This is one of the great historic cities of Europe. Kings and emperors were elected in Frankfurt from 855, and from 1562 until 1792 were crowned here as well, in St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral. The city was badly damaged by bombs in the 39-45 war but rebuilt extensively, its spectacular skyline alongside the River Main notable for the height of its buildings. A section of the rebuilding however includes a replica of the old medieval city. A very wealthy city, Frankfurt’s Stock Exchange is only second to London, and a close second at that. Similarly the main airport is almost as busy as London Heathrow, and is the largest employer in the Federal Republic.
Almost one in three of the 666,000 people living in Frankfurt are without a German passport which reflects the trading and cosmopolitan tradition of the city as well as the practice – now under revision – that only a child with a German parent can be given nationality. There is a large Turkish population for example. More money is invested in the cultural life of the city than most other cities in Europe and the annual Book Fair every October draws many visitors to the city.
Most people live in flats – when I visited in 1994 I was told there were as many apartments as 300,000 – a very different picture to the ‘home-owning democracy’ in the U.K. -and that 80,000 of these were financed by the State for social purposes.
I visited at the time when the film ‘Schindler’s List’ was being shown and causing considerable controversy. I had the pleasure of eating a meal with a group of friends of my host, one of whom, a previous Provost of Frankfurt, had been a friend of Schindler during the last eight years of his life, and told us that in the last few days he had given 40 interviews on the TV and in the media which indicated the interest the film had aroused.
I look forward to a return visit to Frankfurt next October.
Goethe was born at Frankfurt-on-the-Main in August 28, 1749, although he lived much of his life in Weimar where he died in March 22, 1832. His eventful life is in keeping with his lively questing mind and his reputation as a distinguished poet, dramatist and philosopher. His name is the most famous in German literature. His admirers claim that the author of Faust and of many poems, which inspired some of Schubert’s finest songs, was a man of genius and ranks with Shakespeare and Dante. Certainly he was the greatest German of his age.
Frankfurt honours him by naming its University after him.