Five hours in Frankfurt
A dear friend flying from the USA had a substantial layover in Frankfurt on his way to South Africa. Since, I live in Heidelberg, which is an hour away and costs only five euros by Flixbus, there was absolutely no reason not to go. So off I went. At the airport, he suggested that we visit the city. This proposal, however, was not received with a lot of enthusiasm. Perhaps, I should explain why.
I love old cities. I relish the patina of age on the walls of the buildings as I saunter along the narrow cobblestone streets, designed for horse-drawn carts and carriages. However, I detest modern cities, with an equal fervor. I dislike the flashy malls, the nondescript buildings and the motorways teeming with traffic.
I was under the impression that Frankfurt is one of those cities, which is why I was not particularly looking forward to visiting it. But I turned out to be wrong.
Frankfurt also has its share of old world charms. The historical city center of Römerberg features quaint, half-timbered houses. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Rathaus or City Hall, which dates back to 1405, all the buildings were destroyed in the Second World War and reconstructed in 1986.
A few meters from Römerberg stands the Paulskirche or St. Paul’s Church, which was the seat of the first democratically elected parliament in Germany in 1848. It was also gutted during World War II, but was also among the first buildings to be rebuilt after 1945.
An amalgamation of glinting skyscrapers and medieval architecture, Frankfurt has a lot of character. As a matter of fact, five hours were hardly enough to explore the city. On our self-improvised walking tour, we came across quite interesting features and landmarks of the city.
Among them, is Frankfurt’s downtown guard station, which used to be the temporary home of infamous individuals and highwaymen during the 18th century. It was converted into a cafe in 1904.
Another interesting piece of construction that we came across was My Zeil, the shopping mall, which is a spectacular building with glass triangles on its exterior and a gaping hole in its middle. Apparently, it consists of about 3,200 glass triangles.
However, the highlight of the trip was visiting Saint Bartholomeus’ Cathedral. The 14th century cathedral crowned ten emperors of the Holy Roman Empire from 1562 to 1792. Since it was possible to climb up the spiral stairs of the 95-meter church tower, we decided to be bold and adventurous. According to the brochure available at the cathedral gate, there are 328 steps all the way to the top! I can’t speak for Dan but at times I considered living on that stairwell for the rest of my life. Being in my mid thirties I felt that my legs would betray me any minute.
However, the view of the city from the top was well worth the effort. The city, lay beneath, a somewhat chaotic blend of the old with the new, as the River Main ran through it, shimmering in the setting sun.