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Frankfurt and Heidelberg in August

Every year I have the pleasure of being invited to Frankfurt for a financial and best practice conference by our client Allianz Global Investors, for whom we do market research projects in countries such as the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and South Africa.

This year I set off again, finding the city basking in the summer sun. I have experienced rain, clouds and snow in previous years, when the conference was held between September and November, but in recent times it has been consistently an August affair. In all this time I have come to know Frankfurt well, usually having just enough time between seminars to head into the main centre for a little sightseeing, shopping and sampling of the local cuisine.

I recommend the German sausages in mustard, potatoes baked with bacon, onions and herbs, and the gorgeous potato soups, but also try the delicatessen for wonderful cheeses, charcuterie, cakes and chocolates. And of course, the beers that Germany is famous for. An important industrial centre before the war, Frankfurt was so heavily bombed that it is now a very modern city with glistening glass and steel towers, though the small but engaging historic centre remains very charming.

Here you’ll find most shops and restaurants, as well as a picture-perfect square where Germany’s great literary figure Goethe was born, not to mention a variety of museums. Across the Main river lies Sachsenhausen, a delightful pre-war residential area of grand homes in the German style, while near the Bockenheimer Landstrasse you’ll be in the midst of svelte office blocks yet also not far from the city’s red-light district.

In previous years I didn’t venture beyond the confines of the city, contenting myself with a lovely summertime river cruise upstream (there is also a one-hour long downstream journey), but having met an American colleague the day before the conference started, I was persuaded to hop on a train and head south to the historic university city of Heidelberg. Once renowned as the Cambridge of Germany, it has produced a great many Nobel prize winners, particularly in the sciences.

But I went for the scenic beauty of traditional architecture in a natural setting, passing lovely countryside as I made my way into Baden-Württemberg, and past towns, villages and cities flanked by green valleys and wooded hills. Heidelberg turned out to be every bit as pretty as expected, and having popped into classical university libraries and faculty buildings we joined the locals and tourists on the main street, settling in a sunny square with a glass of beer and some hearty German fayre.

For anyone heading in this direction, I can recommend the food, shops, museums, parks, architecture and sights of cosmopolitan Frankfurt and its pretty ‘neighbour’ Heidelberg. The people are friendly, speak excellent English and go out of their way to make you feel at home. For me it has become a homecoming in a foreign land.

-Michel Cruz-