Friday, April 25, 2008

The Eagle Alights

April 23, Frankfurt, Germany

We landed in Germany for our 15-hour layover at 7:00 in the morning. Neither of us slept on our overnight flight from Portland, OR, except for maybe a couple of 5-minute power naps. Nonetheless, we were actually kind of awake when we landed. Rather than just crashing at a hotel (and further messing up our sleep schedule), we flung on our backpacks and headed for the train to take a self-guided tour of Frankfurt (after having turned down the $2,000 guided tour we looked into the week before!).

Our first stop was the Jewish Community Center in Frankfurt. We imagined showers (if we were lucky), a place to take a mini-nap, a place to get information about the community, maybe a place for Dean to exercise (his best migraine prevention routine), in other words, a Jewish community center like we have at home, more or less. HOWEVER... when we arrived we passed by the police officers who were staked outside, then a remote-controlled door opened for us and we were interrogated by an Israeli security guard, who quickly explained that the center was just administrative offices and NOTHING to see or do. They didn't even have maps or any information about the community available there! We were able to get chicken-scratch notes from the two other security guards behind the bulletproof glass - about museums, the restaurant (which was indeed open for passover), and the two shuls. We thanked them and walked out.

Our feet (and brains) were pretty tired, so we sat on a bench in the plaza nearby and had a snack. We rested for a while, then after lunch we headed over to the Main river for a snooze in the sun and a stroll along the river. Then we walked over to the Jewish museum and spent about an hour there learning about the history of the Jewish community in Frankfurt. Dean took a picture of the wall filled with names of Frankfurt Jews that perished during the shoah. That list was overwhelmingly long, especially considering it was only one of thousands of lists. It made us feel very grateful for how good life in America has historically been for the Jews.

After the museum visit our feet and brains were REALLY tired. We would have loved to go to the nearby botanical gardens, but our energy was GONE. So we walked back to the Hauptbanhof (train station). The central train station is magnificent. We probably walked around for an hour or so, looking at shops, the incredibly high, detailed ceilings, the high-speed trains, and did some people-watching.

Overall, our main impression of Frankfurt was that it was pretty much like any large city, USA. We decided that our best option was to go back to the airport (where they reportedly had shower rooms), and take a nap, and wait for our 11:20 pm flight to Ethiopia. So, back on the train we went and arrived in a few minutes at the airport.

Long story, short - there were only two showers, and neither of them was working. With seven hours to kill before our flight to come in we, well, set out to kill seven hours. Hours 1-2: oohing and ahhing at the groceries in the grocery store. Hours 3-4: not taking a shower and playing cards. Hours 5-6: standing in line for our flight check-in (and turning down many requests to check baggage for people who had too much), finding out we could take cuts and not stand in line (no baggage to check), walking to our gate. Hour 7: more cards. Yay. Throughout those hours we also sprinkled in several 5- to 15-minute power naps. And at the end of the wait we just said to each other, "Yes, it really was worth saving $500 each on the airfare for this experience (we think...), and THANK GOODNESS no children had to go through it with us!!!"

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