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!
I’ve never had so much fun at an airport gate before: I was lucky enough to be a passenger on the inaugural flight from San Diego to Munich. I’d been looking to burn these Lufthansa miles for years, but the pandemic came along, and then, well…you know the rest of the story. There were already so few international flights from San Diego (three to be exact) and Corona Virus knocked it down to zero. It was so good to see them slowly return, including this new SAN-MUC flight.
The party at the gate included an accordion player complete lederhosen, free pretzels and ginger beer, and an official ribbon cutting by airport staff and some of the Lufthansa corporate players. They actually brought the captain in from the aircraft to slice the big red ribbon. I’m always excited to be at the departure gate in general – but the music, festivities and special ceremony just amplified my enthusiasm. I even made it on the news: Look Mom, I’m on TV!
Across the Pond
The flight was great: business class, complete with champagne before takeoff and fantastic in-flight service. They even offered pajamas to us biz passengers. It was a shame I couldn’t take them with me – I was traveling with just one backpack for this ten-day, around-the-world journey. I had zero real estate to part with in my luggage.
After the food and drink came the slumber. The lie-flat seats were fantastic and our flight experienced very little turbulence. I slept so well that I completely missed breakfast. I awoke with just 50 minutes left on the flight and was on the ground before I could even fully awake.
Let’s go to Munich!
Still in a daze, I made myself over to immigration. The officer had a chuckle when he realized I was going into town for just a few hours. I’d landed at 1:35PM and would need to get to the airport with plenty of time for my 8PM flight onward.
Next, it was over to “Left Luggage” to store my bag – too heavy to lug around town. Then, I grabbed a taxi to take me into Munich. 80 Euros? YIKES! I would’ve taken the train but didn’t want to miss my 3:30pm appointment. At least this was a very nice taxi (Mercedes Benz), complete with charging cables, bottled water and comfy seats.
Soon, I was being dropped off at the Marienplatz (Our Lady’s Square) where I’d meet the Archduke of Duckionary, the honorable Arthur C. De Tourneau, for a lunch meeting. Duckionary is a micronation located inside Austria. The Archduke and his Minister of Foreign Affairs (who may or may not have been Arthur’s mother) had taken the train into Germany just to meet with me. I was honored!
We’d have lunch at Schneider Bräuhaus and sign a treaty between our two nations. Oh, you didn’t know that I was “The Sultan” of Slowjamastan? You better read up on The Republic of Slowjamastan HERE. Please don’t judge me.
Short but Sweet
I don’t think I realized how tight my connection was until I was already downtown. My next flight would leave at 8PM and it was already approaching four – and you should really be at the airport at least two hours before an international flight…and even that’s cutting it close. I hated not having more time to spend with the Archduke and his staff – especially after they traveled all this way – but I could not miss my flight. We wrapped up lunch and I was on my way to the train by five. The S-Bahn took me right into the airport where I passed security with only about ten minutes to spare before boarding. Talk about tight – wow!
I would have loved to spend more time in Munich, but I was so happy to see some beautiful buildings, devour some fantastic food (and drink), and spend time with such great people. I’ve been to Germany three times now yet have never spent more than a night there. I really nee to make it a point to spend some real time there.
This is Getting Ridiculous
This was my fourth trip to Germany and, in total, to date, I’ve only spent but one night in the country. My first trip in was 2015, where I spent the night in a small town called Kusel, before heading to Luxembourg. The three trips after that, including this one, have all been layovers. Man, I’ve really gotta commit to spending a little time exploring Germany…and slower. But for now, let’s recap this Extreme Layover in Frankfurt.
The route: Mexico City to Brussels, with a six-hour, 40-minute connection in Frankfurt via Lufthansa. After all the formalities of getting out of and back into the airport, that would leave me just about two hours to run around the city. Challenge accepted.
Luckily, immigration was very quick, but it took longer than expected for me to find the airport’s baggage storage area – leaving your bags behind is always a must if you want to enjoy your layover in the city. When that part was finally sorted, it was onto to the S-Bahn train to Central Station. Oh, how I love airports with trains connected to them!
It had been three years since I was in Frankfurt – the last time being July 2020, right in the thick of the Corona Virus explosion. Then, the streets were much emptier. The first thing I noticed this time, stepping out of the train station, was how multi-cultural the city was, at least the parts surrounding the train station. There were more Black and Brown people than blonde-haired, blue-eyed Germans, which I thought was interesting. I would’ve stopped for Turkish food if I had more time, but I didn’t. I had one destination in mind, and that was a return to Kleinmarkthalle for food! I’d had such great memories of the smörgåsbord of munchies at the indoor market from my last trip – I’d been dreaming of returning. I set my GPS and took the familiar route along the Main River, meandering through the fairy tale-esque Römer (plaza). It sure looked different with all the tourists this time!
Reunited and it Feels So Good
Though it was nice to be back at Kleinmarkthalle, I must’ve come at the wrong time. Though open, about half or more of the stalls were closed up. There were still some decent options, but this was not the market I remembered in 2020. I settled for a coffee and pastel de nata (Portuguese pastry) before heading back out to The Römer for a hefty slice of Frankfurter Kranz (German Crown Cake). It was good and terribly sweet, and made the short visit to Frankfurt “official,” at least in my mind – it’s literally the cake of Frankfurt.
Flight SN2618 Now Boarding for Brussels
Soon, it was time to head back to the airport. I’d seen what I came to see (and taste) and couldn’t risk missing my flight out to Brussels. They say nothing is ever as good as your first time, and such was the case during this quick trip in Frankfurt. I had zero complaints – but it certainly wasn’t as magical as my first Extreme Layover here, in 2020. After all, I wasn’t even supposed to be in Germany in July of 2020 (technically I was in the EU illegally, with pandemic restrictions), so I’m sure that added to the allure. It’s always more fun going places you’re not supposed to be.
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