Frantic Frankfurt

It’s an icy cold morning as I leave Wurzburg for the journey to my final destination. Frankfurt is best known as a major centre for commerce and may not immediately spring to mind as a place for tourists. And on arrival at the main railway station, there was an unwelcoming air about it. Passengers swarmed in all directions and I was immediately approached by two beggars. The street around the concourse was similarly full of homeless people, drunks and generally not the best welcoming party in the world. That said, the building itself was characteristically impressive.

It’s a sunny day, and thanks to an early check in at the hotel, there’s a quick opportunity to explore some of the sights. But before you get to the old town, there’s one of the main business districts, which make Frankfurt look like a miniature version of New York. Glass fronted skyscrapers dominate the lansdcsape, with posh restaurants and shops at ground level – many of them blending into their faceless buildings. On Willy Brandt Platz, a reminder that you are in the home of the European Central Bank.

The heart of Frankfurt’s old town was reconstructed after the Second World War. Now called the Niue Alstadt (the New Old Town), a pretty square provides a hub for photo opportunities and a bit to eat. Given that this is the heart of the toruisty area, the prices aren’t too bad – with a simple main course and a drink for lunch coming in at less than €20. Given the importance of this city, that’s better value that I’d expected.

But this is just one small corner of a much bigger city, and one of the most leisurely ways to see it is by taking an afternoon cruise on the River Main. The boat has a capacity of 500 people – and the outside deks are busy today. I manage to get a nice seat at the bow – giving me some pretty good views whilst keeping one ear on the bilingual German and English commentary.

The waterside living looks nice enough, and the whole experience of floating along, sipping a beer and enjoying the scenery all starts to fell, well, a bit romantic….

The scrapyard isn’t the only memorable view on the trip. There’s also a close up look at sand and gravel being loaded onto barges and one of Europe’s biggest inland container ports. These cruises run well into the evening, so I’d love to see what they look like at night. That said, there are nicer vistas – a collection of rowing clubs along the opposite bank, and the impressive bridges crossing the Main. From a certain angle, it almost looks like a mini Manhattan.

Since 1952, says the website, the Jazz Keller has been welcoming music lovers to Frankfurt. A Wednesday evening jam session sounds just the thing. The bar itself is tucked away in the middle of the business district, and around what looks like one of the world’s moist expensive shopping areas. But sadly – even for a jam session – tickets at the Jazz Keller are sold out. I don’t fancy the kitsch touristy stuff in the old town, and instead I find myself at Club Voltaire.

Describing itself more as a meeting place than a bar, leaflets advertise various events all revolving around the peace movement and holistic living. The sound system pumps out Bob Dylan and REM. It’s a friendly enough place and later in the evening two guys treat the customers to a piano performance – I’ve got my jazz fix after all. It’s also another bit of good value, with a beer coming in at about €3.80. My error is to then have a night cap in an Irish bar next to my hotel. 0.4 litres of Guinness (less than a pint) is €6.90. Ouch.

If you want to see some great art in Frankfurt you can go to any number of galleries and museums. Or you can just go to the Zeil Shiopping Mall and become part of the art itself.

The enormous glass frontage gives way to five floors inside. And while plenty of people are here for the actual shopping, simply travelling up and down the many escalators is a a dizzying experience. Designed by the Italian Massimiliano Fuksas, the mall was officially opened in 2009.

They don’t just do art well in Frankfurt. There’s also culture. Not far from the Zeil is the Alte Opera and as luck would have it one of my favourite shows is in town – West Side Story. It’s the final day of my trip and it seems apt to treat myself to an evening of quality entertainment. And what a setting to do it in.

It’s not the best production of the play I’ve ever seen, but it’s of a decent quality. Delivered entirely in English, perhaps some of the audience have trouble following it. But it’s a real classic. And the curtain call signals the end of the line for my trip across Europe.

I do feel something of a fraud because I’m flying home tomorrow. A few more days on trains would have been possible as there’s still time left on my pass. But it’s also Easter weekend, which means things would have likely got busier and more expensive. It’s the right note on which to end a three week journey which spanned nine countries, sixteen cities and 3,714 kilometres.

If you’ve been inspired by anything in this blog, there’ll be one more post to come explaining how I did it, along with some tips for a trip of your own.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: