Federal State Hessen
For nearly twenty years, Frank Lehmann was the leading financial journalist focusing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange for ARD, one of Germany’s two national public television networks, and he knows Frankfurt like the back of his hand. He took the time to show his home town to Discover Germany.
He starts at the Stock Exchange. To give us an overview of Frankfurt, he takes us up to the observation platform at the top of the Main Tower.
"We're now 200 metres over the roofs of Frankfurt, on a skyscraper open to the public. Tourists can come up here, the view is fantastic. Sometimes you can see as far as Mainz, across to the Rhine and the Taunus and Spessart regions. Behind me you see Frankfurt's famous skyline. Those are the buildings where money is made, and they say that by mid-day more money has changed hands in Frankfurt than in three days in Berlin."
With a population of about 650,000, Frankfurt is Germany's fifth largest
city, and it unites modernity with tradition. Frank Lehmann’s first recommendation:
The Alte Oper, or Old Opera House
"Frankfurt's Alte Oper, the old opera house is one of the city’s landmarks. When it first opened in the nineteenth century, Kaiser Wilhelm said it was something only the people of Frankfurt could afford. The dedication of this first opera house on 20 October 1880 gave Frankfurt residents the opportunity to view the newly-built auditorium, designed by a Berlin architect, Richard Lucae. The opera had seating for 2010 people. During World War II, much of Frankfurt was destroyed, including the opera house. Only the façade remained standing. Frankfurt residents said, 'We want our opera back, and we'll rebuild the rest of it.'"
Inside, the atmosphere in the new Alte Oper is now similar to what it originally was. Frank Lehmann explains:
"Everything has been reconstructed to look just the way it did in the Kaiser's era. Take a look at the candelabras and the ceiling fresco, all decorated with gold leaf. Polish artists worked on it for years. At the time, Frankfurt had enough money. Nowadays it would be
unaffordable, but it is utterly gorgeous."
Frankfurt is also a city known for its greenery.
The Palm Garden is Frank Lehmann’s second recommendation:
The Palm Garden is in the West End district. It’s at the centre of Frankfurt’s green lung. The city’s residents love their old Palm House filled with palm trees and tropical plant from places as far-flung as the Canary Islands and China. With a 29 hectares outdoor complex and 10,000 square metres of greenhouse space, the Palm Garden is one of Europe’s most visited botanical gardens. Large collections of palms, orchids, bromeliads, cacti and other succulents, insect-eating plants, azaleas, camellias, dahlias, fuchsias and, of course, roses grace the garden. Frank Lehmann tells about how, in the nineteenth century, the Duke of Nassau offered to build a garden for the citizens of Frankfurt, and how they gratefully accepted.
"The Palm House is the most important component of the Palm Garden. Erected when the garden was founded, it is one of the largest structures of its kind in Europe. In addition to a large number of subtropical palms, it contains huge decorative shrubs, tree ferns and numerous deciduous plants. But it is not only the variety of its flora that makes the Palm Garden interesting for visitors. Couples both young and old say their marriages work only if they stand under the waterfall. A lot of people do that and they throw coins in as well." However, Frank Lehmann says he doesn’t know whether that helps their marriages succeed.
We go on through the centre of Frankfurt to another interesting sight and his third recommendation, the Roemer;" it is the old town hall. It’s on the Roemerberg, which in the sixteenth century was considered the most beautiful square in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
Frank Lehmann: "You can tell it is spring. Two Frankfurt lasses are already sitting here sunning themselves. This is the heart of the city: the Roemerberg, the old town square, with the town hall in the background. This is where the emperors appeared when they were crowned. Back when we won the World Cup, the Roemerberg was full to bursting. The half-timbered buildings on the Roemerberg were all completely rebuilt after having been destroyed in a night of bombing sixty years ago. There are a few cracks in them but they are beautiful."
As it was in earlier centuries, the Roemerberg remains a central gathering place. In addition, events such as theatre productions and music and folk festivals take place – and in the winter, one of Germany’s loveliest Christmas markets stands on the square.
Frank Lehmann’s recommendations offer just a small glimpse of the many attractions in this central German city.