From Georgia to Germany to Ukraine

Funny story: I knew when I booked my flight in December that I would have a ridiculously long layover in Germany on my way back to Ukraine. My flight home was from Kiev to Munich to Newark to Cleveland, so I (erroneously) assumed that my return trip would include Munich as well. So while I was home, I googled Munich and “10 hour layover” and discovered that its actually quite easy to get to the city center from the airport, and very possible to see a lot of the famous sites using the metro line. I was excited to have something to do during my layover, and for all the times I’ve flown in and out of Germany on international flights (at least 6 times that I can think of off the top of my head), I’ve never actually left the airport to explore. So I was excited that this time I would actually get to see more of Germany than just the airport!

My Mom had a travel guide to Germany, which I’d taken on our road trip intending to read the highlights of Munich. But in the car on the way to the airport, I realized I hadn’t read it yet, so my sister Tori resourcefully set to ripping out all the pages dealing with Munich so I wouldn’t have to carry the whole 10 pound guide book along with me. But I realized during my layover in D.C. that my next flight wasn’t headed to Munich—the ticket clearly said I was flying to Frankfurt. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t checked my flights before planning my layover in Munich, and was so frustrated that after all my work to plan out how to get downtown and what to see, I wouldn’t even be setting foot in Munich. Luckily, the Dulles airport has free wifi, so I loaded a few pages about Frankfurt and the city’s public transportation system before my flight was called, so I could do some research on my 10 hour flight.

By the time I landed in Frankfurt, I had a game plan and quickly set off for the city. The only snag in the plan was when I tried to go through customs—the man at the booth asked if Germany was my final destination, and I said that I was just passing through on my way to Kiev. He pointed me back towards the gates, telling me which one my flight would depart from. I was crestfallen; after all my research, he was telling me to wait in the airport! I explained that I had 10 hours to kill before my next flight, and that I’ve always wanted to see Frankfurt (well, “always” being at least since I found out that I wouldn’t be in Munich for the day!), and after debating a moment, he said I could go as long as I got back 2 hours before the flight was scheduled to depart, seeing as I’d need to go through security again. Thank God! And just like that, I was off to see Frankfurt.

Most of you know I’m an experienced traveler, and its something I do with joy. But almost every adventure I’ve ever undertaken has been with friends or family, so my day in Frankfurt was monumental because it was my first time planning, plotting, and flying completely solo. I’ll be honest though, it had its lonely moments. I’d just spent two weeks in the nonstop company of friends and family, so to go from surrounded by people to being completely on my own was a big adjustment. Endless “alone” time stretched ahead of me, not only for my adventure in Frankfurt, but also back in Ukraine, where I’d be living alone in my tiny town again. It was a sobering moment, but didn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the adventure. It just reminded me how traveling constantly presents the need for “adjustment,”whether its readjusting to the spoiled life America offers, or readjusting to the Peace Corps way of life in Ukraine.

I also had to adjust to the drop in temperature; the day I left Georgia the sun was shining and the weather was in the 60s—pretty much ideal weather. Unfortunately, the weather in Frankfurt was in the low 40s, with scattered showers that made me duck for cover into cafes and beer gardens throughout the day. But I still got to see a lot of incredible sites, so with no further ado I give you the highlights of my 10 hour layover in Frankfurt!

Let’s start with Saint Bartholomew’s, which was the Imperial Cathedral where the Holy Roman Emperors were crowned for centuries. It was interesting how modern Frankfurt has grown up around the ancient cathedral—it was built in the 14th and 15th centuries near ruins from Roman times that date back to 70 A.D. So much history surrounded by such modernity! Much of Frankfurt was destroyed or damaged in World War II, but the Imperial Cathedral remains intact to this day.

Saint Bartholomew’s is also known as Kaiserdom, because all the the imperial coronations took place here!

 The church was still decorated for Christmas!

Christmas Nativity inside Saint Bartholomew’s

 Next up on our tour of Frankfurt, we have Römerberg which is the historical heart of the city, and home to City Hall which dates back to 1405. Frankfurt was famous for having some of the first trade fairs, dating back to the 13th century. (Much of this had to be reconstructed after World War II, but you can get an idea of what it looked like.)

The Fountain of Justice is located in the courtyard in Römerberg.

 Here I am in front of the Kaisersaal (or Imperial Hall) which holds the 52 portraits of the Holy Roman Emperors dating from Charlemagne to Francis II. Check out that huge Christmas tree!

My next stop was Starbucks, due to rain. This Starbucks even had wifi, so I could call my parents (who were driving back to Ohio) and tell them that I wasn’t in Munich, but I was in Frankfurt and it was just as cool!

 Starbucks in Frankfurt: fast wifi + good coffee = happy Kate.

 The sound of sirens and chanting induced me to leave the dry sanctuary of Starbucks to see what was going on outside—I discovered a parade/protest of Kurds, who are an ethnic group from the Middle East (originally from areas in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran) protesting for their own autonomous state. Germany’s largest minority group is Turks, and about 1/5 of these Turks are Kurds. There are actually some German volunteers I know in Ukraine who’ve talked about how intense the discrimination can be against Turks there, so it was fascinating to see this demonstration taking place on the streets after having first heard about it in Ukraine! According to Wikipedia, 750,000 Kurds live in Germany, and I saw at least 1000 on the streets of Frankfurt in this protest.

Kurds protesting on the streets on Frankfurt, calling for the establishment of Kurdistan.

Next up we have a cool shot showing the contrast between history and modernity; old Frankfurtian architecture (I may have just made up that word, I got a squiggly red line underneath it telling me I can’t spell or that it doesn’t exist, haha) combined with sleek, modern tram line.

Another sign of how incredibly modern Frankfurt is? My favorite store—Fossil! Tori, I thought of you, and went inside just to take a peek even though we already saw all their new purses in Columbus at Polaris! 😉

And the big finish for your tour of Frankfurt? I found my dream motorcycle, and snapped a shot to share with you. This might be my life after Peace Corps… buying a sweet little baby like this! ; ) Can’t you see me on it? (That was a rhetorical question Daddy!)

And thus concludes Frankfurt. I made it back to the airport with 2 hours to spare, like I promised the guy at customs. My last flight went off without a hitch, and I found myself back in Kiev at 2am, freezing my butt off. So I went from Georgia, where it was in the 60s, to Germany, where it was in the 40s, to Ukraine, where it was in the 20s. My next trip (Cairo for Spring Break!) will be an effort to travel somewhere warm and reverse this terrible trend of going from warm to cold.

In closing, here’s a picture from Kiev—I arrived just in time for the end of Ukrainian Christmas (January 7th), so the Christmas decorations were in full force. Merry Ukrainian Christmas!


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