Frantic in Frankfurt

19 04 2013

An airport layover no matter how short is never a pleasant option…

When faced with a one or two hour layover it’s bearable. Kind of like a hot cup of coffee close to the top. You can cope with a little instant of pain as a single droplet hits your skin. When the coffee drop turns to a torrent, it becomes rather uncomfortable and downright unpleasant. Similar to a three hour plus layover. When the layover increases beyond this point, you may as well take a bath in the hot coffee. It would probably be a more enjoyable experience.

I wax lyrically about airports. Micro cities crammed into conjoining buildings. You have it all there, stores, restaurants, interfaith rooms (good for some quiet time). Even in Hamburg airport there is a porno shop! Despite everything being only a queue away, it doesn’t mean that I want to stay there any longer than necessary. Queues, noise and just the never ceasing movement of people make me tired.

I was faced with a seven hour layover in Frankfurt whilst en route to Florida.

To paraphrase Edmund Blackadder, ‘Ten minutes with you Baldrick and death loses it’s sting‘. I felt the same about seven hours in Frankfurt Airport. I actually Google’d ‘What to do in Frankfurt Airport on a long layover‘. Praise be for the Google! The results were encouraging. Numerous people had cited taking the subway into the city, as it lay only 20 minutes away. Explore the Rhineland architecture surrounding Frankfurt and so forth. There were even options (via prebooking) for airport tours including the fire department. I chose the city and thus my path was set.

I would normally not bother as such. I endured a 12 hour layover once in Istanbul. An evening with the cast of Friends would have been more fun. Incidentally the best airport to have a layover in is Changi in Singapore.

The train station lay under the airport. Taking the S-Bahn for €8 (return) directly into Hauptbahnhof, I was deposited only a short walk from the city centre. Looking like the worlds most obvious tourist I began to walk down Kaiserstraße. Pausing for a moment to gaze at the ‘Gentlemen Street’ and the influence of Dolly Buster on the German film industry, I moved on. The immediate area surrounding the train station was a bit ‘rustic’. To be fair it’s the same surrounding most city train stations.

As I approached Willy-Bradtz Platz and the root cause of Europe’s issues (see pictures) the seedy areas began to fall behind. The stench of money was thick in the air. Expensive jewelers with bored looking guards outside. I felt alien in this place. My intended destination was the Eiserner Steg. Newly married couples would place padlocks to commemorate their happy day. This sounded like a photographers dream. My tourist grade pocket map roughly guided me towards the location.

I ambled past many amazing looking bakery stores. Displaying an amazing array of cakes and pastries, it was a diabetics wet dream. The colours jumped out against the grey sky. The pungent sickly aroma of cream and sugar played with my senses. The scent of of fresh coffee slicing through, like a javelin piercing the air. I came across an extremely modern shopping centre. Displaying neon signs to entice all. What was most striking was the unique design of the building. A huge glass hole punched upwards towards the sky. It must have be magnificent when the sun shines.

I eventually found the Eiserner Steg. Strangely it had Greek characters on there too. I didn’t understand the reference, but I am sure that Wikipedia will put me out of my misery. A cold piercing wind blew over the river Main. Testing the mettle and endurance of the hardy souls brave enough to venture out. The bridge was knee deep in Japanese tourists. Multi-coloured padlocks adorned the bridge. Some engraved and some with simple marker pen. Each a happy moment frozen in time. I wonder how many marriages the locks had outlasted? A cynical view perhaps. Several snaps later, I was happy and decided to take a circuitous route back to Hauptbahnhof.

What do you call a group of Japanese tourists, a flock, a gaggle, a snap? I like ‘snap’. So I followed my adopted snap as we walked through the old town.  Coming across Paulskirche in the town square, it was like stepping back in time. Beautiful buildings proudly displaying flags everywhere.

Walking back through the smaller streets I began to notice a high number of homeless people. As per any other big city, but some of these people were in a really bad state. Shockingly so, and this is from a guy who used to deal with homeless people professionally. I noticed some poor guy sitting on the floor drinking. It looked like his foot had been amputated and the flesh was rotting. Another young guy screaming to himself and waiving a broken bottle around. Forgive the pun, but it was a sobering sight.

All of that aside I really enjoyed my short tour of Frankfurt. Certainly if my layover hours increase, I will be tempted to venture outside of the airport keeping me captive. I would encourage you to do the same. Remember visiting an airport is not visiting the city.

A warped mall

A warped mall

Eiserner Steg

Eiserner Steg

Eiserner Steg

Eiserner Steg

Eiserner Steg

Eiserner Steg

DSC00028

Paulskirche

Paulskirche – with a very disappointed tourist

Beautiful flowers

Beautiful flowers

The Euro Problem

The Euro Problem

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