Also referred to as 'Bankfurt', Frankfurt is often dismissed as a business city that holds little interest for the rest of us.
However, when a European friend offers to show me around for a day, I discover an architecturally and culinary interesting place that has more to offer than suits and cents.
We are having dinner at a traditional apple wine tavern called Zur Sonne when my friend offers to introduce me to the charms of Frankfurt. Berger Street in Bornheim, where the restaurant is situated, is a good place to start after all. This is a very traditional area and although slightly touristy, it is inexpensive and the locals also enjoy coming here for the traditional food. Most of the dishes are served with 'sauerkraut' or 'spatzle' (German pasta) and washed down with apple wine from a traditional jug called a 'bembel'.
This is where I have my first taste of apple wine, or 'äbbelwoi' (pronounced 'ebbelwoi' – fast and slurry if you want to talk like a local). Given a choice between sweet and bitter apple wine, I choose the latter and expect cider. Yet the flavour of real apples surprises my taste buds and the dryness tickles my tongue. This is enough to work up an appetite for what other delights Frankfurt has to offer.
We end our night at this legendary club where all the beautiful people hang out. It's a Thursday night and the live band is playing. My friend says that one of the neighbouring buildings boasts a roof garden, which is very popular in summer.
The next morning we start our day at Café Karin on Grober Hirschgraben Street. It is a traditional café where nine different types of breakfast is served, each typical for an area in Frankfurt. The Germans have a good appetite in general and Café Karin caters to that. So whether one fancies breads, sausages, cold meats or simply fruit, this is a spot that no one leaves feeling hungry.
Next up is a morning walk to get the most out of all that food. We start at a Gothic style catholic dome on Römerplatz that is built on the foundations of an earlier church. Frankfurt was heavily bombed during WWII and this 15th century structure is one of the few buildings that survived. Next to the Frankfurter Dom lie the ruins of a Roman bath.
We cross many squares with statues of, amongst others, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (the German equivalent of Shakespeare). There is also a museum dedicated to this literary figure, who was born in 1749 in Frankfurt. I am amazed at how the city combines very old buildings with completely modern architectural styles. The famous architect, Jean Nouvel, finished off many of the old buildings with ultra modern features. It gives the city an interesting edge.
I grab a freshly baked 'bredzel' from a bakery on the way and devour it in an instant, almost getting driven over by a cyclist for walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk. They really are the best when they are still warm.
To get a bird's eye view of the area we take the lift up the Main Tower, a public viewing platform in the city centre. I have to equalize my ears on the way up. It's that high. It's cold on top, especially since it is already a chilly day. The view should be endless on a clear day, but today we simply get a good view of the city from above, the skyscrapers and the Main river cutting through it all. Europe's tallest office building, the Commerzbank Tower, is nearby.
Apples, apples and more apples
All the walking and the cold drain us physically and we seek some solace in Café Metropol, next to the cathedral where we started our walk. We order hot apple wine and apple wine cake to reward our bodies. The hot wine is mouth–puckering and I regret not having ordered the sweet version this time. I add some sugar and I am happy. The cake can be compared to apple tart, but with cream instead of crumble and a distinctive tang that could only come from the refreshing local drink.
Good to know:
There is a row of museums all along the river bank, including a Modern Art, Jewish and Natural History museum.
The Germans are so dedicated to food ethics that they are struggling to keep up with organic food supplies. The expensive bio supermarket is called Basic. It sells everything from mushrooms to mascara, in organic form.
It is also worth seeking out local delicacies in the normal supermarkets, as the food quality in Germany is great. Food is also subsidized by the government so it shouldn't cost you the world.
'Handkäs mit musik' (hand cheese with music) served with 'bauernbrot' (farmers' bread) and 'grüne soÃŸe' (green sauce) is a unique meal worth trying. Yet be warned: the official version is that 'mit musik' refers to the sauce; the unofficial version is that 'mit musik' is the flatulence that is caused by all the chopped onions.
Rhine Riesling wine is produced in this area.
The Ebbelwei–Express is a tram that circles the city on weekends and stops at various tourist attractions
Rent a bicycle in summer to get close to the city and experience it like a local.
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