Text Mahret Kupka Photos Nikolaus Grünwald
Writing something flattering about the city on the Main River also means simultaneously dispelling a whole host of negative preconceptions. It’s often said that Frankfurt is ugly. But anyone who has ventured beyond the area around the train station and the city centre into the adjoining neighbourhoods will soon change their mind. “Nix mit Hollywood, Frankfurt Brudi” (Who needs Hollywood when you’ve got Frankfurt, bro?”) are lyrics from a track by the rapper Haftbefehl. He actually comes from Offenbach, but the people of Frankfurt are grateful for any praise that comes their way…
Frankfurt is different, a little bit rough around the edges, but at the same time also very friendly and cosmopolitan. Frankfurt isn’t Paris, nor is it Venice or New York, even if certain corners of Mainhattan, as it’s affectionately known because of its striking skyline, might bear a passing resemblance to the Big Apple. Frankfurt is different, a little bit rough around the edges, not your classic tourist city. But at the same time it’s also very friendly and cosmopolitan. You have to be willing to sit at one of the long wooden tables with the locals and tourists who all come together in the famous apple wine taverns. You have to be self-assured enough to fill your own glass from the ‘Bembel’ – the traditional earthenware jug with the eye-catching blue pattern – containing the region’s most important tipple: ‘Ebbelwoi’, as it’s known by the locals, apple wine, or cider. Best enjoyed pure or slightly diluted with sparkling water, but not with lemonade, as every proper Frankfurter will attest to. Of whom there are approximately 716,000. Added to this are the 340,000 commuters who work in the 43,000 companies based in the city, bumping the Main metropolis’ population up to a million, albeit for a few hours a day.
Based on economic criteria, Frankfurt is classed as one of the world’s metropolises. A total of 74,972 people were working in the financial and insurance services sector in 2015 alone. Frankfurt is home to the European Central Bank, the Deutsche Bundesbank, the Frankfurt Stock Exchange, numerous financial institutions (including Deutsche Bank, Commerzbank, DZ Bank, KfW) and the Frankfurt Trade Fair. Based on economic criteria, Frankfurt is classed as one of the world’s metropolises. Which is hard to believe, especially when you leave behind the financial district with its high-rise buildings, which are among the highest in Europe. That’s when Frankfurt becomes very small and cosy very quickly: the world’s biggest village, or perhaps the world’s smallest metropolis. Frankfurt is neither fish nor fowl and perhaps it’s precisely this in-betweenness that makes life here so appealing. As a local, you’re constantly bumping into people you know. There’s isn’t too much going on in the way of culture but it’s all the nicer to know that if something is happening, like an exhibition or new restaurant opening, everyone who’s anyone will be there.
From a fashion perspective, Frankfurt is quite relaxed, even though it can look back on an illustrious furrier tradition. “Frankfurt zieht an” is the name of the publication that the city’s Economic Affairs Department published at the end of the 1980s, in which fashion is recognised as a trade and economy-boosting factor, particularly in partnership with its neighbouring Offenbach, a town that was long renowned for its high-quality leather production. Which doesn’t actually sound very sexy. But several young labels are beginning to capitalise on precisely this tradition today. With resounding success. The focus is less on fashion as a changing trend barometer and more on excellent craftsmanship, as well as on the origins of the materials and a passion for design. Off the beaten track of the main shopping street, the Zeil, there are countless ateliers, boutiques and shops whose offers centre on lasting values and quality. But it’s not only ‘Made in Germany’ that defines the Frankfurt style; the American occupation has also left its mark. In post-war Germany everything from overseas was ‘in’ in Frankfurt before anywhere else. A time that the people of Frankfurt remember fondly. And they’re just as proud of the city’s techno tradition. The first Museum of Modern Electronic Music will be opening on Frankfurt’s Hauptwache square in 2018 and the exhibits will also cover clubbing fashions. Frankfurt is happening between the lines, beyond the skyscrapers. Start your journey of discovery with us on the following pages…