"One day it occurred to me that it had been many years since the world had been afforded the spectacle of a man adventurous enough to undertake a journey through Germany on foot. After much thought, I decided that I was a person fitted to furnish to mankind this spectacle. So I determined to do it. This was in March, 1878." Mark Twain, A Tramp Abroad


Frankfurt on my Mind

On Saturday the three of us made a tramp to Frankfurt am Main (pronounced “mine”) and attended Frankfurt’s famous Museumsuferfest. Frankfurt is, for the most part, a modern city with imposing skyscrapers, trendy shopping, and a steady flow of international visitors. Frankfurt is also in many ways the central nervous system of Germany: it is the home of Germany’s financial sector (the European Central Bank is here, and Frankfurt’s stock exchange is the world’s 4th largest), and its airport is the point of arrival and departure for most visitors to Germany.

Fortunately for us, Frankfurt is only about an hour trip by train or auto from Marburg. We chose the later option this time and headed south by bus with a group of other Fulbrighters.

A proper visit to Frankfurt begins where Frankfurt began, in Römerberg (or the old central squaure) of the Altstadt (old city), on the northern shore of the river Main. Römerberg remains the political and social center of Frankfurt. Many emperors have been elected here, but in today’s Germany it is the site for events like the famed Christmas market. On our visit we even witnessed a few weddings taking place.

The city of Frankfurt was mostly leveled during WWII, so the majority of the Römerberg square is composed of reconstructed half-timbered houses. Dominating the center of the square, however, is the 16th century Gerechtigkeitsbrunnen (or Fountain of Justice).

Here’s Penelope, bundled up outside of the old Rathaus (or city hall).

One of Frankfurt’s most well known attractions is Paulskirche (or St. Paul’s Church).

The Church was originally constructed (in Neoclassical style) to serve as the city’s principal Protestant church. It is now famous, however, as the gathering place in 1848 of Germany’s first democratically elected assembly. Given the church’s namesake (St. Paul!), we were excited to make our visit. Things quickly became depressing. The Paulskirche, despite the name, is no longer a church (no pastor, no congregation, no gatherings of worship) but rather a hollowed out secular monument.

All Christian symbols have been purged. In their place, the vacant space has become memorial to the idea of German political unity. This unity is expressed by the flags of the 16 Bundesländer (or states) that wrap around the walls of the interior.

Paulskirche is a tragic reminder (especially for American churches) of why Christians refuse to adorn their sanctuaries with national flags and to pervert their liturgies with secular celebrations like the 4th of July, Memorial Day, et al. For those churches unfaithful in this matter, see St. Paul’s “Church.” MENE, MENE, TEKEL, and PARSIN!

After Paulskirche, we ascended the Maintower and took in the spectacular views of Frankfurt.
We held on tight and tried not to get blown away by the cold wind.

Then we proceded down to the Museumsuferfest along the banks of the River Main. There are 20 museums that line the shore of the river, and this festival celebrates them. Though we didn’t venture into any of the museums, we did wander along the river and take in the sights and smells of the festival outside.

The streets were lined with stalls featuring crafts and foods, both local and international.

There was no shortage of beautiful meats.

Apfelwein (literally “apple wine”), the drink of Frankfurt, was also readily available. It tastes similar to apple cider, but it’s more sour than sweet. The stalls selling Apfelwine were charming and sometimes extravagant.
We were amazed at how civil and refined this festival was compared to those we’ve experienced in the U.S.: the drinks were served in real glasses, there wasn’t trash strewn about, the music was pleasant, the tables were decorated with candles and flowers, and people were dressed nicely. The weather also hovered between a bit cool and just perfect, which was quite unlike summer festivals in the States.
We both got our fill of apfelwein, which ended up being a bit more potent than either of us anticipated.
Penelope even wanted to give it a try.
Apfelwein, of course, wasn’t the only drink at the festival. Being in Germany, there was plenty of beer, and also all kinds of cocktail concoctions.

Near the end of the evening, as we headed back to catch our bus, Penelope spotted the city park. She insisted that she be allowed to play just like the other big kids.

Just before heading back to Marburg we made one final stop at the bakery to get some last minute refreshments for the journey home. We are quickly becoming rather efficient European travelers.

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