Frankfurt Tours

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Monday, August 7, 2006

Got up feeling rather thrashed, at about 7:30. Was able to get online at a very antiquated computer at the youth hostel. My German friend sent me a reply to my email and suggests we get in touch later in the week by cell phone. Says Friday/Saturday is fine. Picked up a couple of tourist brochures.

I decided today I would do a tour of the city, both by bus and by boat and also arrange for my trip the Rheine by train and boat, as my German friend suggested. I caught the tram to the hauptbahnhof (train station) and wandered about there a bit trying to get my bearings. I bought a small phrase book, which should help me a bit.

I went first to the tourist place but they did not know where I could arrange a Rheine tour. They sent me back to the train people. They told me how I can get to the boat (in Bingen) but can not book the boat. Neither can a Reise-buro (tourist buro). I was eventually given a phone number for the boat people themselves and they told me all I needed to do was turn up and I could go. Then went back to the train people again and found out what train I should catch to get that boat tomorrow. But I could not buy a ticket today - it would have to be tomorrow.

By the time I got back to the tourist people, it was too late to go on the tour bus this morning so booked one for the afternoon. It will get me back at just the right time to take the boat tour of Frankfurt. While I waited for that I was able to use a fairly quiet room in the train station to plug in my computer to get some of my photos up to date and ready for uploading to the blog. Turned out it was a first class lounge but they did not say anything to me at that time.

I left for my tour at about 2. Was with about 20 others and was the only English speaker. Had a problem initially with the headset but that sorted itself out eventually. The tour was billed as an extensive motorized city tour of the Romerberg (old town) centre) and the newer part of town including the banking centers and a visit to the Main Tower's rooftop observation platform 200 m above Frankfurt.

We learned that the city centre was all but destroyed between the Rathaus (City Hall) and the Kaiser Dom (Cathedral) - over half a kilometer- from bombing during the Second World War. The Rathaus is a three gabled patrician's house which has served as Frankfurt's City Hall since 1405; it is the official seat of the lord mayor. The Kaiser Dom was dedicated to St. Bartholomew in 1239. It was selected as electoral site for the kings of the Holy Roman Empire in 1356 and the venue for ten imperial coronations between 1562 and 1792. Paulskirche, which was outside the bombing area, was consecrated in 1833, seat of the first German national assembly in 1848, which in turn provided the basis for Germany's present day constitution. Today the site hosts award presentations as well as political and cultural events.

As I remember it when I was here in 1972, the Rathaus and Kaiser Dom were the only two buildings of any age in that area. Since then, the historic city centre, with its magnificent half timbered houses was reconstructed according to the original plans in 1986. Modern townhouses were also built on the medieval housing parcels.

While I was not alive at the time of the Second World War, while I can appreciate that the area has been rebuilt, I feel very uncomfortable that it was through a war in which my relatives had a part, which destroyed such incredible beauty. Now a huge city market operates in the city square and centre areas.

Maybe the only new and good thing which came out of the necessary reconstruction was that remnants of a Roman encampment including thermal baths as well as Carolingian artifacts were discovered during excavations in 1952. While these may have been known when I was here before, in 1972, I am not sure they were preserved and presented in the way they are now.

In addition to these we also saw, from the bus: the amazing variety of eating places and a bit of their history, such as the apfelwien bars (which have a long history and are entitled to hang a wreath of some description from their entranceways), an art hall, Carmelite monastery, 1749 Goethe-Haus (where Goethe spent much of his early life, writing such literary works as "The Sorrows of Young Werther" and "Faust") Liebfrauenkirsche, Katherinenkirche (beginnings of the Protestant Church - where Goethe attended church), Hauptwache (historic guard station - 1671 - now a café since 1901), Alte Nikolaikirche (presumably erected in the late 13th century as a royal chapel and later used by Frankfurt's city council as a place of worship (14th century), the Borse (Stock Exchange), Fressgass (main pedestrian promenade), Alte Oper (erected in 1880, destroyed in WWII, facade and forecourt reconstructed according to original plans in 1981), Bankenviertel (Banking district) including Main Tower (headquarters of Hesse State Bank - where we had to go through security to go up to the observation deck and get a super view of the city and area). Many of the city banks (Commerzbank, Europa Zentralbank) have been designed by renowned architects. There is also a fascinating parkway sort of encircling the north shore of the river, it provides not only a peaceful walkway but also a bit of green space in an otherwise very busy city.

After the city tour, we were dropped back at the Romerberg and I was guided by our very capable guide, Mila Mertova (0049 69 464613 - to the Mainkai or Eiserner Steg, where the boats go from. I walked back through the market and snapped some photos. As well, I had my first (and probably only) chocolate covered pretzel. Very sticky and chocolaty - did not go with the pretzel that well. The trip was billed as "an unusual view of Frankfurt: on board ship the skyline of the city seems even more impressive. While we chug along the river Main you will discover sights "landlubbers" will never see. This little cruise is not only a good idea for all the visitors of Frankfurt looking for a special photographic motive ..." We set out to the west a ways. It was an interesting trip; however, I would not say it is a "must see". They served food and drinks on deck and I had a beer.

Walked back to the hostel and went out to the same place for dinner and had the same dinner. Seemed like there was more sauerkraut and it reacted with me rather unpleasantly shortly after I got back to the youth hostel. Continued working on updating photos for the blog. Eventually settled at about 11 and got a relatively good sleep.
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