A marketer was on the phone with me, asking why I hadn't bought wine from their website despite having signed up ages ago. Instead of telling him I had been getting stingy with buying things online, I told him I had just come back from Germany, Frankfurt in fact, to which he commented that when he was in Germany but not in Berlin, he kept wishing he was back in Berlin.
I love Germany. Love love love it.
I might be a bit biased having spent 6 months on exchange in Dusseldorf, to the west of Germany, in my last year of university and just falling in love with the easy going, but well organised lifestyle.
And sauerkraut. Yuhum.
So of course, when my hairdresser, who I've been modelling for for four years, got the gold in the Australian Well Trend Vision finals last year, I was screaming for joy, as the finals were due to be held in Frankfurt this year.
Free trip? Yes please!
I feel like German's get a bit of a bad rep sometimes, I've heard people say they are unfriendly and a bit cold, but I've always found the complete opposite. Unlike one of their neighbours, if you speak broken German to them, they instantly switch, and always accommodate to help the best they can. Sure, they might be a bit efficient, and therefore a bit brisk at times, but this doesn't mean unfriendly.
To me Frankfurt makes me think a bit of Melbourne, a city that's not necessarily got a lot of sight seeing landmarks, but a perfectly nice city to just exist in.
I mean, it's just beautiful stumbling on to the Konstablerwache market in Frankfurt, at the end of the famous shopping strip, the Zeil, which on Thursdays and Saturdays sell a myriad of fresh produce, food, flowers and overflows with Apfelwein and beer. We happened to get in on a Wednesday before a public holiday, so the market was fortunately on the Wednesday instead of the Thursday!
And goodness, the produce! The abundance of lusciously red strawberries, there's just something so sweet about European strawberries, fresh herbs galore (smelling amazing) and gorgeous blushing radishes and rhubarb.
Oh and the asparagus. THE ASPARAGUS.
Spring is absolutely the best time to be in Germany, because the weather is really quite pleasant; cool, but usually sunny, but more importantly…because it's asparagus season! I was on absolute mission once I got in to get as much of it as I could, and quickly inspired the #germanasparagustour2014 hashtag!
I mean, just look at those great big spears! I kept forgetting to take proper pictures after I poured the hollandaise sauce on just because I was that excited. A blogger losing etiquette? Yup, asparagus has that power over me. So sweet, so tender. Mmhmm.
Despite it's position as a business hub, Frankfurt has some of the most gorgeous buildings, the cathedral, the Dom, whilst not quite as impressive as the one in Cologne, is still gorgeous, towering over the Romerberg Plaza, a quaint square lined with medieval styled buildings. Apparently the Christmas markets here are popular…I can only imagine how picturesque it must be!
It has hard to set a foot wrong in Frankfurt when it came to food. One of our favourite spots to eat ended up being on the top floor at the Galerie Kaufhaus, one of the biggest shopping centres, where a 'pay as you go' style buffet model, quite common in Europe, functioned happily, with fresh goods and amazing views.
Really though, as long as there was sauerkraut, bratwurst and apfelwein floating around nearby, it was all pretty good. Apfelwein is fairly unique to the state of Hesse, where Frankfurt is, and although many tend to call it cider, it's actually a unique apple drink all in itself, made by pressed apple juice that's then fermented with yeast.
Unlike the ciders that are well-loved in the summery Australian weather, Apfelwein, or Ebbelwoi as it's also known locally, is not so sweet and tends to err on the drier and not so sweet side. It's likely to not be appealing to most initially, but we found it quickly grew on our group (although I kind of liked it straight away). There's almost a touch of sourness to it even, just to really test your limits to see if you can commit to it's uniqueness. Definitely worth trying if one's in the area!
So of course, while in Frankfurt, I did my hair modelling thing, where I got transformed from this…
…to this, with the magic of my hairdresser and her assistant (who's a whiz with the make up).
And I got to be 'backstage' at an absolutely ginormous production, where I got pushed around like a real model. It was awesome! Even with the 5:45am pick up time for rehearsals, which lasted half a day…it ain't all glamorous!
I've also never had so many pictures taken of me before in my life!
Although I was quite happy to relinquish the very tight white skirt, and get back to one of my other true loves of Germany.
Dark beer. Oh goodness. There's just something about it! Smooth, sweet, fragrant, low on the gas. So comforting and lovely. The assistant who is a lovely Asian man kept going on about how he doesn't drink beer, but really really likes this dark beer…sure buddy…sure…
The one less traditional meal I had in Germany was at Vai vai (pronounced 'fai fai' if you're in Germany as all the v's are pronounced like f's), which had a more Italian inspired menu.
I loved the space, which felt quite Melbourne, open, casual, industrial and above all chic, with it's wall of windows looking out to the street gently blanketing the restaurant in night, as time went on.
The food as abundant, and delicious, I loved the presentation of the bread board, but I was absolutely swooned by the…you guessed it, white asparagus. Had here with a sweet strawberry vinaigrette, I was absolutely floored with how well the pairing worked. The indulgent richness of the strawberry emphasising the sweetness of the asparagus, but staying very fresh and light and just so springy. Ich liebe.
Post competition, I was fortunately able to stay on and see a little more of the city as well.
Once I separated from the group, I booked myself into the Apartments Duval, which is more of a service apartment really than a hotel.
It's a glorious old building, right across the road from the river. Just look at those stairs and the old school mosaic flooring! Getting in is easy, getting out even easier, and just a 5 minute walk from the station and a 15 minute walk to the heart of the shopping and eating district of Haupewache.
Germany is just so pretty. There's so much greenery, trees, and parkland. The riverside makes for the most gorgeous walking or jogging track, especially when the sun pours out from the sky.
I stopped by two museums, out of the many along the museum mile. The Stadel Museum was absolutely filled to the brim with paintings from the 1800's all the way up to now. I loved that the museum housed so many German artists (naturally) that I hadn't seen before, and the history of German art as it went through World War II was just fascinating. From the fact that the Nazi's amassed huge art collections and destroyed a lot of work, to seeing how the artist's subjects changed, to be in line with the regime.
Helps that it's in a totally stunning building as well.
But the Liebieghaus, a sculpture museum, really had the most beautiful grounds I had ever seen. I could have spent ages in their gardens just marvelling at the lushness of it.
Whilst the museum itself was pretty good (despite me creeping myself out because the museum was so quiet and dark and filled with statue faces staring at you…), it's really the grounds that caught my attention.
That and the flowerless chocolate cake at the cafe, with the warm and fresh lemon, mint and ginger tea. With a cold creeping up my throat, it was absolutely the perfect soother.
The Kelinmarkthalle in town, is a lovely 2 storey fresh food market, with a variety of goods available. With Queen Victoria Market at home which is much bigger, it's not as exciting as I was hoping, but I did love the hot sausage that I joined a queue for. You basically indicate how much sausage from their big coil that you want, they chop it off, weigh it and you pay by weight. Warm, tender, comforting. Mustard. Mmhmm!
At the Klosterhof, near my hotel slash apartment, a bustling little tavern, even on a Monday night, I settled in with a book and some traditional grub. Dark beer, a classic schnitzel Vienna, and a local specialty, hand kase, which literally translates to 'hand cheese'.
Although that might not sound so desirable, it's actually delicious. Two small slabs of cheese marinated in oil, vinegar and onions, makes for a surprisingly moreish starter. With a slightly chewy and dense texture, with a bit of bite but a lovely sweetness as well.
The Fressgasse (translates almost literally to 'grazing street') is a lovely walking street lined with all sorts of food. Although it's a little bit touristy in some spots, just make sure you join the corporate queues at lunch, and be the 'spot the person without the suit on', as you tuck into currywurst, fries, mayo and an Orangina.
It's the simple things.
Frankfurt's not all traditional though, and I loved Cafe Maingold, at the quieter end of the Zeil, with it's homely and slightly kitsch feel. The perfect spot to sink down with a slightly over milky chai, a book and rest the sore feet for a while.
It also happens to be 100 metres away from Epiphany, a fantastic second hand store, where I picked up this amazing Christian Lacroix blazer for just 65 Euros. Win!
I have to say being in Germany always amazes me. I love walking past cafes and seeing blankets left out on the seats for the cold weather, and the fact that no one runs away with them, or that there's enough trust in the general community that they won't be taken. I love that cars without fail will stop at a cross walk if you even look like you might be about to cross, I even almost kind of love that everything is closed on Sunday. It's a bit weird as a tourist, but I love that it encourages (or forces) the locals to spend time with each other, doing activities, and in turn, encourages the tourists to do the same, and actually go out to just wander the city and explore a bit more.
But…then again I could just be biased. But how can you blame me?
In my week in Frankfurt, I also managed to squeeze in a day trip to Dusseldorf, where I went to do my University exchange for six months…but there's so much nostalgia there, I'll save it for another post where I'll talk about pork knuckle and the best mustard…in the world……