Frankfurt Day 1

Wed, 20 Aug 2008 19:21:05 +0000

Leaving Africa Index Frankfurt Day 2

In South Africa right now it's the dry season. Therefore, in the northern hemisphere, it must be the rainy season, right? That certainly seems to be Frankfurt's opinion of the matter, anyway.

I had a surprisingly bad night's sleep, but collected together a reasonable number of hours. Enough to last me the day, at least. The plane landed smoothly, and I was almost surprised that no-one applauded. They don't do that in countries where planes routinely land safely, I reminded myself.

I've never tried to travel to Germany on an Australian passport before. They stamped it. If they do that on every border, I'm really going to miss my British passport. I still have plenty of space, but I was hoping not to replace this passport until it expires, and that's in 2018. At least I didn't have to fill out another of those stupid entry forms.

Although I've passed through Frankfurt airport several times before, I never realised how close it is to the city centre. The S-Bahn got me to the hostel in no time flat, where I was told that I couldn't check in before 2:00 PM. So it looked like I'd be exploring the city a bit.

I went off for a wander. I passed the Big Euro, which I realise I must have seen about a thousand times in news reports. Probably the dullest thousand news reports I've ever watched.

When the T-Punkt opened (at 10:00, lazy buggers), I performed the major chore which made me decide to spend time in Frankfurt in the first place: recover my German phone number, lost with my phone in Damascus. To my surprise they were able to give me a SIM card there and then, albeit for a hefty EUR 25 fee. Worryingly, he asked me for my phone number and name, then he told me my birthdate and address, and I agreed with him. Nice security check mate. If you can think of EUR 25 worth of fun to have making phone calls from your boss's phone, there's a golden opportunity for you there.

With that done, I had to find something indoorsy to entertain myself with. There doesn't seem to be any main museum in Frankfurt, just lots of specialised ones. The Jewish museum seemed the most interesting, and the closest, so I paid them a visit. It's fairly small, and there's a lot more panels than artefacts. But I had a good long read. Everything was in German, so it gave those mental muscles a much-needed workout. Again, I missed economic-style explanations of the underlying causes of things. Sure, Jews suffered this or that pogrom or were dispossessed by this or that prince, but why? Why at that particular time? I guess the answers would sound too much like justification, so I contented myself with being appalled at how much they had to put up with. The gates on the Jewish quarter, so that they could be locked in on Sundays, were a nice touch.

I checked into the hostel at 2:00, as per instructions. Then I spent much of the afternoon sucking on the hostel's free Internet connection like a fresh-off-the-wagon alcoholic sucking on a whiskey bottle. Ahhhh, that's better! Africa was fantastic. Africa's Internet, less so.

I went for another walk, just for the sake of it, and out of curiosity ended up actually walking into the European Central Bank's bookshop, Germany's entry for "Least Interesting Tourist Attraction in the Entire World".

For a few euros you can buy a block of EUR 50,000 worth of shredded pre-euro banknotes, if you can't think of anything better to do with your money (maybe just shred that, that'd give you at least a little kick of excitement). They don't have any t-shirts, and the only coffee mugs just have reproductions of the notes. A missed opportunity for comedy novelties if ever I saw one. Mind you, a recent BBC article suggested that the ECB deliberately tries to be dull to avoid reminding Europeans that it exists. Probably a good plan.

I went to the train station to book a ticket to Warsaw, which I've decided will be the next destination. DB were gobsmackingly efficient at this, something I really, really missed in basically the whole of the rest of the world. People who live here will snort at this, but those people should try booking a train ticket in a third world country, such as Tanzania or England. EUR 140 is a bit steep, but it's ICE at least until Berlin. I'll enjoy that.

I fancied some good old traditional German cooking for dinner, so it was down to the kebab shop. I had any number of overstuffed pita bread concoctions in the middle east, and even some in South Africa too. None of them were a patch on this one, the best I've ever tasted. Thanks, Germany. I missed you!

Leaving Africa Index Frankfurt Day 2