June 12, 2012 by marieelia
Day Two, my first full day in Frankfurt. I needed to be at the museum for work at 10am, and it was just across the plaza. The hotel included breakfast, served until 10, so I went downstairs to see what was offered. As I was there at the end, all that was out was bread and fruit. One of the owners—it was sort of a bed & breakfast—brought out coffee and a plate of meat and cheese and asked, “would you like ei?” (pronounced like “eye”). It took me a minute; “Oh! Egg, no, thank you.” I made a little sandwich, drank some very good coffee, and went to work.
At lunch one of the staff members brought me to the Kleinmarkthalle—a public market—got us focaccia sandwiches to eat down by the river. By the end of the day I was craving a salad. Everywhere I looked seemed to be bread and sausage, or, oddly, Italian food. After work I stopped in the hotel to change and walked around the area again, looking at all the restaurants’ menus. I circled and circled. Finally I was tired, it was 8pm, and I wasn’t sure I was even hungry. I gave in and ended up with chocolate and walnut gelato, eaten on my balcony:
I was feeling isolated, having difficulty communicating, even though most people I encountered spoke English. Maybe it was modesty, but most shop employees I asked protested that they only spoke a little English, even though it sounded good to me. Their reticence and my awkwardness created a barrier, so I felt like I was walking around in Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. I could see them, and I could see everything going on around me, but when it came time to interact, I felt that I had to prepare to reveal myself, and it was exhausting.
Day Three, jet lag smacked me in the face, and I didn’t get up until almost 11am. I spent another hour trying to decide how to spend the next two days, as I was done with work. I knew I wanted to see some museums, and I wanted to explore some neighborhoods. I had heard that the neighborhood of Bornheim was supposed to be cool, with cafés and shops, and I had decided to skip the mall-like Zeil. But first I went back to the Kleinmarkthalle to find some breakfast. I am easily overwhelmed by places like that—so many people talking at once, trying not to bump into anyone, trying to make choices—and especially when I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying. I loved the market, though. If I were spending longer in the city, I could tell that I would go there often:
Eventually I purchased some coffee and an apple to take with me. “Pink Lady”—the same in all languages, apparently.
I purchased a Frankfurt card, which serves as a transit pass for two days and gives discounts at museums and such, and I took the subway to Bornheim. As I emerged from the subway, I saw it a gleaming beacon: Denn’s BioMarkt, an organic grocery store. I immediately relaxed, relieved at the serendipitous discovery, checking out the gluten-free snacks:
I bought what I would normally buy: rice cakes, dried figs, some kind of banana fruit bar, and almonds, as well as a fizzy water (vasser mit gas). Instead of almond butter, I bought two little cups of mandelcreme (almond cream)—I think “mandelmus” would have been almond butter—which definitely had sugar in it, but I didn’t want to buy an expensive jar of almond butter, only to have to throw it away in two days.
I walked out of the shop with my little paper bag of snacks (oops, should’ve brought a tote bag) and felt like I was floating. I was energized by the idea of being able to eat healthy snacks, but I was also comforted by the familiar. I sat on a bench in a tiny park and drank my water, ate some almonds, watched people and bicycles go by. I loved how many cyclists there were, and how well incorporated bicycle traffic is. There are even bicycle crossing signals: Before the cars get the green light, a little green bicycle lights up to give cyclists a bit of a head start.
Fueled by my snack, I began what turned out to be four hours of wandering around Bornheim. I looked in little shops and peeked in cafés. It was like the Williamsburg of Frankfurt—or the Lawrenceville! But my favorite places were the dollar stores—the Euro stores?—and pharmacies and Woolworths. At Penny markt, I purchased karamellwaffeln for a friend, two bananas, and a fantastic tote bag for my Penny markt and BioMarkt purchases.
And at a housewares store, I actively resisted these Weck jars:I did eventually eat some real food. When you’re on vacation, your mindset changes: You spend more money on food that you normally would, and you eat differently. I tried to think about what I would do if I were going about my day at home, and I decided on a €5 falafel sandwich. I sat down on a bench to eat the insides out of the pita with a fork. There was something about eating in a familiar way—and not just eating familiar foods, but in treating my body the way I usually do—that was very comforting
My approach to exploring the neighborhood was to just start out on the main street and branch off on side streets until I came back to the familiar main road, and then branch out even further, spiraling out. There were some beautiful side streets:
On one of my last detours, I found Rewe, a German grocery store. I really love looking at grocery packaging in different countries. I made the rounds, studying the shelves. I tried to see if there was anything I could bring back to the hotel to eat for dinner, but all I really wanted was a salad. So I grabbed a bag of mixed greens, a little packet of yogurt dill dressing, and a package of plastic forks:
That felt like a good way to end my afternoon, so I took the subway back to my hotel and enjoyed my salad—the whole bag, shaken up with some dressing:
Stay tuned for Day Four and the trip home.