Monday Sept 10, 2018 – Frankfurt
Frankfurt airport is a familiar place for us as we have taken our connections from this airport when we went to the US, but this was the first time we were not seeing the airport but touring the city. As we had a restful Sunday, we decided to do a walking tour on Monday, the 10th. We reached the Romerberg train station and exited towards the main square. We had checked on the internet about the “Frankfurt on foot” walking tour that started at 10.30 outside a cafe. As we reached the spot, we found the guide holding up a placard that said “Frankfurt on foot”.
He introduced himself as Brian and he was from New Zealand. His boss joined us shortly and some more tourists came along till we were a group of eight. What an international group we were – an American owner of the “Frankfurt on foot” company, a New Zealander as the tour guide, two couples from the US, us from India, one tourist from the UK and one other from Australia. We started with Romer, the city square and some background information about Frankfurt.
Frankfurt has a population of 760,000 and during the day it swells to 1.2 million as people from nearby locations come to the city to work. 25% of the population hold a foreign passport.
The Romer (town square) is located opposite the old St. Nicholas church and has been the Rathaus (city hall) of Frankfurt for over 600 years. The Römer merchant family sold it to the city council in 1405 and it was converted for use as the city hall.
The townhall – Romer Rathaus
The old St. Nicholas Church
The old St. Nicholas church is where Jim Morrison played in 1960. It survived the WWII with minor damage even as Frankfurt was heavily bombed. The entire town square is being renovated and many of these buildings are being fortified. St. Nicholas is the patron saint for avoiding floods… but Frankfurt has been flooded several times.
We went inside for a short tour and then walked across to the book burning spot in the town square. Frankfurt has traditionally been the publishing capital of the world and it was significant that books were burnt here as they were across Germany on May 10th, 1933.
Book burning spot
The same quote from Heinrich Heine in 1820 that says “if you burn books, you will soon burn people” is embedded on the plaque here. He said it nearly a 100 years before the Nazi rule. We then walked across the square to Haus Wertheim, a 1479 built timber-framed building that remained intact during WW2 ! They doused the building with water so that the firebombs couldn’t damage it. Now the ground floor is used as a restaurant.
The Wertheim house
On the opposite side of the Haus Wertheim is the history museum. We didn’t get in there but just took a picture. Brian told us that its a massive museum and if we had time we should visit it.
Just cross the road and you are at the River front. The full name of Frankfurt is Frankfurt Am Main, pronounced as Frankfurt Im Mien. In German “I” is pronounced as “E” and vice versa except when both are together in a word, then the last letter leads the way – this insight is courtesy Anu :). The bridge across river Main has a wall which displays the flood lines across the years.
The flood lines of River Main
The bridge across river Main is an Iron bridge and there are lovers locks on the bridge, hoping for a forever relationship.
The Frankfurt city from the iron bridge
From the bridge we went to a building that looked like a church and is a church but also functions as the Archaeological museum. The Archaeological Museum, formerly the Museum of Pre- and Early History, is housed in the Carmelite Church and monastery. The walls are painted with scenes from the Bible walls and they are from the 1300s. Except for a few most of the walls were bombed out and Napoleon too plastered the windows when he won the wars.
A more recent mural at the Archaeological museum,
Krishnan next to a sculpture of a monk
From the archaeological museum before going to Goethe’s house, we stopped somewhere on the way and met Spiderman.
Spiderman in Frankfurt
There are apparently 5 or 7 such statues all over Frankfurt made during some fair and never removed. Frankfurt is such an interesting mix of the old and new and they co-exist seamlessly. Like our next stop – The house where Goethe grew up and lived and right next to it the new museum. Johann Wolfgang Goethe was born here in 1749. His father was a lawyer and his mother was the daughter of the mayor of Frankfurt. Johann Wolfgang lived here along with his sister Cornelia until 1765, aged sixteen, when he moved to Leipzig to study law. By the age of 25 he was a literary celebrity.
As we walked across another road towards Gutenberg’s statue, we came across a piece of the Berlin wall that had been painted over.
A piece of the Berlin wall
Frankfurt is even today an important publishing hub and the annual book fair is a mega event. Our next stop was near Gutenberg’s statue and the area where the Frankfurt book fair takes place.
Gutenberg and his assistants
We walked a little longer to see the Old Opera House.
Old Opera House
Here Brian told us an interesting piece of history – there is a series of inner city parks that surround Frankfurt and they are built where the old city wall was. These parks are Napoleon’s gift to Frankfurt as he would tear down the walls and build parks in every place that he conquered. In Frankfurt if you are lost, just follow the parks and you reach the river from where you can re-orient yourself.
From the sublime Opera building we walked through the “devour” lane, a street that today houses many restaurants that bankers and stock brokers frequent but earlier it was the street where animals were sold for food. We then reached the Frankfurt stock exchange, the only stock exchange building that has both the bull and bear statues !
Frankfurt Stock Exchange
The bull and the bear ….
Just around the corner from the Stock exchange building is a sculpture that depicts German fairy tales –
German fairy tales sculpture
Brian told us that the German fairy tales are fairly dark, for example, the boy with the frizzy hair on top of this sculpture was a little boy who didn’t want to trim his nails and his father cut off his fingers. End of story. 😦
We next saw the Haupt cache , which was the old prison and police station and now is a restaurant. Its right across St Catherine’s church which is the first Protestant church in Frankfurt.
St. Catherine’s church
The Haupt Wache
We then walked towards the area where we were to eat lunch. On the way we saw the old guard tower of the original city wall, the only one that is still intact. We also saw the Leibfrauenberg church and the place that the Swedish King Gustad Swedish lived many years back.
We found “Lebe Gesund” a vegan/vegetarian store-cum-restaurant in the Klienmarkthalle which is like an open market for food.
After lunch we walked across to the Jewish memorial wall that has 12000 plaques with the names of the Jews that died in different concentration camps. We learnt something new here … Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt and lived near Amsterdam before being killed in a concentration camp. Her plaque is on the wall as are the plaques of other members of her family. The wall and the plaques are upsetting and its mind boggling to think that this holocaust happened in a so-called civilised era :(.
The Jewish memorial wall
Anne Frank’s plaque
From this terrible reminder of how civilised people can become barbaric… we went to a place of worship, the Frankfurt Cathedral or Kaiser Dom which also unfortunately does not have a peaceful past. St Bartholomew was skinned alive by the King’s brother and a piece of his skull is kept in this cathedral. There is supposedly also a piece from the original cross on which Jesus was nailed kept in this church. It has the largest organ in all of Frankfurt made up of 9000 pipes.
Inside the Kaiser Dom
The organ at the Kaiser Dom made up of 9000 pipes
We then walked through the “new” old town which is basically an area being built up like the old town but its brand new. It gives a feeling of being in a film studio :). After seeing the first German parliament, we ended the walking tour. The First German parliament is right across the Romerberg square.
The first German parliament
Krishnan and I took a tram to the Hauptbahnhof as we wanted to check out the luggage lockers. There are three locations and thousands of lockers are available at the Frankfurt central station. We then made our way back to the Airbnb.
Got to see Frankfurt in some detail, but there are many monuments and buildings that we haven’t seen yet and there are nearby places that we couldn’t visit either. Something left for the next time !!
p.s Somewhere during the walk I found this Indian store selling German souvenirs…. how cool is that and the coolest thing was to see Ganesha.