Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Frankfurt

We arrived in Frankfurt at 10am local time (2 am Seattle time). The flight was good aside from the screaming 6-year-old in the row in front of us. We were flying Lufthansa and they took good care of us. The food was surprisingly decent and they brought us nice German beer and wine whenever we wanted it as well. Ellis was pretty tense on take-off, never having really flown before, but the beer helped. Haha.

Even though we were so tired, we found it incredibly hard to sleep. We spent the 11 hour flight talking and watching the in-flight movies. We arrived in Frankfurt exhausted but excited. With a 12 hour layover, we decided to explore the city and made our way down to the train station. We had asked an INFO desk what train to take and when we arrived it was waiting at the bay. Alexia wanted to buy tickets before boarding, but Ellis, very excited, decided it must be like Seattle Metro and you could pay on the train and therefore boarded the train before it took off so as not to miss it while buying tickets. Unfortunately, this was not the case… The ticket man came around and informed us that we had to get off at the next stop, which happened to be in the middle of nowhere.

We were at this little train station which was completely devoid of life thinking, "Well, crap". We found some ticket machines, pressed the button next to the Union Jack and started navigating through the menus. While the menus were in English, the destinations were not and we couldn't find the stop we wanted and unlike in the airport, this time there was nobody around to help us out. At this point Alexia reminded Ellis that he shouldn't go jumping on trains without tickets because sometimes you get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Finally, after a few minutes of attempting to figure out the machine, a nice German Gentleman strolled by and we asked him for help. He showed us how to use the ticket machines, and helped us buy the right ticket. He also led us to the right train bay to make sure we didn't get lost again and told us where to get off.

A few minutes later, we arrived in the station. The station was really cool. There were multiple levels and so many bays with trains going from places within the city to places all over the country. The architecture was amazing as well.

We set out of the strain station into the city. We started walking down the main drag into town. They had it closed off to cars and there were all sorts of different stands set up. It was similar to the street fairs in the US. We don't know if it was always like that or if we arrived on some special day, but never the less, it was pretty cool.

From our book, we read that Frankfurt was almost completely destroyed during WWII, and during the rebuilding, they opted to modernize the city instead of rebuilding it exactly as it was. This became really apparent to us as we were walking through the city and we saw old traditional Bavarian structures alongside towering skyscrapers.

We had read about a cool café in our book and decided to try and find it. With Alexia leading the way, we took off into the heart of the city. We found the café and ordered some light food and apfelwein. Jos had told us that every city in Germany had their own specialty of beer or spirits, and in Frankfurt, theirs is apfelwein. The apfelwein was quite tasty and inexpensive. The food was also good. There was a small bakery next to the café so we grabbed a couple small pastries to try for desert; also very yummy.

We took off to explore the city again. We wandered the streets and looked at the buildings. It was hot so after a short while we were in search of water. We found some at a Starbucks of all places and then decided to find the river Main; which was supposed to be scenic. It was, but we didn't get very far down its banks because we found a small park where some of the locals (both homeless and businessmen) were taking naps in the sun. We, being so tired, decided to do the same and were out cold for 2 hrs. We had been up for 36 hrs straight at this point.

We woke up and had to take care of Nature's call and went off in search of the fabled water closet. We found the Jewish Museum which we had been interested in anyway, and decided to check it out with renewed urgency. The museum was fascinating. It's hard to comprehend having to go through what they did and even more amazing to know that every artifact that they had in the museum was smuggled through the Holocaust.

After the museum, we embarked on a quest for sausage and beer. We asked one of the curators at the museum and she looked at us funny. It was 4:30 in the afternoon; right between lunch in dinner so the bars had closed for lunch and were not yet open for dinner. She told us our best bet was to go to the little street fair and see if the vendors were still selling there. We went to the street fair and first went into a gelato shop where they had some AMAZING Tiramisu ice cream. It tasted enough like rum that we thought eating enough might get you drunk. After that, sure enough, we found Bratwurst and more Apfelwein. It was freshly cooked to order and served on a little table in the middle of the street. After our delicious dinner, we set off for the train station and attempted to figure out the ticket machines on our own again. We did, but we double checked with someone at the INFO desk because we didn't want to miss our flight.

Back in the airport, we bought some local apple blossom schnapps at the duty free store and settled into the chairs near the gate to wait for our plane. We were playing cards, and reading, and not paying attention until Ellis noticed that it was almost time for the plane to board and there was nobody else around anymore. We had an "oh shit" moment and ran off to find a Lufthansa desk to see what was going on. Turned out the gate had changed and we made a mad dash to the new gate, arriving just in time. We boarded the plane and set off for Cyprus.

The biggest thing we took away from Frankfurt was just how amazing their public transportation really was. The efficiency of their rail system blew us away and on top of that they were amazingly bike friendly. Everywhere you looked you saw hundreds of bikes and they had really clear bike lanes and the cars were very respectful of them. The US has a long way to go catch up.

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