Frankfurt – Städel Museum

Frankfurt – Städel Museum

HolbeinSteg Footbridge to Städel

Thunderstorms were forecast for Thursday 22 June so I walked across the Main River using the Holbein Steg footbridge to get to the Städel Museum where I bought an all-day ticket with plans to visit in morning and return after lunch. I started upstairs and was dazzled by the ENORMOUS painting of Martin Luther defending his 95 theses at the Diet of Worms. I had never seen, in the U.S, France or Italy, a heroic painting of Martin Luther. It felt vaguely blasphemous and another wave of realization of how different Germany is from the catholic countries I usually visit.

The upstairs had a wonderful exhibition of Old Masters something I long for in the U.S. because where our museums really excel is contemporary art. I came to an empty gallery and as I sipped some water while I read the note about why the gallery was empty, a silver-haired guard came up to me and spoke for a couple of minutes, sternly. When he was finished, I explained that I had no idea what he said, so he started again, in English. Apparently, one is not allow to ingest anything in the museum. And, indeed, I later found a two-line posting at the bottom of a German language notice in the lobby. Sometimes learning new customs is uncomfortable.

Enormous Tribute to Martin Luther on Top Floor Lobby (from Städel website)

I was mesmerized by brilliant paintings and icons from the 1300s, 1400s and 1500s which made it clear that there was great distance between the rich and and poor even back then. The quality of the art was spectacular and the preservation was wonderful. Detailed mosaic icons that have enjoyed centuries of care. Plenty of portraits and half-dressed young ladies posed as goddesses, but not in as high a proportion as in the Louvre. After about three hours of Old Masters, I walked through the beautiful gardens surrounding the museum to Otto Hahn Platz and took the tram to the Sachenhausen district to check it out and returned to the hotel by tram.

When I walked back to the Städel in the afternoon, I saw the “Modern” ground floor boasted paintings by Picasso and the Impressionists and the special exhibition on the lower floors titled “Textures” featured artworks that were not two-dimensional paintings and not really three-dimensional sculptures in the conventional sense. I love seeing how curators show off stunning work in their collections that don’t fall into traditional categories.

“Texture” at the Städel

Finding Sachenhausen

Yesterday I had a couple of disappointing meals so I resolved to be better prepared today and before I went to sleep I studied transit maps. In the morning I found a paper timetable (numbers only) for the 16 and hand-drew a map on it. It was still faster to walk to the museum but the 16 would take me to Sachenhausen, the restaurant district where Rick Steves recommended several restaurants featuring Applewine, a local specialty, and one restaurant opened at 5 p.m.

When I finished my second visit to the Städel, I set off again by tram from Otto Hahn Platz to find the restaurant Apfelwein-Wirtschaft Fichtekränzi but I got hopelessly lost. Google Maps could not locate me, my phone was heating up, and I got all the way to the river before backtracking to the warren of little streets that makes up this charming food and entertainment district. I found the right street but could not find the restaurant! Finally, I looked UP and saw a sign pointing down an alley. It was a little past 5 pm when I walked through the garden to big tables without people. The late June day was muggy and I had been schlepping around a rain jacket since 10 a.m.

I was pretty cranky when I sat down and couldn’t get a glass of water, but I ordered the frankfurter appetizer: grilled sausage with sauerkraut and bread and the legendary applewine which is a bitter hard cider. They go great together. The tab was 9,40 so I paid 10 and everyone was happy. Google did a better job of getting me back to the tram stop which I recognized because it was the one I had scouted earlier in the day so my research paid off. I was still dry when i got on the tram but the heavens opened within a few stops. Several loud noises and I thought the thunder had started, but it was riders slamming shut the transom windows with a forceful smack of the hand. The Main river was choppy and we crossed it, and the sky was pelting big drops when I alighted, clad in my sky blue rain jacket. One sharp burst of thunder, but I was back to the hotel in a jiffy — all the street people were standing pressed against the buildings and I realized the hard rain would wash the streets.

It was a good day, so much better than yesterday’s overpriced curry-wurst and lame 15€ dinner. Research and Rick Steves is the way to really have fun in a new city. Of course, it took me two hours of online research the night before and scouting the area today today, and I got lost, and caught in a driving thunderstorm, but it was worth it to have a frankfurter in Frankfurt.

The Trains Run on Time but Not the Escalators

S-bahn to Flughaven escalator

Friday 23 June was departure day. On the news, the Titanic deep dive submersible had imploded and all were dead. I took the S-bahn back to the airport and the lo-o-o-ng escalator was not working. Walked the length of the platform: not only was the other escalator now working, the transparent elevators were stopped in mid-ascent, filled with frightened-looking people who looked like they were thinking about the submersible. I carried my bags all the way up, impressed with my fortitude but breathing heavily.

There did not seem to be any passport inspection between Germany and France but I made my life harder by flying from Frankfurt to Lyon. If I had taken the TGV train from the main Frankfurt train station, just steps from my hotel, to Lyon’s Part-Dieu train station I would be door-to-door for less than $50, in only six hours and a lot less miserable. The tram from Part-Dieu goes straight to the hotel area of Lyon, but the connection from the airport to the Part-Dieu train station is $20, exorbitant by French standards. (It costs $60 to get to Santa Rosa from SFO.) I did not arrive any faster going by plane.

Returning to Frankfurt

Now that I understood that the trains ran on time, I did not need to stay at the airport for the one night layover on Tuesday 11 July. I cancelled my airport IBIS for 105€ and booked a room at the Rick Steves-recommended Victoria, still close to Hauptbahnhof train station but I could walk there on the much nicer Kaiser Strasse, and it was only 86€ with this wonderful breakfast for following morning. I never had an offer of decaf coffee on this trip.

The sausages in Germany look the same as in France but they taste much better!

Even though our departure from Marseille was thirty minutes late because French baggage handling did not work, the Lufthansa pilot tried to make up the time by flying so fast we arrived only five minutes past expected time. Alas, Frankfurt airport was not ready for us and people with tight connections sat with us while we waited for a bus. The clash of attitudes between the French and Germans is so interesting. I got back to Frankfurt in enough time to finally see Kleinmarkthalle. Because it was late in the day, I bought some stuff to go, and some expensive, delicious gingerbread at Lebkuchen-Schmidt.

Vegetables in Foreground, Bread in Background

I loved Germany and really got a feeling for why they have been fighting the French for centuries. It’s like they are both big, strong smart dogs: one is a German Shepherd and the other is a Standard Poodle. Very different, each excellent. But we know which one will win the fight. For me, the contrast between Martin Luther Protestants and Avignon Catholics was telling.

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