Even at barebones, budget airports, the cafes follow the universal principles of airport dining options worldwide: charge a premium for mediocre food and, more importantly, a place to sit. And yet here we are, nestled in the corner of another airport café for the foreseeable future. This return trip to Arezzo, Italy features a bus, plane, and a couple trains, in that order, and will last another twelve hours at the least, but I can’t see myself having any regrets after such an incredible first experience in Deutschland. Cramming an entire city into just thirty-six hours takes some practice. Luckily, my travel buddies and I have had plenty of weekend excursions across Europe to perfect our craft. I feel comfortable saying that Duncan, Chuck, and I condensed Frankfurt into a day and a half of walking, watching, eating, and enjoying. It was a perfect end to the semester, a stellar introduction to Germany, and a long-awaited opportunity for me to use the language I’ve spent so long practicing.
We arrived at Frankfurt’s Hauptbahnhof Tuesday afternoon on a shuttle bus from the Ryanair satellite airport about an hour and a half outside the city. From there it was only a short walk to the 5 Elements hostel, which was located in the middle of Frankfurt’s red light district. Not the nicest neighborhood in town, but certainly one of the nicer hostels. The three of us ended up with a six bed room to ourselves just the Innenstadt, which was about as conveniently located as I could’ve hoped. We had easy walking access to the Weihnachtsmarkt and the river Main, which serves as a natural divide between Frankfurt’s business and commercial side and the much older residential district. After getting situated in our accommodations, the first priority was finding the best reasonably-priced German food within walking distance. We settled on Klosterhof and added another amazing meal to our gastronomic tour of Europe, which has been an overwhelming success. The German diet is heavy on combinations of various meats and variations of potatoes, so this was one of the heartier meals I’ve had in Europe and without a doubt one of my favorites. We spent the next two hours walking off the calories and wandering the Weihnachtsmarkt. I’d already seen plenty of replica Christmas markets across Europe, from Arezzo’s scaled-down affair to the massive monstrosity in London’s Hyde Park, but the atmosphere in Frankfurt topped every impersonation. We ended the night early with a glass of Gluehwein and made our way back to the hostel to lock in a solid ten hours of sleep ahead of a very long day.
Wednesday was our only full day in Germany and we started it with a proper German breakfast. Meats, eggs, breads, and cheeses for Duncan and myself, and yogurt and a pancake for Chuck. The next few hours were spent first walking through the older, quieter part of the city, where the colorful and aging houses contrast starkly against the metal and glass skyscrapers across the river. With two hours to spare until a German family I befriended over the summer arrived to show us around, we made our way over to the shopping district and did some people watching. At 4pm we met up with Pierre, Ronald, and Beatrix, who took us around Frankfurt and eventually up to the Main Tower viewing deck. The fog that blanketed the city severely limited visibility, but the few buildings we could see poking out of the soup made for a very surreal image. Eventually the six of us found ourselves at another German restaurant in the outskirts of the city, where we took the suggestions of our hosts and tried a few new dishes, like Handkaese mit Musik, or literally translated, hand cheese with music.
Pierre is the only member of his family who speaks English, so he and I spent much of the night translating, but despite the language barrier the conversation was nonetheless stimulating. Pierre had school the next morning and they live in a small village about ninety minutes from Frankfurt, so we had to part ways after dinner, but Duncan, Chuck, and I had to catch a 3am bus back to the airport so we had a long night ahead of us. To our surprise, we found a nearby cinema showing Arrival in English at 11pm, so we spent our final night in Frankfurt in an empty movie theater watching a surprisingly good movie and talking as loud as we wanted. This will be my last return journey to Arezzo in the near future, and once I get back I have plenty of packing to keep me busy, but I’ll worry about those things when the time comes. For now, my heart and thoughts remain in Frankfurt. Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland.