FROM DEUTSCHE BANK TO RIVER BANK

Frankfurt may be Ger­many’s eco­nomic pow­er­house but there’s plenty of plea­sure to be had out­side of busi­ness hours in this city’s green spa­ces, restau­rants and tav­erns

Business Traveller - - CONTENTS - WORDS ANDREWEAMES

Find­ing the fun side of Frankfurt, Ger­many’s fi­nan­cial pow­er­house

So you’re in Frankfurt for a cou­ple of days, or maybe longer. You’ve been here be­fore, on hur­ried vis­its, but al­ways for work, not play. Maybe on this oc­ca­sion you’ve got a bit of spare time in your sched­ule, and you want an “in” place to meet up in­for­mally with col­leagues, or just some­where to get away from the brisk pace of city life. Prefer­ably some­where free of herds of tourists, too.

These places do ex­ist. This sharp­suited city – cur­rently host to no fewer than 218 dif­fer­ent banks – may be hard to like at first sight. It has a rather soul­less cen­tre – partly the con­se­quence of pro­longed aerial bom­bard­ment dur­ing World War

II – but there are a num­ber of places out­side the cen­tre that are worth seek­ing out. Places that will help you feel that you’ve got un­der the skin of Ger­many’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal.

PALMENGARTEN AND THE UNIVER­SITY

Firstly, there’s a good chance that you’re in Frankfurt for a trade fair in the Messe cen­tre, or for a meet­ing in the ad­ja­cent busi­ness district, both of which are north and west of down­town. The streets here bris­tle with glass and steel, cre­at­ing a chilly no man’s land of sky­scrapers and scur­ry­ing suits which could be any­where in the world. But there is a softer sanc­tu­ary at hand in the form of the Palmengarten (palmengarten.de), a green oa­sis just up off Bock­en­heimer Land­strasse, one of the main busi­ness ar­ter­ies.

The Palmengarten is a more com­pact and cen­tral equiv­a­lent of London’s Kew Gar­dens, fronted by a gi­ant Palmhaus villa that could eas­ily be a cream-cake ho­tel on the Cote D’Azur. Here you can roam through a va­ri­ety of world ecosys­tems with­out leav­ing down­town Frankfurt, through ev­ery­thing from sa­van­nah grass­land to alpine plant rock­ery, from an English rose gar­den to a wa­terlily nir­vana. It is a real tes­ta­ment to the stress-re­liev­ing ef­fect of green space.

Most of it is al fresco, and densely land­scaped around lakes and lit­tle hills, with steppe, sub­antarc­tic and trop­i­cal zones some­how manag­ing to co­ex­ist in the Mid­dle-Euro­pean fresh air. For the real ex­otics there’s also a se­ries of en­vi­ron­ments in a set of glasshouses, from arid deserts

to bromeliad forests, and even a Namib­ian fog desert, al­though you can only ex­pe­ri­ence full fog on cer­tain days.

If you want to linger in the Palmengarten, the up­mar­ket Sies­mayer café (cafe-sies­mayer.de), also with an en­trance from the street, is some­thing of a meet­ing place for the lo­cal com­mu­nity. It is great for brunch on sunny morn­ings, pro­vided you don’t mind the com­pany of fam­i­lies.

The Palmengarten is on the edge of Frankfurt’s most up­mar­ket res­i­den­tial district, Wes­tend, lined with hand­some turn-of-the-cen­tury vil­las mostly in­hab­ited by doc­tors and lawyers. These streets are served by equally dis­creet eater­ies, such as Café Laumer (cafe­laumer.de) out on Bock­en­heimer Land­strasse, with its mar­ble-topped ta­bles rem­i­nis­cent of Vi­en­nese café cul­ture and a peace­ful gar­den court­yard.

Also close at hand in Wes­tend is a very im­pres­sive piece of mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture with a dark his­tory. On the map it is iden­ti­fied as the cam­pus of Frankfurt’s Goethe Univer­sity, but when it was built in 1921 it was the home of the huge chem­i­cal en­ter­prise IG Far­ben, and for many decades was the largest of­fice build­ing in Europe. IG Far­ben was the com­pany that came up with the for­mula for Zyk­lon B, the cyanide-based pes­ti­cide, which was even­tu­ally used by the Nazis to such deadly ef­fect in the ex­ter­mi­na­tion camps of World War II. Un­sur­pris­ingly, the com­pany no longer ex­ists.

More­over it wasn’t the only big en­ter­prise that resided in this com­plex, be­cause af­ter the war Ger­many was tem­po­rar­ily di­vided up into sec­tors con­trolled by the vic­to­ri­ous Al­lies. The new tem­po­rary ten­ant was the US Army, which sited the head­quar­ters of the Amer­i­can-run sec­tor here. That’s why its stun­ning mod­ernist glass-walled ro­tunda is called the Eisen­hower Café, and al­though it is mostly filled with stu­dent laugh­ter to­day, it still car­ries mem­o­ries of a con­tro­ver­sial his­tory.

HAUPTBAHNHOF AND THE RIVER

Vet­er­ans of past Frankfurt busi­ness trips will no doubt shake their heads sadly at the men­tion of the main rail­way sta­tion. For decades the ter­mi­nus was as­so­ci­ated with a com­mu­nity of down-and-outs, who gath­ered around its en­trances, and with the red light district that an­i­mated the ad­ja­cent grid of streets. These days the sta­tion precincts are heav­ily po­liced and, al­though Taunusstrasse re­mains a place of casi­nos and ta­ble dancers, its par­al­lel streets of Kais­er­strasse and Munch­en­er­strasse have been rad­i­cally gen­tri­fied, but with­out los­ing their eth­nic edge.

To­day there’s a small twice-weekly (Tues­day and Thurs­day) farm­ers’ mar­ket in Kais­er­strasse, sell­ing mostly re­gional cheeses, sausages and smoked meats – good for a quick lunch. This street also hosts a wide va­ri­ety of world cuisines, from New York pas­trami to Neapoli­tan pies. If you want Ger­man schnitzel and steak, then head for the un­com­pro­mis­ingly ti­tled Meat Room (meat­room­frank­furt.com); if your di­etary in­cli­na­tions lie in the op­po­site di­rec­tion, then walk across the road to the South In­dian veg­e­tar­ian favourite Sar­a­vanaa Bha­van (sar­a­vanaab­ha­van.de), with its thalis and masala dosas. For later nightlife, Kais­er­strasse’s Club Or­ange Peel (or­ange-peel.de) hosts ev­ery­thing from po­etry slams to jazz, blues, funk and soul nights.

Run­ning par­al­lel to Kais­er­strasse, Munch­en­er­strasse is also lively into the evening, but it has more of an oriental at­mos­phere. This is the fo­cal street for Frankfurt’s Turk­ish com­mu­nity, with an em­pha­sis on male groom­ing par­lours and eth­nic

Frankfurt’s Goethe Univer­sity cam­pus is an im­pres­sive piece of mod­ernist ar­chi­tec­ture with a dark his­tory

...gro­cery stores with fine dis­plays of ex­otic fruit adding ap­peal.

The sta­tion quar­ter is also home to new and hip cocktail bars like Plank and Amp, gath­er­ing places for Frankfurt’s tran­sient in­ter­na­tional pop­u­la­tion, mostly speak­ing English. And a small kiosk called Yok-Yok in Munch­en­er­strasse, whose fridges con­tain some 300 dif­fer­ent brands of beer from all around the world and where hand­fuls of off-duty bankers meet up for beer-based rem­i­nis­cences of their more ex­otic trav­els.

If the day is fine, and you’re look­ing for green space to snooze in and let the world drift by, then walk south of the cen­tre un­til you hit the river Main, busy with short-trip river­boats from the likes of KD Line and Primus Tours. There are gen­er­ous grassy banks on both sides of the river, but the wider south­ern shore, backed by a host of mu­se­ums and gal­leries, of­fers a spec­tac­u­lar view of down­town. The area also hosts a flea mar­ket ev­ery other Satur­day and is dot­ted with cafés and eater­ies. These in­clude the float­ing flo­ral Boot­shaus (boot­shaus-dreyer. de) by the Iron Bridge, where you can hire your own row­ing boat, and the doner boat Is­tan­bul, which, as you might ex­pect, serves ke­babs. In the evenings and at week­ends the river­bank is a sanc­tu­ary for lovers, jog­gers, pic­nick­ers and stressed out ex­ec­u­tives.

AP­PLE WINE TAV­ERNS

No vis­i­tor to Frankfurt, should come away with­out ex­pe­ri­enc­ing its ap­ple wine cul­ture. This tart ver­sion of cider packs a pow­er­ful punch and is tra­di­tion­ally drunk out of spe­cial ribbed glasses, called geripptes, and poured from earth­en­ware carafes called be­m­bel. The true tra­di­tional ap­ple wine tav­erns or apfel­wein­wirtschaften, es­pe­cially south of the river where the ap­ple or­chards used to be in Sach­sen­hausen, are a cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ence in them­selves.

In Sach­sen­hausen the fo­cus of so­cial life is on a nest of pedes­trian al­leys a cou­ple of blocks in­land, par­tic­u­larly Paradies­gasse and Rit­ter­gasse, and these days it is not just ap­ple wine on of­fer: there’s ev­ery­thing from sports bars to shish shisha clubs to belly-danc­ing lounges, and the at­mos­phere a can be lively, par­tic­u­larly on Satur­days dur­ing the foot­ball sea­son.

The true tav­erns are places like Ger­ma­nia (on Tex­torstrasse) and Struwwelpeter

(on Neuer Wall). Their of­fer­ing is sim­ple: cus­tomers drink lo­cally made apfel­wein seated at so­cia­ble long benches, and eat tra­di­tional food such as hand­käs mit musik, a sour milk cheese drowned in vine­gar and chopped onions and served with bread.

There are op­tions here, of course, par­tic­u­larly in the new trendier breed of tav­ern like Lors­bacher Thal (lors­bacher-thal. de), hid­den away round the back of Grosse Rit­ter­gasse, a more distin­guished venue whose court­yard shel­ters un­der a chest­nut tree and spread­ing vine. In­side the wood­pan­elled in­te­rior there’s an elab­o­rate menu and a large wine list as well as the usual ap­ple wine, plus reg­u­lar live mu­sic – jazz, funk and even opera – out in the court­yard.

FUR­THER AFIELD

There will be some reg­u­lar vis­i­tors to Frankfurt for whom Sach­sen­hausen will al­ways be too touristy. The al­ter­na­tive is to head north-east, through the former work­ing-class district of Born­heim (U-bahn sta­tion Born­heim Mitte) and walk out along Berg­er­strasse, a street that be­comes a long open-air restau­rant on sum­mer evenings. Up here are two of the most unadul­ter­ated ap­ple wine tav­erns in the city, the rus­tic half­tim­bered Zur Sonne (zur­sonne-frankfurt. de), es­tab­lished 1768, which is bet­ter in sum­mer, and the hugely pop­u­lar Solzer (solzer-frankfurt.de), around since the 16th cen­tury and cosy in win­ter.

Set­tle down in ei­ther of these places for the evening and you could eas­ily be in a vil­lage in deep­est Hesse, not in one of the fore­most busi­ness cap­i­tals in the world.

CLOCK­WISE

FROM LEFT: The Palmengarten is a green oa­sis; don't miss try­ing the ap­ple wine; the Goethe Univer­sity

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