Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Main Travel Blog

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ICE train

Today was the last day of my vacation -- and it was primarily involved in getting from Zurich back to Norfolk. I headed to the Train Station as soon as I woke up, grabbed a pastry and coffee for breakfast, and then headed for the airport and my flight from Zurich to Frankfurt.

Landing in Frankfurt at 9:30 AM with a nearly eight hour layover before my flight to Washington, I determined to follow the advice of Rick Steves and take the train from the airport into Frankfurt in order to check out the city. The ride to the train station took all of 15 minutes on one of Europe's high speed ICE trains (though it did not travel at top speeds for this short ride) -- and I was off to see one of the most characterless cities I have visited in Europe.

Train Station
I really cannot blame Frankfurt for its lack of character; the USA bombed the hell out of this city during World War II. Further  compounding the lack of character, it was raining and it was cold -- very cold.

Despite that, I took off to explore the heart of Frankfurt. The train station is one of the few buildings that was not bombed during World War II. It is a wonderful Neo-Renaissance building, dominated by a large copper statue of Apollo carrying the world. It is a pretty building that faces on Kaiserstrasse, which was considered the most elegant street in Frankfurt in the 1890s when the train station was built, but it is now dominated by cheap Chinese and Turkish restaurants and similar uses indicative of an area well past its prime.

Rather than walk down Kaiserstrasse, which was depressing, I walked down Taunustrasse, the street one block to the north.

Eros Tower
This street leads through Frankfurt's "red light district." The side streets here were lined with high-rise brothels, filled with prostitutes lobbying for the money of passing men. It was an interesting experience -- though the "junkie cafes" where Frankfurt provides clean needles to addicts in an effort to cut down on AIDS was a little disconcerting.

After four blocks of the "red light district," I passed through a small park dominated by a statue of the German poet Johann Schiller, and found myself in the middle of Frankfurt's banking district, dominated by the Deutsche Bank. The skyscrapers in this part of Frankfurt give it the nickname "Mainhattan." The skyscrapers felt cold, though, which was not a good feeling on a cold, rainy day.

I quickly put them behind me and arrived in Frankfurt's "Good-Living People Zone.

Opera House
" The first building I saw was the Opera House -- or, more appropriately, the New Opera House. The 1880 Opera House was destroyed in World War II and rebuilt in exactly the same style as the original version. From the Opera, I walked down the Fressgass', or "Feeding Street," lined with eateries catering to various income levels and tastes. The street was essentially empty, whether because of the rain or the time I don't know. I followed the Fressgass' to Rathenauplatz, which offered a statue of  Johann Goethe, and then continued down the street to Zeil, Frankfurt's main shopping street.

I walked down Zeil for a bit, before turning down Liebfraustrasse until I reached St. Paul's Church. This is another historic building that was demolished by Allied bombing during World War II and subsequently rebuilt.

St. Pauls' Church
The original building was where the first German National Assembly met in 1848, paving the way for German unification. The interior of the building is a museum describing the events of 1848, centered around a circular mural honoring the members of the 1848 assembly.

Across the square from St. Paul's Church, I entered Frankfurt's "Old Town," an area that largely escaped the bombs of World War II. The dominant building here is the Romer, or Town Hall. This is the building in which Holy Roman Emperors were crowned. The square in front of the Romer, Romerberg, was dominated by a Christmas fair, bringing a  little light and gaiety to the fairly dreary day.

Leaving Romerberg, I walked down the Saalgasse, a street lined with post World War II buildings designed by famous architects from around Europe who were charged with designing a building that would reflect in more modern  architecture the small buildings that had been there before the war.

Saalgasse
It sounds odd, but the street really does work. It was easily my favorite street in Frankfurt.

Saalgasse leads to St. Bartholomew's Cathedral, or Kaiserdom. The cathedral marks the spot where Holy Roman Emperors were elected beginning in 1152 CE. The original cathedral burned in 1867 and was rebuilt. That building was damaged, but not destroyed in the World War II bombings. It was repaired and re-opened in the 1950s.

Leaving St. Bartholomew's, I walked down to the Main River, returning to the train station walking along the river. The walk offered several opportunities to capture the skyline of Frankfurt.

Arriving back at the train station, I caught a train back to the airport. I grabbed lunch at Espressament Illy (a coffee shop) in the airport and settled into a chair to wait for my plane.

St. Batholomew's Cathedral

This has been a good trip. Jordan vastly exceeded my expectations and led to one of my most memorable travel experiences (laughing in a Bedouin tent in Wadi Rum with three people, sharing an experience and a space even though we did not all speak the same language). Israel was disappointing; the Western Wall and the Via Dolorossa were moving, but the treatment of the Palestinians was offensive and colored my perception of the country. Palestine was equally depressing -- largely because of the sense you were entering a concentration camp as you crossed the border. Switzerland and Liechtenstein also exceeded expectations; I will never forget the Christmas lights in Zurich. And finally, Frankfurt was a place I am glad I went, but hope never to go back to.

I will be glad to get home . . . and start planning my next trip.

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ICE train
ICE train
Train Station
Train Station
Eros Tower
Eros Tower
Opera House
Opera House
St. Pauls Church
St. Pauls' Church
Saalgasse
Saalgasse
St. Batholomews Cathedral
St. Batholomew's Cathedral
Frankfurt
Frankfurt
Kaiserstrasse
Kaiserstrasse
Taunusstrasse
Taunusstrasse
Schiller statue
Schiller statue
Main Tower
Main Tower
Fressgass
Fressgass'
Romerberg
Romerberg
Romer
Romer
13,280 km (8,252 miles) traveled
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