Frankfurt Winter Weekend, Part 2

If you’re thinking where to go out after arriving, especially if it’s closer to the evening, the Bornheim Mitte district is a good suggestion. Just a few minutes on the U4 subway line from the Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) and get out at the stop called…you guessed it, Bornheim Mitte. It’s a cosy, lively area full of cafés, bars, restaurants and shops, also great for meeting up with friends.

The next day is open to me and I can do whatever I want, so I set off towards a classic destination, the old town, planning to walk around and refresh my memories. Frankfurt’s city center around its cathedral, Dom Römer, had been severely destroyed during air bombings in the 1940s and painstakingly restored since then. Arriving at the square that is still relatively quiet for a Friday morning, I pause to take it all in. It’s a pretty sight.

I’m about to go all around the square first, but then when I start I walk past a sign next to the cathedral pointing towards the entrance to the tower. It seems encouraging and I make the detour. Hamburg doesn’t have a cathedral and I’ve had a hankering for visiting them ever since seeing Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame in my youth (yes, I know the book is vastly different) and going on my first trip to Paris shortly after. There’s a bit of construction going on around the ticket office of the Dom, I contribute 3 euros to preserving this historical structure and pull open a heavy metal door. It shuts behind me with a resounding bang after I enter.

The next 10 minutes that feel like half an hour are spent climbing a tightly spiraling narrow stone staircase, holding on to a rail on one side and gripping a rope on the other. A few other visitors make their way down as I’m going up and we carefully maneuver around each other, me pausing to let them by. One size stairs fits all! A sign next to a caged door that’s locked despite providing the first view of what seems like a balcony points upwards to the observation deck and I cover a few more flights. So that’s my morning workout and suspense kick sorted, but the views from the top of the cathedral tower are more than worth it. Like this classic one of the Frankfurt city skyline (contributing to the fact that many people think it’s a metropolis – there’s just something about skyscrapers):

Or this one of the Main river:

I love finding a place to get a good view of a city from above when I travel, it just adds something special to your day and provides some reflection time to scope out the area before joining the action on the ground. Going up the cathedral tower was more taxing physically then going down, but going down is also more likely to make you slightly dizzy.  Feeling proud of myself for being a good tourist, I walk around the square, going into every side street and passing a chattering class of French exchange students clearly just beginning their journey through snooty puberty.

I make my way towards the Kleinmarkthalle on foot, everything is close – it’s a covered marketplace that I’ve briefly been to years ago and decide to explore more after a tip from my friend. But first there’s a bookstore right by the entrance that pulls me in. While the massive volumes about Vogue shoes or Hitchcock’s blondes are way out of both my budget and suitcase range, it’s fun to leaf through them, and then I spot a small discounted daily desk calendar for 2019 with screenshots from Disney animated films. And what do you know, I actually don’t have a desk calendar for this year yet. Thank you, Frankfurt.

The market is filled with people, but it’s easy to move along, and colours, food, smells, sounds all take up my attention for a while.

Plenty of stalls offer lunch, and I settle on one that promises homey food. “Here you go, my dear, enjoy and come again,” – well, thank you. The breaded salmon with fried potatoes and a minty green sauce is delicious and it’s fun to listen to what the other diners around me are talking about. After that I treat myself to some homemade chocolates and conclude the day’s walk by doing that thing all the tourists here do.

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Frankfurt Winter Weekend, Part 1

The first month of 2019 is coming to an end and even if I already live in a big city, I felt like a city weekend in another city. That’s enough times saying “city” in one sentence! So Frankfurt it is, with the added pleasure of having friends living there.

6 AM rising and successful arrival at the train station in Hamburg with 20 minutes to spare. One of my friends once told me with a smile, incidentally one of the people I’m visiting this time, “The train will not leave earlier.” That’s true! But you never know how other elements of getting to your platform will work out. If you’re going from Hamburg to Frankfurt by train, some of the options available are leaving either from the Central Station (Hauptbahnhof) or Dammtor station. The former is always busy and bigger, the latter is usually quieter and it’s a smaller space.

My early morning train choice was cancelled, something I found out only upon arriving at the platform. Not to worry, my organized (German) thinking switched on. Down to the travel center (Reisezentrum) of the Deutsche Bahn I go. I get a free ticket and a free reserved seat for another direct train. My first adventure of the day, practically a classic for any train traveler, has been mastered. I while away the remaining half hour in the bakery next door and reward myself with a cup of hot chocolate for my common sense. It’s not 8 AM yet, but the station is already bustling with commuters and other travelers rolling their suitcases past me. I think once again that as much as you love playing tourist in the place where you live, it’s good to get out of that zone every now and then by being an actual tourist.

I have a spot at a table by the window, the sun is shining and all around me people are quietly working on their laptops, or reading and watching stuff. There is Wifi, halleluja. I wonder if I’m the only one heading to Frankfurt for a vacation, since it’s the kind of city that typically attracts a steady stream of business people, many of whom take the train due to the good connection as far as long distances go.

Hamburg’s familiarly flat landscape has given way to hilly forests wherever we are now, and so far I see it has snowed here too, like it did in Hamburg last night. I’m not sleepy at all, though very comfortable, and it’s nice to think I didn’t panic one bit when I saw my original train was cancelled. “Oh, so this is what’s happening now, OK.” Looking forward to Part 2.

Frankfurt Book Fair: 5 Reasons To Go

If Disney’s Belle lived in our time, she would probably visit the world’s biggest book fair held in Frankfurt, Germany. One of the most iconic book-loving heroines in animated history would definitely be a chick who kept up with developments in the industry, and therefore I’m sure she would expand her reading experience horizons beyond the local bookshop or library.

A few facts and figures for you and for Belle. The 2017 event took place from October 11 to October 15 at the Frankfurt Trade Fair complex, housing several thousand exhibitors of wide-reaching sectors that all still find their way back to the book publishing industry. Both professionals and private visitors such as Belle and myself are invited to attend, with the weekend reserved for us bookworms.

But why should we go, besides the fact that there is a strong possibility of multiplying the amount of feels experienced simply when looking at a book?

Here’s my pick of 5 reasons the Frankfurt Book Fair deserves your bookworm time.

  1. A trip (hopefully) won’t blow your budget. OK, so this is more probable for those travelling in Germany, but still, practical and financial pros are on the list. The Deutsche Bahn offers round trip discounts for those getting to the fair by train. Just make sure to buy your fair ticket in advance, as you are required to have it on you when your train ticket is checked. Speaking of the fair ticket, private visitors pay a currently doable price of 19 euros. The event website is extremely informative in terms of travel routes and finding accommodation. Provided you don’t live too far away from Frankfurt, you might not even have to stay overnight. I did a day trip and caught up on sleep during the four hours there and back on the train. Belle might be able to find a sensible route from France as well.
  2. The event is very well-organized (of course it is, it takes place in Germany, the country where people make a plan to be spontan). The venue is enormous, but numerous strategically placed signs with arrows and readable directions in German and English ensure easy navigation. Not to mention you get a map upon arrival and there is helpful staff everywhere. Phew.
  3. Bookworms will immediately feel at home. Even those of us who are more introverted than others. A crowd provides anonymity and the venue is so spacious that it’s possible to get through without hold-ups. Do your research in advance on which sections you want to visit. For me this was the children’s and young adult area. Who says today’s youth doesn’t read? I saw a line stretching the whole length of the cavernous space I had lost myself in. It’s entirely possible to spend several hours excitedly browsing one booth after another, listening to presentations and maybe even getting a book signed. And of course, everywhere you look, there are books. Rows upon rows of them, shining like their own spotlights on shelves, and you just can’t get enough.
  4. There is something for everyone to see. While in most cases the finished product of all the many-layered work that goes on in the publishing industry is a printed book, the fair also has sections devoted to publishers, literary agents, illustrators, international publishing houses, media and technology professionals, to name but a few.
  5. If you dream about writing your own book, no matter which stage you are at, this fair is for you. You can count on an extensive self-publishing area with an active program spanning all the relevant topics and questions that pop up in connection with this relatively new, but quickly expanding sector of the publishing industry. I was surprised at how many companies already exist in Germany alone, and there are probably even more than the bigger players I saw at the fair.

Sensory overload? Yeah, me too. Cafes and sitting areas follow each other every few minutes of walking, but if they are all full, take heart. There is usually a stretch of carpet behind the booths along one wall, where many of us eventually find our way to sit down and revel in the excitement surrounding us.