You know the best way to not feel as sad about a trip ending? Plan a long layover in Germany*. That way, the sinking feeling in your stomach you get about having to wake up at 4 am to get to the airport, leave Israel, and fly back to the States is slightly offset by the fact that German food is in your very near future. [*Really, any long layover will do; Frankfurt is ideal since it only takes roughly 15 minutes to go airport to city center! I highly recommend.]
I’ve never actually considered Frankfurt as one of my destinations, yet, I’ve flown in and out of it more times than any other airport excluding Chicago (of course). So I’ve gotten to know the city hour by hour, layover by layover, excursion by excursion. Slowly, over the course of several years, I’ve become quite fond of Frankfurt. This time around, I got to explore some old and new parts of Frankfurt on two separate layovers, a combined fourteen-ish hours, one going into and one going out of Israel. Bump that fondness up to 11.
I’ll admit, on the first layover, I was EXHAUSTED. I was coming from Cairo, where I’d spent the whole day in the scorching heat climbing around Giza and exploring the pyramids (obviously worth it), then lounging at the hotel (sans room though, just bumming the free wifi and watching wedding celebration after wedding celebration in amazement), then trying not to fall asleep at the Cairo airport waiting for the 4AM flight (and actually falling asleep), then trying to fall asleep on the four-hour long flight (and not falling asleep)… Yes, it was exhausting.
On landing in Frankfurt, I was picked up though. Both because it was quite brisk (we went from temperatures in the 100s to 70s! A shock to the system! I did not pack for this!) and because I was back in Germany. In familiar places. Where memories of stopping at the same coffee shops in the train station even make it feel like home. [Congrats to my completely rudimentary German, I can at least order coffee and a pastry and clarify that yes, I had a small cappuccino and Keith had a regular coffee without a wide-eyed deer-in-the-headlights look.]
We spent our first layover in mostly familiar locations downtown near Römerberg. For lunch, we visited the Kleinmarkthalle (the “small market hall”), a wonderful place to shop for fresh and prepared food. For someone like me, who loves going into grocery stores around the world, it was paradise. PLUS, we got a great Fleischwurst mit Senf und ein Brötchen (sausage with mustard and roll) from Metzgerei Schreiber, run by Frau Isle Schreiber for the longer than I’ve been alive. The little stand is plastered with news articles and adorned with a simple, everlasting wooden menu listing out the four sausage options: Krakauer, Fleischwurst, Gelbwurst, and Rindswurst. Sausage is the only thing served, excepting a Brötchen of course. Most places, lines may form around lunch and dissipate after the rush, but there is always a line at Schreiber. It’s that good. It’s such a gem in Frankfurt.
Also in the Kleinmarktahlle, I bought some stutzweck, a traditional Frankfurt sweet yeasted bread normally baked around New Years Eve. It has twelve notches to celebrate each month and the ends represent the old and new years. It was good, though I wish I had also bought one of the most delicious looking little tortes and tartes in next display case over…
The last time I was in Frankfurt, at the end of our honeymoon, Keith and I stumbled on this magical street full of people sitting at tables lined down the long street,and tents serving wine and flammeküche and other goodies. We didn’t know much about what we were a part of. All we knew was this street was transformed into a giant, German outdoor happy hour and we were delighted to have found it.** We sat at a bench table for hours, watching people, sampling the local beverages, eating flammeküche, and just taking it all in. [Read more about flammeküche from my Berlin post last year.]
[**Behind the scenes part of this story: we almost had gone back to the hotel before discovering the festival, since I was on Euro-crutches thanks to the Legendary Roman Vespa Accident of 2012. It was our last night in Europe, and walking around on lousy crutches bought in a train station/a bum ankle for two and a half weeks had taken its toll. Luckily, I was still able to sit the rest of the evening and fall more in love with Frankfurt.]
Fast forward three years later, almost to the day, and we’re back in Frankfurt. Of course we thought: let’s go find this open-air happy hour! We could vaguely remember where we had stumbled upon it: it was close to a park, and a circle with a water fountain, and somewhere downtown. After some map sleuthing, we found it! But little did we know, we were so lucky to have found it. Apparently, after some internet sleuthing, what we found three years ago is an actual festival held annually since 1978 called the Rheingauer Weinmarkt (Rheingau Wine Festival):
Rheingau winemakers annually come to Frankfurt to present their latest vintages at the “Freßgass'”, the city’s popular culinary mile and bustling pedestrian zone lined with restaurants, delicatessens and shops of every variety.
More than 600 red, white and sparkling wines from the famous Rheingau region are available for tasting at some 30 wine stalls, including everything from the finest vintages to light and fruity summer wines. Wines made from alternative grape varieties are also on offer, alongside the dominant Rheingau Rieslings. To complement this fabulous wine selection, the eateries of the Freßgass’ traditionally offer accompanying cuisine at specially erected food stalls.
We were there in time for the opening day (luckily!! it was completely a coincidence!!) but would miss being able to attend again during the second layover. I enjoyed some flammeküche and Riesling, of course. (It’s a newly established tradition.) To call the Riesling local is implied; the Riesling grape’s origins began in the Rhine valley. While the Rhine Valley is still quite large, the particular wine I had was obviously from the Rheingau region of the Rhine valley (olive green on the linked map), one of Germany’s 13 designated wine regions, and the largest producers of Riesling. My fave. So, big win for me. See, Germany is more than beer and sausages.
Also in the Germany is more than just beer and sausages category, Hesse (the state where Frankfurt is located) is known for its apfelwein. Though in Frankfurt, if you order one you might hear your server confirm that you ordered ebbelwoi, the local name for the beverage. Basically, it’s a cider, made without added sugar, and goes through a complete fermentation. And it’s amazing. It’s served in a diamond patterned cut glass known as a geripptes.
But of course, I enjoyed some German beer. It’s some of the only beer I’ll actually drink.
On our second layover, the shorter of the two, I basically snuggled into a biergarten at Atschel. I highly recommend this place if you ever find yourself in Frankfurt. It was in a new part of Frankfurt I hadn’t yet been to, and both the ambiance and the staff were lovely. And we made some friends with an enchanting older couple who didn’t speak much English, Which made the fact that it was rainy and chilly—or cozy depending on your point of view, I prefer cozy—all the better. Either way it was a stark difference from the blistering heat of Tel Aviv (I went from being drenched in sweat to not exactly being drenched from the rain, but you get the point) AND that we were all too soon ending our trip almost a nonissue. Plus the food was good. Keith and I shared two plates:
- Schweinebäckchen in Rotwein geschmort mit Lauchgemüse und hausgemachten Spätzle (pork cheeks in red wine sauce and housemade Swabian Spätzle)
- Frankfurter Schnitzel mit Bratkartoffeln und grüner Soße (Frankfurt schnitzel with baked potatoes and green sauce).
The Swabian spätzle, particular to the south of Germany, was definitely different than the spätzle I had in Berlin last year, where the translation of “little sparrow” was more fitting. But it was delicious nonetheless. I also got to have some of the Frankfurter grüner Soße — a green sauce poured over a lot of local dishes, especially the local version of schnitzel I had. It’s made of hardboiled eggs, oil and vinegar, sour cream, and herbs such as borage, parsley and sorrel. It was good.
And, just for fun, here are a few more pictures. Because I love coffee breaks with plum cake, and I love pretzels. And, I love Germany. I’m going to miss being here so much! I can’t say much more than that… so until next time, so long!