Living in Germany made it possible for me to pamper two of my deadliest indulgences: my addiction to chocolate and travelling. Since I find reminiscing the memory of rich, creamy, German chocolate quite overwhelming, I will refrain from discussing about this sinfully delicious addition and move on to my other affliction: wanderlust.
Being an incorrigible travel addict, I often took quick trips to cities and town in Southwest Germany, most of which were readily accessible, thanks to the efficiency of the German mass transit system. Today, I will share another of my escapades, this time to Frankfurt.
The purpose of my visit was purely to meet a friend who had a sizeable layover in Frankfurt on his way to Johannesburg. Since I lived in Heidelberg, which was an hour away from Frankfurt and cost only five Euros by Flixbus, there wasn't any reason not to go. After catching up briefly at the airport, Daniel suggested that we visit the city, to which I agreed somewhat reluctantly. Perhaps, I should explain why.
I love old cities. I relish the patina of age on the walls of the buildings as I saunter along the narrow cobblestone streets, designed for pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages. I detest modern cities, with an equal fervor. I resent the flashy malls, the nondescript buildings and the motorways teeming with traffic. I was under the impression that Frankfurt was one of those cities, which is why I was not particularly looking forward to visit it. As it turned out, I was wrong.
Frankfurt also has its share of old worldly charms. The historical city centre of Römerberg features quaint, half-timbered houses. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Rathaus or City Hall, which dates back to 1405, all the buildings were destroyed in the Second World War and reconstructed in 1986. A few metres from Römerberg stands the Paulskirche or St. Paul's Church, which was the seat of the first democratically-elected parliament in Germany in 1848. It was gutted during World War II, but was also among the first buildings to be rebuilt after 1945.
An amalgamation of glinting skyscrapers and medieval architecture, Frankfurt has a lot of character. As a matter of fact, five hours were hardly enough to explore the fifth largest city in Germany. On our self-improvised walking tour, we came across interesting landmarks of the city, some of which were historically significant. Among them, was Frankfurt's downtown guard station, which used to be the temporary home of infamous individuals and highwaymen, during the 18th century. It was converted into a cafe in 1904.
Another interesting piece of construction that we came across was My Zeil, the shopping mall. It was a spectacular piece of architecture with glass triangles on its exterior and a gaping hole in the middle. We heard that it had exactly 3,200 glass triangles but as much as we would have liked to, we didn't count.
The highlight of the trip, however, was visiting Saint Bartholomeus' Cathedral. The 14th century cathedral crowned ten emperors of the Holy Roman Empire from 1562 to 1792. Since tourists were allowed to climb all the way to the top of the 95-meter church tower, we decided to be bold and adventurous. According to the brochure available at the cathedral entrance, there were 328 stairs in that spiral staircase! Once again we did not count, but if our legs could speak they would surely complain about how painfully steep the stairs were. I cannot speak for Daniel but at one point, I was seriously considering living in that stairwell for the rest of my life.
However, the view of the city from the top was well worth the effort. Frankfurt lay beneath, a somewhat chaotic blend of the old with the new, as the River Main flowed through it, shimmering in the setting sun.
Afsana Tazreen is a Program Coordinator at FES in Bangladesh.