Frankfurt

Frankfurt – officially Frankfurt am Main – is the largest city in the German state of Hesse and the fifth largest city in Germany.

Originally a Roman settlement on the river Main, it acquired prominence in the Medieval period for both its famous market-fair and for being granted the status of a “Free Imperial City” (i.e. they paid their taxes directly to the Emperor, not some local lord or middle.man) within the Holy Roman Empire. This, coupled with being on the important river Main led to the city becoming a key location for trade – attracting merchants from far and wide. Trade came from so many directions that in 1585, Frankfurt trade guilds established a system of exchange rates for the various currencies that were circulating in the local market and shops. Thus was laid the foundations of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

All this money floating around led to a lot of building work in the market area or “Altstadt” (Old Town). As well as merchants houses, the spot was chosen for the cathedral, which still to this day, dominates the area. Tour guide books of the early 20th century revel in describing the beauty and uniqueness of the area, the high-gabled medieval houses on every street, inviting the imagination to run wild.

Alas. Nothing lasts forever. Allied air-raids coupled with intense house-to-house fighting destroyed not just the historic old town but substantial newer areas too. The reconstructions in the Altstadt give just a glimpse, a hint, of former glories.

Post-war, Frankfurt was in the US Zone, with many American bases in the city area. With Berlin behind the Iron Curtain, a new banking and commerce hub was needed for West Germany: Frankfurt fitted the bill. In 1948, the allies founded the Bank Deutscher Länder. The BdL introduced a new currency in 1948, the Deutsche Mark. The Deutsche Mark replaced the occupation currency which had until then been pribted in and used by the US, French and British areas of occupation. The success of the DdL later led to the creation of the Deutsche Bundesbank in 1957. That Frankfurt was now home to the central bank of Germany secured its future as the financial capital of the country – a title it still holds to this day.

So you are in Frankfurt. Perhaps you are just passing through, perhaps you have a layover at the airport. What do you do? What is the best way to see the city in what might be a limited timeframe? There is no doubt about it in my mind: you need to take a tour with Jo and Dave at Frankfurt on Foot