Sunday, February 1, 2015

Frankfurt: eine lebindige Stadt // A Lively City

Some of the night snow outside my window. It had melted by morning.

Though this past week has not been as full of out-of-the-city excursions as last week, it was marked by its own small adventures. It has sleeted/snowed every single day this week (and it's snowing again as I'm typing this), though it rarely sticks and no one seems to pay it any attention. Regardless of whether it sticks, snow is the perfect excuse to hunker down in cafes after class, which is exactly what I have been doing almost every day. The lack of travel plans has also given me an opportunity to get to know some of my new friends better as we have all the time in the world to drink coffee and discuss our lives. If I make it out of this semester without a coffee dependency I will be amazed.

This week I finally tried Döner, a popular food that can be found everywhere in Mannheim thanks to its large Turkish population. It's like a gyro but more flavourful and far better. Döner stands can be found on nearly every street here so it's amazing and sad that I've gone this long without trying it.

The most exciting part about my week was my trip to Frankfurt. I flew into Frankfurt at the beginning of my trip, but as I stayed in the airport the whole time I didn't see any of the city. As the 5th largest city in Germany and the 3rd most popular airport in Europe, Frankfurt is completely unlike the other, much smaller cities I have visited in the last few weeks.

Frankfurt is huge and vibrant, and if it hadn't been for all the German I heard spoken around me I would have thought I was back in the States. The sheer number of people and the modern setup of the city reminded me of a miniature NYC or Baltimore, and the Frankfurt Hbf even looks a little like Grand Central. Unlike Mannheim, which is always grey and often feels cold and aloof, the streets of Frankfurt were full of life. We passed several street performers and there was music playing on some of the busier streets -- much different than I've been used to the past three weeks. I didn't realise how much I missed a lively city vibe until then. 

We went on a guided tour of the historical areas which concluded with an elevator ride to the top of one of the bank skyscrapers and offered a fantastic view of the city. Frankfurt's downtown looks very new and clean, and we learned about many of the renovations Frankfurt has done since the 80s to improve their city.

Claudia and I spent most of the day shopping in the downtown area. Frankfurt's shopping offers much more variety than Mannheim's and we were excited to see many of our favourite shops along with a few new places. The Primark in particular was a little confusing, because it's a British store, and so in my head I was expecting everything to be in British English when instead it was (of course) all still in German. We also found one of the only Urban Outfitters in Germany, along with multiple H&Ms.

We also found a few good places to eat. On the recommendation of a saleswoman, Claudia and I tried Cafe Hauptwache, one of the oldest cafes in the city located in one of the most famous plazas. We had the Heisse Schokolade (hot chocolate) and Apfelstrudel, both of which were incredible. For dinner, we met back up with our group and ate at Weinstube im Römer, a little restaurant that served traditional food. We didn't arrive back in Mannheim until 11pm and, after walking 10 miles all day, we were exhausted and ready to sleep as soon as we arrived home.

These trees are in every city I've been to, and not even the German students know what they are. Unexplained phenomenon...

The yellow tower on the left side is one of the originals from the 1400s
The Geothe Haus

The results of a multi-million Mark project that gave architects the chance to design their own apartments. Each building was designed by a different artist.
The fantastic Heisse Schokolade from Cafe Hauptwache
Apfelstrudel mit Vanillesauce

Milchkaffee von Weinstube im Römer
Mein Abendessen -- Gebackener Camembert mit Preisselbeeren, Toast und Butter
(My dinner -- baked camembert with jelly, toast, and butter)
Final thoughts from the week -
  • Canadians and Americans are more different than I'd originally thought. 
  • You always get a little cookie at cafes when you order coffee, and I think the US should also adopt this idea.
  • Germans don't seem to drink iced coffee.
  • If possible, talk about world politics with people from other countries. Some of them hold very interesting ideas about what's happening globally.
  • It's ok if your German isn't perfect.

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