So it was around the holidays last year when I found out I would be traveling to Germany in the coming Spring. Now Spring is four months away again, and I have finally gotten around to documenting the final leg of the trip to Frankfurt. We left Cologne by train on a Friday, where I immediately went to sleep. Luckily, I did not miss the whole journey, I saw terraced hills along the Rhine and little towns along the way as well. The weather was pleasant and sunny-perhaps that kept me awake.
Frankfurt’s Hauptbanhof is rather large as Frankfurt is a major European business and banking center. My dad and I emerged from the station, grabbing a taxi rather quickly to get to our hotel. My first sights of Frankfurt did not impress me-I suppose you could equate it to Times Square from 1982. Too many grimy buildings on narrow streets and too many electronics stores; even the bright sunshine could not shake the skeevy feelings I had. On the bright side, as we got closet to our hotel, I felt MUCH better. The buildings got taller, cleaner and newer, and my blood pressure returned to a normal reading.
The hotel was nice, although I ranked it last among the hotels I stayed at during the trip in another post. It was clean and convenient, but having watched multiple seasons of Hotel Impossible, my hospitality spidey-senses have been cranked up to OCD levels.
One of the first stops in town was a pub near the hotel. It was not crowded, and many folks had not left work for the day yet. I was satisfied with my burger, although it bordered on meatloaf-y texture wise. Another stop was the old town, or Alstadt near the banks of the Main River (pronounced “mine”). We took a street-car/trolley there, back through the skeevy part of town. Much to my happiness, the skeeviness was temporary. We went past Willy Brandt plaza, the site of the Euro headquarters. Basically, it’s that tall building with the antenna you are likely to see in a picture or postcard of Frankfurt. A few minutes later we arrived at the Alstadt, which was in full prep-mode for some type of festival. The plaza is paved in bricks with replicas of medieval buildings that were bombed during World War II.
The buildings housed countless cafes and souvenir shops. There was construction happening in the plaza on an old church. My father and I were surprised that it was after 5pm on a Friday and the crew was still working. We chalked it up a superior German work ethic, but who knows it could have been emergency work or a big bonus was waiting if they came in ahead of schedule. We walked over to the riverbank which was impressive.
The footbridge spanning it is outfitted in locks left by lovers signifying the strength and unity of their relationship. Later during the day, I found an ice cream stand, or Eis. I got a chocolate and vanilla sundae with whipped cream and a large wafer cookie. I am happy to say it met my standards for a great dessert. We returned to the bridge on Saturday for a river cruise which I could have stayed on for the whole day. The weather was dismal that day, and hanging out on a warm, dry boat would have suited me fine. Plus jet lag was kicking my butt at that point. I suggest when travelling to Europe to get up early and hit the sites hard, and just chill out for the rest of the evening. I could not explain why I would be excited to go somewhere, then forty-five minutes later I would be exhausted and crabby.
Back to Saturday on the bridge. On the other bank of the Main was a lively street market. We’ll call it “Euro-Maxwell Street”. A six-foot wide grill was serving up bratwurst and pork, and vendors with their goods on the ground or tables were ready to sell. I came across 8-track cassettes, shoes, books, toys, vhs tapes, toothpaste and what appeared to be dental tools. I was happy to have stumbled across the market, since I missed out on the ones in London from my visit ten years before. We made one more stop before retiring for the evening and packing up for our flight the next day.
The Skyline Mall was an impressive place to me. Getting there however was not very fun. It was raining and I had lost another hat. The part of town where the mall was located was in the midst of a massive transformation. Looking at Google Maps when I returned to Chicago, I saw the area was for conventions and trade shows. Between the trolley stop and the mall was perhaps a three-block long no-man’s land of dirt sand and construction materials. I mentioned in other posts that pets are allowed in many buildings; I spotted one person with a dog at the mall. Two stores here in the U.S were there; Zara and H & M. The mall had a Zara Home store, which I have not seen back home. Other clothing stores there and throughout the country were C & A (“say und ahh”) and Peek and Cloppenberg. There is also a Best-Buy type store called Saturn (S makes the Z sound).
The food court was impressive, though it wasn’t court-like. It was more of a corridor going though the middle of the shopping center. There was also another food corridor on the next floor up as well. The seating was comfortable and not of the cheap, American variety. It was a nice place to people watch. It feels hard to people watch in your own country, but somewhere else, you can see how people act and if they will do what you assume they will do or surprise you. One thing I saw was a small bachelorette group complete with sashes and tiaras. So the girl’s-night-out get up crossed the ocean, but why were they at the mall? Let’s hope that wasn’t the final destination. Maybe they were there for booze and condoms or something.
Because of the jet lag, I think I spent more time on my behind than my feet. I did buy functional souvenirs though. It’s nice to get clothes or accessories when traveling. That way you can always tell people about that jacket from San Francisco, or in this trip’s case, that tank top and David Beckham hat from Germany. As much as I would have liked to explore more of Frankfurt, I was SO ready to go home the next day. We stayed in for dinner at the hotel that night, and did a great job of squishing everything into my suitcase.
A few weeks later, while I was fooling around on Google Maps, I found a shopping area in Frankfurt not far from the Old Town we were in. I was disappointed that I did not even know it was there during the trip, but our stay was mostly a day and a half. It would have been crazy to do that much in such short time. I would recommend a return trip there, and there are direct flights from Chicago which is a plus, and my preference would be to stay in an American-brand hotel.