Tag Archives: Frankfurt

Glorious Food

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.

500 year old Fachwerkhaus in Frankfurt. This style of woodframed houses was typical for southern and central medieval Germany. ©Truegerman

500 year old Fachwerkhaus in Frankfurt. This style of woodframed houses was typical for southern and central medieval Germany. ©Truegerman

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?

@Francesca

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What I found on the Feldberg

This is Frankfurt, Germany, 2008. It is Tuesday morning. I am on the way to the library’s cafeteria, my office and intend to hold a writing session with whoever else of the writing group turns up.

I see their heads bent intently over their writing when I arrive, as I am late. I know this condition well, this immersing myself completely as if in a daydream and writing it all down. It lasts for about ten minutes, so I grab a tea and make my way over slowly. I sit down quietly and do not disturb their meditation with a word.

One at a time they stop; South Korea looks up and greets me with a silent wave and big smile, next True German nods across the table after completing the last sentence and finally Finland looks up too. Finland says to the others, “Who wants to read first?”

 The others hesitate, a good moment for me to wish everybody a “Good morning”. Finland looks around in surprise,” Ah, Francesca, I didn’t hear you. When did you arrive?” We laugh and embrace. It is good.

 

Frankfurter Quetschemännchen Apparently a courting man would send his Adored one of these. If she kept it he could expect some success, if not all he lost were a couple of dried prunes.

Frankfurter Quetschemännchen Apparently a courting man would send his Adored one of these. If she kept it he could expect some success, if not all he lost were a couple of dried prunes.

My friends read their pieces that are about regrets of the past, troubles or joys of the present and hopes for the future. They read softly, for our ears only and it is possible in this place, empty so early in the morning. The free writing lets us relive our past and define our goals, which are so easy to lose sight of in the hectic of survival. We do not choose our words carefully, but it seems that the brain has done this work for us well.

South Korea has to leave soon, another Christmas party somewhere, one of the many. But first another free writing. There must always be time for another. Too soon our friend has to depart and we three are left musing on how to continue.

For weeks a thick layer of cloud has been covering the skies, keeping all rays of sun from reaching us and we wrap ourselves in layers to protect from the cold and wet. Finland has a car and proposes a bold escape. We will drive to the highest point in this area, the Große Feldberg (Big Fieldmountain). We are in city shoes and city dwellers, but decide to follow the pipe tune anyway.

Soon we are on the slopes of the mountain and wind our way up into the clouds themselves. We reach a break in the grey wall and rays of sunshine pour down on us. It lasts for a second. Finland laughs, could there have been a mistake, was that it? We continue up, up and then it happens again, only this time the sun stays because we are above the clouds. We pull out of a thickly wooded band around the mountain top and leave the car under the towers of the weather station. There is a layer of crisp snow and grandparents with sleds and little children. Our noses soon turn red as we walk around the mountaintop, out of breath from the unusual exercise, slipping in our city shoes and heated from the walk and the sun.

Finally we head for the restaurant where we write again. I am on an island of clouds. The sea around me is wild and wonderful. The waves lie smooth but no boats ride this sea. In my memory this day will taste of Milchkaffee (Coffee with loads of milk) served in something that looks like a soup bowl, I’ll remember how the sun burnt my winter skin and how I did not miss the world that disappeared. I must return to the world below the sea, invisible from up here and not Atlantis at all. I dive and take some of the air from here with me, to help me breathe. I take some of the light to store in my heart and bring to my children to share. I know that when we rose above this sea of clouds, I also rose from the clouds of my mind

 Maybe you can walk on clouds after all.

It will be Christmas soon. I think about my friends from all over the world who have come to Frankfurt where we found each other: True German forever looking for truth and sincerity, Finland loving the cold and being so warm, South Korea in search of beauty and harmony and me wanting some peace. We felt Christmas on that mountain top when we shared the gift of light and air. No matter how we celebrate this Christmas Season, as a religious happening or a festive holiday, no matter from whatever cultural background we are: We have come together to give and share in this Frankfurt, Germany, 2008.

Merry Christmas.

@Francesca

The story of Quetschemännche can be found here http://www.hunde-und-voegel.de/humor.htm  Attention, it is written in Hessisch. Look for “Die zwaa Unzertrennlische” (the two inseperable)

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