Prague Twin

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Radom musings about Frankfurt

Germany always impresses me for one simple reason: stunning efficiency. The Messe exposition center directly adjacent to the city center, easily handles 135,000 visitors a day, and there is no major traffic jam coming into the city during the show. How do they do it? Amazingly efficient freeways is the answer. The speed limit is variable depending on the conditions. Sometimes the speed limit is even different in the right two lanes as the left two lanes. If traffic is backed up ahead, there are warnings and the speed limit starts to come down as you approach the traffic jam, virtually eliminating big rear-ender pile ups so common in Los Angeles.

The show itself is one of the biggest in Europe. Most of the stuff for sale is total crap, but there are some interesting things, ours included I would like to think. But what really bugs me is the amount of money, resources and work that is put into this five days of selling. I suppose it is a necessary evil to keep the wheels of capitalism spinning, but the sheer magnitude of the waste is mind-boggling. Thousands of stands set up for 5 days, only to be torn down again. Containers full of merchandise flown in from as far away as Australia and China, only to be flown right back a week later. During set up and break down, teams of trash collectors fill containers with empty boxes and bubble wrap one after the next. Carpets are layed the day before the show opens and are destroyed immediately and torn out. It is the most breathtaking display of sheer waste I have ever seen.

One of the high points for me, however, is seeing all of the people coming together from all over the world. I overheard the following languages (and some others I didn't recognize): English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Sweedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Polish, Russian, Czech, Slovak, Croatian, Greek, Arabic, Cantonese and Korean. I'm probably forgetting some, and it may have been Mandarin and not Cantonese, I'm really just guessing there. The only reason I could sort out the Skandanavian languages is because Danish I can recognise, and the others I knew where the people were from. Don't ask me to tell the difference between Norwegian and Sweedish, because I can't.

Aside from the great story in the post below, the most interesting thing that happened was in a bar one night. We were having beers in this little place when three young guys came in. One, who we learned was only 18, sat down at the piano and started playing boogie-woogie on a level that I have never heard. Apparently he is one of the 3 best piano players in all of Germany, and he stops by the local there to get some free beers and pizza for him and his buddies. It was truly amazing.

All in all, I'm glad to be back. While I was gone, I had a flurry of activity on my blog. I registered something like 35 visits an hour for a 24 hour period. I have no idea why and now I will never know because it was too far back to look into the visit log. Could it have something to do with the Iran story? I really don't know. Triple digits in a day sure does feel good though for a tiny little blogger like myself.

Thanks for all the welcome-backs.


  • Glad your back. I loved the last story on your last post as well.

    I went to Germany last year and it was great. I spent a few days in Berlin and a couple in Munich. One thing that I didn't realize about some European countries was how difficult it is to become a citizen. I talked to an Iranian guy that had been living in Berlin for 28 years and still didn't have a passport. My mother is Canadian and that automatically gives me Canadian citizenship, even though I was born in the US and have never lived in Canada. I was getting my citizenship around the same time I was in Germany and I was really struck by the differences in the policies.

    By Blogger Graeme, at 9:22 PM  

  • Yup, they're efficient all right. I've been to Berlin but haven't seen much else in Germany. As individuals, most Germans I met seemed friendly and personable. But there's sort of a group dynamic where this uber-efficiency starts feeling like you're surrounded by robots. Or like you're just a tiny cog and you're surrounded by thousands of other cogs.

    In a store, everybody seems to have their exact change ready, and the cashier quickly takes the money, says "Danke Schoen" and is instantly ready for the next customer. It's quick and efficient and the checkout line moves right along, but there almost seems to be a human element that's missing.

    Just my impressions.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:02 AM  

  • I understand Tom Harper and his take on the Germans. These cultural differences can be enermous.

    I have visited the U.S. three times and been struck by the friendliness of her people. The smiles, the how are yous, have a good days, let's do lunch sometimes etc. sounds great until your realize that they really do not mean too much. I keep making the same mistake over and over again when I have been asked, "how are you"? I start answering to just realize that person asking has immediatelly moved on to new and better things. Please, don't understand me wrong, there is nobody in this world I like to bull shit more with than the Yanks. One has to just keep a cool head and remember that they propably don't give a rat's ass what you are really about.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9:57 AM  

  • Interesting comments. Thanks all.


    I think that Germany is one of the hardest. You have to have some German ancestors or something. Czech isn't easy either. I haven't even considered it.


    Yes indeed there is a certain lack of life in Germany. Like you say, the people you meet are quite friendly, but especially in Frankfurt which is a 100% business city, it feels sometimes like you are in the brave new world.


    That is funny, the whole, "how are you?" thing. I have to explain to Czechs all the time that when an American asks that question it isn't really a question but just a simple greeting. The answer is, "fine, and you?" Americans like to tell the story of the first time they ask that question to a Czech, "Jak se maš?" and they get the laundry list of complaints. They are always so surprised. I usually say something like, "yeah, imagine, you ask how they are and they tell you. Those crazy Czechs!"

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 12:18 PM  

  • Oh, I love Frankfurt. From Old Sachsenhausen to downtown, so much to do. I have a thousand stories from that town I'll keep to my self to protect the identies of the innocent, but I'd leave at the drop of a hat to visit Frankfurt, anytime.

    By Blogger Frederick, at 5:47 PM  

  • I'm impressed you can tell Coratian from Slovak. I'm sure it would sound the same to my ears and I don't really think there is much of a difference between Swedish and Norwegian, but then I have never been one to notice the really subtle. Have we heard the story of your name yet?

    By Blogger Roger Fraley, at 4:02 AM  

  • Frederick,

    Please, regale us with some stories! Change the names to protect the innocent.


    Slovak is almost identical to Czech and I know certain common words quite well, so I can always recognize it. Croation is the only other Slavic language that I have a chance of understanding so by process of elimination.....

    Like I said with many of the others, I only knew that I was hearing Norwegian as opposed to Sweedish because I knew where the people came from.

    If you look in "Stories and Pictures (for mom)" on the right side-bar, the top post is "Praguetwin". There it is.

    That reminds me I need to update that column.

    By Blogger Praguetwin, at 8:19 AM  

  • Late to the party again...but welcome back.

    I'm a big fan of Frankfurt, passed through there by rail a number of times and have had the pleasure of dealing with Deutsche Bahn. Ah for viable train travel here in the US...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:45 PM  

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