Frankfurt, We Have a Problem: About This Blog Entry
It’s hard for even me to believe that there was a time in my life when travel didn’t excite me. But there was.
There was actually a period in my life when I would travel–mostly cruises, with my family–when I didn’t have that travel “bug;” that unquenchable thirst for exploration, to see it all, as much as I could. I didn’t dislike traveling, but I certainly didn’t carry even ten percent of the enthusiasm I have today, I think because the travel was simply too organized. Piling off a cruise ship with 1,000 other American tourists and getting on a bus to see the main square for three hours never really did it for me. Of course, I’d soon discover my true passion for travel: going solo to off-the-beaten-track places to see things most have never even dreamed of…and well, you know the rest of the story.
Interestingly enough, this 2015 trip to Germany would mark the very beginnings of my personal travel style: the technique of hitting as many countries as I could in a short period of time, and solo. This was still before my writing and photography days, which is why the details are sparse and I took a whopping four photos of Germany. But I learned a lot on this trip, and these lessons are what I’m going to focus on this time.
This was a six-country trip that would start in Germany and end in Switzerland, in the summer of 2015. The entire trip was spawned by an offer from one of my flight attendant friends to hook me up with one of her “buddy passes.” Sounds awesome, right? Fly anywhere in the world for free? But I soon found out it wouldn’t be that easy, and anyone who’s flown with a buddy pass has probably felt my pain: the tickets are standby. That means you only get a seat if there’s space available, and you’re competing with a ton of other people using buddy passes too. Now, if you don’t have a job, and have time to wait around for days until a seat opens up, it’s tolerable. But that wasn’t me. And I wasn’t going to just that one destination. I made the dumb mistake of booking and paying for travel throughout six countries, all dependent on that first standby ticket to Frankfurt. I bought non-refundable flights all throughout Europe, along a really tight, nine-day schedule, so if I missed this first standby flight to Frankfurt, I’d be hosed.
Chaos ensued before it was even time to leave, with my friend having to switch flights last minute. My original flight was full. I finally ended up getting out of San Diego, middle seat, on a red-eye to Philly. That was brutal. Red-eye, coach and middle seat? I was hurting by the time I landed in Philadelphia. And my Frankfurt flight still wasn’t guaranteed and actually didn’t look good by the time I arrived in Philly. It wouldn’t leave til later that night, so I booked a room a room at the Marriott, right there at Philly International. PHL is one of those rare airports with a hotel actually connected to the terminal, which is always so freaking convenient. And I needed sleep.
I awoke from a call from my flight attendant-friend telling me that tonight’s Frankfurt flight was definitely oversold and I needed to get my ass downstairs to grab a seat on the plane to Berlin. Okay, got it! I threw on my shoes, grabbed my bags, and dashed downstairs to try and make it on the Berlin flight. I went to the gate and waited and waited and waited…until I was notified that there wasn’t anymore seats on that plane. Crap.
My last chance was a night fight to Munich, and I was relieved that I’d finally made it on to that one. But then how would I get to Frankfurt once I landed in Munich? The plane didn’t have WiFi, so I spent the entire flight wondering how I’d make it to my destination. Landing in Munich the next morning, I quickly jumped online and found a domestic flight on Lufthansa that would get me into Frankfurt by noon if I ran. I snatched it up, high-tailed it to the gate, and a few hours later I was finally in Frankfurt. Whew, exhale.
But man, by the time you account for the hotel in Philly, and the $250 Munich to Frankfurt flight, plus the taxes I had to pay for the “free” flight…I might has well just spent a few dollars extra and just bought a ticket to Frankfurt to myself. It really wasn’t worth the stress, and it could’ve lost a lot more: had I not been able to get to Germany or Europe at all, I would’ve lost all the money on my continuing flights and hotels. The lesson, at least for me: Don’t take standby again! And if I do, don’t book a bunch of stuff close together shortly after I’m supposed to arrive–in case I don’t arrive! I wasn’t lucky on the way home from Zurich a week later either: the flights were completely full and I had to get back to work, forcing me to buy a ticket home. It really wasn’t worth it whatsoever. Lesson learned.
And Now, Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Program
As I mentioned before, this trip was just the very beginning of my new travel passion, so I didn’t take a lot of photos or notes. But here are a few cool things I do remember.
I rented a car in Frankfurt to drive to Luxembourg. I wouldn’t spend much time in Germany on this trip, I used it more as a jumping-off point, and also a chance to meet up with an old friend from high school. Chary lived on Ramstein Air Force Base with her husband Carlos. It was on the way to Luxembourg, so this would work out perfectly. In Germany, rental cars are BMWs, so my drive from Frankfurt east towards Ramstein was fantastic! Sadly, I didn’t have time to see any of Frankfurt, but truly did enjoy the driving experience on the German highway. First, it was impeccably clean, the scenery was beautiful, and my favorite part: people actually know what the left lane is used for in Germany…to pass! I like these people!
I needed a nap badly. Two red-eyes in a row, in coach, and a drive. I was exhausted. This was one of the few times in my life I didn’t have any reservations for the night, I’d just wing it. Kusel was one of the closest towns to Ramstein, so I pulled in to have a look. What I discovered was a charming, sleepy German town that looked right out of the movies, or some storybook Disneyland setting. I popped in to the the town’s only hotel: Garni Saar, and thankfully they had a vacancy. I couldn’t do anything without sleep first, so I took a much-needed, deep nap. Between the jet lag and the lack of sleep, I was drained. I woke up just as the sun had started its slow summer descent and headed out to meet Chary and Carlos near the base.
Reunited and it Feels so Good
I hadn’t seen Chary since the ninth grade and we had a great time catching up. Along with husband Carlos, we dined on schnitzel and beer and reminisced on old times. It was great to catch up after so many years. I was still exhausted, so after the great meal, it was back to bed. I’d have another drive in the morning.
The next morning I had enjoyed some delicious German pastry at a shop next to my hotel and almost broke a tooth chomping down on a cherry seed. I forget that outside of the US, they serve cherries and olives with the pit included. Careful!
On my way out of town I took a drive up the hill to Lichtenburg Castle. The stone structure was constructed in 1200 and was certainly a cool surprise to run into. It was nice to stretch my legs and hike around the property before getting back on the road. I climbed the tower for a great view before saying goodbye. There weren’t many tourists around which made it even better.
Is That The End?
Man, just four pictures of Germany???!!! Four pictures?! What kind of travel blogger am I? But as I mentioned in the beginning, this was just the very start of my passion for travel. Since this trip to Germany in 2015, I’ve added 79 more countries to my passport (as of September 2018).
Though I was only in Germany overnight and took just four photos, Germany was the country that taught me many lessons. 1) Don’t fly standby. 2) If you do fly standby, don’t book a bunch of other non-refundable trips on the same itinerary. 3) German roads are awesome. 4) German drivers are more awesome! 5) Schnnitzel isn’t a hot dog. 6) Don’t bite down hard on pastries with cherries. Oh, and 7) Take more pictures!!! I said auf wiedersehen as I drove across the border and into Luxembourg. I’ll be back.
Thanks for putting up with my minimal notes and photos. If you’re looking for more in-depth country reports, there are over 100 countries on this website with extensive notes and stories. You can get started HERE; why not have a looksie?
2020: I’m Bach!
Normally I wouldn’t have been so excited to visit Germany: Nothing against Germany, I love Germany…but it’s usually an easy place to travel to and a very common destination for tourists – a big departure from the rare-slash-risky places that get my adrenaline pumping. But this time was different: You see, I wasn’t supposed to be in Germany.
The date was July 2, 2020 and the EU–including Germany–was shut down for Americans…off limits, locked up, no puedes entrar, do not pass go, do not collect $200. But thanks to a special invite/exemption from my friends in Hungary, I’d made it into the EU and for all intents and purposes, I was pretty much free to bop around.
This time I was en-route to Kyiv, Ukraine from Budapest, with an almost 5.5 hour layover in Frankfurt. I’d never seen the city, so I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to dash into town for some food before my connecting flight left. I’d have to make it quick, but with trains running directly in and out of the airport terminal, I felt I’d regret not seeing Frankfurt if I’d stayed inside the airport. So let’s go!
Rollin’ on the River
With no time to waste, I headed from the plane straight to the tracks. One thing I love about so many European airports: the fact that you can can jump on a train downtown, right there from the terminal. In minutes I was rolling towards the central station, on my way to explore the streets. I had no real plan, so I headed to the river for a morning stroll along the water.
This Little Piggie Went to Market
I was about to jump on a Bird scooter and take a ride along the river, when two police officers wagged their finger at me and explained I wasn’t allowed to ride scooters on this path. I used the opportunity to chat them up and ask them where I could find a good ol’ fashioned German bakery. They directed me to a place called “Klein Market,” (Kleinmarkthalle) but warned me that it was over a mile away. That was no problem for me and I thanked them and continued on foot. Part of me was a little nervous they’d find out I was American and haul me off to jail, but they were nothing but friendly and helpful. I passed through a beautiful old square called Römerberg Plaza before arriving at the indoor market. I’d been eating really healthy so far, in preparation for my stop at a bakery in Germany – I’d earned this treat and I was so ready. As expected, Klein Market was phenomenal…it was everything I wanted and more. Time to treat myself…I was about to get bakery-drunk!
I didn’t have time for much more during my 5.5-hour layover, but I did want to see the subway car that had been derailed and managed to crash through the sidewalk above. Well maybe that’s not what really happened, but the Bockenheimer Warte metro entrance is a piece of art designed to look like some freak metro accident, with a train car busting through the concrete. I had to see it! And since it was right there along the metro line, it was convenient for me to ride over to it quickly for some pictures and still be able to make it back to the airport on time.
Leaving on a Full Stomach
My Extreme Layover in Frankfurt was fantastic! A pleasant riverside stroll, a bounty of sugar and carbs at a locals’ market and a cool photo opp of one of the world’s most unique subway entrances – I’d say this venture into the city was certainly eventful. It always pays to get out of the airport!