I just arrived back to Munich from a trip to another old haunt, Frankfurt am Main. I went down Friday evening on the train and stayed with 2 of my favourite people in the world, Alexander and Peter. I know Alexander since 2004 after we used to drink in his bar in Alt Sachsenhausen after work in the Irish pub. He’s tall, thin, black, British, in his forties, exceedingly camp and one of the funniest guys I’ve ever met, and he’s also a good friend. Summer 2005, after I’d made my switch to the pink side, Alexander took me under his wing and showed me the scene in Frankfurt, and we had some great times. Peter’s his boyfriend and they’ve been together over 4 years. I only really got to know Peter better later on in 2005 but since then I’ve been back in Frankfurt at least twice a year and we’ve got on like a house on fire. We both have quite similar tastes, opinions, and he’s always up for a night out and a good laugh. I’ve really grown fond of him the more I’ve got to know him. I brought the guys out to dinner for being so great and for putting me up so often, including that hilarious long weekend where Julian, Gerard and I lived it up with them on the Bierbike at the CSD 2008, and I had that crucial interview at BMW the following Monday, and, well, we know how that worked out =]
Friday night Peter went with me to Pulse, a bit like The George of Frankfurt, full of pretty German boys, with 4 different rooms, each playing different music. Saturday then Peter brought me to a slightly less-than-legal party in the old East Station (Ostbahnhof). The place rocked my socks. When I talk about an underground party, I’m not talking about a knacker-infested, ecstasy-fuelled rave in the Wicklow mountains, nor a seedy lapdance club full of mafia and people sniffing cocaine off the tits of passed-out sluts. Quite the opposite, which was nice. The old waiting room of the station and a couple of smaller rooms made up a bar area and a small dance floor. The place hasn’t been changed since the old days, it has a dodgy looking mosaic of running animals on one wall, above the mirrors surrounding the bar was concrete with peeling paint, and all around the place were old lamps and black-and-white TVs. And it looked fantastic. Because you only hear of this type of unadvertised party through a friend, everyone seemed to know someone and the mood was happy, chatty, friendly – I had a great time. The music was old house and Latin beats (I think – Peter can correct me on this) and the beer was €2.50 =D
On the Saturday afternoon I had a wander around the high-rise city, financial capital of Europe (by “Europe” I mean the EU countries who took the Euro, and not just the Euros) and I shot some photos. The Commerzbank Tower, at 259 metres Europe’s tallest, dominates the high-rise Frankfurt skyline and glows yellow at night. Alexander’s and Peter’s apartment, with its 3 metre tall, floor-to-ceiling windows all around the living room, looks straight out onto this tower and the view is spectacular, especially after dark. Frankfurt’s 4th tallest, the Maintower, has a public viewing gallery on the top, and I’ve been up numerous times before. All of Europe’s (and Germany’s) biggest-known banks have either their headquarters or a significant operation in Frankfurt. It’s like a mini-New York. The river Main (pronounced like “mine”) flows through the city, and the locals sometimes refer to Frankfurt as “Mainhattan”.
My mode of transport was the Intercity Express (ICE). It’s a long, sleek, spearheaded machine which not only is the slickest looking piece of modern engineering, it also goes up to 300km/h and the ride is smoother and quieter than that inside a car at one tenth of that speed. Unfortunately there was a derailing at Köln/Cologne recently which has sparked a frenzy of safety measures to have been demanded of the Deutsche Bahn (DB, German federal rail company). As a result ICEs, which normally have to be checked every 300,000km, are being brought into the workshop every 30,000km and so the supply of running stock is not meeting demand. I had to sit on my suitcase most of the journey on the way down, but I managed to get a comfortable first-class seat on the way back. The return train had to be replaced with a standard Intercity (IC) without an on-board restaurant, but most of the carriages were 1st-class with comfy seats, just to keep the passengers happy. We were 15 minutes delayed leaving Frankfurt, after having to wait for other passengers to arrive on a late arriving ICE originally bound for Munich. We ended up in Munich a mere 25 minutes later than scheduled, despite the IC not being able to go at the speeds of its faster big brother. On this rare occasion where something goes wrong and off plan in Germany, needless to remark the DB staff had everything under control and, although there were a lot of frustrated faces wandering around the stations, it certainly came nowhere near chaos or even looking disorganized and, in fairness, there was a valid reason for the disruption. The staff furthermore went through the train and gave out free bottles of water to everyone so that anyone who had been planning to eat at the on-board restaurant (I included) at least wasn’t left dehydrated. I even got into a chat with a man about sailing, and he took down the ISBN number book on sail trim that I was reading. I gave him my email address and offered my services as crew, albeit there’s very little sailing going on now that it’s getting so cold. But I plan to have a boat and regular sailing sessions lined up in time for the season kicking off again next year. I miss it a lot, but in the meantime I have the snowboarding season to look forward to.
Back home in Munich now really does feel like home. On my past trips to Frankfurt I was always sad leaving my friends and the city which always seems to be partying non-stop, but this time happy in the knowledge that I was just a 3-hour (plus minor delays) train journey to the city I now call home. I can go back anytime and I definitely will.