Day 02 – Wed 07 Apr 2010 – Arrival in Frankfurt

Arrived on time at Heathrow. Very cursory immigration check and no customs check at all. Had time to spare. Took the tube to Earls Court and had a look around, then returned to Heathrow and had an Earl Grey tea and a muffin as breakfast.

Caught a Lufthansa A319 from Heathrow to Frankfurt at gate 209A at 1150 as planned. Lufthansa are precise yet also curiously relaxed. Two flight attendants confirm all fantasies about German girls. One perfect blonde and one brunette, both of whom converse effortlessly in either German or English. Arrived at a Frankfurt domestic terminal and were transported by bus to the international area. During the bus ride we went past an A380 with a big crowd around it being filmed. Guy next to me snapping photos furiously. Frankfurt airport feels like it’s out in the countryside, but is quite large with lots of very large buildings. Much better organised than Heathrow but still complex in places.

A Lufthansa A-319 (Photo: Lasse Fuss)

At the terminal there are lots of Japanese tourists in groups, who wander off in the wrong direction occasionally, confusing everybody else. A big line up at the passport counter, but very little wait. Officer (equivalent of Federal Police) was very friendly and wished me a good visit. German is spoken universally by people around me, including by many who are obviously not ethnically German (Asian, Middle Eastern, etc). My German is only good enough to pick up bits of conversation here and there.

There are two train stations, one with platforms for the ICE (Inter-City Express) trains, and the other for Regional Bahn and S-Bahn (suburban trains). Had fun trying to buy a ticket using a machine. You need to type in the number after the destination (50 for the city) then select ticket type. Helped an old lady ahead of me. The place she wanted to go to had two alternative routes, one of which she had to select before it would work. Quite amusing with me using broken German and not really knowing how to use the machine anyway.

An S-Bahn train between the Airport and the Hauptbahnhof (Photo: dontworry)

Caught the S-9 (S-Bahn or suburban train) to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (central station). It’s a single deck, overhead wire fed, electric train; a bit like Victorian or Queensland units, but with a stronger looking build. Only 15 minutes to the city. Surprisingly it surfaces quickly into a forested area. There are few suburbs before entering straight into the city.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof is extremely large. It has as many surface terminal platforms as Sydney Central in total, plus S-bahn and U-bahn trains crossing underneath, plus trams out the front. General layout is slightly reminiscent of Southern Cross station, but has architecture more like Sydney. Lots of people moving around, including some scattered skinheads and goths. A fair number of Police (working in threes) and Deutsche Bahn security patrolling, but security is not as visibly heavy as in London.

Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, with Intercity Hotel on centre right (Photo: Jerry Fischer)

Went to an adjacent hotel (InterCity) where I had a booking. Staff are bilingual. One, who seems to be Indian, serves me. A bit cool in attitude, but okay. Walked up into centre of town. Frankfurt is an odd mix of old and new, and lacks a bit of soul, but the demographic is distinctly young and the people rather than the traffic certainly own the streets. The hotel gives out free transport tickets and I rode the U-bahn a bit (like Sydney Light Rail but underground). Fairly clean and efficient with large underground concourses.

The city has a long street or square, with trees that are still bare. People are everywhere; mostly pedestrians, but also lots of cyclists weaving in and out, and bikes parked everywhere. Girls are good-looking but often in a fairly assertive, almost ‘tough’ sort of way. The Altstadt (old town) has a pleasant cobbled square but most of the city is new.

A square in the Altstadt in Frankfurt-am-Main in afternoon shadows

Walked through the red light district to get into the city. Slightly menacing (even in late afternoon). More like Melbourne’s area near Southern Cross station than King’s Cross in Sydney, and larger than either. Can’t get over how many people are in the streets and how little traffic there is, even though its peak hour. Even see businessmen in suits on bikes.

Bought some bratwurst on a bun, a piece of fruit and Coke Zero for dinner. Had a rest and woke at about 1 am. The TV is all in German. Homer Simpson just doesn’t sound right, but Little Britain in German is even better than in English. Room has a single bed. Shower doesn’t have a plughole but a large slab with the edge open around the perimeter (all in fake granite). Me a bit jet-lagged, Zzzzzzzz.

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