The Cathedral that Isn't?

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June 1st 1964
Published: January 2nd 2019
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1964 Diary Entry

"The next morning we got up and had breakfast. After breakfast we went and had a walk in the Borghese Gardens. After walking for some time we came and started to pack for that day we were leaving for Frankfurt. After packing and paying our bill we caught a taxi to the airport. When we got there we had our baggage checked and then we went into the flight waiting room. After waiting for some time we were called out to the aircraft. After boarding it we fastened our seat belts and pre-pared for take off. By the way Mummy didn't like the idea of flying "Alitalia" which was the name of the line. After taking off the pilot headed straight up. When he got right up he started to bump, and we bumped all the way across the Swiss Alps. When he got to the other side of them he put his nose down and headed straight for the ground. After landing we went into the airport. When we got there we went through customs, health and passport control. After all this we caught a bus and then a taxi to the Frankfurter Hof hotel. After
Frankfurt streetscapeFrankfurt streetscapeFrankfurt streetscape

Note VW Beetle "Polizei" car in the bottom right hand corner.
arriving there and looking at our room we went for a walk. After walking for quite some time we found a cafe. There we had dinner and after dinner we walked all through the shops. Finally we walked back to the hotel where we got into bed.

The next morning we got up and went down to breakfast. After breakfast Dad and I walked down to the river Maine which is the river on which Frankfurt is built. After seeing the river Dad and I walked over to the S.A.S place. There Daddy confirmed our booking for the flight to Copenhagen. After doing this we walked back to the hotel. There Mum met us and we all went down to the river. There we crossed the little footbridge and sat on the other side watching the barges for about half an hour. After that we crossed the bridge again and had lunch at a typical German restaurant. After lunch we walked around again and at about 3 o'clock we got on a boat for we were going on a trip down the river. When we got on the boat we sat down and soon after we set off. First of all we went under some bridges and then we went through the industrial area. Soon after that we started to get out into the country. There we went through a lock. When we got through we went through some more country and soon after that we turned around and headed back. On the way back we went through the same thing and when we were halfway there a thunderstorm hit us. It poured with rain and there was some hail too. Finally we got back and by that time it had stopped raining. Then we went back to the hotel, had dinner and got into bed."

My nervous flyer Mum was really not at all happy with the flight up over the Alps from Rome to Frankfurt, and I think the words in the diary might have been more of a reflection of her thoughts than my own. In her mind, the overly hot-blooded Italian Alitalia pilot headed straight for the sky as soon as we took off, scraped the snow off a few Swiss peaks as he "bumped" over the top of them, and then put the nose down and headed straight for the ground as soon as he saw a flat patch that he thought he might be able to land on. I've got no idea why I remember this useless detail, but the plane was a caravelle, with its engines near the back of the fuselage rather than on the wings. Actually I think I probably remember because Mum wasn't going to let any of us forget even minor details of what in her mind was a very traumatic experience.

As with some of our other destinations, I've never been entirely sure of why we went to Frankfurt. It had clearly had the living daylights bombed out of it during World War 2, so it was very modern and didn't have a lot of visual appeal. I now read that the once attractive medieval town centre was completely destroyed by the bombing. Maybe our travel agent saw yet another opportunity to get a kick back from a luxury hotel, which, like many of the others we stayed in along the way, is still there, now as the Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof. The current rates don't seem to reflect its status as a "luxurious five star hotel", but I am writing this during a business holiday period in early January, and with the greatest respect to all Frankfurters, I'm not entirely sure that their city would rate as a tourist mecca at the best of times, let alone in the gloom of mid-winter. It seemed to be very industrial, and highlights of our one full day there apparently included gazing lovingly at barges from the river bank and taking a romantic boat ride through the city's large industrial district. Again, I think I might need some reminding as to why we went there.....

Surprisingly Frankfurt isn't all that big, with a current population of only a bit over half a million, although the surrounding Rhine-Main urban area of which it is the centre is home to more than five million. Its main claim to fame seems to be as an "alpha world city", which means it is a "primary node in the global economic network", and many European and global corporations are headquartered there.

The Frankfurt Cathedral appears in two of my three snapshots, and seemed to dominate the city's skyline then. I read now that whilst everyone calls it a Cathedral, it isn't really a cathedral at all. I wonder why an entire urban population would claim that something is something that it isn't. I hope that this doesn't have anything to do with the impacts of industrial pollution on brain capacity. I read that there has been a church of some sort on this site from very early times, and one of its main claims to fame is as the site of the coronations of Roman-German emperors during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries when the Holy Roman Empire was in operation. It was destroyed by fire in 1867, and partially destroyed again during the World War 2 bombing.

I know that the Volkswagen Beetle was an icon in its day, but I was perhaps a bit surprised to see from one of my happy snaps that this even extended to their use as police cars. In the 1960s one of Dad's spinster sisters, my Auntie Nona, owned a dark blue VW Beetle which she used to transport herself and two of her sisters around in. It was tiny, and I'm not at all sure how the three of them managed to cram themselves into it. That said I do have strong memories of Auntie Nona being constantly stooped over the steering wheel, possibly because whoever was sitting behind her had to push her a long way forward because there wasn't ever enough room in the back seat. If the German police were hoping to cart criminals around in the backs of their Beetles in 1964, I sincerely hope that most of them were small. I also hope that the Polizei serviced their Beetles a bit more frequently than Auntie Nona did. We could always hear her coming from a few hundred metres away and the air was always thick with exhaust for a long time after she'd arrived anywhere.

I'm not quite sure why I bothered to note in the diary that we went past the same things on the way back up the river as we had on the way down it. I would have hoped that by that stage my nine year old brain would have been familiar with the concept of a river.

I have very few memories of our time in Frankfurt, probably fewer than of any of the places we visited. I do however remember that I must have eaten some sauerkraut that didn't agree with my then sensitive stomach, and then having to spend a long time in our hotel room bathroom. I remember that bathroom like it was yesterday......


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