LARGELY because Germany has cities like Berlin, Munich, Hamburg and Dresden, and partly because a city must at the very least possess a several medieval churches and a smattering of architectural classics to be considered a decent one, Frankfurt, with its gleaming metal landscape gets a something of a cold shoulder from the Germans. It also doesn’t often feature on the must-see lists of the tourists – after all, it also doesn’t have Oktoberfest, nor the remnants of a rather famous wall. Most people fly into Frankfurt, then take the next train straight on out. But I think the least ‘German’ of the German cities, aesthetically speaking, has a little something of its own to offer.
Read the rest of my latest column with The Australian Times, HERE.
It was quite lovely, being in Frankfurt. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t Frankfurt that’s lovely – necessarily, or at least that isn’t an adjective one would commonly assign to the city – it was more the act of actually being in a city. A biggish city, with a skyline and an underground and a plethora of unwashed. And, besides, whilst ‘lovely’ mightn’t quite work, and despite Frankfurt’s reputation for being a little boring, I find there’s something quite exciting about it, even though, when pressed, I couldn’t actually tell you what it is.
Frankfurt isn’t overly beautiful. It doesn’t buzz like Berlin, nor brim with stately elegance like Munich, nor have Hamburg’s wealthy grace. But it’s quietly confident. It doesn’t really care what you think of it, nor that it isn’t like the others, because the facts remain; it is, and has been for a long, long time, Germany’s financial and economic hub. This, and its stock exchange, make it is one of Europe’s most important cities. As a big trade city, it has the world’s biggest automobile show, book fair and music fair. It is wealthy, rich also in its ancient, vital history. Hell, it has Europe’s two tallest skyscrapers! Frankfurt doesn’t have to be beautiful – it’s interesting, and, frankly, if that isn’t enough for you, it doesn’t really care.
It could be, on a personal level, that visiting a real city came along just in time. For the past 15 months, I’ve been living in a lovely university town with plenty of church spires, quaint cafes and bicycle peddling students, or on an island. I’ve really sort of missed standing in a big city, surrounded by shiny buildings and pigeons and being absolutely no one. The anonymity of it all. No one’s staring, even if you’re walking around with your mouth entirely painted on, wearing a bizarre approximation of a little girl’s party dress. And male. They’re all far too concerned with the end of their own nose. Yours just isn’t interesting. So get out of the way. Apparently, I love it, I really love it.
Another great thing about big cities, and something I have sorely missed, living in the extremely well-groomed town of three dress codes 1) Head to Toe High Street 2) Head to Toe Designer With a Dachshund on a Leash and 3) Incongruous Punks Begging Near The Station, and feeling sometimes, on my budget, like I should cut my losses and join 3, is that everybody looks different. Those populating the public space run the gamut of horrendous to horrendously fashion-conscious with a touch of rather unconscious in the middle and it isn’t possible to stick out unless you are actually nude. And even then, no big deal, but you might get a little cold.
I left Sydney because there were so many things I hated about it, namely the horrendously self conscious part. And I love where I live for its old European beauty and liveable size. But every so often I miss the big shiny buildings, the pigeons, the crazy people, and the people who are far too busy to notice them.
Two other marvellous things about Frankfurt:
1) Its public transport system. Clean, punctual, easy to understand and covers the city effortlessly.
2) Schweizerstrasse with its bars, cafes and restaurants.