Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A visit to Frankfurt

Day 48

After a lovely dinner with Dagmar, Matthias & Alissa last night at a microbrewery (you probably saw the photo of Tony and his baked pork knuckle) we set off this morning to explore Frankfurt with them.  Just before we left it started to snow.  It didn’t last long and much of it began melting pretty much as soon as it hit the ground but we walked to the Romisches Theatre station to meet our guides and snapped off a few.

I love this statue of three little girls under their umbrellas

Romisches Theatre is the new name of the Mainz Sud (South) railway station, named for the Roman Theatre which is right next door to platform 4 … so right next door that half the stage area was gobbled up when the station was built in the 1880’s and the historical value of the theatre was ignored, a retaining wall was built and the area filled.  Renovations, excavations took place in the early 2000’s and Alissa remembers spending time when she was at school being an archaeological labourer, shifting dirt from the Theatre site.

The train from Mainz to Frankfurt crosses the Rhine River and travels past the airport and the huge Opel Factory complex (where Matthias was an engineer for many years) that’s so big it has its own named station.  Opel occupies a site on both sides of the rail line – every facet of car design & consruction happens here.

Part of the massive Opel complex

Once in Frankfurt itself, we came up from the station and our first view was of the Hauptwache – dwarfed by the buildings around it, this 1730’s guardhouse is now a café.  Just down the street is the thoroughly modern Myzeil shopping centre with a hole right through the building.

Then to the Small Market – here again are a few thousand words – because pictures say it better than I ever could.

German Rib-eye steak @ 46euro/kg (that's $70 Aussie)

We spent ages looking through the stalls, tasting samples and talking to stallholders about their produce before heading towards the Frankfurt Dom – also known as St Bartholomew’s Cathedral, stopping on the way for a coffee.
the centre one is Matcha cheesecake ... I passed even if it did look really pretty

The Dom with scaffolding - maintenance is an ongoing issue with buildings this old

Medieval Travelling Altar

The Dom stands on a site occupied by churches since about 680AD.  Charlemagne was in the area in the 790’s and the current church was used as the venue for the crowning of the electors of Mainz and German Kings since the 12th century.  It got an overhaul and extension in the 1560’s before burning down  in 1867. It quickly rebuilt in the Neo Gothic style.  As you can see from the photo below, cathedral was severely damaged during WW2 .
The Dom and the surrounding area - damaged after WW2

It was sleeting when we came out of the Dom so we scurried to have a quick look at the “New Old Town’ where the re-development is a deliberate mix of buildings which appear to be traditional styled half-timbered buildings (but not actually made of timber), and 19th & 19th century buildings mixed together.  Dagmar joked that in a few years the Japanese tourists will be completely ‘taken with the mix’
Modern build - made to look old

A quick detour to see the Main River and the next stop was the historical Romer – the iconic Town Hall dating from 1405  and the other lovely buildings round the Romerburg.

The Romer - aka City Hall

There are lots of churches in Frankfurt, but the one with the most fascinating story is St Pauls.  In around 1270 a monastery was built by Franciscan monks on the site, and in 1548 another church is built, known as the Barfusserkirche, the main Lutheran church in the city run by the 'Barefoot Monks.' This one is demolished in the 1780’s and a new round church is built in the 1830’s and consecrated as a Lutheran Church.  In 1848 it becomes the venue for the German National Assembly before reverting back to a church in 1852.

Smashed in air-raids in 1944 it is rebuilt in 1948 but not as a church – it keeps its original round design but today it is used as a political memorial and conference venue.  It is also the venue for the presentation of the annual The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade – won in 2017 by Margaret Atwood.  According to its statute, “the foundation is committed to peace, humanity and understanding among all peoples and nations of the world. The Peace Prize promotes international tolerance by acknowledging individuals who have contributed to these ideals through their exceptional activities, especially in the fields of literature, science and art. Prize winners are chosen without any reference to their national, racial or religious background."

The flags of all German States hang inside St Pauls

Our last stop on a fascinating and fabulous visit to Frankfurt was the Terrace atop the Galeria Kaufhof department store for some incredible views of the Frankfurt skyline … including watching the planes approach the airport .. two at a time on a 90 second separation.  That is one busy airport.

Back on the train to Mainz and plans for dinner on Friday night.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Magial Mystery Day Trip

Day 47

After 6 weeks of meticulously planned exploring we decided this morning just to go to the station and see where the next train was going, and if it was somewhere interesting, just to get on.

That’s exactly what we did, the train to Saarburcken stopped at Bad Kreuznch and we got off.  This is a wine growing part of Germany, large swathes of vineyards, small towns dotted along, a couple of larger industrial looking towns and our half an hour trip flew by.  It had rained last night in Mainz and was grey and murky looking this morning.  We crossed our fingers that the rain would hold off and as luck would have it, were rewarded with beautiful clear blue skies.

We got off the train and looked around – hmmmm cant see anything special here, hope we’ve not made a gigantic mistake.  But I spotted a steeple in the distance and then a sign that said ‘Altstadt’ … so we had a start.  Down through a fairly modern looking high street and soon the familiar half timbered buildings came into view.

Home now to around 50,000 residents it’s a gorgeous ton with an amazing long and varied history. About 58 BC, the area became part of the Roman empire and as late as 250AD a Roman legion was stationed here. Then from the 10th to the 12th centuries, land in and around the area was under the ownership of an assortment of Holy Roman Emperors including Otto, Friedrich and various Henrys.   

Over the centuries there have been 8 monasteries, 2 synagogues (though the Jewish population has always been a very small percentage of the population) During the 30 Year War it was over-run 8 times and possession switched between the French, the Spanish and the Swedes.  During the Napoleonic Wars it was occupied by both the French & the Austrians, and eventually passed to the Kingdom of Prussia in 1815

In 1904, the pharmacist Karl Aschoff discovered the Kreuznach brine's radon content and the town was quickly billed as a "radium healing spa."   In 1917 Kaiser Wilhelm II arrived and lived in one of the spa houses. In December 1917, General Mustafa Kemal Pasha – better known as Atatürk, the Kaiser and  Paul von Hindenburg met for talks. 

From 1939 to 1940, it became the seat of the German Army High Command, and was heavily targeted by Allied air raids before being captured by US troops in March 1945.

We headed into the Altstadt and just wandered the streets delighting in the old half-timbered buildings and the gorgeous views up and down the Nahe River from the famous Alte Naheburcke. 

Then it was up to the remains of the 1631 Kauzenburg at the top of the hill for some glorious views over the landscape before coming back to wander some more.

There’s a produce market on Tuesdays in the grounds of St Pauls church so we checked this out and bought some cheese.

Tonight we had dinner with our dear friends Matthias & Dagmar and were delighted and surprised that their daughter Alissa (who we first met when she was Lauren's 'exchange sister' in 2005/6) could join us – we thought she’s gone back to South Africa for work.  Tomorrow we’re off to explore Frankfurt with them.