Coming to Frankfurt from New York was more than a weather shock. New York teemed with life and verve. In Frankfurt, I felt I’d returned to some static past. It build towers to modern finance and shops to porn. The Occupy Park outside the European Central Bank was about the only sign of life or difference. Its cathedral was pretty-ish, the river ran through it and old town was a small square of baroque houses.
But few go to Frankfurt for its landmarks. Viola took me out to a bar for some drinking culture in a suburb bar full of locals of all ages. Oscar showed me the old town and markets. Michelle brought me out to the countryside. Tomas took me round Heidelburg which was small but cute. Seeing each of my friends made the city valuable. (Seeing/hearing Viola after a few drinks was funnier still!)
Before you start thinking this is a wholly critical post and takes up too much space, let me get to the point. AA Gill, the slightly obnoxious travel writer (and cultural snob) called those who visit countries for beaches or the view selfish. He believed seeing the culture that is the real joy of travel. Take the parks of London in summer on a summer’s day, the only time Britain becomes near classless. Culture is the way people interact, the value given to certain organisation or meaning to some concepts, items or institutions that reflect true sightseeing. In short, it is the culture that is the attraction. It is after all the culture that gives all constructions existence and meaning.
Despte my love of city space, there is life in the smallest of villages as attested to in Bavaria. The notion there is ‘nothing to see there’ always strikes me as odd. After all, what they mean is there is a lack of overt culture generally meaning construction of some expression of ideology or idology. Having seen too many churches, sites of mythology or country vistas, I find it perplexing that many fail to see the wood for the trees. We are the view.
As to the city Germans are polite but not friendly to those they don’t know. I say this because when dealing with people, they are perfectly sincere in matters. And yet when taking a door or accidently touching someone, they fail to mark the moment. This is all culturally-specific rhetoric of course but continues on from the alleged German inability at small talk. We tested this with our housemate in Nottingham Phil who duly passed, believing that small talk was time-wasting and insincere!
But with Bavarian views, trains that function and beer prices like that (and with barely noticed the recession), the Germans have it collectively better through organisation, hard-work and investment in skills. The sense of mutual advantage Britain sacrificed in the 1970s from the labour strikes to the Thatcherite thought revolution instilling the goals of personal advancement through individualism and consumerism, Britain has missed out.
Frankfurt came aliver at night with its lit-up towers, underground clubs, shots of apple wine with Viola (who remains elegant despite her spikey-er pretensions). She also knows an impressive amount about critical theory. Heidelberg was rainy but full of straight-up, coloured brick houses with small windows nestled next to the river all overlooked by the castle.
So fear not Frankfurt. Your present may seem humdrum but it reflects a modernity and therefore a historical connection to the modern present, an opportunity to rise from others shadows. It’s that that should be recognised, analysed and understanding. With that in mind, Frankfurt ain’t too bad at all.