Frankfurt is known around the world for its wealth of museums. The cultural metropolis on the Main is home to an excellent variety of exhibition venues, including the world-famous Städel Museum, Schirn Kunsthalle, and also the Museum of Modern Art, which will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. While at the Frankfurt Dialogue Museum, which celebrates a more modest five years of existence this year, there’s nothing to see at all…
The main exhibition, entitled “Dialogue in the Dark”, takes visitors through a pitch-black museum with the help of guides and white canes. The highly unusual tour is guaranteed to leave an impression on the mind. The museum also features a blacked-out restaurant, named “Taste of Darkness”, and a “Casino for Communication”, which raises awareness by way of various team-games. As a result of the museum’s unique concept, it received a 2010 Frankfurt Tourism Award.
The Westend Synagogue was one of only a very few Jewish places of worship in Germany to survive the Second World War. This year, the renowned religious venue is celebrating the 100th anniversary of its establishment. The impressive Jugendstil structure continues to serve not only as the religious centre of the city’s Jewish community, but also as a place of remembrance and commemoration.
The origins of Frankfurt’s Jewish population can be traced back as far as the 11th century. Their settlement, protected by imperial decree, was originally located near the later Frankfurt Cathedral. A Jewish ghetto was established outside of the city in 1464, inhabited by up to 2,200 persons. In 1797, French artillery bombarded the ghetto, razing it to the ground. Only in 1864 did Frankfurt’s Jewish community achieve equality of treatment and full civil rights.
From this time on until the rise of fascism, Frankfurt’s Jewry enjoyed their most prosperous era. Numerous charitable foundations were established thanks to the social engagement of Frankfurt Jews. Many of the founders of Frankfurt’s Goethe University were of Jewish faith, the university also being the first in Germany to appoint Jewish professors.
Prior to 1933, Frankfurt’s Jewish community counted some 28,000 members, making it at that time the second largest in Germany after Berlin. Ludwig Börne, Max Beckmann, the Rothschilds, the Oppenheimers, Anne Frank, Paul Ehrlich, Theodor Adorno are all highly significant names in the long history of Frankfurt. Over the centuries, Frankfurt’s Jewish inhabitants have helped to shape the city into what it is today, while also playing an important part in Frankfurt’s social life. Today, Frankfurt’s Jewish community continues to be the second largest in all of Germany, with over 7,000 members.
A number of interesting sightseeing attractions highlighting Jewish life remains in Frankfurt am Main:
The Jewish Museum at the Lower Main Quay (Untermainkai) offers a highly interesting look at the turbulent history of Frankfurt’s Jewish community. At home in the monument-listed, classicistic Rothschild Palace on the banks of the River Main, the museum’s permanent exhibition informs not only on Jewish history, but also on religious practices at home and in the synagogue, on life as a Jewish individual and as a community, at work and on religious holidays. A variety of changing exhibitions, many featuring accompanying fringe programmes, lectures and special events round off the offer spectrum of the Jewish Museum.
During the construction of the new municipal works building at Börneplatz in 1987, workers uncovered the historic remains of several Jewish houses, ritual baths and wells. The workers had in fact come across the southern end of the Jewish ghetto’s “Judengasse”, or Jewish Alley. Significant portions of the findings were saved, thereby helping to preserve some 800 years of Jewish history. The discovered site was integrated into the main administrative building of Frankfurt’s municipal works department and today forms Museum Judengasse. Börne Gallery, part of Museum Judengasse, presents changing art and culture exhibitions of smaller scale, focusing on diverse topics of the Jewish past and present. There is also a special database here, which contains the names and biographies of the deported and murdered Jewry of Frankfurt, in supplementation of the memorial at Neuer Börneplatz.
At the Anne Frank Youth Centre, a permanent multimedia exhibition, entitled “Anne Frank. A Girl from Germany”, offers an interactive look at diverse “layers of history”. Here, the personal environment of Anne Frank is embedded amidst historical settings and supplemented by references to contemporary times. Anne Frank’s world-famous diary is at the centre of the exhibition, with various quotes guiding visitors through topics such as persecution, going underground, war, the holocaust and Anne’s own questions, such as “Who am I?”, “What is happening to me?” and “What’s important to me?”.
Various Jewish cemeteries pay a final tribute to well-known Frankfurt individuals of Jewish faith. These include, among others, the Old Jewish Cemetery (Alter Jüdischer Friedhof) and the Jewish Cemetery on Rat-Beil-Straße, where between 1828 and 1929 the vast majority of Jewish personalities of the past two centuries were laid to rest. In 1928, a further Jewish cemetery was founded on Eckenheimer Landstrasse, north of the Hauptfriedhof, the city’s main cemetery. This cemetery continues to be used today. It is open on Saturdays and all Jewish holidays.
Of the four main Frankfurt synagogues, only the Westend Synagogue escaped the carnage of World War II. It is still in use today. Frankfurt’s main synagogue (Hauptsynagoge), located at Börneplatz, was burned to the ground in 1938 on what is commonly known as “Reichkristallnacht”, or “The Night of Broken Glass”. Max Beckmann, the renowned artist, eternalised the synagogue in one of his most famous works, which today is on display at the Städel Museum at Frankfurt’s museum embankment.
The synagogue at Friedberger Anlage also fell prey to the Pogrom Night of 09th November 1938. In its place, the National Socialists erected an air-raid bunker. Today, the former shelter houses an exhibition entitled “The East End – Insights into a Jewish Quarter.” It tells many interesting stories of Jewish life in pre-1933 Frankfurt.
The Memorial at Neuer Börneplatz is without doubt one of the most impressive places of remembrance of Jewish persecution in Frankfurt. The memorial’s most imposing feature is the over 11,000 stone blocks, integrated into the cemetery wall and depicting the names of all the deported and murdered Jews of Frankfurt.
The “Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main” was officially reformed in July of 1945. Today, it has its seat at the Ignatz Bubis Community Centre in Savignystrasse. The centre also includes two kindergartens, Isaak Emil Lichtigfeld Primary School, a youth centre, a community welfare department, a senior citizen’s club and a kosher restaurant, “Sohar’s”. An annual Jewish cultural festival, very popular amongst both Jewish and non-Jewish denizens of Frankfurt, has been held at the community centre since 1982. Together with the Jewish Museum, the Fritz Bauer Institute (Study and Documentation Centre on the History and Impact of the Holocaust) of Goethe University and the comprehensive Judaica Collection at the University Library, the Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main have taken great strides in maintaining and expanding Jewish life and culture in the Main metropolis.
Guided city tours focusing on the subject of Jewish Frankfurt may be booked via the Frankfurt Tourist+Congress Board. For further information visit www.frankfurt-tourismus.de
Iconic lifestyle brand Levi has teamed up with leading hotel brand Design Hotels to create a new hotel story focusing on the interesting history of the Levi’s jeans. Located next to the German headquarters of Levi Strauss, the hotel’s design focuses on the famous label and its influence on fashion, music and art from the past century. The 76 individually-designed rooms strongly reflect the denim theme and come in different shades of blue – cobalt, azure, turquoise, aquamarine and indigo. The rooms are categorised the same way garments are categorised into sizes: S, M, L and XL. Each floor reflects a different decade from the 30s to the 80s and features an original pair of jeans representing the fashion trend of the specific decade.
This summer Frankfurt finally welcomed back one of its most popular sightseeing attractions. Now, visitors to the city will once again be able to climb up the 328 steps of Emperor’s Cathedral, closed off to the general public some 11 years ago due to structural damage. Having been painstakingly reconstructed, the stairway is once again open to the top of the tower, from where visitors are guaranteed an unmatched view of the surrounding old town, including: the Römer, the city’s time-honoured town hall, St. Paul’s Church, Frankfurt’s famous skyline in the background, and the museum embankment along the River Main.
The breathtaking view from atop Emperor’s Cathedral, also known as Frankfurt Cathedral or St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, isn’t the only thing making this time-honoured venue well worth the visit. Its historical significance and range of artefacts on display have played an equally important part in making the cathedral one of the city’s foremost sightseeing attractions. Consecrated in the name of St. Bartholomew, the Gothic-style cathedral was erected between 1315 and 1358 where a dilapidated palace chapel built by Louis the Pious in the 9th century had previously stood. During the Middle Ages, the cathedral served as the official seat of the imperial chapter of St. Bartholomew. In 1356, Emperor Charles IV declared Frankfurt to be the new electoral site of German kings, and from 1562 to 1792 as the coronation site for 10 emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. Today, the “electoral chapel” remains as a place of prayer and silent contemplation.
Emperor’s Cathedral houses many artistic treasures, including the Sleeping Mary Altar, created by an unknown artist in the 15th century, a painting depicting the Lamentation of Jesus Christ by Antonius van Dyck, the tombs of various famous Frankfurt personalities and a frieze of the cathedral’s namesake, St. Bartholomew. Those interested in finding out more about the life of Bartholomew or the history of the cathedral are urged to pay a visit to the neighbouring Cathedral Museum, which offers a chronological tour highlighting the history of the cathedral. A collection of burial objects found in the tomb of a Merovingian maiden, discovered in the 1950s and dating back to the 07th century, is of particular interest.
Emperor’s Cathedral has also endured its share of hard times over the years. It was ravaged by fire in 1867. Nearly a century later, in March of 1944, it burned out again and also suffered heavy structural damage during a series of Allied air raids. The reconstruction necessitated by these two fateful events has of course influenced the appearance of the cathedral. The present-day cathedral presents itself as a three-nave hall church. Its monumental western tower, built in the 15th century, is one of the most important representations of the German Gothic period. One of the most unique parts of this unique structure is the belfry, featuring “Gloriosa”, Germany’s second-heaviest church bell, weighing in at an impressive 11,950 kilograms.
Tickets for a tower visit may be purchased at the small box office situated at the base of the tower. Adults pay three Euros, while children get in at half price. The panorama view from the top of the tower makes the climb more than worthwhile. A family ticket is available for five Euros and groups of over 20 persons pay reduced price as well. Tower access is limited to 50 people at a time. Unfortunately, group reservations are not possible. The cathedral tower is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. This year, the tower will remain open until 1st October. In 2011, the tower will be accessible once again from 1st April until 1st October.
The European Capital of Culture Ruhr 2010 is already a resounding success. Open-air events scheduled for the summer season are expected to attract a further influx of visitors. The German National Tourist Board (GNTB) is supporting the project in its role as an official partner.
One of the summer highlights as part of the region’s tenure as the European Capital of Culture is ‘Still Life’. On Sunday 18 July, the A40, the main arterial road through the Ruhr area, which sees the highest density of traffic in Germany, will be completely free of cars. The westbound carriageway will be transformed into the longest banquet in the world with 20,000 tables set up along the 60-kilometre stretch. Each one is a small stage in itself, and together they will form a large meeting place for people of different cultures, generations and nationalities. The eastbound carriageway, meanwhile, is open to all kinds of wheeled vehicles providing they are not motorised.
Throughout the summer and into October, visitors will be able to see six man-made islands of up to 300m² on Lake Baldeney in Essen and on the Ruhr river. Each one of the islands, collectively known as the Ruhr Atolls, is dedicated to the themes of ‘art and science’ and ‘energy and ecology’ in some form or other. Small groups of four to eight people will be able to actually visit three of these artificial islands. Visitors can also take an active part in the project by using their own ‘energy’ to power a boat to the islands.
The largest art project of the region’s European Capital of Culture year is also scheduled for the summer. The Emscher Art Exhibition 2010 focuses on the landscapes along the Emscher river. A total of 24 artists, groups of artists and artist cooperatives have been invited to create installations for a period of 100 days at diverse locations along the river, which reflect this change and which communicate or criticise it. Many projects have been designed not only for viewing, but also for participation and creative involvement. Emscher island is the centrepiece of the project: it covers an area of eleven square kilometres and extends 34 kilometres between the towns of Castrop-Rauxel to the east and Oberhausen to the west. It is framed by the Emscher river in the north and Rhine-Herne Canal in the south.
The programme in the Ruhr area encompasses 300 projects with approximately 5,000 events. The number of events has doubled compared to the original projections. What’s more, the Ruhr area is easily accessible. Located at the heart of the most densely populated area of Europe, 25 million Europeans can reach the region by road or rail in less than three hours.
Last week Frankfurt’s former city walls celebrated an historic birthday. Two hundred years ago, the City of Frankfurt enacted the so-called Wallservitut, an easement with which they moved to protect the parklands along the course of the former mediaeval city fortifications from destruction. This edict also helped to lay the foundation for further natural development within the city. Today, Frankfurt is one of Germany’s “greenest” urban centres, featuring over 50 parks and gardens within its city districts.
Today, the Anlagenring, a section of the former city walls now landscaped, forms a five-kilometre-long semicircle around the city centre. Visitors taking a walk along this green ring will come across fountains, ponds, ancient trees, modern sculptures, monuments and memorials, many of which serve as reminders of Frankfurt’s colourful history. The demolition of the former city walls had helped to bring about the establishment of English-style landscape gardens, which were continuously expanded over time. The former course of the star-shaped city fortifications is still recognisable upon closer examination of a city map.
Starting at the massive euro symbol situated in front of the European Central Bank, Frankfurt’s green ring takes visitors past the Beethoven Memorial and Heinrich Heine Memorial to one of the city’s most beautiful locations: Opera Square and Alte Oper, Frankfurt’s grand old opera house and one of the city’s premier landmarks. A few hundred metres further on, one comes across the Nebbiensche Gartenhaus. This oasis of green, built in classicistic style in 1810, was one of the first glasshouses to be erected along the green pathway. Today, it is available for special-event hire. From here, it is not far to the Eschenheimer Tor, the only remaining city gate of the former mediaeval walls. Continuing on, one arrives at the Odeon, a popular dance club. Originally, this classicistic-styled structure was built by order of the Bethmanns, a famous Frankfurt banking family. For many years, it served as the home of the Museum of Sculptures. Taking a few steps away from the beaten track, walkers will arrive at the nearby Bethmann Park and its Chinese Garden, which was designed according to the principles of Feng Shui. Having returned to the green lane, one comes across Frankfurt’s most beautiful “outhouse”. Nowadays, these monument-listed former public toilets with their chapel-like dimensions are home to a cocktail bar named Lala Mamoona. The gabled roof and half-timbered framework provide an excellent background for the lounge music and relaxed atmosphere of this popular location.
The end of the green ring is now only 750 metres away. The former municipal library, rebuilt in 2005 and now the home of the Frankfurt House of Literature, today presents itself as a beautiful café with an attached beer garden, inviting visitors to a refreshing respite. Those fit enough are urged to continue on down Frankfurt’s unique and very natural riverside promenade, which runs along both sides of the River Main. From here, beautiful views of the city’s skyline and surrounding area are guaranteed; in fact, they are best enjoyed from one of the riverside establishments while drinking a glass of Frankfurt apple wine.
Frankfurt’s Anlagenring, the first such landscaped parklands to partially encircle a city centre in Germany, raised many eyebrows throughout Europe at the time of its creation. This green ring was instrumental in commencing the establishment of a series of parks and gardens that helped to transform Frankfurt am Main into a truly green city – a fact that often escapes attention due to the many other highlights found in the Main metropolis.
With such an impressive skyline, it is hard to believe that the business and banking city of Frankfurt is also home to several nature reserves, such as Enkheim Moor in the city’s northeast, Schwanheim Forest in the southwest and Fechenheim Forest to the east.
Two hundred years after the creation of the the green ring, Frankfurt’s “GreenBelt” has established itself as the city’s premier place of rest and recreation. Fully completed in 1991, it now encircles the city at a length of some 80 kilometres and consists of hiking and cycling paths as well as countless other recreational opportunities. During summer, the GreenBelt’s many public gardens attract visitors with their impressive variety of flora – be it Mediterranean, like at the Gardens of Niece at the banks of the River Main, baroque-style as at the Bolongaro Gardens, or spacious as the English landscaped parks of old, such as Grüneburgpark and Ostpark.
One location that’s particularly attractive all year round is the Palmengarten. Founded in 1868 with the kind donations of Frankfurt’s citizenry, these magnificent botanical gardens are home to some 3,000-odd species and varieties of plant. Here, visitors have the unique opportunity of experiencing plant life representing the most diverse climate zones.
Frankfurt is also home to Germany’s largest city forest, a 5,000-hectare wood that extends from the airport to the city districts of Oberrad, Sachsenhausen and Niederrad. Recently, during Whitsuntide, Frankfurt locals once again headed to the city forest to celebrate their national holiday, the Wäldchestag, or “Forest Day”. This festival is unique to Frankfurt and has been taking place since 1792.
In 2010, Frankfurt am Main will once again be attracting visitors to the Main metropolis with an exciting series of special events. Aside from featuring a variety of first-class sporting highlights, the focus of the coming year will be placed firmly on the subject of culture and the arts.
A special exhibition entitled “Botticelli”, for example, will continue to be on show at the renowned Städel Museum until 28th February 2010. Sandro Botticelli was without a doubt one of the leading figures of the Italian renaissance. Meanwhile, from 5th February to 9th May 2010, Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt will be focusing on one of the world’s most significant neo-impressionist painters, George Seurat. Today, Seurat is considered to be one of the icons of 19th-century art and the most important exponent of Pointillism, a style of painting developed by the artist himself.
The “phenomenon of expressionism” may be found not only in the sphere of fine arts, but also in the fields of literature, dance, music, film and architecture. Ten renowned art institutes in the Frankfurt Rhine-Main region will be presenting examples of this significant era until February 2011. A total of four exhibitions on the subject will be on show in Frankfurt am Main, the most spectacular of which will surely be the “Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Retrospective”, on display at the Städel Museum from 23rd April to 25th July 2010. Featuring some 170 works of art, this exhibition will pay tribute to one of the most prominent artists of German expressionism.