Monday, July 8, 2013

Traveling Across the Pond to Frankfurt, Germany

Four hours on a bus, two plus hours at O’Hare International Airport, eight hours on a plane and another two hours waiting in the Frankfurt, Germany airport was what it took to get to Germany.  It was a long, full day of traveling.  Surprisingly though, it wasn’t as bad as what I expected.
I’ve never loved flying.  My husband, on the other hand, absolutely loves it.  If he wasn’t a meteorologist, he says, he would have done something with air travel.  He wasn’t stressed about the flight over seas; however I was dreading it.  The long hours in a cramped seat, with small, gross bathrooms just does not appeal to me, especially when I was going to be seven months pregnant at the time.
Our plane waiting for us!

Even though we traveled overnight, it never got completely dark.
We flew through Lufthansa, and were really catered to while traveling.  We had two meals on the plane along with a snack and free beverage service (both soft drinks and alcoholic drinks).  I guess that makes up for the fact that the seats were no bigger than the planes we use to fly to Atlanta, or other short distances.
We left O’Hare in mid-afternoon and flew overnight to Germany.  When we arrived to the country it was about seven in the morning Germany time.  We had basically gained almost a full day while traveling.  Once we got through customs, retrieved our bags and met with our tour guide on the bus, she encouraged us to stay awake for the rest of the day to get used to the seven hour time difference.
Even though I was running on “E” I took the tour guides advice and only rested shortly before taking a dip in the schwimmbad (pool) then heading out for the rest of the afternoon.
Our tour guide told us when dropping us off at the hotel that using the train or trolley system was very easy.  Both modes of transportation were just a short walk down the street.  Since our hotel was not in a neighborhood with any entertainment or sights nearby, we decided to try to use the public transportation.
We walked the few blocks down to the trolley station and stared at the route map.  To say it was confusing was an understatement!  After a walk back to the hotel to retrieve our Germany travel book for guidance (which didn’t turn out to have much guidance), we ended up finding a kind passerby to help us get tickets for the train into downtown.
The train was fairly cheap and quick to arrive downtown.  Frankfurt is the business and financial hub for Germany.  The city was very similar to what I was used to seeing around the states with tall skyscrapers and glass buildings.  Frankfurt is nicknamed Mainhattan because of the river Main, which runs through city and also because people believe it is similar to Manhattan with its business and financial reputation.
After we got off the train we were in search of food.  Since we had just arrived to the city, and do not speak the language, it was a little intimidating trying to read menus and decide where to eat.  I was starving by this point, so I saw a McDonald’s and out of defeat asked JC to just go get me a cheeseburger.  Luckily the McDonald’s in Germany are not that different, so we found a cheeseburger and fries in the basement of a building without air conditioning.
It might be a different country, but everything still tastes the same.
Then we were off to find the historic old center of Frankfurt called the Romerberg.  There are a number of 14th and 15th century buildings in this center along with the town hall.  Many of the buildings were destroyed or badly damaged during World War II, but reconstructed afterwards.  Many cafes, restaurants and shops are also part of the center as well as the Dom Saint Bartholomeus’ Cathedral.
We used our Germany travel book to try to find the way to the Romerberg, but were not successful.  We finally asked a worker at a food cart for directions.  He pointed us in the right direction, and a tour guide helped us for the last leg.

In Romerberg square.
The Dom
The Romerberg was a unique square with all of the buildings and architecture so different than the skyscrapers and glass buildings in the other parts of Frankfurt.  The Dom dominates the center, but the other shops and café’s add to the charming quality of this small piece of the city.  It really was like stepping back into a century from long ago.
Since we had dinner with the group we weren’t able to stay at Romerberg long.  We snapped a few pictures, sat and took in the atmosphere then headed to the trolley station to try to get back to the hotel.
Due to the heat and exhaustion of traveling I was dragging by this point.  I gave JC the duty of buying the tickets and finding out which trolley we needed to take back.  We thought we had everything straightened out and were actually very close to our stop for the hotel when the trolley security started checking everyone’s tickets.  Come to find out, JC had unknowingly bought two children’s tickets instead of adult tickets.  The security guard asked to see our passports, questioned how long we had been in Germany and where we were going.  Neither one of us could remember the name of the stop as it was a long German name we had only seen a couple times on a map.  At the next stop he made us get off the trolley and show him where we were going.  We were only two stops away from where we needed to be!  Because the fine for not buying a ticket, or buying an incorrect ticket is usually 40 Euros per person, he told us he wasn’t going to make us do that; however he did make us buy two more adult tickets for the last two stops.  That was much better than 80 Euros.  It was a slightly scary experience, but the security workers ended up being very helpful and understanding considering we were tourists and had only arrived a few hours prior.
28 weeks pregnant in Frankfurt.
Our day of traveling and navigating the city of Frankfurt were by far the most stressful days of the trip.  We had little knowledge of the train system in the country and were exhausted from traveling, making it even more frustrating to deal with the foreign ways.  Thankfully navigating our way through Germany was much easier and more enjoyable after Frankfurt, as you will see in the next few posts!

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