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Let's be Frank about Frankfurt
By Ron Kapon, Contributing Travel Editor

Aerial view of Frankfurt
An aerial view of Frankfurt, Germany. The city has the largest airport in Europe.
New York, NY - Before you consider visiting Frankfurt, population about 650,000, with U.S. visitors only outnumbered by Germans, you had best check to see if one of a myriad of trade fairs is scheduled during your visit since Frankfurt, as the seemingly acknowledged European financial capitol, is host to a literal plethora of such events during the course of the year. There are obvious advantages to working with the German National Tourist Office in NYC, such as their suggesting that my first few nights be spent at the charming Villa Orange Hotel located a few blocks from the center of Old Frankfurt City. The downside of my trip occurred when the other shoe dropped and I was not able to secure a room for the end of my German odyssey since the Table Top trade fair was scheduled at that time. Consider yourself forewarned.

Lending credence to the adage about the best laid plans of mice and men going awry, one cannot even obtain a room at, or near, the airport in anticipation of an early flight the next morning since attendees at the fair(s) take those as well under another apt heading of great minds thinking alike. But, the hospitable and helpful management of the Villa Orange called around and located a room. That was the good news. The bad news is that it was with Holiday Inn Express, which doubled the room price because of the fair, plus charging well above the norm for a 10-minute van ride to the airport. A big boo to HIE for that and for sending the van on its way as I sat in the lobby sipping my coffee although I had reminded them not to have the van leave without me. They called a cab, paid for it and, in the end, which was close the beginning, all?s well that ends well.

Researching the Internet for fares between New York and Frankfurt, which I heartily encourage you to do, I found a $399 round-trip price on Delta. The non-stop service was fairly new and I immediately booked my ticket before the price increased. Flight #108 was flawless thanks to veteran attendants like Valerie Watson who had spent many years with Pan Am and has been delighting Delta passengers for 12 years. Her charm, professionalism and British accent made the flight a fabulous experience. Kudos also to Ken Chase, the wine consultant for Delta, as he selected several intriguing choices that matched perfectly with dinner. Bravo Delta!

Frankfurt airport is the largest in Europe, with regular train service into the center of town. The city is not classically beautiful in the European sense, as are so many others, but it does have Western Europe?s tallest building, the Commerzbank Tower, with a breathtaking view from its observation deck. Old Frankfurt, with its half-timbered houses, is interspersed with narrow cobblestone alleys radiating from the historic center, the Romerberg, toward St. Bartholomew?s Cathedral. The Romer (city hall) was open to the public the day I visited, highlighting exhibits dealing with the history of Frankfurt. Nice introduction. Make sure you have the time to visit the Kleinmarkethalle, where you will find food items from around the world.

Main River
The Main River (Germany?s sixth largest) is served by many riverboats where you can have lunch and look up at "Mainhattan."
Before the holocaust, Frankfurt had Germany?s second largest Jewish community and the Judengasse Museum is built over the ruins of the old Jewish Ghetto. The cemetery next door remained untouched during World War II because Heinrich Himmler, when visiting the cemetery, mentioned to the assembled officials that it was "very interesting' and that was sufficient at that time to "protect" the cemetery, frightening the local populace and keeping them from destroying it, as they had done with so many other cemeteries. However, most of the city center and old town were destroyed by Allied air strikes. Anne Frank and the Rothschilds (banking & wine) were born here and part of one's itinerary has to include a visit to the Rothschild?s former palace, now known as the Judisches Museum. It was also the home of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Germany?s Shakespeare, and has been turned into a museum of his life and works.

Cross over the Main River to "Museum Mile" on the banks of the river where seven major museums await, including the Staedel Art Museum and the German Film Museum. The Main River (Germany?s sixth largest) is served by many riverboats where you can have lunch and look up at "Mainhattan." Try the local beverage - Apple Wine (Ebbewai), available along the main pedestrian promenade, Fressgrass, with its restaurants, cafes and specialty shops. If you want to do some shopping, the Zeil has many of the popular department stores along its promenade.

With tip of my hat for credit to David Letterman, here are my top hotel peeves, none of which, happily, occurred during my trip to Frankfurt:

  1. Not enough wattage in the bathroom, by the desk and work areas. Skip the 25-watt bulbs and encourage the concierge to buy some 60-watt replacements.
  2. Showers with little or no pressure or pizzazz and those European spray heads that are removable but with no place to put them for a steady flow.
  3. Plastic containers, instead of glasses, that crack on command and cannot stand on their own once you put a toothbrush and toothpaste in them.
  4. I want to hang my clothes easily upon arrival. Get rid of those non-removable or no hook ended hangers. Bringing extras does not work.
  5. Heat or air conditioning controls with a mind of their own, or requiring an engineering degree to figure how they work.
  6. No listing of available TV channels. I don?t want to move through channel by channel looking for CNN or sports programming.
  7. Too small towels or no wash cloth, plus soap so tiny it falls into pieces with the first use.
  8. Pillows that have not been filled in 10 years and are almost flat. Try reading with one propped against the headboard or wall and have a chiropractor on call.


Ron Kapon is seeking wine tasters for the New York Tasters Guild. Please go to www.tastersguildny.com or email him at Ron@tastersguildny.com.