If you’ve been following this site for some time, you know that I happen to run this site practically full-time while possessing a full-time position as an editor at a publishing house in Midtown Manhattan. And as you can imagine, that often means very little sleep and all kinds of conflicts when it comes to time and availability. Somehow, i’ve managed – and i get to do things i love which also helps…
My full-time employer, like countless publishers across the world, participates in the Frankfurt Book Fair. Unlike Book Expo America, which is more of a marketing and promotion tool than anything else, the Frankfurt Book Fair is primarily about business. Houses are there to make deals on translation and international rights, and it can be quite lucrative for everyone involved – for a smaller company, attending Frankfurt can bolster the books for the fiscal year, depending on the house’s list and the kind of interest the list receives. This year, upper management sent me along with my colleagues in Marketing and International Rights, as part of a plan to rotate the attendance between members of the editorial staff. And of course, for me the trip was at times fascinating and very profound for me on a personal level as it was my first trip outside the States.
We landed in Frankfurt am Main on Monday morning and quickly went to our hotel in the lovely spa town of Bad Soden, about a half hour or so outside of the fair site and downtown Frankfurt. That night was a quiet night as members of our small team were suffering from jet lag – I somehow managed to stay up some 30+ hours while being relatively composed.
The next day we took the train out to the fair site, the Messe to set up our booth, and it’s difficult to explain how gigantic the fair site is – if you’ve ever been to the Jacob Javits Center here in New York, imagine 11 buildings the size of the Javits Center and they’re all connected to each other by a series of passageways and walkways. After a couple of hours of setting up our booth, we all had some free time to wander around as we saw fit. Our Director of International Rights suggested that I should check out the Konstablewache section of town, as it was near the old Roman section of town – I was told that I would see old Roman ruins but thanks to some construction I wasn’t able to see it. However, I did see some of the older parts of town, renovated after World War II including a couple of gorgeous Catholic Churches. But I have to admit, wandering around as a stranger in a foreign land where I didn’t know the language, knew few souls and looked completely different from most of everyone else around me was one of the most profound and lonely feelings I’ve ever experienced. Although most people in and around Frankfurt spoke English. I had a few experiences when wandering off to a bar in Bad Soden where it was particularly difficult because I couldn’t understand anything that was going on and I couldn’t communicate anything beyond very simple requests.
Of course, I took pictures and have more stories so let’s begin…
My new passport with it’s first visa stamp at the Frankfurt am Main airport. Interestingly, entering and leaving the European Union is much easier than leaving and entering the United States – even as a native born citizen.
So I had to Google something and the German Google immediately came up. Yep, you’re in another country, pal.
At several of the bigger metro stations, you’ll get off and see a ton of shops and vendors, like this fruit stand at the Konstablewache stop. Not too far from the fruit stand you can get your watch repaired, pick up dry cleaning, do your banking and even stop in a bar for a quick half a liter of beer. Not only is beer readily available almost everywhere, it’s relatively cheap and extremely good. And by relatively cheap, a half liter of beer, which is about a pint or so, is generally about the same price as a bottle of Coca-Cola in Germany. We’re talking about maybe 3 and a half euro or about maybe 5 or 6 bucks. A liter of beer was between 8 and a half euro and about 9 and a half euro or about 12 bucks. And no matter what I had whether it was a pilsner, an ale, a wheat beer, it was utterly fantastic. No additives, no bullshit – just water, hops, wheat, yeast. Trust me, there’s something about drinking German beer in Germany, in the fall. I can’t think of many things better than that.
At the Konstablewache station, and a few others they have a public bathroom and I had a rather dumb American moment. The men’s bathrooms consisted of what I later learned of a trough where you can urinate and another room with toilets where you can defecate. Naturally, I didn’t realize this at the time and had to urinate and went to the first free thing I could go to relieve my bladder. And when I walked out of the toilet, a very severe security guard began yelling and pantomiming in German about how the trough was for when you needed to pingle. He was pantomiming the act of urinating for me. And how the toilet was for defecating. It was embarrassing but on a certain level kind of funny. Thankfully that was one of only a few dumb American moments i had.
After getting off the metro stop, Citroen was sponsoring an event which featured a breakdancer doing his thing to German hip hop. And it brought out a decent crowd on the rare gorgeous fall day I saw while there. Not far from where this event was, there was a McDonald’s, a Starbucks, and a bit further down the street, a recently opened Dunkin’ Donuts. It was all very surreal.
Here a balloon vendor takes a moment to smoke a cigarette.
This was a gorgeous fountain that the locals would just sit at to meet friends or just to daydream. it became a regular and favorite site of mine whenever I walked around that section of Frankfurt.
I caught this man and I knew I needed a picture of him.
I walked over to the older section of town, and near an old church I had a liter of Hanan Alt and a cigar while spending some time scribbling in my journal until I ran into my coworker and friend Lynsey walking right past me. I called out to her and she stopped by to join me for a beer and some conversation before we wandered around more of the town.
Each church would have it’s bells chime exactly on the half hour and on the hour.
Some of the artwork near the Romer section of Frankfurt. The detail on it is incredibly intricate. Not far from the Romer section was a gorgeous Catholic Church – I think it was called St. Bartholomew. I wound up stopping in it more than once. Although my relationship to an infinite being has been indifferent, I loved the hushed and reverent silence and the immenseness of the church. And I couldn’t help but think of the thousands of souls who sat in the pews seeking solace and peace. Also, the artwork and iconography was both gorgeous and sad.
Lynsey and I wound up walking towards the Hauptwache station, where we caught this interesting statue. To be fair, I didn’t know it was Haupwache until a few days later when i met a friend there. What a pleasant feeling to see a friendly, smiling face come out of a crowd when you’re a stranger. I could have cried out in joy.
I was told by several different sources that this tower had a mythic story of star-crossed lovers. Sadly, no one remembered the exact story.
For a country traditionally known for it’s orderliness, attention to detail and efficiency that seems to be a bit of a lie as you did see quite a bit of graffiti around. Some of it was pretty good but some of it was pretty shitty. And on occasion you did see some garbage around but you never saw anyone actually liter, jaywalk or defy the law like New Yorkers. On a certain level, that just struck me as odd.
Apparently, there was an election that either happened or was about to happen. I saw placards for various politicians everywhere in town.
Here is the lovely old opera house. Not far from there was a statue of Goethe where Lynsey and I saw two drunks happily drinking underneath. I didn’t take a picture of them because – well drunks overseas are a whole new animal to me.
The English speaking publishers had their own hall. with very different security measures. It was the only hall where they actively searched bags because – well, Americans. In any case, this adorable Smurf was part of a publisher’s booth and I had to take a picture.
During a break I realized I needed to try to exchange some dollars to euro and was told that there was somewhere near the Messe where i can do so; however, I wasn’t able to find it and wound up wandering outside on the streets of Frankfurt for a bit.
This mural was found on the wall of an non-demoninational church a few blocks away from the Messe. When I saw it, I was struck by the vibrant colors and it’s size.
What made this statue interesting was that it moved – it hammered whatever was in it’s palm.
On the last two days of the fair, the general German public is invited to wander around the fair grounds. And man, do they enjoy their intellectual pursuits. You just saw several hundred thousand Germans wandering around the property asking questions and looking for interesting things. Apparently, German kids are really big into cosplay and you’d come across several hundred kids dressed up in elaborate costumes – just for the fair. i had heard about it for quite some time and couldn’t wait to see it.
In one of the German hall – there were two! – I came across this recreation of how old books were stitched and bound.
The final product was a gorgeous, bound book. Just look at the detail in the artwork and how much time that would have taken.
I caught this guy singing children’s songs in German and i’m sorry German is an ugly language. Even children’s songs sounded harsh and kind of wrong.
This young woman took a few moments to explain what the deal with the costumes were. She explained that they were doing cosplay, something I was familiar with back in the States.
These lovely young women were doing a dance routine to some German pop song right by Hall 1, which was the host to the fair’s honored guest, Brazil.
These young women happily posed for me.
Frankfurt metro system map. After about a day or so, it became very familiar. In some way, the map should remind you of the Washington, DC Metro system.
This is the interior of the Frankfurt Main Train station. You can catch several trains to various locations in Europe,
I walked a few blocks west and wound up in Frankfurt’s Wall Street, when i came across this European Union symbol. And no too far was a political rally with folks protesting Monsanto.
If there’s one thing that translates everywhere it’s that no one seems to like Monsanto.
Back near the Konstablewache, I came across this political rally. They had German police hold up traffic for them and as they marched around.
Although it was a damp, raw day I finally got a chance to see the Main River, a tributary of the Rhine. On the other side of the river was the artsy (or so i was told) Saxenhaus section of town.
Bad Soden, the town we were staying in is known for it’s mineral baths and has developed a reputation for being a spa town. You’ll pass several mineral springs where they’ll tell you the exact concentrations of certain elements in the water, and what kind of curative effects they should have. But beyond that, it’s a lovely and very sleepy German village.
This house was built by a famous architect and artist and it has quite a design to it.
i passed by this lovely German church, near a beautiful little park. As I was walking by the church bells rang to signify that it was time to go to church. It was the only thing you’d hear for several blocks around.
Bad Soden comprised of all of these twisting and turning little streets. Walking around them at any given time could make you feel lost until you remembered that they all lead back somewhere familiar.
These were probably the most elaborate costumes I had seen at the fair yet.
I came across this model train, which depicts Frankfurt and it’s metro system in the Frankfurt Main station during my last hours in Germany.
The last liter of German beer while in Germany. And you better believe that I needed it desperately before my flight back to JFK.
An accurate map of the Frankfurt metro system.
For these photos and more, check out the Flickr set here: