Sunday, July 11th, 2004 *
I was tired, so I decided not to try to do anything in Frankfurt today. I got up at 9, went downstairs for the included breakfast (pretty good spread, similar to the hostel in Berlin except without a crowd and a nicer ambiance - I got a table overlooking the square), and then went back upstairs to lounge in bed and watch TV until 11:30, when I got up to pack and check out.

I thought briefly about walking to the train station since it was sunny and nice and then decided to be lazy and take the S-Bahn the three brief stops. It was very convenient this time. On Friday I walked under half the station getting to the S-Bahn platform and then got out on the wrong end at Konstablerwache. This time, by luck, not skill, I took all the right escalators and ended up right in the middle of the Bahnhof without much walking. I used one of the numerous and convenient terminals to look up trains, and it turned out that taking the IC from Frankfurt to Lüneburg would take exactly the same time as using an ICE to get to Hannover more quickly but then waiting on the same IC to go from Hannover to Lüneburg. So I have a nice window seat with few people around me and a train ride of four and a half hours, lots of stops but no connections.

Lots of people got on the train in Gießen, not entirely filling the train but being rather loud. I wonder if the train will become as full before Hannover as it was coming down on Friday. (As it turned out the seat beside me was empty the whole way.)

Kassel-Wilhelmshöhe was a pretty big station, with a big building and lots of people getting off and on.

Usually the conductor needs to see your ticket only after you first board and then remembers having seen your ticket. When a new conductor boards the train he or she announces "Personalwechsel" (personnel change) and everyone has to show tickets. Today the conductor who did that said "schönes Reisen" (roughly, have a nice trip) after seeing each person's ticket, a nicer touch than just "Danke."

4 minutes late getting into Nordheim, after an unexplained 4-minute pause in the middle of nowhere after Göttingen. By Alfel only 1 minute late though. Partly out of hunger but more out of curiousity I walked back through six or seven cars to the diner car to get lunch. The other cars were more full than mine. Lunch was okay but expensive -- little roasted würste, ein Brötchen and a 0,5L Coke, cold though, for 7 €.

A boy who boarded at Hannover played a computer game by Westwood Productions whose opening featured a picture of the Statue of Liberty against a red sky full of airships each marked with a Soviet hammer and sickle.

The busses were still running when I got to Lüneburg but the two that go by my WG weren't due to arrive for half an hour (just one bus per hour on Sundays). I could have walked home in that time but it was cold and wet and part of why I left Frankfurt at noon instead of later was to be able to take a bus from the Bahnhof.
Saturday, July 10th, 2004 *
I set my alarm to get up at 9am because I wanted to get out and do stuff when things opened at 10, but it was just as well because I heard a commotion outside my door shortly after I woke up. I went to use the toilet, and the chain was stuck down, with water running in the bowl and a light spray coming from the tank above. I had to go so I went ahead and used it, but then I couldn't flush. What a dump! That confirmed my decision to move to a nicer hotel, no matter what the cost.

I showered, packed, left my key and walked up GroßeFriedbergerStraße to where it meets Schäfergasse and asked at the Best Western Hotel Scala if they had rooms available. Not only did they, but I could get my key and put my bag in my room right away and the room cost only 67 € and included breakfast the next day! I don't know how the Potsdamerhof stays in business.

I left my bag and set out. I'd gotten a Frankfurter Karte last night that entitled me to use public transportation for a day as well as half off at the museums so I decided today would be museum day. The first place I hit was the Goethe Haus and Museum. Apparently Goethe was born in and grew up in Frankfurt. Most of the Altstadt was destroyed during World War II, so just about all the buildingns there today are reproductions, including the Goethe Haus. His family wasn't poor. The house wasn't big but had four stories and a garden. The landings in the house were big, taking up, as the guide sheet said, almost a third of the house's space, but it made the house pleasantly open and light. The attached museum was interesting, showing paintings and sculptures of and by Goethe's friends, including perhaps his most important friend, the young duke of Saxe-Weimar.

Next to the Goethe Haus is the Volkstheater, which this summer is doing an adapted production of Molière's Amphitryon. I'd read about it in the literature I'd picked up at the tourism office and thouht about going, but stumbilng upon the box office made up my mind. Performances are normally in an open air theatre at the Dominikanerkloster, but in case of inclement weather are held in the theatre next to the Goethe Haus. The woman who sold me the ticket marked on my map where the other site was but seemed to think tonight's performance would be inside.

After the Goethe Haus I'd intended to visit the Dom St. Bartholoméus, technically not a cathedral but nonetheless where many Holy Roman Emperors were crowned. I got lost -- Frommer's is right when they say the map the tourist office at the Bahnoff sells isn't worth the 0,50 € they charge. Part of why I got lost was probably that this weekend is the Ironman competition and many of the streets were blocked off by barriers lining the route of the race. There were tons of Ironmen and their fans around. I bought a good map for 3,50 €, much bigger than I needed but with all the streets in the Altstadt in it. I was near the river so I bought a Nutella ice cream sundae and walked over the Eisern pedestrian bridge.

There I landed on Frankfurt's Museum Way (Schaumainkai), along which many of the city's museums overlook the Main. Today a big flea market was set up in the street. Today the weather was also up to what has been normal during my stay in Germany, no matter how much people here say summers are usually much nicer, and that is cool and rainy. I'd decided not to carry my umbrella, so I ducked into a covered bus stop during one downpour and listened to the big crowd around me talk about how tired they were of the rain. When it let up some, I put up my hood and walked to the Liebighaus, a sculpture museum recommended by Frommer's. I was practically the only person there and was outnumbered by museum matrons watching me to make sure I didn't deface statues. This was the best of the museums I viisited in Frankfurt. In particular I really liked one Greek sculpture of a discus thrower. It also struck me how similar Christians in the Middle Ages were to the ancient Greeks and Romans in creating art to pay homage to their gods (and looking at the art, I'd count the blessed virgin mother as just as much of a god as Hera or Athena).

I hit a couple other museums on my way back up Schaumainkai. The Museum of Architecture is going to be closed starting next week for a month of renovations and was charging reduced rates for two exhibits. I didn't spend a lot of time there but it was good to escape the rain. I spent more time in the Museum of Applied Arts, which had collections including some very modern ceramics created by an Israeli artist from industrial scraps (pretty enough, but art?), lots of old furniture and tapastries and china, a special exhibit of enamel art ("enamel" is "email" auf Deutsch, which confused me at first since "email" auf Deutsch also now means e-mail too), and an exhibit on modern industrial design (my Braun toothbrush is a work of art). Before leaving the south bank of the Main, I stopped at an outdoor stand to get a glass of Apfelwein, for which Frankfurt is apparently famous. I took a picture of the sign to remember it, and the stand's proprieter thought at first I was a spy for a competitor, until he heard me talk and realized I was a tourist.

I walked back across the Eisener bridge and noticed that the Dom's tower was covered with ads, each of which at the bottom somewhat apologetically stating that it was helping to pay for the Dom's renovation. I stopped at the Café am Dom across the street from the Dom for a große Coke (warm, ugh!) and a croque monsieur, and then headed over to the Dom, where because a baptism was taking place tourists couldn't enter the sanctuary. Having just seen the Dom in Köln last week, I really wasn't impressed by the faux Dom in Frankfurt, but it was worth a stop.

I walked down to the Alte Brücke, thinking there might be stairs down to the small island beneath it in the Main (there were, but the gate was locked). Made for some good pictures though. I walked back towards home and then walked along the Zeil, Frankfurt's big pedestrian shopping street, lined with big name department stores, along the walls of which are street vendors with their wares on blankets. I went into the big Gallerie Kaufhof, not to buy anything but to go upstairs to look out its windows over the Hauptwache. Next it was back to the new hotel for a nap before the play.

The woman was right, and the performance was indoors. My cheap 18 € ticket was in the 16th row, the first under the balcony and the start of the cheap seats. A group of older women sat next to me. They were worried about tall people sitting in front of us, unnecessarily as it turned out. There was no one in the two rows before us and lots of empty seats to the right for several more rows. The performance was obviously meant for outdoors as actors came in from behind us and from doors to the side. The play was more difficult for me to understand than a movie about Spider-Man, but I got the majority of it. Some of it was funny without language, for example, with Mercury, the gods' messenger, coming in on roller skates.
Friday, July 9th, 2004 *
I decided to go to Frankfurt rather on the spur of the moment. I want to go to München but am saving that for next weekend when I can leave earlier on Friday. This weekend I was going to go to a small village in the Lüneburger Heath to visit my language partner (a single working mother whom I've met exactly once) but she hadn't replied to my e-mail by Friday afternoon so I didn't know where to go or if she still wanted me.

I thought about going to Bremen, which is only an hour from Lüneburg, but it's north and thus probably also cold and rainy, and it's also smaller than Frankfurt. I could get to Frankfurt by 8pm, which was earlier than to Köln last week, so Frankfurt was it.

There was an IC going from Lüneburg through Frankfurt with no connections, but taking an IC to Hannover where I could catch an ICE was faster, even waiting 40 minutes in the station. I thought about getting another bratwurst from my favorite stand but got a Döner instead, which turned out to be a good decision.

I couldn't get reserved seats this time, buying my ticket less than an hour before the first train (I couldn't get reserved sests for Sunday either though). It wasn't a problem on the train to Hannover, but the next train was so packed there were students sitting on the floor between cars. I kept walking and found one platz frei in a compartment with 5 other students.

(One was a cute blond guy studying from a notebook presumably labeled with his name, Hilmar Hoenes. Turns out from his conversation later with another boy next to him that he is in the navy, preferring it to the air force for his public service and education.)

Figured out how to get to Konstablerwache via the S-Bahn on my first try (more luck than skill). Found a cheap hotel (50 €) nearby with a shower and phone but no toilet or TV! Walked along the Zeil (the big shopping drag) from Konstablerwache to Hauptwache and back. Found the gay bar recommended by Fodor's as a starting point, and it's not bad, with Internet, tables, light, magazines and interesting people. (Adam is an interesting German combination of the Advocate and Playgirl (soft-porn) for gays.)
 
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