A Blog by International Students at Leiden University
Dear readers, I sincerely promise that this is going to be the last spam of the “Greenhand Backpacker” trilogy. Please bear with me, I’m such a new-born baby in the travelers’ world.
For the very first time that I stay somewhere alone overnight and the very first time that I go across the national border alone and the very first time for me to be in Germany, I haven’t expected much, but just a safe arrival back to the Netherlands after 2 nights. My destination was … Frankfurt am Main. Yes it may sound dull, especially for European people, Frankfurt must be a city they often visit or hear of/ know about. But I’ve been dreaming about Frankfurt for long, especially after hearing more about this city from my tutor. So… here we go!
…Okay enough for my excitement. The night before I went to bed at 11 pm, and I got too anxious for it that I woke up at 1:30 am. Then I was not able to fall asleep again, which was slightly depressing because I needed to get up at 5:30 am to catch the early train.
And the train from Utrecht to Frankfurt was not running. I had to take the train to Arnhem (when, fortunately, I met a cute guy from Myanmar who chatted with me and reduced my anxiety), then a bus ride to Duisburg (get a Dutch NS staff pronounce that German name and you’ll be confused forever and ever after), a train ride from Duisburg to Flughafen Frankfurt, then from Flughafen Frankfurt to Frankfurt (Main) Hauptbahnhof (hooray for me successfully remembering his German word). So long farewell, Auf Wiedersehen my comfortable direct train ride.
Upon arrival I suffered from train-sickness and extreme exhaustion, but these challenges turned out to be some preparations for a perfect trip. After checking in at my hostel, I took a short rest and went out for an appointment again. This is my almighty Frankfurt Card for two days. Only 14,50 euros to cover all the downtown public transport and nice discounts on museums, attractions, etc etc. It’s a great bargain if I have to say! The first coincidence I found out after I booked everything is that, there would be a once-every-two-years “Luminale” in Frankfurt just during the time period when I was staying there! How awesome!
So here comes the second coincidence I encountered in this city. I visited Campus Westend of Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität Frankfurt am Main, a very beautiful neighborhood in Frankfurt. And later when I came back to my hostel, I knew that this date, March 31, 2014, was the 100th anniversary of Goethe Universität! I guess I should have said Herzlichen Glückwunsch at the campus 🙂 And it was surprising to find that they have a Korean garden on campus!
After a short break, I went out for dinner. Having some Japanese food in Germany? Why not! They’ve got Apfelwein there, which is… echt Frankfurter! (Excuse me for creating some random phrases…)
The next morning, I walked from my hostel to Main Tower. Please note that student card (or in Leidener’s words, the LU card) has nice discounts at almost all of the tourist attractions in Frankfurt, even better than Frankfurt Card. The lift arrived at the 54th floor. I trembled a bit at first because I’m slightly afraid of height, but then after seeing the magnificent view of the whole city, I calmed down and awed for the beauty.
Then I headed downstairs and walked to Frankfurt Hbf for a underground ride to Dom, which I think should be the city center. I wanted to visit the Modern Art Museum (MMK) first, but my poor little stomach protested fiercely. OK. Let’s sit down under the sun and have some Frankfurter Würstchen!
And an ice cream.
Here, the third coincidental surprise Frankfurt gave me. The night before departure I had insomnia, and I randomly picked a picture with a German sign “EINTRACHT” for the wallpaper of my mobile phone, thinking that maybe this can bring me some good luck in my German adventure. The day after, I was randomly walking around in Dom area and suddenly saw the sign right in front of me. I still held my ice cream, with my mouth open wide; the world seemed to stop spinning at one moment that I felt a very strong resonance in my brain saying that this must be a city that I would be deeply attached to. How on earth was it Frankfurt, on my wallpaper? And how on earth did I find it out? Was it a mere coincidence? Or this city loves me as well?
I nearly felt tears bursting out from my eyes. Never had I been so in love with a city. It is modern, but also traditional. It has skyscrapers, but cute little parks as well. People are so happy and energetic in this city (and they all speak fluent English)…
After spending an hour or so at the (awesome) Modern Art Museum, I took the underground to Willy-Brandt-Platz, where I thought was the location of Goethehaus, but I made a mistake interpreting the map. I felt tired and relaxed myself on a bench. At that moment, I noticed a madam reading carefully in the park. I approached her and asked, “excuse me madam, could you please tell me how I can get to the Goethehaus?”
She stood up slowly, “you can walk directly from here to Goethehaus, but that’s not a very beautiful way to go. I suggest that you walk through the park, turn right, and then you ask again, That’s a very beautiful way.” I thanked her, and she said, “please (which I guess was the translation of “Bitte”, well at least I got it; it was really cute). ”
And I was surprised to have a glimpse of one of the financial capitals and its glory in the park. Guess what I found on the main street? MUJI! I missed this Japanese shop so much because I could not find it in the Netherlands. Japanese delicateness creates the best shopping atmosphere: it’s just cozy walking and seeing in MUJI. Oh, I almost forgot about Goethe!
Goethehaus locates in a tranquil lane. The admission fee (with student-card discount) was quite a great deal, for the fact that I could visit the Goethehaus and the art museum inside it. Although I didn’t know much about Goethe (ahh, shame…), having a look at his residence and art collection was a very enjoyable experience. A staff there took me as Korean first, then Japanese, and finally Chinese. He spoke three Asian languages! Amazing.
How can I miss Luminale, upon knowing that it is a gift for me from Frankfurt? I took a bus to the Main River and watched two shows there.
What attracted me more, however, was a bridge over the main river. The name of it is Eisener Steg. There is a Greek line written on the top frame, which I later know was meant for travelers. There are a lot of locks on the bridge, and finally I think one cannot deny my statement that Frankfurt is a romantic city. People want you to take time to see beauty, and they wish their love to be long and forever. Standing on the bridge and looking over the Main River, I thought that my heart was firmly locked to Eisener Steg as well.
And indeed I felt quite lost (or lovelorn) after I went back to the Hague. For the last two days I woke up with tears in my eyes; I’ve never ever been so sentimental. Even if I had flawless memories about Frankfurt and managed to visit Köln before I transferred my train ride back, this city took away my rationality. Punctuality, seriousness, happiness, energy, love, joy, positive emotions… Everything seemed like a fairy tale, and I’m hopelessly faithful in this beautiful story. This is never going to be an ending, because I am extremely eager to continue writing it, the story between Frankfurt and me.
March 31 to April 2. Two nights. So many achievements and so much fun. Maybe I’m no longer a greenhand backpacker now. Am I intermediate enough after finishing the trilogy? I’ll have to see for the next backpacker trip then. Tschüß, Frankfurt! … und ich liebe dich.
What to read during your trip:
(You’d better not show it to Germans; they sell it themselves, but that does not mean that… Uh well that’s their humor.) 😀
What to buy and bring home:
by Xueyan Xing (coming all the way from China; studying at Leiden University College The Hague)