Belated Frankfurt Blog

2010 November 4
by Ryan

Um….so….we’ve gotten lazy with the blog.  I knew slacking was inevitable, I just didn’t think it would happen this early when TECHNICALLY I only work part time.  I don’t even know where to start.  I’ve missed reporting on about a million worthy topics/events, and it’s November.  I never wrote about Frankfurt. I think I’ll just make a list.  Because it saves me writing time and you reading time.  (By the way, we went to FF because Ryan had two weeks of training there.  When we first arrived in Moscow and I was jobless and freaked out about him leaving me behind all lonely in scary Russia, I decided I might as well take advantage of my flexible schedule and hop on the plane with him to Western Europe and have a lovely holiday.  I thought I’d get to stay in a nice paid-for hotel (see below), and I DID get to eat my heart out with Ryan’s generous per diem money.  Normally Ryan just returns from these trips with a wad of extra cash, but this time I thought I should help him eat  spend it all.  I’m very glad I went as we had a lovely time….and now I am indentured to the school. No more random 2 week vacations during the school year for me. 

Top 10 Favorite things About our Trip to Frankfurt (in no particular order):

1.  Food, Glorious Food.  I had lunch by myself at the farmers market nearly every day, usually   at Teo’s Italian Delicatessen with Teo’s cute son or nephew or young cousin as my server. He was the only one who spoke English.   I tried nearly every sandwich they made. Best panini was probably the marinated eggplant with arugula and pecorino cheese.  I lived the life of Samatha Brown. Naturally, I enjoyed my fair share of schnitzel, streusel, sausage, and sauerkraut, but that goes without saying.  I do love German food, but mostly I love all food in Germany (much of which is not traditionally German, but it is GOOD).

2.  Pedestrian friendliness. I enjoyed my rambles around the city (particularly by the river) every day while Ryan was in class.  No sludge of  cigarette butts, miscellaneous trash, and dog/horse poop (unlike, ahem, Moscow).  Cars actually stop at crosswalks (they don’t in Moscow).  Lots of bikes and cute doggies.  Clean air. Lovely weather.

3.  The Zoo.  Was pretty great. I quite enjoyed my late morning/early afternoon there. I felt like I had gone too long without seeing a giraffe or a flamingo in person, but now I’ve got my fix .  Do you ever feel that way?  I do sometimes.  It’s much, much better than the DC National Zoo…but….you do have to pay 8 euros (for an adult) to get in.  I bet that money contributes to the overall better quality of the zoo. I was honest and did not lie and say I was a student (though I could have gotten away with it) or that I was under 12 (which, I probably couldn’t have gotten away with that one).

4.  Goethe’s House.  Was lovely.  I have never read any of his works, but I now I think I must. I did not realize that he was the inventor of the bildungsroman (a fun term I love teaching high school kids because it’s so fun to say—it means “coming of age” or “identity” novel). It’s pretty much my favorite genre (think Jane Eyre, David Copperfield, Catcher in the Rye, etc), so now I must read something he wrote since, well…I’ve visited his lavish childhood home and saw his puppet theatre.

5. Shopping: Frankfurt has great shopping which is once again very accessible for a pedestrian. Even though Moscow has several H&M’s, Zara’s, and other such stores, the exchange rate for the Euro was looking much better for us there than here.  I stocked up on socks and tights and cute sweater dresses without breaking the bank. I also bought lots of fun exotic spices and such at the farmer’s market and specialty Asian cooking shops. J

6.Day trip to Heidelberg: What a beautiful and quintessentially European old town.  We took a tram up to the Castle where we accidently stumbled on a very nice (free!) concert of baroque music played on early instruments.  The town has one of the largest Christmas markets in the world (not happening in September, obviously), but I did visit a fun shop and bought a requisite wooden tree ornament of the 3 Magi. For dinner we had some kickin Spaezel…and gelato (see #1)  al fresco…as the sun was setting.  It was quite heavenly. 

7. Day trip to the Rhine Valley: Although these commercial group tours are often wrought with frustrations (see bottom list), the Rhine Valley /river itself was one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen. From our three hour boat tour, we saw dozens and dozens of the most archetypical castle-ly castles you could imagine.  These are the kind from which plastic sandcastle molds are inspired, so you know they’re the real deal. 

8. Connecting with Friends I got to hang out with my graduate school friend Maia (she spent the past two summers with me in both Sante Fe and Oxford), and the timing could not have been better as I was able to celebrate her completion of a series of very demanding exams for her degree.  She showed me around Frankfurt and took me to the most darling tea house I’ve ever seen.  Additionally, I got to see my Uncle’s brother Russell and his wife Ute just weeks before their wedding. They have an adorable chocolate lab appropriately named Cadbury. (Ute also has a son, but I didn’t get to meet him—just the puppy.)  

9. Everything’s in English—and Everyone SPEAKS English.  And even if it wasn’t or they didn’t, and even though I technically know much more Russian than German, German is so much easier to figure out than Russian.  Frankfurt is peppered with English speaking tourists. It was just so EASY.  

10.Television at hotel.  Yes, yes, we’ve got Netflix and slingbox here, but all that requires a lot of set up and heavily depends on a good internet signal….lately that hasn’t worked out so well for us.  Just to be able to simply turn on the television and watch anything, even in German, was quite a treat.  I took a liking to some of the German cooking shows. 

Top 5 list of things that were then annoying and are now Funny:

1.  The Hotel Diplomat.  A woefully ironic misnomer…or maybe not…maybe this is really more like the life of a real diplomat. Notice I was careful to compliment them on their television, because this was really all this place had going for it.  Ryan’s per diem normally allows him to stay at Western hotels no matter where he is in the world, but due to both an international car show and international book fair happening at the same time as our trip, all hotels were exponentially jacked up in price.  Hence, our only choice for a place in the heart of the city was this 2 star establishment that normally charges 39 Euro per night.  We paid (or the government paid—your TAX MONEY) close to 200 a night.  Now, I am not a hotel prima donna. I have backpacked around Europe for weeks on end with a very tight budget, and I’ve stayed  (comfortably, happily) in some pretty primitive hostels.  I’ve shared plenty of hall baths with total strangers.  But our bathroom (private though it was), was the worst I’ve ever seen.  It smelled like pee all the time, even after the maids “cleaned” it.  There was only the bath and the handheld sprayer—no shower curtain…no bath plug….so you just had to sit down and do your best.  Or stand (because the tub wasn’t terribly clean) and get water everywhere.  The mattress wasn’t bad, but our pillows were “stuffed” with about 17 cotton balls.  I’m pretty sure nothing had been updated since the early 80’s.  Breakfast wasn’t bad, except that the breakfast room always smelled like sour milk.  Oh well…at least it got me up and out of there fairly early in the day as I did not want to be in there any longer than required.  We paid for internet access, but the first room we stayed in (on the 3rd floor) was too far away from the router.  They eventually switched us to a room on the first floor the second week (the place was booked to the max the first week due to the said events).  I think they changed the sheets sometimes, but I’m not really sure. I really don’t want to think about it—I’m just glad I’m home where I can wash my own.  They usually smelled of cigarette smoke no matter what.  My aunt (who has family in Frankfurt) informed us that we were just a blocks away from one of the red light districts.  We could see that…easily…

2. Rhine Tour Guide’s really bad English did not stop him from telling really bad jokes the entire bus ride back to Frankfurt (or generally talking incessantly).  His finale: First he asked, “Is there anyone younger than 18 on this bus?”  Never a good start.  Then he asked, “Why eez ze flounder zo zeen?”  (It took us a while to figure out that he was asking, “Why is the flounder so thin?” )  The answer?  “Because it had sex with a whale.”  Botta ching.  This is how he intended to earn good tips/reviews?   

3.  No regular café’s with free wifi to be found  I looked everywhere and could find no such thing.  I was sorely disappointed, because I thought I would sit in a café, have a cappuccino and write blogs.  (Okay, I guess I could have written one without internet and then posted it later , but that’s no fun.)  Seeing as I did not love hanging out in the soured milk scented breakfast room or yucky hotel room, I stayed fairly disconnected.  Not a bad thing—but really—Germany?  You’re so technologically advanced!  Where’s your internet?

4. Ryan’s Loud Coworkers with 3 Liter beers at Beer Garden.  Unfortunately this was the event that I invited my British uncle’s  brother Russell (and his now wife Ute, who is German) to attend with us.  They did show up a bit later, and I was pretty mortified to be associated with the American group at the time, great “ambassadors” that they were.  Sheesh.  Ryan was quite entertained by all it—especially by my reactionary embarrassment. 

5. Confusing public transit system. Luckily I rarely had to use it in Frankfurt, but when I did it wasn’t that easy or efficient.    Moscow’s definitely got Germany beat on this one.  The Moscow Metro rocks.

Here is a link to our pictures:

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