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Frankfurt, from Goethe to the Main Tower

I am happy to have been able to get to know better, a city in happy harmony...

by Text and photos by Lapo Quagli
August 18th, 2014
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Frankfurt has always felt to me like a beautiful woman who is sitting in the same departure lounge as me waiting for her flight. I start fantasising about her origins and accent, the reason for her trip, what it would be like holding her in my arms. My fantasising is brusquely interrupted by the tannoy system announcing boarding on another flight. Only a hint of an intriguing fragrance remains. But this flight is different.

I’m coming back from the United States and flying to Tokyo. With a choice between two nights in Milan or Frankfurt I’ve chosen the foreign option.

Landing at one of the largest international airports in Europe on a business class Airdolomiti flight, I get to Hotel Villa Kennedy in less than half an hour. It is the former biophysics research institute destroyed in World War Two and rebuilt in 2006. An evening stroll along the banks of the Main gives me an insight into the city’s ironic nickname Mainhattan. Its skyline is that of a great metropolitan conurbation full of super modern skyscrapers. Moving eastwards I find myself in an old quarter with a vibrant night life. I go into a pub. This is just how I imagined a German
bar. My camera means I don’t go unnoticed.

The background noise dies down and the music takes over, somewhat dark dance music. Just a few minutes later I am trying out a range of beers with new friends who I am struggling to find a common
language with. As Göethe often did, I return to my room a little too late and after a few too many beers.

The following morning I wander into the banking quarter. The city has as many as 300 of which 180 are foreign. I go up to the roof top of the main Tower and the city’s mixture of modern and historic is clear from here, a city organism in continual evolution.

I meet a national star, the weather man with his mascot Fridolin who ventures forth in all weathers to tell the Germans their weather forecast directly
from the clouds. Frankfurt has only relatively recently made peace with its past and this is evident in the late restoration work on its historic districts. But it has done it in style and put to rest the fears of its citizens that it would be famous for its banks alone, for its unsuccessful Euro monument, as the city of money.

These are fears that are as groundless as those of the father of the famous writer Göethe – who was born and grew up in Frankfurt – who feared that his son was a good for nothing and would devote himself to a life of vice. The banks of the Main actually contain no fewer than 40 museums all of which have restaurants and laboratories and are open until late.

The cultural range is vast. For me, the Stadël, work of Botticelli and Bellini, was unmissable as was the MAK for contemporary art but numerous themes are
covered here. It is evening again now, however, and my last date awaits me. Don Carlos at the new opera house.

My date in evening dress is an acquaintance that I am happy to have been able to get to know better, a city in happy harmony between the slow pace of historic contemplation and the fast pace of modern life.

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