Thursday, June 12, 2008

Keeping warm in Frankfurt’s Palmgarten

Today is the last day of my week’s leave and I’d decided to have a day in Frankfurt on my way home from the UK because despite having been through Frankfurt airport dozens of times in the past, and having used it as a transit point to catch trains to other parts of Germany, I’d never actually been into the city itself.

Frankfurt turned out to be not as interesting as Berlin or Bonn – the two German cities with which I am most familiar – but it was worth the stopover.

I took a train into Frankfurt from where I was staying. I’d booked a hotel at Kaiserlei in Offenbach – just to the east of the city – as the hotel rates were half that of Frankfurt city, but Kaiserlei was less than 15 minutes away by train.

It was a bright sunny day when I left the hotel in the morning, so I didn’t bother to bring a jacket, and it was a pleasant temperature as I walked around the city. I started at Konstablerwache, browsing around an open-air market in the square above the train station. I discovered that it was an ‘organic farmers market’ that is staged every Thursday and Saturday, featuring a mouth-watering display of fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses, meats, breads and other produce.

I noticed the square was paved in black and white stones, arranged to form patterns on the ground, and all the white stones had people’s names engraved on them. I wondered what the significance of the names on the stones was. Could they be commemorating people who had died during World War II, or maybe they were just the names of people who had purchased a stone when the square was re-paved in more recent times?


Many of the market stalls were selling beer and wine, and despite it being only mid-morning, there were already many people clearly inebriated from too much alcohol. I bought some fresh strawberries and a couple of peaches from one of the stalls, and sat on a bench to enjoy them.

After finishing my healthy mid-morning snack, I headed south, exploring the streets off either side of Berliner Strasse, and ended up down on Mainkai where I found a café with some outside tables overlooking the river for lunch. They didn’t have an English menu, but I recognised ‘tortellini’ on a list of daily specials (I suppose it’s spelt the same in German as Italian), so I ordered that. It turned out to be a delicious pumpkin and spinach tortellini which was served with thin slices of grilled salmon and zucchini – a good choice as it turned out.

As I was enjoying an espresso after lunch, I could feel a cool breeze picking up and noticed the sky starting to cloud over. I wondered whether I should have brought a jacket after all.

I was planning to visit the Palmengarten in the afternoon as I’d seen a poster advertising their summer rose exhibition, so I walked to the Romer underground station and caught a train to Bockenheimer Warte – just four stops away.

The rose exhibition took the form of 30 or 40 garden beds planted with different varieties of roses in the middle of the gardens. It was a bright and colourful display.


By the time I finished looking at the rose exhibition, the sky had turned grey and the temperature had dropped at least five degrees. I was starting to feel cold. I headed for the palm house which was much warmer and spent the next hour or so dashing from one hot house to the other to keep warm as the temperature dropped outside.

None of the hot houses had any plants that I hadn’t seen before. Most were quite common varieties – although I did see one variety of cordyline in flower that I hadn’t seen before (I’d seen the cordyline but not the flower). It was however very relaxing sitting in the main palm house – it was almost like being a garden back home – and being mid-week there were very few people around.


I was hoping that the weather would improve, but it didn’t, and it started to drizzle with rain. In the end I decided to make a dash for the underground station. Fortunately the drizzle was reasonably light, and I didn’t get very wet, but I was feeling quite cold. I told myself off that I shouldn’t have gone out for the day without a jacket. Living in the tropics I get so used to never carrying a jacket – unless I am going to a restaurant where I know the air-conditioning is going to be cold – that I forget when traveling to temperate climates how much the weather can change in the course of a day.

I should have known better, but it seems to be a lesson never learned.

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