As it turns out even international airports have culture. The Frankfurt airport has bicycles, reclining chairs, strong internet, charging stations and a cute icon for ‘woman’ dressed in tutu.
But apparently you are supposed to know to watch the LCD monitor at the gate like a hawk. I was parked at e22 for 3 hours, charging away but without a direct line of sight to the LCD. I watched people gather for the gate and finally start to board. I packed up and joined them only to notice they were boarding a flight for Majorca. I checked the LCD; my flight had been moved to gate D22. I raced there where the gate agent screamed no at me as if I was not the first frantic passenger she had conversed with. “We were paging you!” No way.
Back out through baggage claim. The customs guy remembers me trying to declare my macadamia nuts “You again?”
At the air Berlin desk I recognized a couple from E22. Distraught. Air Berlin told them to take the train. “Super saver fare.” When my turn came the agents raised their voices at me too. “Go talk to American.”
Ms American thought she had finished her shift, but her replacement was late and there was a young Oklahoma girl on my heels who I had seen at E22 as well. “We’re supposed to be One World why is air Berlin doing this?” An apt question that goes beyond the airlines’ alliance.
She was able to waitlist me for a flight 6 hours later, sending me with trepidation back to Air Berlin for a boarding pass and luggage rerouting. Fortunately there had been a shift change since my first contact at 0630 who barked at me “why are you telling me that?” as I looked up my flight number to be helpful. The new one said “I don’t care about class codes” and gave me a confirmed seat. “Don’t hang around the airport, take they subway to the city. Sorry, it’s raining.”
Repack the carry on luggage again (x3), check the heavy bag, download offline map, and head for the subway. A large friendly train worker gave me a tour of the wall map and advised me where to get off but forgot to tell me to buy a ticket. That’s because most people don’t bother (I learned this as a German explained the system to an American newcomer in line to buy a ticket at the station.)
From the airport bus I saw a strange thing, the largest office building I’ve ever seen – horizontally. It went on and on. I could not see the end of this building. I could have taken four sequential shots with neither end in it. Somehow it evoked bureaucracy in a more chilling manner than a vertical officetower.
Well it was raining and my fantastic raincoat was deep in the bowels of luggage management. So I pulled up the hood of my little jumper and plodded along, intending to buy a SIM card and sit in a cafe. I think it’s now fair to say I have a pathological weakness for walking because there was precious little sitting in cafes.
The first district I walked through was expensive local clothing and design shops, a bit sterile, but elegant. I didn’t see anything I wanted to eat.
I thought I’d walk to the water. It was colder there. Too bad I didn’t repack into the waterproof bag. This one’s zippers leak. If it rained harder I’d need to start worrying. It stayed light and steady. The Frankfurters use umbrellas. They also do not have cafe culture. Food was scarce.
I had already decided to be utterly spontaneous and intuitive about my route. Having no research to go by. At the river I saw a pretty foot bridge. On the way up the stairs I realized that my feet were hurting. But at the top I got the most magical surprise. It’s a love bridge!!!!!
Again, I can’t stop taking photos of rainbows.
At the other end of the bridge is a map showing museums, the ‘nighttime music and party district’ and a platz. Usually platzs have commerce so I headed there. Around the first seemingly residential corner was a bakery so i knew I was on the right track, although nothing there was to my taste.
I found sparse commerce. A video art gallery, makeup store, toys store, all lovely but inedible. I saw a few German inns but I wouldn’t even know what to order there. Finally I see a shop ahead with little manicured bushes adorning the awning. It was a gourmet shop. Gorgeous. (Metzgerei B.U.M.B. Textorstrasse 9, Frankfurt) I said “I’ve been walking a long time to find a shop this beautiful.” The proprietor said “of course.”
I bought a beautiful little Italian soft cheese, Paglietta, and a mushroom salad. I ate the cheese and some ciabatta and kept walking. At this point I had no idea where I was and couldn’t figure it out on the map. I fought the pressure to prioritize getting a SIM and kept up the intuitive wander. But it was cold. Right at the point that I said ok cafe now, a charming tiny ice cream store presented itself and made me the best earl Gray tea ever. BizzIce, Wallstrasse 26 Frankfurt, www.bizzi-ice.com) With a homemade shortbread. Everything in the šhop was gorgeous: chairs. Glasses. Floor. As I paid, the sweet proprietor said the ice cream is really good. We make it ourselves (and the cones) and its organic… So I had a cone of almond cardamom. Delicate and perfect. As I left she directed me to the bridge. I had looked around and was one block from the water. At the next bridge.
Bought sim, retrieved luggage, security take2, yoga at gate with businessmen.
Lots of handsome German businessmen but I want to say “but you’re ruining the world”. There are connections. And in grumpy Frankfurt it’s like people are struggling to survive having money and not much else. Or that was my impression in certain parts of the city..
Anyway, the businessmen were friendly (all suits and only 2 women on the whole plane). Berlin! Well, I walked right past the oddly placed luggage belt, but an angel from my row exhorted another passenger to retrieve my bag, then insisted on driving me to the train station. The last step was a 2 km walk from station to flat. Being so tired, even pulling the luggage was painful. It was a 56 hour journey.
But then I got to drink wine and catch up with a&e at g’s great table in her classic Berlin apartment! Beautiful night!