Connacht Tribune - Opinion Piece
A different German experience accessible from your doorJuly 11, 2012 - 7:59am
If a city ever encapsulated its own country, then it’s Frankfurt; well planned and structured – not least because it was rebuilt after being reduced to rubble by war – it has the soul of a big city and feel of a compact town.
Part of the reason for that is that, unlike other German cities, Frankfurt built upwards instead of outwards; when it came to restructuring Germany after the war, the authorities wanted a financial capital – and given that Berlin was carved up by the Allies, they decided on the city on the Main given its long history as a financial centre anyway.
And just so this didn’t spread too far outside the old city boundaries, they opted for skyscrapers – banned elsewhere in Germany – to the extent that one bank is accommodated in adjoining twin towers ... affectionately known to the locals as Debit and Credit.
So Frankfurt is home to the Bundesbank, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange and most importantly to the European Central Bank – and when you first see the giant blue and yellow euro symbol on the street, it’s like bumping into an old friend because it’s so familiar from the news bulletins every night of the week.
A must-see for all visitors to this financial sector is the glass-fronted Main Tower. When it was completed in 1999, it was the first high-rise building with a façade made entirely of glass – and it has a viewing platform on top that offers spectacular panoramic vistas of the entire city, at close on 200 metres from the ground.
But the banking quarter – despite its 227 banks – is only one section of this city that’s less than 250 square kilometres in size with a population of under 700,000 in what is only the fifth biggest city in Germany.
This is a city of culture – indeed of multi-culture because the world of finance means than one third of all residents are not Frankfurters at all – and that’s down to the embankment area along the Main where 26 museums jockey side by side for position. Half of them are on the riverbank itself and the rest in close proximity.
That’s less than half of the city’s total museum inventory and there are more than 50 art galleries, 60 theatres and almost 50 cinemas – not bad for a city of less than 700,000.
History comes in the shape of Frankfurt’s favourite son, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, the writer, artist and politician of the eighteenth century, whose family home is restored as a monument to his memory.
You can walk the city with relative ease and it’s a Mecca for shoppers; naturally there’s an emphasis on traditional Christmas markets too, but this is not just a seasonal experience.
For more, read this week's Connacht Tribune.