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Frankfurt: Germany's small wonder getting more vibrant and enjoyable

If Frankfurt's famous son, the writer and poet Wolfgang Goethe were to return, he'd be pleased with what he'll see now.

travel Updated: Mar 27, 2015 17:42 IST

Frankfurt, the city where writer and poet Wolfgang Goethe was born in 1749 has been on the upswing, becoming ever more vibrant and enjoyable. According to Goethe, "Architecture is frozen music" and the best place to admire the city's breathtaking skyline is from the west bank promenade along the Main River, with Holbein steg, the pedestrian bridge in view.

A painting of Goethe, Frankfurt's most famous resident, by J.H Wilhelm Tishbein at the Stadel art gallery

From here, the gleaming glass towers harmonise with decorative styles such as the cathedral and the Paulskirche. Germany's leading business and financial hub is in front, and just behind, along the Schaumainkai, is a string of world-class museums. A short walk across the Eiserner steg (the iron bridge) leads to the Romerberg, an utterly charming square where half-timbered houses, painstakingly reconstructed after destruction in the war remind you of the medieval times. Nearby, is the Goethe museum and house, complete with the puppet-theatre he played with at the age of four.

Cosmopolitan city
Frankfurt is Germany's most global city, with a quarter of its 700,00 residents being foreigners. People are drawn to work in the financial services, the stock exchange and the recently-opened European Central Bank headquarters. Visitors flock to the trade shows, book fairs and art exhibitions. "It makes for a more welcoming and open atmosphere compared to other cities," said a resident. Catering to this cosmopolitan clientele are restaurants serving varied cuisines.

Those who call Frankfurt home love the fact that it is small. One can get from one place to another quickly and yet the amenities are those of a big city. The railways and autobahns converge here, and Frankfurt airport can waft one away directly to the likes of Windhoek in Namibia, Tashkent in central Asia, and Bogota in Columbia.

The old Opera house, Frankfurt

Cultural offerings such as opera, philharmonic, and the performing arts are of the highest quality. The art scene is vibrant with exhibits at the Stadel Museum, Schirn Kunsthalle and the Museum of Modern Art. Historically, Frankfurt has been a Stadt der Burger, or a state whose patrons were not kings or nobility, but the people at large who are responsible for the city's arts and culture.

Walking the streets, aficionados of modern architecture can visit buildings such as Norman Forster's Commerzbank headquarters, Helmut Jahn's pyramid-topped Messeturm and Mario Bellini's trapezoidal Deutsche bank towers. The foyers of many of these buildings are replete with contemporary art. Frankfurt's tree-lined neighbourhoods are quiet pockets where people can be seen riding bicycles, sorting their garbage and living responsible, green lives. 'Go to foreign countries," Goethe had said, "and you will get to know the good things one possesses at home."

Beyond Frankfurt
Forests, meadows and charming towns with historic castles surround Frankfurt. The Taunus Mountains are great for hikes, and the picturesque Rhine Valley can be enjoyed by boat from Frankfurt to Mainz and Koblenz. An hour's drive south is Heidelberg, an idyllic University town.

To experience the beauty of these lands is life-enhancing, which brings me to a rather amusing quote by Goethe, "Many people take no care of their money till they come nearly to the end of it, and others do the same with their time."

First Published: Mar 27, 2015 17:33 IST