Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Engineer and a More Educated Walk

The tour guide turned out to be an engineer, which was perfect since I know just enough about tech not to lose myself in a conversation. We met outside Frankfurt station, where I had a coffee as we waited. While we chatted we found that the coffee girl at the restaurant was generally unhelpful, and after making sure it was okay, we just left the tab and headed on our way.

Someone (not me) had bothered to check the weather and so was aware that there was a possibility that it might rain. However, at 3:30 (when we started walking about) it was an absolutely gorgeous sunny day. The Engineer was a polite older gent who had been living in Frankfurt for close to 20 years. He got a chance to practice his English and I got a chance to have parts of the city I had been seeing explained. It started with a quick explanation of the area straight across from the station. While it was a red light district it was much like the red light areas in Manhattan or Vegas: popular with a certain crowd and a constant annoyance to locals who wanted to close them down, but making enough money and having just enough draw to make them hard to close down. In general it was a quiet peace that probably got stirred up every couple of years, with nothing actually ever being done about it.

We walked further into downtown and he pointed out the opera house, which had been rather nicely refurbished. While walking, he also pointed out a number of Indian and Italian restaurants and explained that a lot of the eating out in Germany was actually for food that wasn't German, which may also have explained the look from the German information desk worker the other night. Apparently German food was a tourist thing and real Germans ate anything but. Which also made a lot of sense; however, I lived in Korea where you couldn't swing three cats without hitting five Korean restaurants and a coffee shop, so I figured it made a bit of sense why I thought I could find German food.

We kept walking and he pointed out how most of the skyscrapers were closed. One of the buildings was the place where I had gone and had my magical Vesper experience, and it was one of the only skyscrapers that was open to the public, or at least one of the few where the roof was open to the public, sort of like the Empire State Building. I had picked a good location for my little drink, it seemed.

After some more walking we came to the statue fountain I had seen the night before when I was horribly lost, and he admitted to having no idea what the statue represented. I recognized Artemis and Athena, so I figured it had something to do with wisdom and knowledge. It was topped with what looked like philosophers, so I hazarded a guess at what I was seeing, but it was hard to say, and we weren't headed in a direction that afforded a more close-up view, so we walked on.

A few blocks further along we came to Hauptwauche Station, which was pretty much the entrance of a nice shopping distract. It was also the location of that weekend’s Oktoberfest celebration. Of course. I was in Germany in October; I should have realized. There were a number of tents set up serving beer, sausages, more sausages, dried sausages, and cheese...in that order. I made a note of it, but it was not our final destination, so we walked on.

The crowed began to press more and my guide steered me into a building that had a nice escalator going up. We went up all the way to the top and came out at a platform that was open to the public for city viewing, which was a perfect place to point out more things in Frankfurt. One of the things was the fact that while most of the buildings looked like they had been there since the 1700’s, the reality was that much of the city had been entirely rebuilt after being destroyed in raids during the war. It had been recreated to look like it had been built in the 1700’s (to maintain the tourist ideal), but the reality was that it was not true.

To the left of my view were a number of construction cranes. “That is where the new IMF is being built. In a few years, that is where all the money will be,” the Engineer said.

In front of us was the Cathedral of Saint Bartholomeus: a great big red ancient-looking church that (according to my non-European guide named Wikipedia) was built in around 1425 or so. It was ancient-looking and awesome and I noted it for a potential return visit the next day. There was a lot of skyline and a lot to see, but as the daylight was burning we decided to press onward to the Goethe Museum, which was the renovated childhood home of Johann Goethe.

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