I had to have one.
I know it is not on the top of the nutritious and healthy list, but I had to have my Frankfurter Rostbratwürstchen anyway. I found myself in the middle of Frankfurt at midday with time on my hands. And there it was that memory, not tribal, all mine, of long ago: lunch hours spent window shopping on the most expensive mall in Frankfurt, warming myself up with a “Würstchen mit Senf” bought from a “Metzgerei” on the “Freßgaß” (stuff-me-up-road). Well, it is tradition and I plodded towards the road, its familiar food smells, pedestrian area and fountains.
“Freßgaß” is not its real name and yet it is. I would have to look the real one up on a map and so would a lot of true Frankfurters. I walked towards it from the “Römer”, a name that pays tribute to the once upon a time presence of the Romans along the Main, its fake medieval houses and town hall standing tall and pretty.
After the bombings of WWII, only one house remained intact (see image) and after long years of suffering the architecture of the 60ies and 70ies, it was decided to resurrect some of the old glory of the town by repopulating it with buildings of a prettier building era. Some moaned at the loss of space and modern architecture, others secretly sighed in relief and tourists now puzzle how new these medieval buildings look.
A less touristic and nonetheless established sight is the Bretzel Vendor “Benno” which I had to pass on my way to the Freßgass. “Was in Japan ist der Tenno, ist für Frankfurt Bretzel Benno“ is its proud slogan. It looks like any ordinary street vendor, a little tent placed in the middle of a pedestrian zone, at a crucial cross roads. But its success is not only due to its location, but its quality. No pre-fab, ready to bake product, but fat, fresh Bretzel and breads in many shapes and tastes, with just the right amount of spread and texture. Quality is what keeps it ahead of the competition.
Finally I wandered into the Freßgaß. Nothing subtle about “Stuff-me-up-Road”. The first thing that changes is the smell. From busy town smell with car exhausts assaulting your nostrils, you switch to culinary choice mode. Restaurants, Café and Food Stores compete with each other for space on the pedestrian passage, pampering a surprised visitor with choice and variety. I knew what I wanted and headed straight for the open window of my chosen “Metzger” (Butcher) of the day. I noted changes. The window is bigger and the display and choice more generous.
It was five minutes to twelve. I didn´t have to queue, as the thousands of Bankers and Insurers that would begin their descent on this road within five minutes were still attached to phones and computers, dealing with the day’s problems. Other changes were happening around me. An entire building had been removed from its gap in the row and was being replaced. I did something I rarely bother doing, because it really is not worth it. I looked up at the buildings. They still were horrible. Whatever change is coming it cannot be worse.
The Würstchen was a delight. The taste was the same, the size the same, the Senf the same. But there have been changes too. As usual I found that the price had doubled. Instead of DM 2.80 I paid Euro 2.80. And then there was the “Brötchen” (bread roll). This new one was shaped like a hot dog bun, which makes it easier to eat the Würstchen and spread the mustard. The traditional Brötchen are round and the Würstchen sticks out at either end. You don´t have an equal spread of bread over Würstchen. BUT the consistence of this new Brötchen was wrong. It tasted like those pre-baked, reheat, mass production kind that are never quite cooked in the end. It did spoil my walk down memory Freßgaß.
Maybe switching to the pre-fab kind has saved the shop from the daily panic moment, “Brötchen are finished!”. I saw it happen once or twice. “Brötchen run out” means business was good, but you can´t stop selling because you ran out of the bread that is only delivered once in the morning.
I understand the business need, but I was slightly disappointed, as I looked around at this town that is always reinventing itself and still rising from the ashes that it was reduced too. I wish I would have had the nerve to tell the shop assistant, that I’d like them to switch back to fresh Brötchen. But I didn´t complain.
I have seen the model of a destroyed Frankfurt in the Historische Museum on the Römer. I see too that a town is its people. Without them I would not have been standing there worrying about ugly buildings and soggy bread rolls. They resurrected Frankfurt with their bare hands and maybe they saw beauty where I didn´t see it that day. As I think about it the buildings don’t seem quite so ugly anymore.
Not all changes are pretty or good or perfect and might not last. But if we don’t try how will we know?