We arrived in Frankfurt on Friday morning; we are finding that jet lag does us in these days so we try to schedule ourselves with a bit of down time so we can restore our groggy brains to functioning mode. After a nap, we headed out to check out the city; then on Saturday we took a walking tour. Our guide was an American who has lived in Frankfurt for the last 16 years. Not only is he American, he also lived in Tacoma for quite a while.
We followed him around the city for about four hours and learned a lot. Frankfurt was pretty much leveled during the war; what the Allies didn't bomb the Nazis blew up on the way out. Our guide, Dave, showed us pictures of what Frankfurt had looked like right after the war; it has been rebuilt with the underlying principle being to keep the traditional European architectural style alive. Its airport is its main employer as Frankfurt serves as a major transportation hub. 51% of the population has immigrant background; as we walked around we heard many different languages.
We are staying at a hotel near the train station called the Toyoko Inn. It is in the Japanese chain of business hotels, so it has been interesting to me to feel a touch of Japan in Germany. Frankfurt is a financial hub of the EU, so there are many guests here for work.
On our tour we saw Roman ruins, walls that used to demarcate the Jewish ghetto, a bustling Saturday market, platzes(squares), museums, the Maine river, churches, pedestrian shopping areas, brots on grills and lots of people on the streets. We are finding that the folks here can accommodate English speakers, which is a good thing since I had a little German but I haven't used it at all for years and it wasn't very good to start with. Since Frankfurt is such an international city, restaurants and other businesses usually have English speaking staff and menus.
Sunday brought autumn with winds and the occasional downpour. We did walk back to the town hub to take a look at the walk through exhibition of "francono de furd" , ford of the Franks, source of the town's name.
Monday we headed north to visit the Deutsche Bundesbank Geld Museum. We learned a lot about money, banking and finance. The museum is located in the German Central Bank building; it is responsible for printing money and keeping the euro stable. I was particularly interested in the video that showed the process of making the bills with the cotton content, the holograms and the printing system used to stymie counterfeiters. The museum has exhibits in both German and English, so it is very tourist friendly and also free!
We found a small German restaurant near our hotel that we visited a couple of times. We talked to our server last night because he and his wife were working both nights we ate there; he told us that his son had an accident and broke his shoulder, so they had to come back to work for a couple of months. Rog is especially fond of schnitzel, and the prices are reasonable, so it was a good find. The clientele is both local and international, and it looks pretty busy all the time.
Today, Tuesday September 25, we are packing up and heading to the airport for our flight to Amman, Jordan. Since our flight doesn't leave until the evening, we are hoping to stow our luggage and take a walk to the art museum, but we will have to see how it goes.
One interesting discovery I made in the hotel is a book called Naikan by Norimasa Nishida. He is the founder of the Toyoko hotel group; Naikan is a method of self reflection based on a Buddhist system, but this book talks about using it with everyone in a non-religious way. Nishida credits his success in business to this system and describes how he has used it. I remember seeing Toyoko Inns all over the place in Japan; he says that his goal is to establish Naikan centers in the hotels. (Note to self: from Peter McMillan's (translator) article in the book: "Naikan is a Japanese confessional method of self-reflection developed by Ishin Yoshimoto. His method is a modern-day version of a stricter one developed by the founder of the Jodo Shinshu sect of Buddhism, Shinran.") He says it is not a religion but rather a practice for increasing self awareness. McMillan's article was especially interesting to me because he details his experiences from a western perspective (he is Irish) which shows what happens when West meets East. Staying in this hotel is a little bit like a mini visit to some of my experiences in Japan; just from the room layout and the facilities my memory is jogged back to the days I was roaming Japan with high school students.
So our stay in Frankfurt is coming to a close; we are hoping to be over jet lag, but we are still waking at odd hours. The flight to Amman is about 4 hours, and we are arriving at 2 in the morning and then have to deal with visas and entry to the country. We have a transfer arranged, so here's hoping all goes smoothly!