Thursday, January 23, 2014

That time I went to Germany and didn't buy Gummi Bears is a spiritual victory.

I feel like this blog is turning into a travel blog which might imply that I'm incredibly fancy but if you've been here for more than a week we all know that's not true.  I practically have a cowboy hat on my head during the flight I'm so redneck.

My company sent me to Frankfurt, Germany for an industry show and although I'd love to drop some of that design knowledge on you, I think it's best for things my real job pays for me to have stay at real work, yaknowwhatImsayin?

Pretty much what a lot of Frankfurt looks like.
So when I wasn't hanging out at the convention center above (convention centers make me murdery!), I wandered around the city like a delightful tourist and I CAN share some of that stuff with you.  Because Frankfurt is a cool city.  

Well, I wouldn't call it "cool" as in 'you're gonna find so much punk rock art and shit it'll blow your mind!' but cool as in 'wow, that building is pretty cool' and 'hey, that new shopping mall has a Chipotle! Chattanooga doesn't even have a Chipotle!'

I kid.  Mostly.  

To prove it's got some street cred, here's probably the best vintage '70s shop I've ever seen.  

On a corner by the Eiserner Steg I think...
I found this place at 7 AM a few years ago (I often sneak away for morning walks before work.  It's worth it.) and never got a chance to go inside but I found it again serendipitously!  The owner was dressed in all black and listening to thrash metal.  When you work in a cartoon rainbow every day, I think that's the only way to cope.

Most of the other tourist shopping - of which there is plenty - is more contemporary.

Like, from the future wormhole contemporary.  Or at least like Times Square with lots of lights and flashing signs.

This area is the Zeil and it has two - yes, TWO - H&M's.  I bought a scarf at one of them about five years ago and thought I was hot shit until Atlanta finally got one.  

Anyschnitzel, I did a little shopping at night but was most excited to see the rest of the city MY way.  The SAUCE way.  AKA getting lost a lot but having some fun adventures in the process.  I ended up having a whole day to myself to explore so I mapped out a rough area of places I wanted to check out, had a big breakfast, drank a liter of water to combat travel dehydration and stepped out of the (free) subway onto... a rainy street.  Gawddammit.  

But the universe is on my side because I had originally planned to go straight to a graveyard but the rain prompted me to check out a nearby museum that I originally thought to ignore for time's sake. Turns out, going there was the best decision I made.  Well, a decision the rainy universe made for me.

I visited the Museum Judengasse or the Museum of the 'Jews' Alley' which chronicles Jewish life in Frankfurt since the 13th century.  

Jewish ghetto highlighted above.
Pardon the brief history lesson but I found this museum fascinating not only for the historical insight which it provided but also as it applies to the built environment.  I feel really stupid and embarrassed in saying that even though I'm well aware of the persecution of Jews throughout history, I had no idea just how many hundreds of years BEFORE the late 19th century that Jews were forced to live in conditions much like those surrounding the Holocaust.

To me, the 'Jewish ghetto' was something that happened during the early 20th century, not a 14th century thing.  I read Leon Uris's Exodus when I was younger but I guess I neglected to read about events BEFORE that. 

Here's a partial site plan of the homes in the alley with the actual 'alley' running down the center.  The ends were gated and locked at night and during Christian holidays.  Three fires destroyed many of the homes in the alley in the 18th century and the gates were locked to prevent nearby neighbors to help.

The Sewage "pipe" was behind that back wall, like, a river of shit is your backyard.
Foundations of several houses are inside the museum so visitors can walk through them.  This one pictured above is about average width (you can tell from the site plan above) at about six feet wide.  It absolutely blew my mind.  Also blew my mind that I was one of three people in the museum.  Frankfurtians, what's wrong with you?

Once I climbed out of the 18th century mikvah, it had stopped raining (thanks, universe!) and I was able to check out that graveyard around the corner I wanted to see.  

This was Frankfurt's Jewish graveyard dating back to the 12th century (I believe).  I'm sticking my arms through a locked gate to get the picture above but if you zoom in you can see the hundreds of headstones on the far right covered in moss.  The bare, grassy areas in front are all grave sites that the Nazis destroyed.  You can see exactly where they stopped based on the line of rubble.  

Next, I spent a few minutes looking for a memorial I read about in honor of all of the Frankfurt Jews killed during WWII.  I usually have a vague idea where things are and just wander til something looks right or I get lost a few times. Turns out the memorial was actually IN the wall surrounding the cemetery and stretched a city block:

Every block is a name of the person and when and where they died.  The block at the bottom center with a few rocks on top is Anne Frank.  Her mother, Edith, is at the top right.  

Again, I didn't see another person - let alone a tourist - the entire time I was here.  It was almost eerie quiet which is particularly weird considering it's in the middle of a giant city and cars are literally parked three feet away on the road.  This is quite the opposite of, say, the setting of the Vietnam Veterans Wall in DC.  But I'm honestly rather thankful for the quiet because being there was really intense and deserved a person's undivided attention.  

I had to do some digging to even find these 'things to see' and it was by far the most important part of my trip.  People have been politely asking how my trip was and if I bought a cool souvenir and I've been answering with 'Did you know that for centuries Jews had to wear a golden ring on their clothes similar to the yellow badge the Nazis made them wear?' and then they back away slowly.

What I'm saying is, maybe I need to quite reading blogs for a few days and pick up a book instead.

But the rain had finally stopped I continued on my journey - my tourist quest to experience it ALL - and was pleasantly surprised to find this bit of graffiti a few blocks away:

Refugees Welcome is a movement to fight racism against people seeking asylum in Europe.  Maybe even all over the world...?  Honestly, I'm the worst tour guide ever.  But maybe the best tourist?   Probably the worst one of the those too because I think I wound up near the hospital at this point and hospitals are never in nice parts of town.

So I headed towards Tourist Area I Want To Wander Around In #2 known as Sachsenhausen.  

I'm headed your way, Sachsenhausen!
It's old school Germany and has lots of bars that serve giant platters of pork knuckle and pints of cider.  I didn't partake this time because it was 10 AM although I'm sure that's not frowned upon.

I bet some good pork sausage is served here.
And I'm not using big words to impress you with my expertise of Germanic languages - I had to google everything that isn't 'and,' 'but' or 'or' in this entire post.  I'm using this as a diary/guide book in case I go back and forget what everything is called.  Just skim through all the word parts, I'm fine with that.


Skimming... pretty buildings, blue skies... skimming...

Honestly, I'm surprised at how colorful many of the original buildings were.  Not only is the weather grey in January but much of Frankfurt is grey and concrete considering a large portion of it was destroyed during the bombings in WWII and rebuilt in delightfully (sarcasm) modern, post-war styles.

Makes me wish I could visit in the Spring because of this:

Museum Mile
I bet this is beautiful when it's green but walking down the River Main under a canopy of... German Crepe Murder...?


But I saw some green behind a big house and needed to pretend I wasn't in Pleasantville for a few minutes.

I waited ten minutes while a couple stood in this spot taking selfies in front of this cute little fountain.  Of course, I waited ten minutes to take a picture of a fountain so who's the idiot here?

Cute little fountain was the backyard to the Museum Weltkulturen - appropriately the Museum of World Cultures - which I just translated and really wish I'd gone in while I was there.  Oh well.

I swear I'm not as stalkery as these pictures appear.  There IS a path I'm standing on.  Possibly some homeless people living in the bushes but we respected each other's spaces.

I quickly ran out of green again but was excited to see more color when I crossed the river on the pedestrian bridge Eiserner Steg or Iron Bridge.

Inspired by that bridge in... Italy?, couples attach love locks to the bridge and each one is engraved with their names and dates.  Maybe pet names or dirty talk.  I don't know, some weren't in English but that's what I'd do but I guess this is forever and they're not tacky Americans so...

Is anybody getting a Beyonce's Superpower vibe here or is it just me?  I'm feeling it, whatever it is. 

Getting back to vintage Germany now, the Frankfurt Cathedral of St. Bartholomew or the Dom St. Bartholomew is right off the bridge... somewhere.  

Y'all, I can't remember the names or dates of anything but I can draw and color coordinate a map for you of any city I've been to!

It was mostly destroyed during the war but was rebuilt and seems like the pride of Frankfurt.

Much of it is constructed using this glorious red sandstone.  It felt really warm and - dare I say - comfortable in the cathedral.  Often big, official spaces like Notre Dame intimidate me (maybe because I'm a vicious heathen?) but this space was really wonderful.

Maybe because it kinda felt like a horror movie when I walked in.  I loved it already.

Also, this dude seemed really important and friendly.  You're winning me over, Germany.

The most famous part of Frankfurt is probably the Romberberg in Alstadt or "old town" adjacent to the Dom.  Starting in the 12th century, this is where all of the town's markets were held and the actual town hall - the Zum Romer - held the coronation ceremonies for two Holy Roman Emperors.  Sadly, I do not think Charlemagne was one of them otherwise somebody would be getting a free stowaway ride next year!

The Town Hall on the left. The second floor is the Kaisersaal.
Even sadder was that this area was also completely destroyed during the war and was rebuilt.  The Town Hall was rebuilt immediately following the war but the other buildings rebuilt in the '80s to look like 16th century German architecture.  Try not to think about that as you're walking around...

Actually, you can still think it because it's still really cool.  ATLANTA don't have shit like this so soak it up, tourists!

Detail of front door to the Town Hall.
 I don't care what decade this was built, that's some fancy detailin' right there.

The Ostzeille opposite the Romer.
Yes, there are souvenir shops on the bottom floors but it's still cuckoo clocks and teddy bears and I have no problem with that.  Germany is known for their Christmas celebrations, of course, and my dream is to head to this square for their Christmas markets.  LOOK AT THIS!

Fun fact, there is a Starbucks right around the corner from this place that's my "you got lost again but now you're found" landmark that has saved me several times.  You might think that that's a grotesque thing, rejoicing the site of a Starbucks in a foreign country but, lemme tell ya, in a sea of tourists and craziness sometimes there's nothing sweeter than the sight of a grotesque chain.  Even if you don't order a thing.

Also, they have a bathroom.  Remember, I drank a liter of water with breakfast....

Bridge of Sighs in the Paulsplatz.
This building probably won't let me use their bathroom.

Next I passed the reconstructed Goethe house (meh, it's just Goethe... I think I faked my way through that part of English class) and headed to the part of the town that was not destroyed by the war.  We're talkin' real, live, 19th (?) century buildings and shit.  Awww yeah, boi!  Let's get this architecture party started!

Somewhere near Kaisserstrasse. I don't know, I'm just wandering around...
This part of town is the financial district I do believe.  I don't know... I can't remember everything and my feet really hurt at this point and the sun's going down soon.  Please notice metal and glass skyscrapers in the background as probable proof.  

This felt both really gritty but really beautiful too.  Maybe it was the delirium after a long day or I'm drunk on water but I really liked it.

If the Zeil was the "Times Square" of Frankfurt, this area was Times Square in the '80s before it was cleaned up.  Or what I'm imagining it to be like.  I'm saying it was the Red Light District.  All the beautiful buildings on top of strip clubs, sex shops and weird foreign food markets that were probably selling more than ethnic foods.

I'm literally standing in front of a window display of a rainbow assortment of butt plugs flanked by two mannequins in full latex outfits to take the above picture.  I'm not exaggerating.  Staring to wonder why I didn't take a picture of THAT now that I think about it...

Fortunately I'm close to the main train station so I'm not walking towards my death (or death orgy?) in a seedy neighborhood.  You'll be find if you visit. 

Looking from the Hauptbahnhof down the KaisserStrausse
See?  Lots of people.  On their way to buy butt plugs.

But I'm done.  My feet are bloody nubs from walking for 5 days straight and I'm ready to take today's 2nd hot shower.

Ahh, my German home away from home - the hotel bar.  The last night I was there I was eating dinner alone because I'm confident like that and also totally alone at this point and noticed two American girls sitting next to me.  I was eavesdropping a bit and going to say hello because YAY fellow American neighbors but then I realized they were THOSE kind of Americans.  Those stereotypes of traveling self-righteousness and whine.  

They were rude to the waitress and even brought their Starbucks cups to the dinner table.  I don't even bring my Wendy's Frosty into Taco Bell so what kind of ill-mannered ass butts are these bitches who order Caesar salads when in a foreign country and drink it with caramel Frappuccinos?  My self-righteous American disgust towards them was palpable.  

They ordered a homemade apple strudel for dessert and then had the nerve to say it was gross.  Fuck you, it's an apple strudel!  I could eat an apple strudel at any time day or night and I just ate a bowl of pasta so large the waitress was noticeably impressed.  She gave me free coffee and a dessert because fuck yeah, Germany.  Also, I tip well.  We're all global citizens, y'all.  I only know three German words but say them all the time and it seems to work okay.  But Germans seem unpretentious and chill and I like that in anyone.  Also, the free desserts don't hurt.

As I was leaving with my free cinnamon roll bedtime snack, I heard Terrible American #1 say, "So on my blog the other day..." and it all made sense.  Fucking bloggers.  We're all terrible.  As you might have gathered by reading this long, self-centered post which I'll totally thank myself for next year even if you unfollowed me.  

And if you stopped reading a long time ago (which was probably a wise decision) the final tally is: 

- 2 blisters
- 10 swollen toes
- 2 liters of water a day
- 1 attempt to get into a hotel room that wasn't mine
- unlimited number of purty building facades
- 909039420394 espressos
- 1 incredibly invasive pat down at the Frankfurt airport
- 0 butt plugs purchased

Auf Wiedersehen!

(unless you unfollowed me in which case, sorry)


  1. Every time I open my e-mail and see you've managed to grace us with another fu----- brilliant ray of (trippy-acid-like) Sunshine, my funny bone gets hard (eew, creepy, sorry). If you only knew how medicinal your posts are, hell if the world knew you'd be up for the next NOBEL oh wait usually like the Oscars the wrong A H's get it. Anyway you are a diamond in the rough, to & especially include the now cat clawing Blogosphere(?). If fact you may be fast becoming the last remaining vestige of sanity (& true class w/sass) left to the virtual world. Selfishly I implore you never give-up. Thank you a 988877666544332114 X's! Have a kick ass new year filled w/real joy!

    1. Wow, YOU bring me joy, Ann! What a truly marvelous comment that lifted my spirits! It makes me really happy (and want to blog even more!) that you like what I do/talk about. I mean, I won't argue with the Nobel but there is something kinda magical about being a secret underdog blog. Underblog.

      Oddly enough, I get called Cuh-razy just about every day. ; )

      Thanks for your totally-not-paid-for comment and I hope YOU have a kick ass new year filled with joy as well! *high five*

  2. I love your super long posts. (And I actually did read it all.)
    sites like buzzfeed piss me off with their short list driven posts all the time. While it is occasionally funny to see the 33 reasons you're like Brittney in the 90s, its worthless crap. I'm all about the #longread if there is a story worth telling. I hate that #longread even has its own hashtag, bc of what that says about our culture, but give us credit, some of us do have attention spans longer than 5ms.

    I've only seen Frankfurt from the car, and even then it was me hungover and sleeping in the backseat while a friend drove the autoban from Munich. What I kinda-sorta remember was a lot of concrete and tall buildings, I'm glad there is more to the city than that. Your pictures are a lot prettier than my memories....And now I want to go to Brewhaus.

    1. Aww, your fancy comment box deleted my fake html around my rant. Imagine < rant > and < / rant > around my going of on buzzfeed.

    2. Thanks so much for your comment, Emily. Reading it makes me have a vague memory of talking about the issue of #longreads before in regards to my posts! I think I just need to get over it and stop selling my obviously genius readers short. ; )

      Germany seems like a place you would enjoy - even if you're not a beer fan! I hope you get to go back one day and if you do I'll totally plan your trip!

  3. Read it all. Thanks for the trip, I really enjoy it.

    1. Man, had I known y'all were actually gonna "read" my posts I would have put more care into them! ; )