Frankfurt am Main

Continuing with the travel posts of the last few days (I’d still appreciate any tips for Ireland, by the way), I think it’s time for the next in my 30 German towns before 30 series. Today, it’s off to Frankfurt.

Frankfurt is a city with some very nice areas. Unfortunately, it is also a large and busy city (fifth largest in Germany!), so as well as the old, pretty buildings and cute parks, there are skyscrapers in abundance and lots and lots of cars. As you can tell, I’m not the greatest fan of big cities.

One of Frankfurt’s most important landmarks is the Römer (German for Roman), which is a complex of nine houses, among which is the Rathaus (town hall). The square that the Römer is located on is called the Römerberg.

Römerberg
Römerberg
Rathaus
Rathaus

The oldest and most unaltered building in the Innenstadt (town centre) district is the Eschenheimer tower. It was erected at the start of the 5th century and was originally a city gate.

Eschenheimer Turm
Eschenheimer Turm

The river that runs through Frankfurt is the Main, hence its complete name Frankfurt am Main. This distinguishes it from another Frankfurt – Frankfurt an der Oder, a small town in Brandenburg. It’s also the origin of Frankfurt’s nikname, Mainhattan – a merging of the words Main and Manhattan. The Wikipedia article for Mainhattan tells me that Frankfurt is the only city in Germany to allow the building of “Hochhäuser” (tower blocks/high-rise buildings) in the city centre.

River Main
River Main

Most of the times I’ve been to Frankfurt have been for some purpose other than sightseeing. For example, the time I took the photo of the river above we were actually there for a football match but decided to go early to have a look around. Here’s a photo of the inside of the Commerzbank Arena, the stadium where Eintracht Frankfurt play.

Commerzbank Arena
Commerzbank Arena

The match we saw was a friendly game between Germany and Bosnia.

Being a large city, Frankfurt of course has many cultural institutions. I went to see Imogen Heap at Batschkapp, a music venue in the Eschersheim area of Frankfurt, and I would have seen Incubus there but the concert was cancelled due to illness. Basically, Frankfurt is the closet possible destination for roughly 90% of the concerts I would like to see (some performers come to Stuttgart and Karlsruhe gets the occasional act that is either less famous or German, but for the most part Frankfurt is the place to be). The city is also home to The English Theatre,  the largest anglophone theatre in continental Europe (although I’ve never seen a play there).

Alte Oper - a former opera house, now a major concert hall.
Alte Oper – a former opera house, now a major concert hall.

Frankfurt is way, way too big for me to ever want to live there, but it’s always worth a visit. There’s so much to see and do, and any number of interesting cuisines in offer. The first time I went to Frankfurt was for an Open University meetup when I was doing a course with them. We ate at an amazing Thai restaurant that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of. And, as I said above, it’s my go-to-place whenever I hear that a major international performer is planning a tour of Germany. I have absolutely no doubt that I will return to Frankfurt at some point in the not-too-distant future… although the next time I’m in the vicinty, the only thing I’ll be checking out is its airport (which is like a miniature city in itself!). And speaking of airports, don’t be fooled by Frankfurt Hahn! That airport is as much in Frankfurt as Stansted is in London… and Stansted is MUCH easier to get to!

Travel Tuesdays: Edinburgh

Since I have absolutely nothing to talk about today, I’m linking up with Alex from Ifs, Ands and Butts and Helene In Between for Travel Tuesdays. Today I want to tell you about one of my favourite places on Earth: Edinburgh.

Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh castle

I first went to Edinburgh as a child, for the sole purpose of going to the zoo (Newcastle doesn’t have one, so we traipsed to Scotland… as you do). I’ve since been there several times and actually managed to look at things other than the animals.

The most recognisable landmark in Edinburgh is, of course, the castle. One thing you really must do in Edinburgh is head up there for a close-up view. It’s pretty impressive (well, it is a castle). As is the view you get of the city from up there.

Castle entrance
Castle entrance
I can see the sea from up here!
I can see the sea from up here!

One of the things that attracts me to Edinburgh is the architecture. I’ve already mentioned the castle, of course (did you know it’s built on an extinct volcano?). Then there’s St. Giles’ Cathedral, with its incredibly intricate entrance archway.

St Giles' Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral
Entrance to St Giles'
Entrance to St Giles’

But even the ordinary residential buildings appeal to me. I would LOVE to live in a house like the ones below – just imagine how much light those windows must let in!Houses

Then there are all the parks and green spaces. Here’s Princes Street Gardens:

GardensAt the back, you can see Waverley Station – another example of the impressive architecture that Edinburgh has to offer. Other park areas include Calton Hill and Holyrood Park. So much green right in the city!

Apart from the many things that I will never tire of looking at, the main thing that draws me to Edinburgh is its cultural offerings. I have been lucky enough to be there both during the Fringe Festival and at New Year (Hogmanay), and on both occasions there’s so much to see and do that you can’t possibly fit it all in! The Edinburgh festival Fringe, which takes place in August, is the world’s largest art festival, and a showcase for the performing arts. Theatre, comedy, dance, music… everything is represented. We were able to take in an improvised comedy show and see some live music by two very good acts (a folk band and a blues/country/folk musician named Eddie Walker – you can check out his website here). The pub where the gig took place is now my absolute favourite place to go for a drink in Edinburgh. The Guildford Arms is located just off Princes Street, so very central but not as touristy as the places directly on Princes street or along the Royal Mile. They have ten different Real Ales on tap (heaven for my boyfriend) and there’s also a restaurant upstairs, which I’ve unfortunately never tried. If anyone out there has/does, please let me know how the food is!

Eddie Walker at the Guildford Arms
Eddie Walker at the Guildford Arms

Our New Year’s trip to Edinburgh had just as much to offer as the Festival Fringe. We took part in a torch-light procession through town, starting from the Royal Mile, took in a candlelit concert at the Cathedral and spent New Year’s Eve at the famous Hogmanay street party. Then, on 1 January, we attended the open-air New Year’s concert, which that year featured KT Tunstall plus three other acts… for just 11 pounds a ticket! Probably my favourite New Year’s celebration ever!

Torch-light procession
Torch-light procession
KT Tunstall
KT Tunstall

 

Other things to do in Edinburgh include many museums (the Palace of Holyroodhouse, The Queen’s official residence in Scotland, is interesting, as is The Royal Yacht Britannia, now decommissioned and permanently berthed at Ocean Terminal in Leith), whisky tasting if you’re into that (The Scotch Whisky Experience is in Edinburgh) or shopping. The main shopping street is Princes Street, where you can find loads of UK high-street shops, such as WH Smith, while the Royal Mile holds the more touristy shops plus any number of bars and restaurants.

Holyroodhouse Palace in the rain
Holyroodhouse Palace in the rain
Old Fishmarket Close, off the Royal Mile, Edinburgh
Old Fishmarket Close, off the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

So, in summary, Edinburgh is brilliant and you really should go there! Now hop on over to Alex’s blog for more tales of travel!

Travel Tuesdays

Proof that advertising works

The other day, I saw an advert on the side of a tram for Freilichtbühne Ötigheim, Germany’s largest open-air theatre. I had never heard of Ötigheim, but I knew if it was being advertised on a Karlsruhe tram it couldn’t be too far away. So I did some research.

It turns out Ötigheim is located in the district of Rastatt, around 5 km from the actual town of Rastatt, which would make it only about a 25 minute drive from Karlsruhe.

I’ve seen outdoor plays before – my family regularly goes to see performances by the travelling theatre company Oddsocks, and the summer one is always outdoors – and I’ve always enjoyed it. Watching a play outdoors is a completely different experience to watching one inside a theatre. Theirs were always performed at locations that are not normally used for plays, though (such as Prudhoe Castle), and you had to bring your own chairs – or sit on the ground. I’ve never been to an actual outdoor theatre before – and where better to experience this for the first time than Germany’s largest?

Oddsocks performance of The Tempest at Prudhoe Castle, summer 2005
Oddsocks performance of The Tempest at Prudhoe Castle, Northumberland, in summer 2005

Another thing for the 35 before 35 list, methinks. And proof that advertising on trams works – on me, at least!

By the way, if you live in the UK (or Channel Islands) and are a fan of the theatre (and comedy) with a bit of audience participation, you really should go and see an Oddsocks production. The play for the 2013 summer tour (starting in June) is Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.

Little snippets

We have been doing stuff recently, but not enough to make up a whole blog post. Nevertheless, I promised to post more this year, so here are some little snippets from my life for you.

First of all, to the person who found my blog yesterday by searching for the term “German shopping blog”… sorry, but you’ve definitely come to the wrong place. Can you imagine anything further removed from my ramblings than a shopping blog? 😀 And now to the snippets…

Yesterday we came third in the pub quiz. At the last one, three weeks ago, we were first. Go us! The team that usually come first did really badly last time and left before the results were announced, knowing they weren’t getting a prize anyway. Talk about sore losers! This time they came second and didn’t seem happy about it at all. I would never have thought someone could pull such a long face after winning a round of drinks!

Jan’s dad turned 60 last Thursday, so at the weekend we headed up to Lower Saxony for his birthday party. It was a bit weird at first seeing as I barely knew anybody (only the 3 or 4 family members who were there), and Jan kept going off to talk to family friends he hadn’t seen in years, but I ended up having a great conversation with his dad’s neighbour, so that was nice. Also, Jan’s cousin brought her daughter along, who is almost one and who we had only seen in photos until now. She’s incredibly cute and was so well behaved! Even when she was getting tired there was no major tantrum – she just cried briefly, then as soon as she was in the sling on her mother’s front she went to sleep. If I ever have children, I hope they’re just as lovely.

At the end of April, Jan and I went to Ettlingen (next town over) to se some English folk music. A duo called Broom Bezzums was playing, who we had seen by complete coincidence in Ludwigshafen a couple of years ago. One of them is from the same area of England as I am, so it was nice to have a bit of a chat with him when he was signing my CD during the interval. They were followed by a second act – an Irish group called Beoga – who I didn’t enjoy as much (they were good musicians, but after a while everything started to sound the same), but we were only there for Broom Bezzums really so that was okay. The second act was just an added bonus.

On 1 May (which was a public holiday in Germany) I met up with some colleagues to go to a performance by the University of Mannheim’s English Theatre. They put on Black Comedy, which was hilarious and very well acted (in my opinion). We also went to Heidelberg to see the King’s Singers in April  (apparantly the best A Capella choir in the world – says the boyfriend who is into that kind of thing and who I bought the tickets for as an anniversary present) so I’ve been very cultural recently. And I bet you’re all really impressed 😉

And just generally, life is good at the moment. Jan and I are getting on really well and have been enjoying spending time together just doing nothing (almost unheard of for Jan – he usually wants to watch a film, play Scrabble, read a book… anything but just sit and have a cup of tea and not have to be involved in any other activity). And I’ve been able to (almost) stop worrying about doing/saying the wrong thing and causing an argument. Strangely, knowing that our relationship could be over by January has made me less afraid that it could end suddenly the minute I do something Jan doesn’t like. I’m sure a psychologist would be able to give me a really good explanation for that, but honestly I’d prefer not to go there. I’m just enjoying being happy while it lasts.