The potential calming effect of too much order (sleep deprived notes from Frankfurt)


Impressions from a recent visit to Frankfurt: The stewardess on my Lufthansa flight efficiently distributes drinks in the cabin. Do I write efficiently because she is German? I’ve had 4,5 hours of sleep. Late last night I stood in my hotel room on the 31st floor; looking out over Frankfurt’s bank building skyline in my underwear, with that misplaced self-esteem a couple of drinks and a good view tend to bring.

At a restaurant next to Frankfurt’s beautiful opera house someone said she thought the service was patchy. She also thought I was from New Zeeland, which clearly undermines her observational credibility. I took a run by the river Main, it was Sunday and the lawns that track the river were filled with people. It was sunny and warm and made me think of summer. When I got back to my room there were drops of sweat on my glasses. I looked up the weather in London on my phone; when I saw that it was raining I was relieved, as if it was an achievement to happen to be in a place with sunshine. Then I realised I had forgotten my cufflinks in London and something turned cloudy.

When I arrived at Frankfurt’s airport, which is just as nice as you would expect Frankfurt airport to be, I took the train to the city. It was very silent, even more silent than you would expect a silent train in Germany to be. Across from me a man sat hunched over a black rug sack where he was hiding a beer. Even he was silent. Despite the empty Sunday streets everyone stopped for red traffic lights. Not me, I kept on walking like a rushed Londoner.

In an outdoor restaurant near Lokalbanhof, south of the river, I met a Texan man. He told me I was the first Swedish person he’d ever met. He didn’t seem too bothered by the fact that he wasn’t the first Texan I had met, or he just hid it well with his mouth full of chewing tobacco.  He told me I had to try the Frankfurter schnitzel, “it’s fantastic”. I know there are few words Americans overuse more than fantastic. But I order the schnitzel, with a side of sauerkraut, since I like outsourcing my decision-making.

Later the same evening I leaned forward slightly as walked back to the hotel, due to the size of the portion. A colleague told me she thought the city was beautiful. “And a bit boring perhaps”, I added. Although one evening a stressed cab driver, who missed his turn and kept repeating “scheisse” to himself, left us in the city’s red light district. We walked past a couple of harmless looking teenagers smoking weed on a street corner. I don’t know why I thought Frankfurt seemed less boring after having seen the red light district and people smoking weed. Perhaps it made me think of Amsterdam; a non-boring city with the same attributes.

But now, when I think about it, even the junkies and prostitutes we passed on our way to the restaurant, where some people found the service to be patchy, had an aura of unobtrusiveness; as if Frankfurt’s great skyscrapers had a sedating influence over the city. The potential calming effect of too much order.


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