The world's first tourist opera
Have you ever been in this situation? You're traveling with a dozen or so nice people from several different countries, and you're all very excited about the next leg of your journey. Everybody gets packed up, and they keep talking about departing (also various ones fall in love with each other, to the amusement of the rest), but then someone comes in with the news that the bus has broken down. What do you do? Well, after the initial disappointment you organize a big grill party and each person sings a song from his or her native country.
That's essentially the situation in the comic opera Il viaggio a Reims (The Journey to Reims), written in 1825 by the great Gioacchino Rossini (1792 - 1868).
Only they of course didn't have buses in those days, so their problem is that all the horses and carriages in the whole country are already booked out because everybody wants to go to Reims for the coronation of the new king. But otherwise they do exactly what we would do. (And they never do get to Reims.)
There isn't terribly much plot to this opera, but it's great fun and it's a true-to-life tourist situation that most VT members should be able to relate to. And the singing in the new Frankfurt production is fantastic!
Also the staging is highly amusing and effective -- after a long and very successful singing career, veteran American baritone Dale Duesing has done his first production as a stage director.
It's sung in Italian with German surtitles, so it would be ideal if you knew one of those languages. But it's fun even if you don't.
Offenbach is a large city that practically forms a part of Frankfurt, but stubbornly refuses to join it. There is a history of antagonism between the two cities, and it lingers to this day. They don't like each other at all, and although you can live in Offenbach and see Frankfurt on the other side of the river, they see themselves as two distinct identities.
When Frankfurt was an Imperial city, those who were refused entry inside its city walls took refuge in Offenbach. All the outcasts: the immigrants, the poor, the Jews and the others not welcome inside Frankfurt lived here, and the difference between the two cities remains today.
Frankfurt's city center can be seen from all over Offenbach with its shiny skyscraper's advertising their wealth across the river. In comparison Offenbach is a scruffy and indistiguished suburban sprawl. Amazingly, though, Offenbach ends up being even more cosmipolitan than it's neighbour, with an even higher proportion of foreigners in its population than even Frankfurt itself.
Sculpture "Continuity" by Max Bill
When I am next in Frankfurt am Main, I want to see the sculpture by Max Bill called Continuity.
I saw it in TV and I was very moved by it.
It can be found in front of the Deutsche Bank
Address: Taunusanlage 12
Bad Homburg - (ca 1/4 - hour north of Frankfurt) - features the pretty "Kurpark" with a siamese temple and the former summer palace of the german emperors. It has lots of good restaurants. Bad Homburg also features balloon and oldtimer races in summer - check with the tourist info for times.
Hat trick *
While walking or cycling around Frankfurt you might come upon a building with four funny green, yellow, red and white hats on it, shaped sort of like dunce caps.
Because of the funny hats, you might expect that something really jolly and nice is going on in this building, but in fact it is the Finanzamt aka German Internal Revenue Authority, i.e. the tax office.
Of course everybody says taxes are too high, even though they have been reduced in Germany in recent years.
Well, they've been reduced ever so slightly for us normal folks, and quite drastically for the big corporations. This was supposed to encourage them to create more jobs; I bet they laughed all the way to the bank about that one.
The latest tax news (in today's paper, actually) is that the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), which as an opposition party has been demanding even more tax cuts, has suddenly had a change of heart after realizing that they will probably win the next election in September 2005.
This building, by the way, is located on the south side of the central railway station, just behind the bus stop on Stuttgarter Straße where the buses leave for Hahn airport. The addresses are Gutleutstraße 118 (green hat), 120 (red hat), 122 (yellow hat) and 124 (white hat).
* If you ask your British friends, they'll tell you that a hat trick means one player dismissing (striking out?) three players in cricket or scoring three goals in soccer, or it can mean winning three elections in a row as Tony Blair has just done.
If you ask the German police, they'll tell you (warn you) that a hat trick is a sleight-of-hand scam played by third-rate con-men on the sidewalk. You're supposed to guess which hat the token is under, but whatever you guess it's wrong and you lose your money.