Alpine Adventure- part II
Saturday, July 16th- Frankfurt Am Main, Germany
We were up early, eager to explore Frankfurt. Its history dates back to the time of the Romans. Charlemagne’s heirs had been crowned here, as Emperors of Feudal Germany. Fredik Barberossa, one of the most famous of German rulers, had been crowned here.
The River Main (mine) divides the city. Unlike most old cities in Europe, Frankfurt’s downtown area now glistens with the shining glass of new office towers. The European Central bank and the German Federal bank are both headquartered here. Locals say with humor that the new name of the city is “Main Hattan.” The reason such glittering splendor now adorn the landscape is that during World War II, over eighty percent of Frankfurt had been leveled by allied bombers attempting to destroy the ball bearing factories that kept the Nazi war machine rolling. Little was left from the previous thousand years of its history. Now it has risen again as a shining, urban Phoenix.
Later, we were to come across a touching vignette involving these same bombers that had rained destruction on the city. In July of 1948, The Russians had shut off access to Berlin, to all of the allied powers, hoping to starve it into submission. For fifteen months, of the Berlin Airlift, elements of the U.S. 8th Air Force and its allies flew millions of tons of coal, food and supplies, using converted bombers, into Berlin’s Templehof Airport. The Russians relented after fifteen months. During those weary months, allied planes landed every twenty minutes, disgorged their supplies and took off again in all types of weather, a relief effort perhaps unpararllelled in modern history.
In the narrow confines of the approach to Berlin’s Templehof Airport, the pilots flew over what was left of many residential areas. The young children waved to them, curious at the distraction. One enterprising pilot, Col Chuck Halverston, started throwing chocolate bar from the side windows of the D.C. 3’s to the children below. That was all it took. There after there was always a crowd of squealing children chasing after the falling candy. They started calling the fliers “Der Candybombers” and “Der chocolate bombers.” One of the young ladies wrote a letter to the high command of the air force, praising the fliers for their generosity. The letter survived the war. Fifty years later, the now aging recipient of the “candy Bombers” met with several of the “Der Choicolate Bombers” at a happy reunion in Berlin. And now, just outside of Frankfurt, there are two D.C. 3’s parked as a memorial to these warm hearted “candy Bombers.”
We were off by 8 A.M.. We had help figuring out the ticket kiosk for the light rail from our friendly waiter. You touch an emblem of the British flag and the prompts come up in English.. For 7 Euros each, we had a pass for the day to the city’s entire rail system.
The light rail passed a large park area and then through a working class section of Frankfort. The four and five story condos and apartment buildings were featureless and looked like they were built during the 1960’s era. They could well have been in Toronto, N.Y.C. or any other large city. We noticed a significant population of Middle Eastern people in the area. Germany had allowed over three million Turks to come and work here. They were becoming a significant political reality.
A twenty-five minute ride took us through the aldt stadt to Romer Plaz, the tourist mecca for the area. We got off into a parade the likes of which I had not seen before. Romerplaz is a large, circular courtyard with stone-flagged paving and dominated buy St. Paul’s alt kirke. The remaining circle was made up of two and three story restaurants and gift shops, sculpted from that dusty red brick that ages so well. A large fountain stood at its center. We would eat at one of theses places, “Der Schwarzen Stern” as a farewell dinner. The Nazi’s had held a huge book burning ceremony here. It is commemorated by a plaque. Today, you couldn’t see anything except several large floats and thousands of the city and area’s LGTB community. It was to be a grand parade of the city’s alternate life style community. Even in NYC, the costumes would have raised a few eyebrows. To each their own.
A hundred yards through the square brings you to the River Main and several sight seeing boats that ply the river daily.
We had purchased two tickets for the city’s “hop on- hop off” bus for 12 Euros each. The bus circled the city, giving a narrated tour and identifying all of the city’s many highlights. The bank buildings were impressive. The Deutche Bank had two of these new, glass towers, which they tongue in cheek labeled "debit " and "credit." The old opera house is a Greek revival beauty, with a square full of peopled enjoying their day. Some of the finer homes, on the city’s west end, had survived the War. They were of a two-story, federal style that is more Italianate, than classic Greco Roman in style. Crossing the Main River shows the city off to its advantage.
After the tour, we walked for three miles up and back across a pedestrian mall that was awash with breakfasters, shoppers and tourist of every stripe. Restaurants and gift shops, a mall or two and every other commercial activity lined this busy strip. There were a few panhandlers, several wandering musicians and other performers. It was like a summer street fair here almost every day during the warm summer months. The welcome visage of a green, starbucks logo drew us in. I had enough words to order up two coffees. We sat, in the shade of a street side table, and watched the crowd swirl around us. I could hear the linguistic echos of a dozen languages swirling around us. Some I recognized, some I had no clue. The clothing styles were eclectic. Berka-clad women mixed with the rough and ready cargo shorts and tee shirts of modern day. It was a visual and auditory banquet that was fun to see and experience.
The day was warm at 30 degrees Celsius (80 F) and we were still whipped from Jet lag, so we walked back down to Romer plaz for a final ice cream cone, before boarding the number 12 light rail bound for Burrostadt Niderrad. The welcome cool of the hotel was pleasant on such a hot day. We ordered up a cheese and fruit player and retreated to our room to watch golf on the BBC and retire for the day, pleased that we had seen so much so early.
Joseph Xavier Martin