A stein ro­mance

Ger­many’s au­to­bahns, culi­nary plea­sures in Bavaria and five-star lux­ury in Frank­furt

Destination of the World News - - NEWS -

It was the best of times, it was the wurst of times. It’s hard to re­flect on a trip to Ger­many with­out a nod to one of its most pro­lific ex­ports, and the city of Frank­furt will be eter­nally linked to the frank­furter würstchen (lit­tle Frank­furter sausage). But the hum­ble hot dog is a pe­cu­liar – and quite un­fair – prod­uct to be linked with when you con­sider that Frank­furt am Main (on the River Main) has a rich his­tory span­ning more than a thousand years. The proud city thrived through­out the Holy Ro­man Em­pire and en­dured 15,696 tons of Royal Air Force ex­plo­sives in World War II, and first graces the his­tory books as “Fran­cono­furd”, where Charle­magne presided over the im­pe­rial as­sem­bly and church synod in AD 794. Al­though he was prob­a­bly only there for the sausages. Modern Frank­furt may have been shaped by its wars and regimes, but in 2016 it’s a twin cap­i­tal of fi­nance and cul­ture, and tech­ni­cally the eighth most sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial cen­tre in the world – a rank­ing that’s due to get a boost if the pro­jected 40,000 (or so) bankers, bro­kers and op­por­tunists flee Lon­don in the wake, or an­tic­i­pa­tion, of Brexit. With or with­out that eco­nomic boon, the city smacks of sig­nif­i­cance, in part due to the modern high-rise sky­line that leers over ar­chi­tec­tural gems that pre­date the printing press. Those wolkenkratzers – the more plea­sur­able German word for sky­scrapers – are the in­spi­ra­tion for cen­tral Frank­furt’s en­dear­ing nick­name, Main­hat­tan. Which, as you prob­a­bly guessed, is a port­man­teau of the lo­cal river and a cer­tain New York City bor­ough.


And in this former Em­pire State we lay our start­ing line. The Al­ter Oper ( Old Opera) is Frank­furt’s orig­i­nal opera house; built in 1880 and fully re­stored af­ter the afore­men­tioned ham­mer­ing from the Al­lies. Now a con­cert hall (www.oper-frank­furt.de/en), the build­ing is the cor­ner­stone of Opern­platz ( Opera Square), con­nect­ing t he bank­ing dis­trict with t he In­nen­stadt, or in­ner city, but it’s not the ros­ter of per­for­mances that’s gen­er­at­ing the most buzz. The real talk is cen­tred around the new kid on

the ‘platz; Sof­i­tel Frank­furt Opera. Why the hub­bub? First and fore­most the box-fresh ho­tel is a per­fectly lo­cated splash of taste­ful moder­nity wrapped up a cosy, clas­sic 18th- cen­tury façade. Se­condly, the 150- room ho­tel is one of just a hand­ful of le­git­i­mate lux­ury prop­er­ties in the city, rank­ing along­side the likes of Jumeirah, Rocco Forte and a pair of Steigen­berg­ers. The in­ter­est in the ho­tel from me­dia and Frank­furters alike was so great, the spike in traf­fic briefly took the ho­tel’s web­site off­line. I glimpse the phe­nom­e­non my­self, when I’m in­vited to be the first-ever pa­tron of Schöne­mann, the ho­tel’s sig­na­ture restau­rant. My­self and the team ( con­duct­ing a dress re­hearsal of sorts) lose count of the cu­ri­ous lurk­ers and passers by peer­ing through the ground-floor win­dow, which have in­cluded, so I’m told, an off-duty GM from a nearby ho­tel who dropped by to ask for a hard copy of the din­ner menu. His cu­ri­ous re­quest was po­litely de­clined. The venue bor­rows its name from Lili Schöne­mann, the former fi­ancée of famed writer and son of Frank­furt, Jo­hann Wolf­gang von Goethe, and it will cer­tainly in­flate the im­pact of the ho­tel’s ar­rival with it’s own en­trance and even­tual warmer-weather ter­race spilling onto the Oper­platz. The (closely guarded) menu is a syn­ergy of Sof­i­tel’s French her­itage with dis­tinctly German favourites, fea­tur­ing suck­ling piglet, cab­bage rolls and a twist on duck à l’or­ange, re­plac­ing the cit­rus el­e­ment with a lo­cal ap­ple wine. To my slight cha­grin, I had failed to re­alise the lo­ca­tion is just an hour away from some of Ger­many’s finest vine­yards, con­ve­niently placed for a restau­rant that’s steadily rolling in over a hun­dred va­ri­eties of grape. The Goethe t heme i s un­sur­pris­ing given his former home is j ust around the cor­ner (www.goethe­haus-frank­furt.de), and I man­age to get a glimpse of “Lili’s”, the ho­tel’s up­com­ing bar that con­nects to the main lobby – soon to be re­plete with lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional tip­ples with post­work li­ba­tions in mind.


One of the most grat­i­fy­ing el­e­ments of my stay is ex­plor­ing the In­nen­stadt and nearby me­dieval

neigh­bour­hood Römer, all via a bike ar­ranged by the ef­fi­cient concierge team, but the rub­ber doesn’t truly hit the road un­til I ven­ture out by car. Thanks to a handy part­ner­ship be­tween Hertz (www.hertz-europe.com) and Sof­i­tel par­ent Ac­corHo­tels, pick­ing up a hol­i­day rental is a breeze and the near­est branch only a brief Uber away at the Haupt­bahn­hof (cen­tral sta­tion). For this German road trip, it is a coin toss be­tween tak­ing the clas­sic “Ro­man­tic Road” or ar­riv­ing to the Bavar­ian heart­land via the mil­len­nium- old city of Nuremberg. Since this trip is a solo-travel ex­pe­ri­ence (and my only love af­fair is with the au­to­bahn) I opt for the latter – and I’m far from dis­ap­pointed. Given the lais­sez­faire na­ture of the Bun­de­sauto­bahn, it isn’t long be­fore I clock signs for Würzburg, with my GPS locked onto Restau­rant & Wein­haus Stachel (www.wein­haus-stachel.de). The 600-year-old tav­ern is one of sev­eral his­toric gems but a glut of glow­ing re­views made the de­ci­sion rea­son­ably ef­fort­less; al­most as ef­fort­less as blitzkrieg­ing a plate of

fränkisches hochzeit­sessen – boiled veal breast in horse­rad­ish sauce, with broad and flat pap­pardelle and a smat­ter­ing of cran­berry. I should be for­given for sam­pling a “small” He­feweiss­bier, al­though it turns out to es­sen­tially be a pint. In Ger­many they also come in litres. Thank­fully, I’m able to walk it off, am­bling past modern res­i­dents in their quaint me­dieval sur­rounds, and ven­tur­ing to the Main River to catch a glimpse of the stun­ning Fortress Marien­berg as groups of friends quaff Ries­ling, a pop­u­lar German weißwein (white wine). Re­turn­ing to the high­way, and try­ing every­thing to not let the cho­rus to Kraftwerk’s Au­to­bahn re­peat in my head, I con­tinue on to Bam­berg, which has been listed as a UNESCO World Her­itage Site since 1993. I promised my­self I would only use the “D word” once in this story, and here it is: The fo­cal point of the town is the Dis­ney- es­que Altes Rathaus ( old town hall), which strad­dles two ad­ja­cent bridges over the Main. In terms of the hon­ey­pot town’s mag­nif­i­cent her­itage ar­chi­tec­ture, it’s the queen bee, but the en­tire sur­round­ing neigh­bour­hood is a time cap­sule, save for a few Wi-Fi hotspots and the oc­ca­sional waft­ing selfie stick. Af­ter strolling off a dark, smoky (and sam­ple-sized) Weis­mainer, the twi­light beginning to bronze the build­ings, it’s time to rally on (if you’ll for­give the pun) to Nuremberg, for din­ner at Al­brecht-Duerer-Stube (www.al­brecht- duerer-stube.de), where I score a ta­ble be­fore the evening rush. In and out of sea­son the tra­di­tional restau­rant turns away po­ten­tial pa­trons, partly due to be­ing a bit poky and not hav­ing a great num­ber of cov­ers, but also be­cause it’s a huge draw. German cui­sine is an un­com­pli­cated, hearty ex­pe­ri­ence, and this place nails it in a folksy set­ting within the his­toric city walls and just a few steps from the

hal­lowed home of Re­nais­sance celeb Al­brecht Dürer (www.mu­se­ums.nuremberg.de/duerer-house). The painter and print­maker dearly de­parted in 1528 but has left his mark in Nuremberg’s cob­bled nu­cleus, with var­i­ous watering holes and gift shops flash­ing his name and (un­can­nily) Christ-like im­age.


Af­ter flank­ing the River Main for a few hun­dred kilo­me­tres it is time to say auf wieder­se­hen and ven­ture south to Mu­nich, where I am ready for a suite stay at Ho­tel Sof­i­tel Mu­nich Bay­er­post. Af­ter drop­ping the Hertz rental next to the ho­tel, I waste no time in as­cend­ing to the eighth floor (the ho­tel’s high­est) to a du­plex suite. The real ben­e­fit of hav­ing a lofty mez­za­nine bed­room is the soar­ing height of the floor-to-ceil­ing win­dows, flood­ing in nat­u­ral light and of­fer­ing in­cred­i­ble views north over München Cen­tral Sta­tion and be­yond. Given its close prox­im­ity to the Haupt­bahn­hof, it’s clear the Sof­i­tel would be the per­fect van­tage point to ex­plore Bavaria by rail, es­pe­cially since the daily un­lim­ited “Bay­ern Ticket” is just 23 Euros with a gang of must- see coun­try­side des­ti­na­tions in reach; Neuschwanstein Cas­tle and the lake is­land palace of Her­renchiem­see to name a cou­ple of favourites. Af­ter my long drive, Mu­nich’s Sof­i­tel is hard to leave. Sim­i­lar to its Frank­furt si­b­ling, the Wil­helmian build­ing (mean­ing 1890-1918) cloaks an ul­tra-stylish ho­tel, with sub­dued light­ing, open spa­ces and cosy fab­rics, and with steamy bathing at SO SPA and venues like Délice La Brasserie and ISARBAR (named from the River Isar), you’ll def­i­nitely be lulled by the ur­ban oasis. But this, af­ter all, is the home of Ok­to­ber­fest. If Frank­furt is wrongly famed for its “del­i­cacy” then this is Mu­nich’s de­bauch­er­ous prob­lem child, with up­wards of five mil­lion beer swillers descend­ing on tents such as the Schot­ten­hamel, which has a ca­pac­ity of 10,000. De­spite its name, the fes­ti­val wraps up by the first Sun­day of Oc­to­ber and the city has a chance to breathe be­fore the Christ­mas fes­tiv­i­ties com­mence – and the Mu­nich mar­ket is an in­sti­tu­tion. In fair­ness, the lo­cals are prob­a­bly happy to host the rev­ellers, given the “Wiesn tents” are tucked out­side the city cen­tre, and they prob­a­bly rub their hands with glee when Airbnb prices are hiked six­fold or more – the same goes for ho­tels. The best place to start ex­plor­ing the city is Marien­platz, which pro­vides a base for a com­bi­na­tion of cul­tural and re­tail ex­ploits, be­fore re­veal­ing a thriv­ing nightlife scene af­ter dark. As such, it’s a com­mon meet­ing place for walk­ing tours, a rec­om­mended and af­ford­able way to un­lock the city’s in­tri­cate and fas­ci­nat­ing his­tory (www.in­mu­nich­tours.com). Be sure to find one that in­cludes Vict­uals Mar­ket, a vast daily farmer’s mar­ket that dates back to the 1800s ( www.vik­tu­alien­markt.de). Un­less you speak flaw­less German with a Bavar­ian lilt you should ex­pect to pay tourist prices for any of the freshly made del­i­ca­cies on dis­play, but the sprawl­ing mar­ket is a feast for the senses, even if you’re just win­dow shop­ping. One of its high­lights is the bier­garten, which claims to be the only beer gar­den in the city to al­ter its hoppy of­fer­ings each sea­son, rain or shine. But you won’t need to worry about pre­cip­i­ta­tion at Hof­bräuhaus (www.hof­braeuhaus.de), where un­less you’re a dunce like me, you should make sure to pro­nounce the um­laut (hof-broy-haus, or there­abouts). It’s here, in the big­gest and most fa­mous beer hall in the world, where I raise a stein to Deutsch­land and be­gin plot­ting my next road trip.

Above: Frank­furt’s Opern­platz is trans­formed into a win­ter won­der­land and the Al­ter Oper (Opera House) is bathed in light – with the new Sof­i­tel Frank­furt Opera vis­i­ble at the rear. Pre­vi­ous spread: Fortress Marien­berg looms over Würzburg’s alte Main­brucke, a stone arch bridge first erected around 1120

Sof­i­tel Frank­furt Opera’s 18th-cen­tury build­ing con­trasts the city’s neo sky­line (top); we popped the prover­bial cherry as the first to dine at the ho­tel’s sig­na­ture restau­rant, Schöne­mann (above)

A bird’s-eye view of colour­ful Würzburg – or the view from the hill­top Fortress Marien­berg (top, see main spread); Nuremberg’s Tiergärt­ner­platz is a time cap­sule, where Re­nais­sance su­per­star Al­brecht Dürer truly made his mark Op­po­site page: Bam­berg’s Alte Rathaus (old town hall) is at the heart of the hon­ey­pot town and now con­tains a his­tory mu­seum

Clock­wise from top left: Christ­mas vibes in Marien­platz, Mu­nich’s main square, which hosts a sea­sonal mar­ket; an ul­tra-modern suite at Ho­tel Sof­i­tel Mu­nich Bay­er­post; it looks calm from the out­side but Mu­nich’s Hof­bräuhaus is buzzing with cheers of “prost!” through­out day and night.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from International

© PressReader. All rights reserved.