Frankfurt 12/02

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Three days at the northern end of Germany's Romantic Road...

St. Georges Fountain in Rothenburg

After an intense business schedule in the fall, it was time for another "sanity vacation", where I spend a long weekend alone somewhere far from home and concentrate on renewing myself. This time I headed for the northern end of the Romantic Road in Germany. The Romantic Road runs through Bavaria from Munich to Frankfurt, dotted with picturesque medieval villages, churches, farmhouses and walled cities. I used the trip to finish writing my first non-business short story and caught up with some reading I had put off for too long.


The weather was cold - 20s and 30s F, but otherwise cooperated with my sightseeing. December in Germany means Christmas Villages in town squares, which bring out the local crowds. My sightseeing concentrated on Frankfurt's museums and Altstadt (old town) and on Rothenburg, a walled city on the Romantic Road. Frankfurt has a lot to offer with a varied group of good museums, worthwhile sights, good food and even a play in English. Rothenburg is a medieval, half-timbered city three hours southeast by train - touristy, but still worthwhile. Both cities are compact and easily walkable.

Friday, December 6th - Frankfurt

I arrived at 7am and took the short taxi ride from Frankfurt's airport (25 Euros fixed) to the Marriott. I showered, changed and was out the door walking to the train station by 9am. The Tourist Info center there sold a Museumsufer ticket for 8 Euros that covers two days admission to all 24 major museums in Frankfurt - the best bargain in arts that I have ever experienced. From the train station, I walked east along the Main River to Romer, the Altstadt, where the town square was surrounded by half-timbered buildings and filled with a bustling Christmas Village (large picture at right).


Frankfurt's Altstadt & Christmas Village

I stopped at the Historisches Museum on the square to see a satirical drawing exhibition and two  remarkable models of the city before and after the Allied bombing raids in the final days of WW2 (first and second pictures above). From there, I walked north to the red sandstone Dom St. Bartholomaus (third picture above), its museum and then the Historischer Garden - fortifications excavated from Roman and Carolingian times (fourth picture above). The Museum fur Moderne Kunst (Modern Art Museum) was the next stop, with just okay pieces set in a unique boat shaped building - no pictures allowed inside, a policy I detest and often ignore, as witnessed further below. At the northern end of the Altstadt, I spotted a contrast of new and old styles (first picture below), more interesting by the fact that essentially all of Frankfurt's buildings are actually new, rebuilt in their respective styles after near total devastation in WW2.

After a quick stop at the hotel, I walked north and east through the posh West End, to the old opera house (second picture below). Continuing along Grosse Bockenheimerstrasse, nicknamed Fressgass - Pig-out Alley for all its food shops, (third picture below) I grabbed a quick dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, one of my weaknesses wherever I travel (fourth picture below with the diner from the Doors "Morrison Hotel" album cover as a backdrop). I spent most of the evening, pen in hand, in a noisy beer garden by the hotel writing the end of my first short story.

Saturday December 7th - Frankfurt Museums

I began my second day walking south across the Main River to Alt Sachsenhausen, with its old style houses and Apfelwein restaurants. I tried hard to like apple wine on this trip - cold, hot, spiced - nothing helped. There was a large flea market going on by the river bank, but from my perspective it was just a bunch of junk like flea markets in the US. The south bank of the Main River is home to many of the best museums in Frankfurt. I began at the west end with the Liebighaus (ancient sculpture) Museum and its impressive collection (building, first picture below and "Athena" by Myron second picture). Heading east one block was the Stadel Museum with a strong collection bridging seven centuries of art. They had a fascinating modern art exhibit by Thomas Bayrle using a style of multiple objects put together to make a different image (cover your eyes, kids - third picture below - Ohne Titel at top, Canon meets Sharaku lower right and Canon meets Utamaro lower left). A few more blocks east was the Museum fur Angewandte Kunst (applied arts), which included pottery and furnishings (fourth picture below - "One from the Heart" lamp by Ingo Maurer).

After crossing the Main River on the Eiserner Steg walk bridge, I took a slight detour west down Kaiserstrasse to pick up tickets for a play at the English Theater that evening. Passing back through the Altstadt, I arrived at Goethe's house and museum (first picture below). Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749 - 1832) was a genius poet, writer and politician, best known for his poetic works Faust I and II. The house where he was born and lived is filled with the many influences on him, having grown up in privilege (astronomical clock - second picture below). The attached museum displays a lot of the art that influenced him (third picture below - Fussli's "The Nightmare") and stores thousands of his manuscripts. This was a very good combination museum, which was well laid out with a unique "off-beat" interesting twist throughout. I grabbed a snack along Pig-out Alley on my way back the hotel and then headed out for the evening play at the English Theater. "They're Playing Our Song" is a minor Neil Simon play based loosely on the love and lives of Marvin Hamlisch and Carol Bayer Sager. I had always liked the score to this play although I had never before seen it performed live. Songs like "Falling", "I Still Believe In Love" and "Fill In The Words" had influenced my own songs back around 1980.  Very enjoyable, and a welcome respite from two days of struggling to understand German.

Sunday December 8th - Rothenburg

It's not easy to get to Rothenburg from Frankfurt on trains. It requires two connections (not one as the guidebooks say), the first in Wurzburg and the other in Steinach. Total trip time if everything works right is just under 3 hours and costs 90 Euros round trip in first class. I arrived around noon and headed for the town square (first two pictures below). St. George's fountain, in the large picture at the left near the top of this page, is on the square. The long metal gutters protruding from the fountain were used to fill villagers' buckets. The city streets were filled to capacity, which I hadn't expected because of the cold weather. These are hardy folks and they came to Christmas shop. I ate a Schneeballen (snowball) for lunch, which is a round sweet dough concoction covered in powdered sugar. I gave spiced hot apfelwein one last try as well - the Schneeballen was okay, the apfelwein again bad. St. Jacobs Lutheran church is just behind the town square, shown from above in the third picture below. Its highlight is the intricate wood sculpture "Alter of the Holy Blood" by Tilman Riemenschneider (fourth picture above). This masterpiece is hidden in the balcony behind the pipe organ. If I hadn't read the tour books, I would have missed it myself. The much touted Kriminal Museum was a bust - trying to be edgy but was instead uninteresting and poorly laid out.

The third and fourth pictures above were taken from the top of the town hall bell tower after a long narrow climb. For a perspective on where that is, the railing behind me in the fourth picture above is located at the very top of the round tip of the building at the left in the first picture above. After climbing back down, I ate a foot-long bratwurst on a baguette from an outdoor stand, did some shopping and headed for the train station and the trip back to Frankfurt. Too bad the train never showed up. I thought I had mastered the nuances of riding the DB in Germany on my recent trips to Cologne and Berlin (how to buy tickets at the machines, deal with some reserved and some non-reserved seats in the same train, how to read the schedules and track assignments, etc.). The problem came when something didn't work right. The train was late and announcements were made in German. Then three busses rolled up to the curb. Everyone else was getting on. I asked in my best attempt at German if they were headed to Steinach and everyone shook their head yes, so off I went in the bus. When we got to Steinach, a tiny station in a tiny town, there were too many people to fit in the trains to Wurzburg, so we had to queue for the next ones in the 25 degree F cold wind. The rest of the trip to Frankfurt was uneventful and gave me some good reading time.

Having accomplished my vacation's goal of writing, reading and generally returning to my own vague definition of sanity, I flew back home to Los Angeles the next morning. I returned to Frankfurt in August of 2003 in connection with a trip to Spain.

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