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News broadcasts on German television almost always include a live report from this building, so most Germans know what it looks like on the inside, but they don't seem to pay much attention to it when they walk past, except maybe to the statues of the bull and the bear at the front of the building.
There is a Visitors' Gallery where you can have a look at the action on the exchange floor. Admission is free, but for security reasons you have to register by telephone (069-211-11515) at least 24 hours in advance.
They also offer daily introductory lectures in German, English and French, Monday through Friday at 10:00, 11:00 and 12:00 o'clock.
Updated Mar 20, 2013
Address: Boersenplatz 4, Frankfurt am Main
Since you are going to the Frankfurt Opera anyway (well you are, aren't you?), you can have a glance on your way in at the provisional headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in the Eurotower on Willy-Brandt-Platz, just opposite the new opera house.
The European Central Bank established its headquarters here in Frankfurt in 1998. According to its website, the ECB is "the central bank for Europe's single currency, the euro. The ECB's main task is to maintain its purchasing power and thus price stability in the euro area. The euro area comprises the 12 European Union countries that have introduced the euro since 1999."
The ECB has a bookshop on the ground floor, but is otherwise not open to the public.
The ECB is building a whole new complex of buildings on the site of the former Grossmarkthalle (wholesale market) on Frankfurt’s east side, by the Main River. They were originally planning to move into the new buildings in 2009 -- but now they say it will happen in 2014. We shall see.
Update: For nearly a year, protesters from the Occupy Frankfurt movement camped out in front of the ECB. See my tips Occupy Frankfurt and Frankfurt Skyline Countdown, # 13.
Updated Mar 15, 2013
Address: Eurotower, Kaiserstraße 29, Frankfurt am Main
This new opera house is not one of the architectural wonders of the world, I must admit, but it's a great place to go and see operas. It has one of the largest stages in Europe, with two revolving stages -- a small one inside a larger one -- that can both start turning at the same time if need be. And they have since built a third revolving stage to go on top of the other two.
If by any chance you are in Frankfurt when they are showing Benjamin Britten's opera "The Turn of the Screw" you can see all these revolving stages in action at once, which is very appropriate considering the title of the opera. Their "Turn of the Screw" is a brilliant production, and it's even in English because they do most of their operas in the original languages. (With German surtitles, if that is any help.)
Second photo: View from the foyer, with the twin Deutsche Bank Towers in the background and part of the Euro Tower on the right.
Third photo: Inside the Large Hall of the Frankfurt Opera.
Fourth photo: Stage entrance, with bicycles.
Fifth photo: Under the golden clouds in the lobby.
Updated Mar 9, 2013
Address: Willy-Brandt-Platz (formerly Theaterplatz)
Phone: + 49 - 69 - 13 40 400
If you ask some local person how to get to the center of Frankfurt, this is where they will send you. It is at the beginning of the main shopping street, the Zeil, and near most of the downtown attractions.
The actual Hauptwache is the smaller building on the left, which was originally built in 1730 as a guardhouse for soldiers or police. It was rebuilt after the bombings of the Second World War, only to be dismantled stone by stone in the early 1960s to make way for the construction of the subway station. The stones were numbered, of course, so the building could be reassembled after the station was finished.
The Hauptwache building now serves as a café where you can have coffee and very heavy German cake, among other things.
The church on the right is the Katherinenkirche (St. Catherine’s Church) which is still used for church services, but also for concerts and even for innovative theatrical performances -- a dancer I used to know once flew through the interior of the church on a taut wire while singing angelically (without a microphone, but the acoustics are really good) as part of a modern dance performance.
Updated Feb 1, 2013
The weirdest thing that happened up here was during a performance of one of the Wagner operas in the 1990s.
Just before one of the intermissions there was a tremendous thunderstorm on stage, with thunder, lightning, singers being blown around the stage by gale force winds and a 110-piece orchestra whipping up the appropriate music.
When we stumbled numbed and bleary-eyed out into intermission we discovered that there was a real thunderstorm going on right outside the window of the upper foyer, at least as spectacular as the one on stage.
If Wagner hadn't died 130 years ago he would certainly have taken credit for this magnificent spectacle.
(I'm not the world's greatest Wagner fan, by the way. Wagner is an acquired taste, and it took me about a decade to acquire. When I first started teaching opera appreciation courses here, I thought I would be confronted with a wall of unreconstructed Wagnerites, but no, of the 390 people who have been in my courses only two or three dozen have thus far outed themselves as Wagner fans, and I have actually found myself defending Wagner on several occasions -- I have to admit that he was a great composer, though he was also an anti-Semite, megalomaniac, proto-Nazi, male chauvinist and all-round incredibly nasty person.)
Second photo: A nighttime view from the upper foyer with city lights and the Euro sign in front of the European Central Bank.
For more views from the upper foyer of the Frankfurt Opera, please have a look at my travelogue:
Updated Dec 31, 2012
Here is the Frankfurt Opera as seen from the top of the Main Tower.
On the roof is a big white boxlike construction with two words that you probably can't quite make out. The two words are "Oper Frankfurt" in small capitals in the Times New Roman font, just like on your computer.
Inside that white boxlike construction is all the stage machinery for the huge opera stage below. Entire stage sets hang there to be lowered at appropriate times, and when the soprano rises up into the sky on a magic carpet while singing an aria, that's the place she disappears into.
Behind the opera house a ship on the Main River is visible. On the left you can see part of the Eurotower, the provisional headquarters of the European Central Bank, and in the lower right-hand corner you can see their Euro symbol -- which is also appropriate for the opera, since they need lots of Euros to be able to put on all their great productions.
The second photo shows the opera house from the opposite side, as seen from one of the back windows of the Jewish Museum. Directly behind the opera house: the Japan Center, the Main Tower and part of the Eurotower. Further back to the left: the twin towers of the Deutsche Bank.
Third photo: At the back of the opera and theater building you can see where the workshops used to be. They were torn down during the summer of 2006 and are now being built up from scratch in a larger and more modern form. In the meantime there is a lot of trucking back and forth from here to the temporary workshops at the edge of the city, where the opera and theater stage sets are now being made.
Updated Dec 17, 2012
Another recommended cycling path is the Regionalpark Rundroute, which surrounds the larger Frankfurt - Wiesbaden - Mainz - Offenbach area. The round trip is 190 km long with several detours, so it is advisable to choose smaller stretches with a length suitable to a half-day- or daytrip. It is well-marked (a red field with a white half-circle indicates the round trip; the Regionalpark Route is also indicated by a red pyramid in a green circle. The route has small attractions all along the way which I will describe in more details in a travelogue. One nice feature are the white "pebbles" which are placed all along the course: they are meant for sitting in the nature, taking a break, reading a book, and are quite comfy.
A worthwhile tour leads from Eschborn (Arboretum) via Sulzbach, Liederbach, Kriftel, Hattersheim, Weilbac, Flörsheim, Hochheim to Mainz-Kostheim, where the Main River enters the Rhine (ca. 50 km one way). From here, it is possible to return to Frankfurt main station with the S-8 metro from the station Mainz-Gustavsburg.
Updated Oct 3, 2012
Although Frankfurt is a urban metropolis, it is still embedded within a rural landscape on the city fringes. So it is possible to cycle around the whole city in a green countryside, with the city still in view. The roundtrip is about 75 km long, and the mostly flat course can be done in a day. Public transport back to Frankfurt is available at many points close to the course, so it is possible to do shorter routes as well. For long stretches, the cycling path follows the rivers Main and Nidda. The route is well-marked with the Grüngürtel-sign (a green half-circle resembling a smiley-face-icon) all along. A possible entry-point would be the Main-cycling path in the center of Frankfurt, along the bank of the Main River. It is advisable to do the course in a clockwise direction to avoid the one real uphill passage of the path.
This cycling path even has an mascot: the "Grüngürteltier", a fantastic creature that even has a small statue along the path (on the bridge to the old Bonames airport, along the Nidda River).
Updated Oct 3, 2012
This has to be one of the most important buildings in the world, and without doubt the most valuable stock exchange in the Eurozone. In Europe only the London Stock Exchange trades more. With all the panic in Europe during the Banking Crisis, there hardly seems a day in 2011 when the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Deutsche Boerse or DAX) isn't talked about or shown in news footage.
For such an important building, it's surprisingly hard to find. I lived in Frankfurt for nearly two years before I saw it, and then I had to go looking for the damned thing. It's not something you are very likely to stumble upon by accident. The street is not a main thoroughfare, although it is marked by a very distinctive pair of statues: the Bull and the Bear.
Updated Sep 15, 2012
One of the many parks that ring Frankfurt's inner city, Bethmann is famous for its tranquil walled Chinese garden, built in 1990 in memory of the victims of Tienanmen Square. Inside you will be whisked away to another part of the world. The garden is an authentic design, based on the teachings of Feng Shut. Almost everything is imported from China, right down to the litter-boxes. It doesn't feel like Frankfurt at all.
Written Sep 1, 2012
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