Published: December 25th 2011December 22nd 2011
The rich aroma of mulled wine and sweet cinnamon filled the air as we walked around Frankfurt’s Christmas market. Long strips of candy dangled from one stall and at another, sparkly stars spun in the breeze. A colourful carousel filled with giggling children spun to the sound of Christmas music and further in, beeswax candles, wooden toys and glistening trinkets were for sale on stalls decorated with frosted snowflakes and wooden Christmas trees. “I want sausage!” I announced as we browsed the aisles. “Prime, juicy, German sausage!”
“Why aren’t the trains as good as this in England?” said Angela as we sped towards the centre of Frankfurt. Outside, the burgeoning light of an early December morning showed the rain and overcast conditions but inside was warm and snug. I shook my head because I’d wondered the same thing too. Everywhere else in the world it seemed, had a better railways system than the UK. The airport train we were travelling in was clean, on time, and most importantly, cheap.
We’d ended up in Frankfurt due to a lucky coincidence. Our flight included a stopover there and instead of jumping straight on the next plane we decided to extend our
stay in order to visit the Christmas market. Fifteen minutes later we arrived into downtown Frankfurt, where it was bitterly cold and raining, but undoubtedly Christmassy. We had three missions: see some of the sights; buy some Christmas gifts and sample some sausage.
We looked at the map and got pelted with rain and so headed along a street lined with shops preparing for business. Some of them were already open, namely the bakeries, which poured delicious smells out into the street. A few minutes later we came to a fetching building which turned out to be the Opera House. To escape the wind and rain we took refuge under its awnings thrusting our hand into our pockets.
“Those skyscrapers look impressive,” I said as I thrust my hands into my pockets. We both gazed at the almost ethereal silver towers with their top sections covered in cloud. “I just wish it would stop bloody raining.”
Ten minutes later we were staring up at another tower, this one much older than the skyscrapers of Frankfurt’s financial district. The quite fabulous Eschenheim Tower dated from medieval times and was once part of the old town’s fortifications. With its
tall round tower and spiky turrets, it looked exactly the sort of place a dastardly baron would have imprisoned a beautiful princess. Just behind it was another silvery skyscraper, juxtaposition of old and new.
“I dare you to kiss Santa,” jibed Angela. The Santa she was referring to was standing outside a pharmacy and seemed to be by himself. I quickly scoped out the area and decided it was safe enough to take on the dare. Nonchalantly I walked over to him while Angela waited nearby, camera at the ready, a wry smile on her face. After checking that the coast was clear and also making sure that no one was watching me from inside the pharmacy, I rushed up to Santa and placed a smacker against his bristly, but clearly plastic face. That done, we moved away.
Further towards the old town, the Christmas factor was upped big style. Even though the Christmas market wasn’t due to open for another twenty minutes, there was still enough festiveness to quicken the heart of even the grimmest Christmas hater.
“This is so nice,” said Angela as we arrived at the entrance. “Even you must agree.” Angela was referring
to the fact that I was someone who could quite happily miss Christmas out. Not quite a detester of the festive period, I was nevertheless a person who couldn’t find joy in putting up a Christmas trees and found the prospect of wrapping gifts and right royal pain in the neck. The thought of battling the masses to buy presents could bring me out in a sweat and then there was the niggling problem of what to buy anyway. Besides, the real joy of Christmas left me aged twelve when my dog died on Christmas day. The tree fell on top of her, short-circuiting some lights and you can guess the rest.
I made that last bit up, but you do get the picture. But Angela was quite correct about the scene before us – it did look quite fetching and very Christmassy. Stall holders were putting finishing touches to their wares, and twinkling Christmas lights and sparkly snowflakes could only add to the scene. A girl of about eight who was holding her mum’s hand looked excited as only young children can. But who could blame her. If ever there was a scene to conjure up epitomising Christmas,
then this was it; the only thing missing was the snow. Instead we had rain and so we pulled out hats tighter and waited for the market to open.
Sausages featured heavily inside the market for sale either as cold wrapped offerings or else being cooked on large griddles in the middle of stalls. The cooked ones were selling particularly well and the tempting smells soon had us hungry for prime German sausage.
“We must fight the urge,” I told Angela and we passed a stall selling multitudes of bratwurst sausages. “It’s not even close to Lunchtime. It would be wrong.” Angela nodded and so Instead we headed over to a mulled wine stall. The warming liquid came in a colourful little cup which warmed our cockles, whatever they hell they were. We found a quiet corner and sipped the spicy wine, watching a large carousel revolving to the tunes of Christmas songs.
Further into the old town, in the main square of Romerberg, the Christmas market continued unabated, all under the watchful gaze of a giant Christmas tree. This part of the city was perhaps the prettiest because of the surrounding buildings which looked suitably medieval
and as if they belonged on a Christmas Card. In actual fact, they dated from fairly recently because the whole square had been flattened during the Second World War.
Just south of the square was the River Main, a wide strip of water crossed by quite a few bridges. We crossed one to take in the town from the river’s natural vantage point. It wasn’t that great to be honest, offering a view of a few boats tethered for the winter period and the backs of some of the buildings around the edge of town. We could see the mighty spire of Frankfurt Cathedral though; a gothic structure built in the 14th
century and almost destroyed in the Second World War. But the bridge did offer a few interesting diversions of its own, namely the mad woman feeding the birds.
We were alerted to her presence by the sudden squawking and general hubbub from below. She was standing below us on the river edge, surrounded by a flock of seagulls together with a platoon of swans in the river. As we watched she flung out bits of bread from her plastic bag and the birds were
going wild. It was like a scene from the famous Hitchcock movie. “Look at these,” said Angela, pointing to some things attached to the railings of the bridge. They turned out to be padlocks, each one engraved with two names and a date, placed on a wedding day. The whole bridge was lined with padlocks of every shape and size. One read: Salim & Yvonne, 28.10.09.
Back in the old town, we succumbed to the sausage urge and joined the queue at the large circular stall that seemed the most popular. Each sausage was being cooked by a grinning man in the middle who was turning the long tubes of meat over on the griddle to catch the heat from the open fire below. The smell was delicious and soon enough Angela had purchased a large sausage inside a small roll of bread. It was as scrumptious as promised and we could totally understand the city’s fixation with them.
But our need for sausage was not sated. We quickly found another stall that sold cold ones and asked the man if we could purchase some of his meaty treats. “Yah, of course,” he boomed jovially. “You like long
one or short one, or somewhere in between?”
Angela pointed at a sausage dangling coyly at the front of his stall. She asked the Mr Sausage whether they were any good. The man grinned. “All my sausage iz good, Yah! Prime meat and goodness. You will enjoy my sausage!” We bought ten of them and then he gave us one for free. We walked away with our bounty, satisfied at last.
Just north of the old town was the main shopping street called Zell Street, a pedestrian-only thoroughfare filled with designer shops and large malls. People were out in putting their finishing touches to their festive shopping and we joined them until it was time to head back to the airport. Despite our weariness at having no sleep for almost twenty hours, we had both really enjoyed our short time in Frankfurt.
So Frankfurt brought a close on a good year of travel fo me. In February I'd braved the cold of Armenia and visited beautiful churches in Georgia. In April, I did a mini tour of the Stans', where I saw a dangling horse penis in Kazachstan, climbed a TV tower in Tashekent, Uzbekistan and got
told off by the police in Turkmenistan. In May, Angela and I had seen the Burg in Dubai, then visited a Greek island in July. Next I ate whale meat in Iceland, saw the flowers of Oslo, the castle of Liechtenstein and the charming old town of Zurich, Switzerland. Less than a week later I was visiting Auschwitz in Poland. In August Angela and I visited Rome and Lisbon, enjoying the feel of both European capitals. In November we stayed in a hotel overlooking the River Zambezi in Zambia, chased warthogs in Zimbabwe and saw multitudes of animals in Botswana. And now as we headed to the airport with our bounty of brautwust sausage, we were heading home for Christmas. Strengths:
-Friendly and helpful locals
-The old town is very pretty
-Airport is only 15 minutes away Weaknesses:
-Cold of winter
There are more photos below