Sunday, 11 July 2010

Escale à...

I always fly through Frankfurt, but never had the chance to go into the city - mainly because the incompetent "information" guys told me that it takes about an hour to get there by train and that it is better for me to wait 4 hours at the airport.

But this time was different. I had just lived 6 months in South America and no one can mess with me anymore! So I got out of the airport and despite the risk of missing my flight, I went to the train station to catch the train to Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof. I checked the timetable and I was right, the train ride lasts less than 15 minutes - I was being lied to this whole time by these assholes who want me to stay in and spend all my money. Not this time.

I struggled to get a ticket: everything is written in German, the machines are extremely complicated to use, I queued for the wrong machine first, then queued for the second one and realised it doesn't take cards, queued at the ATM and withdrew 20 Euros, queued at the machine again and realised that it doesn't take 20 Euro bills, walked around and asked for change, got it, queued again and finally got my ticket. No one was going to fuck up my trip to Frankfurt Stadt!

After 15 minutes on the train I got the city, it was sunny and beautiful. I loved the central area as it is a sublime mix of both old and new buildings sharing the grounds in perfect harmony. You have some old parts of town...

...right next to the new parts of town

But it's not all about segregation, most of downtown Frankfurt is a mix of both architectures side by side truly reflecting the 21st century. Don't think it's that easy: in London, you'll have to go to Canary Warf to see the skyscrapers, in Paris to La Défense, in Geneva...well, you can't. 

I always wondered why we don't have cities that mix both modern and ancient architecture. There clearly is a lack of skyscrapers in central European cities and I find that rather sad. Don't get me wrong, downtowns are lovely but all date from a zillion years ago - it seems that we stopped building in the city centers of European cities leaving the style only to our ancestors. Are we ashamed of our new architectural style? Do we think it's going to ruin the old one? I like both, and would like to see a bit of everything while I'm walking in European city centers.

That's why Frankfurt pleased me with its beautiful mix of both architectures.

Sure Frankfurt is not the nicest place in the world, and having spent 2 hours there doesn't really help my judgement, but I think that more European cities have to follow Frankfurt's example and build some of our current achievements in their city centers so that our great-grand-children would have something to remember us by (except global warming, wars, hate, racism, poverty, pollution, etc.)

Then I got back to the airport to catch my flight to Beirut. I was very excited to go back, but the hardest part was yet to come: getting on the plane from Frankfurt. 

I don't know why, the lowest of the lowest possible class of the Lebanese society flies from Frankfurt - they're loud, rude, stinky and carrying about 30 babies each. They all live in Germany and yet they respect no rules. The queue to get into the plane is a sad mix of what you'd get at the post office and at the McDonald's in Lebanon. Once they're in the plane, they DON'T sit at their assigned seats, nor do they wait for everyone to be seated to ask for an exchange. They sit wherever they want, and if you dare to ask them to move because they're on your spot, then they'd get mad - "why are you so civilised?" - and tell you to go to where they're originally seated. So you go there, but somebody else is sitting there because he also exchanged with somebody. And so on...

Passengers spend about 25 minutes trying to negotiate their seats, while the desperate German flight attendants try to impose the German organisational rules and rigor. It's a mess, people shout, babies cry and the few Europeans on the flight try to find an empty's horrible and I'm not happy.

But then, after 4 hours of unpleasant flight, we fly over Beirut. Everybody shuts up, looks out the window and smile. Even I manage to lift a smile at the beautiful view, though I had planned several bloody scenarios to kill my fellow loud and uncivilised passengers.

I am back to Lebanon, and ready to start complaining again.


  1. "I always wondered why we don't have cities that mix both modern and ancient architecture. European downtowns are lovely, but all date from a zillion years ago." There is a simple explanation. Most of the German cities were bombed into the stone age during WWII. This is why most of the old Architecture is gone, and why they have new buildings. If it had not been for WWII most German cities would look like Zurich.

  2. I guess that leaves us no choice: we have to bomb Europe