Friday 13 May 2011

I mentioned the war...

What a lovely place Frankfurt is! Lots of beautiful old buildings, half-timbered with tile roofs, ancient Cathedral, churches, cobbled streets and squares with pavement cafes doing good business (Apfelwein a local specialty), statues and fountains, so many trees all fresh green with new leaves, everything neat and tidy - I was very taken with it all as I wandered around and looked down on it from the top of the spire (328 spiral steps! Count them! And 328 down again...)

So I was surprised when I joined our walking tour with local guide Stefanie to hear her say that Frankfurt is considered a rather ugly city. That's in comparison with places like Munich, she explained - but as I haven't been there yet, or anywhere else in Germany other than Hamburg, I was looking at the place with different eyes, and I liked what I saw. She did explain that there's only one genuine 17th century half-timbered house left after the war, so much of what I was photographing, like these buildings, was reproduction. But still pretty! (And disconcertingly like Leavenworth, Washington.)

Several times she said how cramped and dark the old city was, with narrow lanes and no open areas, and how much better it was now, so I carefully asked her if, as far as this was concerned, the war was actually, ahem, a blessing in disguise? And she said yes! "Though not everyone would agree," she added darkly. Fair enough.

I'm pleased to have had today in Frankfurt. It was sunny and warm, I drank strong and sour Apfelwein outside under a trained grapevine in a courtyard next to a pastel-painted monastery, I walked and walked in total safety and was completely entertained, I came across Goethe's birthplace and statue and, at the other end of the literary scale, a Struwwelpeter fountain (his creator also born here), I spoke German to the natives and mostly understood the answers, and had a really enjoyable day. Even if my feet are both swollen and my knee hurts from all those steps.

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