Being away from your family can be quite hard. Even when you’re having the time of your life on your year abroad (like me!) and have all the technology in the world helping you keep in touch with your loved ones back home, there’s nothing quite like a catch-up in person.
Oh yes. Mummy Hosie has just paid me a visit, and it was delightful.
After a couple of days showing her round Bayreuth, plying her with local delicacies and trying to impress her with my (hopefully improved) German, Mutti and I got on a train to Frankfurt. Well, actually it was a train to Würzburg where we changed and got on a different train to Frankfurt but ANYWAY. Had I taken German grammar and vocab books as train entertainment? Yes. Did I in fact ignore said books and chat/eat all the way to Frankfurt? You betcha.
Stollen and (standard for Germany) weak tea = breakfast on the go
Now this trip to Frankfurt was my first foray to an area of Germany outside of Bavaria (excluding my trip to Berlin last year), and so, being the Bavaria-lover that I am, I was slightly unsure of what I’d think. Frankfurt am Main is known for being a centre of finance and business and is actually the fifth biggest city in Germany, don’tcha know. There are shiny skyscrapers galore, and as the train pulled into the station, I had a bit of a Dorothy moment and realised we certainly weren’t in Bavaria any more! Madre is actually half German, so we were off to Frankfurt to visit the last of our family actually living in Germany, my great aunt Ursula (whom we so affectionately call just ‘Tante’). Tante has lived in Frankfurt for decades. She’s nearly 90, yet she lives alone, in a flat on the fourth floor of a building, in the super cool area of Sachsenhausen. I hadn’t seen Tante for years, and was looking forward to actually being able to communicate with her (better than I used to at least.) When she came to meet us at the train station, Tante complimented me on my snood and told me purple is very in. But she said my nails should have been purple too, not turquoise. I know. What a babe.
Tante may not wear make-up or, well, modern clothes, but she always looks impeccably turned out, well put-together, clean and neat. Mama, Tante and I caught up over cups of tea in our hotel before the madre and I said goodbye and went off to explore the city for a couple of hours because who knows when I’ll be back or get another chance? Although it was a grey day, Frankfurt still charmed me. It seems like a really nice mix of old and new. Over the Eiserner Steg (pedestrian bridge) we strolled, admiring the view whilst being serenaded by street musicians. You know how Paris famously has the Love-Lock bridge (couples write their names on padlocks, lock them to the bridge then throw the keys into the river)? Well, Frankfurt is having a go at that too. I find you can often get a really good feel for a city in a mere few hours wandering round by foot, so that, dear friends, is what we did. Into the centre we went, through the Römerberg (the old central square, full of charming old buildings) and up through the main shopping streets. In comparison to my lovely little Bayreuth, it was totally buzzing. Sometimes I don’t think Bayreuth seems small, then I go to a big city like Frankfurt and I’m like WOAH.
One of the prettiest Starbucks I’ve ever seen
I’d almost forgotten places like Starbucks and Zara exist. There’s a new Primark in Frankfurt too, and it would seem the Germans are LOVING it. Every second person was walking round clutching a Primark brown paper bag. Just like in Leicester, really. Having visited Frankfurt a few times, Mother Dearest was being a fab little tour guide for the tourist that I am. Although we’d said we were going off to sightsee, we unsurprisingly got distracted by the shops. Mama took me into a sehr lovely second-hand designer shop full of beautiful things called Aschenputtel. Naturally, as soon as I entered the shop, my eye was drawn to a certain gorgeous purple Mulberry. Supposedly second-hand, but the condition looked new. Totes beauts, but alas, totes (still) too expensive (over 800 Euros.)
Next up, we paid a visit to a shoe shop across the road, Jordan. Just popped in. Just to have a look.
Yeah, right. Half an hour later, out we came with a new pair of knee-high, tan leather boots for yours truly. Oops. I swear my mother is such a bad influence. She’s always saying things like, ‘Just buy the boots! You’ve got your Erasmus grant now and they look so nice!’ and ‘Eat all the cake/chocolate/Wurst… Everyone gets fatter when they’re a student!’ Pfft. But hey, I’m not going to argue with my mother! I am very glad I bought them though. Realistically, a girl needs a pair of knee-high flat boots to get through the winter, and these are beautifully-made and a really good fit. What with my skinny ankles but big feet, it’s hard to find boots that fit properly, so really, I had no choice, did I? Ahem. We strolled on and found a very snazzy new shopping centre called Zeilgalerie full of boutiques – café-slash-clothes-shop-slash-mini-golf-course, anyone? Edgy, I know. It could almost have been Bristol. The coolest part was that you could go all the way up to the roof and thus get an amazing view of Frankfurt FOR FREE. Most places like that charge you to go up to the top, so we were definitely winning.
After embracing the view of what is commonly known as Mainhattan (clever, eh? I know how to appreciate a bit of wordplay!), we made our way back to Sachsenhausen via the cathedral. Tea and Tante’s was very cute. Entering her flat is a little bit like stepping into a timewarp, but I actually loved it. I like visiting elderly relatives, as they always have such interesting stories to tell and homes full of fascinating old things. Tante’s flat is, unsurprisingly, furnished with awesome old furniture, books and photos – the sorts of things that would sell for an awful lot of money at an upmarket store after being labelled ‘vintage’. My absolute favourite is her radio: it’s 60 years old, but still works a charm. She listens to it every day for the news at 7pm, and so did we. The sound quality is clear as could be, which is astounding. How many pieces of technology made today would last that long? After a leisurely dinner, we walked up to the Untermainbrücke to get a view of the skyline by night. With the reflections on the river, it was just beautiful.
We said goodnight to Tante, but Mama and I weren’t quite ready to go to bed yet. Schweizer Strasse is the main road in Sachsenhausen, full of cool boutiques, cute cafés and, famously, its traditional pubs. Frankfurt is known for its Apfelwein (locally known as Ebbelwoi and translated as ‘apple wine’), so, unsurprisingly, we found ourselves an authentic-looking pub and sampled the local drink for ourselves. As mum said. Mum and I decided Apfelwein tastes like flat cider, but while it’s no Federweisser (mmm), it’s a grower and was certainly enjoyable. Not wanting to get drunk, we obviously needed something to soak up the alcohol (mum and I are just sensible like that), so along with our Apfelwein, we shared the pudding of the day, Bayerische Creme (Bavarian Cream.)
I know, we weren’t even in Bavaria. I’m not entirely sure what it was made from, but it was creamy and sweet and yummy. The pub was called Zum Gemalten Haus, and was really buzzy on a Friday night. They constantly have dozens of glasses of Apfelwein ready on the bar, and it was full of people having a good time. I imagine if you’re a young professional working hard in Frankfurt all week, it’s a really fun place to let your hair down on a Friday evening. But Mummy Hosie and I were not part of the crew, so it was back to the hotel for us. Every night, I go to bed looking forward to breakfast (my life is really exciting like that), but as I snuggled up – hotel beds made up with fresh bedlinen are always such a treat – I was a little more excited than usual.
HELLO, HOTEL BREAKFAST.
Always great, am I right? The next morning, the mother and I made the most of the generous spread, taking our time to enjoy fruit, yoghurt, cereal, bread rolls, scrambled eggs, wurst, croissants with homemade jams, Nutella and honey, fresh fruit juices and numerous cups of tea and coffee. Well, it’d be rude not to, wouldn’t it? Sufficiently energised, we headed back to Tante’s before all going for a stroll around the area and over the Untermainbrücke. Rather delightfully, we got this lovely picture of all three of us. Definitely a keeper. Next up, Tante headed back to her flat, and for Madre and I, it was fleamarket time. Oh, how I love a good fleamarket! It takes place every Saturday morning along the river, and is absolutely fab for finding German gems at bargainous prices.
Chicken soup for the soul
Sure, there’s lots of tat and you sometimes have to be willing to rummage through rubbish to find something special, but I always find fleamarkets really interesting and lots of fun to look through. The Frankfurt one is really big, with loos and various food stands to keep you going along the way. That’s what I like to see. Nice and organised. We took our time to peruse the fleamarket’s offerings leisurely, and I loved all the old jewellery, tins and crockery in particular. I just love anything with German writing on! Excitingly, I managed to haggle (yes, really) my way to a couple of really lovely things. First up, these adorable little plates:
I bought the bottom left one for a cheeky three Euros
I’m not sure if I’ll hang it on the wall or actually use it, but I just think it’s so cute. I love Christmas and I love Germany, so it’s just perf really.
Even better though, is the coat we got.
Here is a slightly awkward mirror selfie of me wearing both my new coat and boots. Not only is it bang on-trend for A/W 13/14, it’s also one of a kind, made of gorgeous-quality and super-warm sheepskin, beautifully-lined, well-made and sizeable enough for me to wear lots of layers underneath when faced with deepest darkest Bayreuth winter. Shockingly, I don’t have a black coat either, which is just impractical really, isn’t it? The best part though? We got it for a mere 20 Euros! If that’s not a total barg, I don’t know what is. (Successfully haggled down from 35, might I add. Years of watching The Apprentice has finally paid off.) When mama and I met up with Tante again later, we asked how much she thought we’d bought the coat for. She duly inspected it, before coming to the conclusion of between 200 and 300 Euros.
When we told her it was only 20, the poor old woman was so shocked she had to sit down! The clouds had cleared, and happy with our fleamarket finds, the mothership and I sat down in a café by the river for a drink. With the late autumn sunshine sparkling off the water, it was really rather glorious. Thirst quenched and re-energised, we walked along the river by the pretty autumn trees for a while before turning into the main financial area. I felt tiny amongst the huge shiny skyscrapers, and it really did remind me of being in New York. We carried on until we reached the beautiful old opera house, the Alte Oper before slowly meandering our way back to Tante’s peeping into shops as we went.
The Alte Oper
Naturally, we wanted to peruse the interesting delis, and I thought these pumpkin cupcakes were just too cute not to share with you. So there ya go. Enjoy, and wish you had one right now. I know I do. Over another cup of tea each, Mother and I said our goodbyes to Tante and made our way to the station for yet another long journey home. Despite only having been in the city for 24 hours, it felt like much longer. I find it incredible just how quickly you can get a feel for a city, and I just love exploring new places. Travelling sure is exhausting though, even when you’re 21! As keen blog readers will know, I’ve already done a fair bit of travelling over the first six weeks of my year abroad, and I’ve realised that – unintentionally – I now have every weekend up until Christmas booked up. It’s going to be an exciting few weeks, which is just as well because it wasn’t half sad saying goodbye to Mama this morning. We had a delightful few days together though, and it’s always nice to have visitors. Especially ones who bring you homemade muffins full of plums from the garden. The puppy would’ve been better, but hey, I’ll take a muffin any day.