We arrived in the city of Frankfurt via train tired from a day of travelling, warm weather, and again trying to navigate our way in a new city where we don’t speak the language. Regardless of the country, it seems that some things are the same; trains run late, train stations are packed, people are rushing to somewhere, and Uber drivers never seem to know where you are when you hail them to a train station! So speaks to our journey to Frankfurt….
Once our nice Uber driver, who spoke Urdu and German but only about 4 words of English, got us to our apartment things were looking up! We were met by our lovely landlord for the week, Franca, and shown the way of the apartment and given hints about places to shop, both groceries and other things, how the keys unlock the trash building outside, and to call her if necessary. So, the routine we have developed now begins; put the suitcases in the bedroom, grab the cloth bags, and head to the grocery store for staples for the stay. As eating out every meal is so much harder for my grandson who is a picky eater, and SO MUCH more expensive, we normally eat all breakfasts in, most lunches out, and normally all but one dinner in the apartment while visiting a city. Since I don’t travel with the endless spice cabinet I keep at home, I tend to become inventive on my recipes; tonight’s dinner was a modified pork schnitzel with a fruit juice and pear sauce. After our shopping trip yesterday, it was back to the apartment with my grandson to his video games and me to the computer and work. While this 130 day trip is a journey of a lifetime, I am not yet retired so working is part of the day… vacation am, work pm!
Our first full day there we had nothing scheduled other than to sleep in and take the day as it came….what do they say, “best laid plans…?” Yep, you guessed it, the sleeping in didn’t really work out with the garbage being picked up outside my window at 6am! Maybe another day! So, after writing my post from Nuremburg and making breakfast, it was a late start to investigate the beautiful church I see outside my window. Our view is the Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew (in German: Kaiserdom Sankt Bartholomäus). What a sight to see!
As we walked the short distance to the church, 650 meters according to Google maps, we passed through what seemed to be the conversion from the new to old city of Frankfurt. We arrived at the church but didn’t enter at first, instead we went to the left to visit the cathedral’s museum. Like all sights in the age of Covid, it was filling out of paperwork after paying your entrance fee (€2 each in this case) before entering. The paperwork done and in we go to see what we could see! Wikipedia tells me that the present church building is the third church on the same site. Since the late 19th century, excavations have revealed buildings that can be traced back to the 7th century! While the entire tour of the museum took us less than 15 minutes, the beauty of the exhibited items was jaw dropping. The picture above is only one of no less than 5 regalia that were on display. It is hard to image that this is almost 550 years old and still vivid in color and made in the methods of the 15th century! While the robes were magnificent, it would not be a true display without the gold and jewels of the sacramental pieces. The museum did not disappoint!
Inside the cathedral was not as I expected at all. I have been inside magnificent cathedrals like St, Patrick’s in NYC, Notre Dame in Paris and many, many more. This one, however, didn’t have the overly ornate ceilings and scenes on every window. Both were average. Now the walls were a different story! They were filled with carvings and sculptures and scenes that rivalled many a church I have entered in my travels. As we started late and the church was closing today at noon, our visit was short but wonderful. As always, I made time for another of my traditions by lighting a candle and praying for the watchful eye of my children’s great grandmother Val, and this time for the first time, asking for my brother ‘s watch as well.
Our journey continued into what I now know is Römerberg, the historical heart of Frankfurt with the city hall Römer in the middle. Römer has been Frankfurt's rathaus, city hall, for more than 600 years. Also, in the square stands Ostzeile, six picturesque, half-timbered houses are stretched along in a row; reconstructions of their original 15th and 16th-century faces. One entering the square cannot miss St Nicholas Church, or Nikolaikirche. It is one of Frankfurt's oldest churches, dating back from 1290. and was rebuilt, like Ostzeile, after the allied bombings in 1944. While we didn’t go in it, we heard it. The bells played beautiful music for most, if not all, of the 30 minutes we were in the square. We rounded out our visit to Römerberg like all good visits should end...with ice cream! Bis morgen!
Our visit to Frankfurt, while short, was entertaining and with a sense of awe how the city has embraced the blending of the old and new. We learned during our Frankfurt on Foot tour that Frankfurt, like Nuremburg, has for almost 70 years been rebuilding what was destroyed in WWII. While I planned little structured events while here, just walking around the old city brought us to open air markets, busy streets with people watching in cafes, and a sense of normalcy that one enjoys in a time of COVID.
After a hearty breakfast made my yours truly, our first scheduled activity was a 100-minute boat tour on the river Mein. Unbeknownst to me, it was just two 50-minute tours going the same route. Oh well. While the ride was nice and relaxing, the knowledge I took from the tour was little. I did learn that because Frankfurt has the most skyscrapers in Germany, they affectionally call it Meinhattan….smiles to my New York heart! We did see the new homes built along the river that my grandson and I can’t decide whether they look like Lego blocks or IKEA storage bins; you decide for yourself. I will say that the highlight of the tour was the food you could purchase, which of course we did. Even with it somewhat limited menu, the food service rivaled that of a café on the shore.
Having floated up and down the river, and sated by our pleasant lunch on the water, it is now to our pleasant walk back through the old city so I can work, and my grandson can continue whatever battle he is fighting today in his video games.
Today’s scheduled event was a walking tour with Frankfurt on Foot. Somehow in my mind I am thinking this is a pleasant 2-hour stroll around the old city; not so much! The tour started and ended at Römer but ended up being just over 4 hours! While my grandson’ feet were starting to hurt, neither of us were upset that the tour was twice as long as we expected. Our tour guide Dave, who had an eerie resemblance to my brother Howie, was a treat! A resident of Frankfurt for the last 19 years, he has truly invested himself in his trade and is a fountain of information and kept us engaged for the entire time. While we covered ground that my grandson and I had already seen, we saw it through a different lens while with Dave.
As there was a lot to see, and as most tourists, I took way too many pictures, I will only include the highlights. My pictures and narrative are not in order of observation in the tour but as the thoughts come to mind. Even in a land that dates over a thousand years, it is still cool to see things that are truly old and still visible and maintained with a respect for history. One such place we would have walked right by without being on the tour. The remains of the building, which are now preserved in the exhibition Kaiserpfalz Franconofurd, is thought to be a military camp for the Romans in the 1st and 2nd century. After seeing what remains of the structures by the Romans, we also we taken to the city planning office and able to see a model of the city today. We have been told on two of our tours, that the German people are doing their part to accept responsibility for their part in WWII and trying to bring some of the brighter day of German history. This is shown in the rebuilding of structures destroyed in the war but also remembering those lost.
Another stop alone our journey was outside of the Frankfurt Stock Market. What was interesting to me, a former stockbroker, is that while we have our Bull outside of the market in NYC and Chicago, Frankfurt has a bull and a bear. As they say, ‘what goes up must come down’ and Germans being the conservative people they are, spent private funds to build a statue to remind themselves of that!
Our tour with Dave also afforded us the opportunity to see and hears about Frankfurt’s tribute to those lost in the Holocaust. Outside of the city planning office and the old Jewish cemetery you will find Frankfurt’s Holocaust memorial. Called the Neuer Börneplatz memorial it commemorates the Jewish community of Frankfurt that was destroyed by the Holocaust. It was opened to the public on the 16 June 1996. While the entire memorial is moving, the wall with 11, 957 engraved blocks with the names, dates of birth and death (if known) was what made me most pause. The blocks include not only those taken from Frankfurt, but also those born here but taken somewhere else; Anne Frank is remembered here even though she was taken in Amsterdam. In addition to the wall, there is a tower made of bricks from homes of the taken in the center of the square and street signs showing the old names, the names changed to by the Nazis, and the names returned by the German government.
As the tour continued, we happened to walk through the neighborhood that my grandson and I were staying in; we did not know it but it was part of what was the Jewish ghetto for hundreds of years. Passing into our neighborhood, we passed everyday though a wall that dates to the 12th century. What we also learned about our temporary home is that there once was a synagogue next door to our apartment that was burned down on 9 November 1938 or Kristallnacht or the Night of Broken Glass as that horrible night is known as. This was only one of the thousands of synagogues destroyed by the Nazis during their reign of terror. As you can read from this post, many beautiful and ugly things about Frankfurt were learned on our tour. If you go to Frankfurt, make sure you look up Frankfurt on Foot and walk with Dave. There is so much more we saw while here, but no time or space to share, but I highly recommend the Natural History Museum. Our time in Frankfurt and for this post is done as we sit at the airport awaiting a flight to our next adventure… Scotland here we come!