straw and a pooper-scooper. Was he for real? That’s a rhetorical question. I will never know. The highlight of the shopping district is the glass paneled commercial building with the vortex in the center. Not being a shopper, I looked at the architecture, thought “Cool”, and went on in search of something historical, preferably on the city tour that I downloaded back in the states. Frankfurt am Main walking tour in English.

Looking to my left (toward the Main river, I learned later), I saw a clock tower that looked like it belonged to a church. After a few blocks’ walk in that direction, I found history. The clock tower belongs to the cathedral or Dom. This being February, I didn’t climb up the tower. The first church on that site was founded in the year 852. As cathedrals go, the best part was the exterior architecture and the 95 meter high clock tower. It can be seen from many points in the city. And so, my city tour began. In front of the clock tower are ruins, described online as excavations of Roman ruins and a Carolingian royal palace.

The sun sunk lower in the sky as I continued on my tour, lightheaded due to the lack of food and sleep. Searching for a place to eat, I walked through the Römer, the historical city hall complex. Unfortunately, like most of the historical central district, the original Römer was destroyed during the bombings in WWII. The reproduction is supposed to be an exact replica. After popping a cough drop, I ducked into the Old Nikolai Church. Reproduction? Not sure, but it was really clean. I stumbled into a church service complete with an impassioned minister who had her congregation enthralled.

Finally, my need for food won and I wandered into a find – a good local restaurant Römer Pils Brunnen, at 19 Töngesgasse. A variety of local men gathered to drink beer and watch a game on TV while I ate my salmon in saffron sauce with potatoes and spinach. Yum!