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Commerce & Culture

It may not have the flair of Paris or the romance of Rome, but when it comes to pure and pristine cultural roots, Frankfurt holds its own in Europe, unearths Inder Raj Ahluwalia

Frankfurt airport

Delicately poised at the crossroads of history and modernity, Frankfurt is arguably one of Europe’s most complete cities, being Germany’s economic gateway and powerhouse, and a financial centre of standing.

It may not have the flair of Paris or the romance of Rome, but when it comes to pure and pristine cultural roots, Frankfurt holds its own in Europe. ‘Progression’ is the overriding local characteristic, and finance and commerce make the wheels go around, their telling effect vividly illustrated by hundreds of banks, brokerage houses and financial institutions. Courtesy Germany’s industrial prowess and its own local infrastructure, Frankfurt hosts major international fairs and exhibitions.

Ballet

Business and finance are the life-blood that promotes and sustains the city’s growth and shapes its fortunes in contemporary Europe’s highly competitive environment. They have also paved the way for the preservation of local cultural heritage, in turn leading to a thriving tourism industry. The result is that you are greeted by a splendid blend of the old and new, a happy mix of commerce and culture, dignified humour, fun and frolic, and historical details. Centuries of German history unfold in the squares and monuments you pass daily, and modern Germany is on show. But always with the past close by, as if in silent cooperation...

If you’re a first timer, allow yourself a little time to understand local logistics before putting a label on the city. First impressions normally hinge on the busy airport, smooth highways and the concrete and glass city-centre, a mass of high-rise buildings. But essentially, it is a ‘nine-to-five’ city, and the good news is that everything works like clockwork.

Sightseeing is plentiful. If museums draw you, head for the ‘Museumsufer’, the museums’ row of the city, with a concentration of institutions along the Main River, including big names like the Stadelsche Art Institute and the famous Museum for Applied Arts. Immaculately maintained park-like surroundings make this pleasant and unusual ensemble of urban culture an international rendezvous. Explore the museums, amble along the parks and stop by at a nearby cafe.

Old Opera

The local tourist highlight is ‘Der Romerberg’, the square that marks the historical focal point of the city. On its west stands the ‘Romer’, Frankfurt’s traditional symbol, signature monument and City Hall for over four centuries. The Kaisersaal, scene of the coronation banquets is open to visitors, as is the 15 th century Fountain of Justice, which has played a pivotal role in German history. Die Hauptwache is an ancient, appealing baroque building in the heart of the city. Built in 1729 as a municipal guardhouse, it today houses a cheerful cafe, and is a popular hangout for both tourists and locals seeking ‘tavern fun’. The ‘Church of Our Lady’ is a magnificent structure built some five centuries ago, and its famous symbol, the Rococo Fountain, is a favourite spot that you must photograph yourself at.

With Germany’s largest cultural expenditure budget, Frankfurt is a mega-centre for the arts, with as many theatre groups, actors’ guilds, cabarets, music ensembles and repertory companies, as there are days in the year. While the Frankfurt Municipal Opera is world-renowned, several others are also worthy of praise. Prior bookings are advisable.

Frankfurt skyline

If you’re a jazz enthusiast, you’ll feel particularly at home, courtesy dozens of professional and amateur groups performing the year around, giving live concerts wherever they can, and this includes taverns, beer parks and sophisticated restaurants. That the local art of living is highly developed is shown by over a hundred Volksfests at which guests are invited to join in. Operas, cinemas, theatres, music concerts, and club and street festivals, all combine to make this a ‘happening’ centre.

If Germans in general take their eating seriously, in Frankfurt they take it further. And why not? Meatstuffs and confectionery are world famous, and Frankfurt offers a wallop of a hamper with all the right trimmings. While the ‘Frankfurter’ has made the city famous, local cuisine stretches further and has its share of refinements. For standard fare, try the time-tested smoked pork with sauerkraut, cheese, raw onions, vinegar, and oil, best savoured in a Sachsenhausen wine tavern with some ‘Ebbelwine’ (apple wine) thrown in.

Then look beyond standard fare. The city’s cuisine showpiece is the celebrated ‘Grune Sobe’, supposedly Goethe’s favourite dish, carefully prepared using seven different green herbs. For those with a sweet tooth, the good news is a cake called Frankfurter Kranz, and the tasty little Bethmarnchen, both of which can be enjoyed in cafes and confectionery shops. One can have a fancy, candlelit dinner at one of the dozens of sophisticated downtown restaurants, or try something more casual at smaller taverns and cafes that greet you at every turn of every street. The gastronomy on both sides of the Main river reaches from the gourmet temples of French culinary arts to the typical ‘gemutlich’ neighbourhood restaurant.

Living Bar-Restaurant XXL is the biggest restaurant in Frankfurt with 450 seats on the top of Eurotower. Boasting an international cuisine, it is a must visit. Aubergine (Alte Gasse 14) is a reasonable French restaurant with good service, although it only opens in the evening at weekends. Tse Yang (Kaiser Strasse 67) is the best choice for Chinese food. It is good value for money for business lunches.

After sunset, the city attempts to charm visitors with diverse entertainment centred around dining and dancing, perhaps less racy than Berlin’s or Hamburg’s, but strong enough. With the sun going down, so do the business shutters, giving things a more relaxed beat. Whereas the daytime rhythm is all about trade and finance, the night action comprises a world of cabarets, nightclubs and classy discos. The lights are bright and the music loud, but it never gets glitzy.

The city is easy in a sense. With its subtle sense of preservation, Germany’s commercial capital is intrinsically a part of the Old Germany: the city of Goethe, the city of letters. Strolling down the Main, one sees thousands of office-goers out for a quiet lunch or a walk by the river. Essentially a city of history and commerce, it does not impose, which makes it easy to discover...

Accommodation

The city has hotels of all categories from deluxe down to budget class, and bookings can be done at the airport itself. Upper-end hotels’ tariffs range from Euro 200-300. Standard hotels’ tariffs range from Euro 80-120.

Hilton Hotel Frankfurt
Hochstrasse 4, 60313 Frankfurt
Tel: (069) 1338000, Fax: 13381338
The hotel is in the immediate vicinity of the Stock Exchange, the business and shopping district and the famous Opera House. The 342-room hotel offers the best in modern facilities, comfort and relaxation.
Rate: Without breakfast Euro 200 onwards

Maritim Hotel Frankfurt
Theodor-Heuss-Allee 3, Frankfurt
Tel: (069) 75780, Fax: (069) 7578 1000
The Maritim Hotel features a high standard of comfort and the latest security features. The hotel has executive and non-smoking floors and conference facilities and is located next to the Fairground and the Congress Centre. Ideally situated for visitors to the city, it has a warm and welcoming atmosphere, with the emphasis on friendly and hospitable service.

Arabella Sheraton Grand Hotel Frankfurt
Konrad-Adenauer-Strasse 7
60313 Frankfurt am Main
Tel: (069) 29810, Fax: (069) 298 1810
The modern, state-of-the-art Grand hotel is located in the heart of the city. Frankfurt’s main shopping area ‘Zeil’ is within 100 metres, and the financial district is within walking distance. The three wings are constructed around a daylight atrium. With its facilities, service and luxurious guestrooms, the hotel has taken a leading place in Frankfurt’s hospitality scenario.


Accommodation

Steigenberger Frankfurter Hof Hotel
Am Kaiserplatz, 60311 Frankfurt am Main
Tel: (069) 21502, Fax: (069) 215 900
An elegant hotel since 1876, the Frankfurter Hof combines European hotel tradition, service and the experience of more than a century of hosting guests. The Frankfurter Hof is equipped with the latest technology for business travellers with private fax, modem, video conferencing and PC-connections.

Frankfurt Marriott
Hamburger Allee 2-10, 60486 Frankfurt
Tel: (069) 79550, Fax: 79552432
Rate: With breakfast Euro 150 onwards
The Frankfurt Marriott offers elegant surroundings and a fantastic location for business travellers - opposite the exhibition grounds and the new Congress Centre Messe Frankfurt. There are 10 meeting rooms, a business centre and a ballroom for conferences, while the deluxe guestrooms on the executive floors offer all business facilities, as well as the Executive Lounge for relaxation. For more healthy recreation, the Fitness Oasis contains a sauna, whirlpool and extensive fitness equipment.


SHOPPING

Literally, the world is for sale at hundreds of outlets that cover the entire gamut of humble shops right up to exclusive designer boutiques that flash designer labels. The centre of the city boasts the Hauptwache, which has dozens of department stores and speciality shops on two shopping levels, selling everything from flowers to jewellery and fashion items. Seconds away is the Zeil, Germany’s biggest, best-stocked and busiest shopping area with large department stores and clothes and shoe stores, set amidst a spacious pedestrian zone. Here, one gets a wide range of prices to suit all budgets.

If you’re looking for clothes, leather, hi-fi, or camera equipment, try the shops in the Kaiserstrasse, while ultra exclusive stores tempt buyers in the Goethestrasse. For paintings, antiques and old books, try the Dom and Fahrgasse. The Kleinmarkthalle, an indoor fresh-produce market, sells every fruit, vegetable, spice and meat stuff one can think of.


Nightlife
Many of Frankfurt’s top hotels have excellent bars that are particularly popular with visiting business people. Belying its rather staid image, Frankfurt has a lively club scene; techno is particularly popular. The best venues for live music are around Kleine Bockenheimer Strasse otherwise known as Jazzgasse (Jazz Alley). If an up-to-the minute scene is more your style try Oppenheimer and Orionbar, next door to each other on Oppenheimer Strasse, which offer excellent cocktails to a trendy crowd. The Lifestyle Bar at the Maritim Hotel is also the place for superb cocktails. Nachtleben, Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse 45, is two places in one: upstairs a trendy bar and downstairs a dance club playing house on Thursday and drum ’n’ bass on Saturday. Try Galerie, Dusseldorfer Strasse 1-7, where the young and trendy enjoy live sets, dance music, theatre performances and unusual art exhibitions. A palatial villa in Bethmann Park is the chic setting of the Odeon disco, Seilerstrasse 34.

BASICS

Tips:

  • Germans are very punctual and appreciate punctuality. It is advisable to arrive for meetings a few minutes early. While traffic congestions are rare, they can hold you up and this should be kept in mind.
  • One doesn’t tip staff at most restaurants. A service charge is normally included in the bill. However, it is common to tip porters.
  • The area around the Main Rail Station can be a bit dangerous, if you’re out walking around alone at night. It’s best to seek advice on such matters from your local hosts or hotel staff.

Business Hours: Banks are open Mon-Wed 8.30 am-1 pm and 2.30 pm-4 pm, Thursday till 5.30 pm, Friday till 3.30 pm.
Telephone Code: 0069
Excursions: Available are several round-trip cruises on the romantic Main river, and downstream (May-October), to the Rhine, past Mainz and the legendary Lorelei, besides other excursions to Aschaffenburg and Rudesheim. There are bus excursions to the Taunus Hills with their medieval hilltop villages and famous health spas.
Holidays: Jan 1, Mar 29, Apr 1, May 1, 20, Oct 3, Dec 24, 25, 26, 31.
Getting Around: The city and its surrounding regions within a radius of 40 km are connected by a convenient system of public transportation known as the Frankfurter Verkehrs-und Tarifyerbund. This apart, city and commuter buses, streetcars, subways (U-bahn) and commuter trains (S-bahn) service each area with flat fares that include any necessary transfers. Tickets can be purchased (except at bus stops) with coins from the blue automats.
Business Etiquette: Frankfurters are impressed with efficiency and strong business sense. These are displayed in their business style: firm handshakes, formal use of business cards, and an appreciation of straight talking. Business contacts must be addressed by their surname and by the formal ‘Sie’ for ‘you’. Both men and women are expected to wear suits; men should also wear a tie.