A whirlwind trip

Frankfurt is a beautiful German city with an important Jewish history that is worth exploring, even if just for a few hours.

Frankfurt 370 (photo credit: Nathan Wise)
Frankfurt 370
(photo credit: Nathan Wise)
When I stepped off the train in the center of Frankfurt last week at 8 a.m., it was already around 30 degrees Celsius and by afternoon it would be 35 degrees. But coming from Tel Aviv I wasn’t going to let the heat stop me. I had nine hours to explore the city.
My day journey to this lovely city on the Main River did not start at the train station, however. I was a media guest of Lufthansa on a non-commercial exhibition road show flight from Tel Aviv on the new Boeing 747- 8. The plane, dubbed the “Queen of the Skies,” is the updated version of the famous Boeing 747-400 jumbo jet.
The new B747-8 has a higher number of business class seats that stretch out into horizontal beds that are very comfortable. Lufthansa says it has invested 3 billion euros in its business class seat and product. The plane is also more fuel efficient and has a quieter cabin.
Lufthansa is the launch customer of the new jet and will not fly with it to Tel Aviv, but travelers to Israel may be able to enjoy the plane on one of the legs of their trip. The airline currently flies the plane to select destinations in the US, India and the Far East.
On the flight I was offered a choice of three meals for dinner, and I chose the braised lamb with chickpeas, eggplant and mashed pumpkin puree – which was delightful. Most impressive was the wide-ranging continental wine list from which I sampled three German white wines, from three different regions, all splendid.
A kind flight attendant who hailed from Frankfurt gave me a last-minute briefing and I was ready for my nine-hour tour.
The airport is a 15-minute train ride from the center of the city. The old medieval center of town surrounding Romer Square was largely destroyed by allied bombing during World War II, but a number of old buildings were rebuilt and the enormous Dom Cathedral remained intact. I headed to the nearby complex that includes the Judengasse Museum, the Holocaust memorial commemorating the some 12,000 Jews of Frankfurt who were murdered by the Nazis, and the ancient Jewish cemetery.
The cemetery dates back to the 13th century, which was not long after the Jews came to settle in the city.
The Nazis destroyed most of the tombstones in 1942 but some remain. The outer wall of the cemetery has embedded into it separate plaques for each of the murdered Frankfurt Jews, which include the name, the birth and death years, and the place of death of each individual.
The Judengasse (literally Jews’ alley) was the ghetto where the Jews of Frankfurt lived between the 15th and 19th centuries.
Foundations of some of the homes in the area are preserved in the Judengasse Museum, which also has revolving exhibits of Jewish interest.
The scion of the famous Frankfurt Rothschild family, Mayer Amschel was born in the Judengasse in 1744. The other Jewish museum in the city, the Judisches Museum, is housed in a mansion that belonged to the Rothschild family on the Main River. That museum contains a large exhibit on the history of the city’s Jewish community.
The main downtown commercial strip is a pedestrian mall called The Zeil. I headed away from the shopping street towards the residential neighborhoods above it, from Berger Street in the east to the botanical garden in the west.
This walk takes you out of the touristy and commercial core, and offers you a glimpse of the urban living style of Frankfurters. Streets contain a mix of modern and older apartment blocks that are impeccably maintained.
Gardens were bursting with flowers and parks graced with ancient trees.
The botanical gardens in the Westend district of Frankfurt contain the forest and meadow landscape of Central Europe and are a quiet respite from the city.
The neighboring Grunewald Park is a green oasis in the midst of the urban sprawl, which the Rotschild family once owned and in which they built their famous “Palais.” The family home was taken by the Nazis in the 1930s and destroyed by Allied bombing during the war.
Back in the center of the city, the Main Tower, one of the tallest skyscrapers in the country, has a viewing platform on its 56th floor from where I could see in panorama all the ground that I had covered that day.
Exhausted but satisfied, it was time to go back to the airport for my flight home to Tel Aviv – convinced that leaving the airport and exploring Frankfurt was well worth it.
The writer was a guest of Lufthsansa.