November 17, 2001
Dear Friends and Family,
We moved from romantic to prosaic roads as we headed to Aschaffenburg, just east of Frankfurt. We had several goals: fix a minor car problem; visit some friends in Cologne; get on planes to San Francisco (Marianne) and Kyiv (John).
Aschaffenburg has the normal center of market square, cathedral, rathaus and castle but we arrived late and limited ourselves to the first priority of any new town: find our hotel. This time, no problems at all. We're getting to be pretty confident.
Friday morning we started with the Porsche dealer. Marianne's German got a workout, as we had to explain the problem to the maintenance manager. "Tachometer" wasn't in her normal vocabulary but we could easily demonstrate that when the engine went zoom, the tach remained motionless. That translated OK. Timing for the repair was a bit tricky. They said it was going to take two days and we said fine, take two weeks. While the general manager wasn't too keen on the idea, the maintenance guy said no problem, he'd squeeze the car in the shop somewhere. Great. We get the car repaired and safely stored thanks to Porsche Zentrum Aschaffenburg. They even gave us a ride back to the train station. Thanks guys.
About this time, we called our friends to make arrangements for our Cologne visit. Unfortunately, they had just received news that an elderly father was ill and they would need to cancel our Saturday lunch. We said we were sorry for the problem and would need to arrange another lunch -- sometime, somewhere.
So, we had the prospect of a day and a half touring in Frankfurt. What to do? Our Fodor's Guide is completely silent on Frankfurt. Our recollection from earlier trips is of a big industrial city, certainly not a Romantic Road medieval village. Oh well, we feel we can visit anywhere now and make the most of it. So we took a train from the Aschaffenberg Hauptbanhof (main train station) to the Frankfurt Hauptbanhof. Believe me, the Frankfurt banhof is a lot more "haupt".
We were loaded with suitcases and just wanted to walk directly from the station to the hotel so we'd made hotel reservations to avoid the worry of knowing where to go. Good idea. Unfortunately, we'd forgotten the name and address of the place. Bad idea. It makes us seem like amateurs. We did remember the hotel chain though, so we just ended up finding the right place by eliminating wrong places.
We started our Frankfurt tour by simply walking from the hotel down to the Main River and looking back at the city skyline. The late afternoon sun did a good job of dressing up the city. However, after dark, our hotel neighborhood, and the Hauptbanhof area generally, were considerably less dressy. Big cities are that way I guess.
We started Saturday with a few museums, starting with the applied art museum. The special exhibition was about blood. Kinda weird. There were displays on the European beliefs about blood over the last two thousand years in religion, art and, naturally, medicine. After 15 minutes, we'd had all we needed of this but we could not find a way to anything else in the building.
At the last minute, on our way out actually, we saw an elevator. There was no indication of what lay on upper floors and we had seen no one go beyond "blood". Oh well, as Yogi Berra's once said: "When you come to a fork in the road, take it". We got in the elevator and took it to the top.
We found a delightful array of applied art from around the world: pottery, furniture, decorations, even carpets and other Islamic art. We had two floors of good stuff almost to ourselves. Applied art museums are like combination antique and home decorations stores - but nothing is for sale. This matches our current situation perfectly.
We also toured a museum showing Frankfurt's Jewish history. There was a complete model of the original "ghetto" that had been squeezed between the center market area and the Main River. Thousands of people lived, worked and worshipped in just a few walled-off blocks. There were other displays of Jewish life generally, with temple and household artifacts from the ghetto and elsewhere. The overall impression was a very personal and specific look at part of history.
Some day, we hope to tour countries with both Islamic and Jewish art and history - some day when that part of the world discovers that peace is possible. Germany provides a good background for such hope, not for the atrocities of the 20th Century but for the internal reconciliation from a hundred years before. The country came about in the mid 1800's after a millennium of competition and war between neighbors. It was only then that walls around cities became decorative, not functional and the roads became romantic not treacherous.
Enough speech making. In our Frankfurt tour we also covered yet another modern art museum, Das Stadel. More Matisse, Manet, Degas, Rembrandt, etc. More Picasso too. This time we looked at the museum index and just went to rooms of artists "we" (= Marianne) like. It's clear that it's possible to spend a lifetime studying the art in European museums - or American museums for that matter. I suppose I should study more. Can old engineers learn new tricks?
Next, we wandered into the Communication Museum. There were no Great Masters in here. It was a lively and colorful space with hands-on places for children - and teachers I suppose. Off in one corner, there was a workshop where kids could assemble electronic-age rejects into their own masterworks. Fun.
Finally, we took a stroll down Frankfurt's central shopping street. Reportedly, this is the highest concentration of stores in the country. We can't prove that, but there was certainly many, many more than we had need for. Shops were all in Christmas decorations by now and it was festive despite the gray skies.
So, maybe Frankfurt isn't so bad after all. The Hauptbanhof neighborhood may be a bit grungy but from there it's easy to cover museums, shopping and a river walk. (Picture xxx)
On Sunday, Marianne and I went opposite directions. She took a 12-hour flight to San Francisco where Gabby was waiting. I took a 2-hour flight to Kyiv where Yuri was waiting. She would spend the next two weeks in warm California visiting family and friends. I would spend the next two weeks working where it was not quite so warm. For the first time in seven weeks we would not be within a few feet of each other.
We will resume the Road Trip in December and probably see even more museums, markets and restaurant meals. Right now, we don't know exactly where the Road will lead us but I think it's time for warmer weather. Maybe we'll even drive with the top down!
Take care and enjoy the holidays, no matter what you call them.
John and Marianne
Created November 24, 2001.
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