Frankfurt, Germany…. of train problems, language barriers, and poor weather
On Monday morning, after one last delicious breakfast with our Strasbourg host, we left France for Germany. The trip from Strasbourg to Frankfurt spread across one bus ride followed by two train rides, the last of which we had seat reservations for. After a quick 20 minutes bus ride that took us to a small train station across the border, we got on a train hat was scheduled to reach our connection in about 18 minutes. The problem is, after one stop, the train just sat there for about 15 minutes, so we missed our connection. At the station, we found a later train for Frankfurt that was covered by our Eurail Pass, though it would take longer. We got on the train (one of those trains with separate 6-seats compartment that I read about in Harry Potter but had never experienced before… YIPPEE!!!!), but after half an hour, we were told to get off the train and into another one. For the rest of the ride, we were pretty much on the edge of our seat, trying to figure out if we would have to change trains again, and wondering why everytime the announcer talked for like 2 minutes in German, she then would only say one sentence in English. After we finally got to Frankfurt, we waited around the station on a cold bench for a few hours, because the station’s lockers were too small for our backpacks, and our host couldn’t meet us until after his work.
Foreigners hosted by foreigners again!
When we got to our host’s place, we learned quickly that I wasn’t the only one here that didn’t understand German. Kristopher was Australian and had moved here a year ago for work. After all the confusion of the day with the German signs, it felt good to talk with someone that spoke good English. Kristopher took us to an Irish pub to spend the evening with his mates from works, and we ate schnitzels, a nice German dish that reminded Laura of home, and I drank my Guinness for Germany (I’m trying to drink one in every country, so I can say I’ve drank Guinness in 16 countries but that I’ve never drank it in Canada!).
Main River, under the rain
On Tuesday, we had a slow start and left the flat only after 1pm. We decided to skip the underground and take the opportunity to reach the city center by walking along the river, which was just a few hundred meters from the flat. It was very quiet and peaceful along the river, and it was surrounded by beautiful trees. We were reminded that summer was definitely over, as tree leaves covered the ground, I was getting real cold and we were annoyed by the rain fogging up our glasses. Still, we were happy to see swans again by the river…. though it sometimes stank.
We crossed to the south shore and walked for a while around the Sachsenhausen area. This neighbourhood is pretty much the place in Frankfurt where you can see traditional old German architecture. We saw there the same kind of houses we had seen in the German neighbourhood in Strasbourg, even though most of these have been rebuilt after the war, pretty much like the whole city. I was surprised by the number of Irish pubs this city has… Guinness signs everywhere!
Back on the north side of the river, we walked to a plaza that is the most touristic spot in the city. Indeed, it was pretty much the only place we saw other people with cameras. The architecture around was incredible. A bit like Sachsenhausen, it felt like old Germany. There was also a very nice statue in the middle, the statue of justice.
We later walked to Paulskirsche, which you could translate to St Paul’s Church, even though it isn’t used as a church anymore. Throughout the visit, we learned a bit about German history, going back before the wars and the nazis. The Church was used in the 19th Century, but around 1848, there was a big revolution in Germany, and the Chuch was used as a kind of parliament, because for a time Frankfurt was the capital of the German empire. It got back to being a Church but was totally destroyed in bombings in WWII. It was rebuilt in 1948 and is since used for big events, like prize givings and diplomatic speeches (JFK gave one there). It is now seen as a symbol of freedom and democracy throughout Germany.
A nice walk through the city
The rest of our afternoon was spent walking around different areas of Frankfurt. Places we’ve seen include a monument to Gutenberg, the Goetheplatz (where there is a big statue of the German philosopher Goethe), the Opera, which is gorgeous, and the Stock Exchange, which is a very small building among all the skyscrapers. We could actually see the skyscrapers from our window in the flat, and it made for a very beautiful view at night. Looking up at them from the middle gave us a bit of vertigo, though. But it was nice to spend these days in Frankfurt, as it’s pretty much the first city we visit whose skyline is dominated by skyscrapers. It felt a bit like being in North America and so it felt to me a little bit like home.
In the evening we had a movie night in with our host. We ordered pizza online and watched District 9. It was a really good movie.
Wednesday was particularly quiet. A day off since we’re leaving for Cologne only after 6 tonight. A bit of rest for the feet!