The Accidental Tour Guide

FRANKFURT, GERMANY

Note: We finally have Wi-Fi and for relatives back home, I know you wanted to hear from us. We will add photots later so check back…

So, my husband is always despairing at the fact that I always manage to make new friends far too easily. Often, he will go to the toilet or depart for a few minutes just to have me introduce my new friend and their life story when he returns. I’ve always thought he secretly likes this about me but now I have redeemed this mildly adorable trait in Frankfurt.

After a 24 hour trek from Perth to Singapore and from Singapore to Frankfurt, we arrived 5.40am local time. After breakfast and a nap we woke up far less shattered than I had originally planned for. I confess that I had literally planned nothing for the day so that my virgin European traveller (husband alias: Lukeness) would have as much time for recovery as possible. Nope, by 1pm we were out and about looking at this AMAZING city. I confess again, I was not expecting Frankfurt to be as beautiful as it is.

We caught the tram and headed to the Cathedral Tower, a restored medieval cathedral in the heart of Frankfurt. I am proud to report I climbed this 328 step, 66 metre monster (95 metres in total, there’s more above that you can’t reach) WITH a sinus infection. I was passed by a man who, when we reached the top, I learned was called Franz. Franz was my new five minute friend who just happened to be a hotel manager with many years experience, exceptional English and an encyclopaedic knowledge of Frankfurt and most other places. Yeah, take that Lukeness!

We spent, no kidding, nearly 2 hours atop this tower being given detailed historical information on every visible thing on the horizon. Yeah, he was amazing! No, it gets better. We invited him for coffee to say “Danke”. “Kaffee” turns into a further 3 hour tour of Frankfurt central. We dined in a tiny Frankfurter cafe, typical of your casual hang out. Ice Chocolate and Crepe for me (mit Zime & Zamf) and a club sandwich for Lukeness. Of course, we paid for Franz’s meal and coffee – for 5 hours of touring he absolutely deserved it! We learned so much about Frankfurt in our short time here. Here are the highlights:

There are Banks
Locals nickname this city Bankfurt. Really, there are apparently 180 different banks in Frankfurt alone. Most of the skyscrapers in Frankfurt are banks. This city practically runs on banks – they fund the museums, parts of infrastructure and many jobs. The skyline is dotted with them, people flock to Frankfurt to work for them and it hosted (not by choice, admittedly) “Blockupy” meetings.

Not-Quite-Historical Buildings
Frankfurt is such a mix – the architecture styles are a collection of Gothic, renaissance, modern, Roman, Italian, French….but really very few of it is actually historic. Most of the actual historic buildings were destroyed in the bombings of World War 2 but they have done a marvellous job reconstructing everything to look authentic. They even use the original materials such as the red sandstone (a feature all around Frankfurt). An excellent example is the Dom Romer – looking like a scene straight out of renaissance Germany but they are all 20th Century buildings. Luckily, we had our accidental guide to point out the real ones…and they are awfully hard to spot!

Juxtapositions…Everywhere
Along with this jumble of I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-medieval buildings and amazing craftsmanship which looks like it’s right out of a history book, there are strange juxtapositions. This is a place where a Starbucks can be right next to an exquisitely carved stone. A Subway next to a hand-carved wooden door or across from a (rarely genuine) renaissance tower. Global brands are just as welcome in this city as their reconstructed history. On occasions, this can be unsettling. Other times, comical. It is a perfect analogy for this jigsaw of a city.

It’s not Just One City
We walked around the centre of the city and travelled by tram. This city looks as if it were designed by a bored child with some sort of attention disorder. In the West, glittering skyscrapers tower like a canyon above a bustling street – almost like New York. Across the Main River, old and prestigious houses, once belonging to Frankfurt’s elite, now function as museums to every conceivable craft or achievement. Shopping districts and cultural icons compete for attention. Suburbs are marked with visual stamps – all seemingly belonging to different cities. This is by far the most fascinating part of Frankfurt – for better or worse. While I personally love this eclectic city, others may shun it for the exact same reasons. I can’t believe I would have missed this gem by sleeping in my hotel room and I wouldn’t have even realised…

– Siobhan

6 thoughts on “The Accidental Tour Guide”

  1. Sounds like you are having a fantastic start to you trip. You made Franfurt sound so interesting. We went through it but didnt see it like you have!

  2. Beautifully written Siobhan. You must have had excellent English teachers in your past. Seriously, what a fabulous experience. Su

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