You will probably find Frankfurt attending a conference on urban planning with all the other ‘second’ cities like Lille, Birmingham and Milan. Consequently it is one of those dull cities that doesn’t get invited to many parties. Its hipster brothers, Hamburg and Berlin, are the ones that you’ll see swimming naked at a pool party with all the pretty girls like Florence, Paris and Rio.
While all the fun is going on, Frankfurt will be working late at the office. Frankfurt is a pretty serious place. All the bankers work there, the buildings are corporate monoliths and everybody scuttles back to the suburbs at going-home time.
Having said that, I’ve been there quite a few times now and each time I’ve warmed to it a bit more. I’m now at the point where I may invite it to a New Year’s Eve Party. There’d be lots of people there, so it wouldn’t get the chance to bore anybody for too long. I’d still be a bit wary about inviting it to an intimate dinner party. It would probably refuse to drink, being quite happy as the designated driver, and then it would spend the evening giving us its lengthy opinions on gilt-edged securities and hedge funds. Whatever they are.
So why have I warmed to it? I may as well continue the party analogy: If Frankfurt hosted its own party there would be no lavish buffet, but there would be some bowls of very high quality nibbles.
And what are these tasty nibbles of which I speak?
Firstly there is the food in Frankfurt. Like most cities in Germany, the food is among the best in Europe. I think it has something to do with the Germans getting the best of ingredients. I don’t think they stamp their feet and shout loudly, they were told to stop doing that in 1945, but somehow they still get the best of everything.
It also has an old town called Sachsenhausen. It’s very small, only two or three streets, but it is very colourful and full of interesting bars and restaurants. Sachsenhausen also has cobblestones. I know this because I got drunk, tripped over on them and nearly broke my knee.
It has a great little art gallery called the Stadel. This is probably only two percent of the size of The Louvre, but it is stuffed with amazing works by Vermeer, Botticelli, Bosch, Rembrandt etc. These are pieces of art that curators of other provincial galleries would happily trade their right testicles for. Unless you curate the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Lille, in which case you probably had your testicles removed a long time ago because you thought they didn’t look quite right dangling between your legs (see Lille’s butchery of van Gogh’s cows).
Frankfurt also has a red-light area that occupies just one street. Again it’s compact, concentrated and Frankfurt’s burghers make sure it stays that way. They do this by surrounding it with cattle-grids that trap six-inch high stilettos.
Like most cities it has a drugs problem, but its visibility is limited to the station area. So the junkies can beg, mug, score, shoot and die all in one place, which makes it easier to clean up the mess.
So you see it has all these yummy little bowls of art, fun and naughtiness for you to dip into, and you could taste them all in a couple of days. However, if you do go for a visit and you see Frankfurt still working late at the office, give it a nudge and remind it to loosen up and put its dancing trousers on.
For my other travel guides to Germany click here.