Frankfurt, Offenbach & Wiesbaden, Germany April 2023

20 April – Well, we have arrived, at long last, after a four year hiatus from overseas travel. As I write, we are settled in to a small but comfortable apartment in Offenbach, an outlying suburb of Frankfurt, Germany. As we grapple with the aftermath of an 18 hour flight from Perth and the attendant jet lag/disassociation that trips like that carry, we pinch ourselves that we are here again, starting out on what is to be a three month sojourn across seven countries.

The flight was bearable, which is pretty complimentary for a Perth to somewhere in Europe flight. We chose to fly Singapore Airlines, Economy Class to Singapore and Premium Economy Singapore to Frankfurt. The Economy class only served to prime us up to totally fall in love with Premium Economy. The cramped seats and 3-3-3 seat layout gave way to 2 secluded seats with loads of leg room, wide seats and enough lay-back and leg raise to allow an actual real sleep experience. I would still far rather teleport direct, but the Premium Economy is a worthwhile investment without breaking the bank.

Our last entry into Europe via Frankfurt was back in 2017 and went smoothly. This time, it was not so smooth. It was fine until getting through immigration and customs. It was trying to negotiate the train into the city that was an issue. Our preplanning suggested we needed to catch an S-Bahn to Ledermuseum (Leather Museum) , travelling through the Central Frankfurt station on the S9. OK, we found the S9 after a couple of aborted attempts. The ticket machine made no sense at all so we tried a friendly man at the ticket office. He looked at our written requirements, nodded, and sold us two tickets. We were pleased when the Commonwealth Bank travel card was accepted as payment, found the right platform, boarded the right train and set off. The train travelled through Frankfurt  Central and continued towards Ledermuseum. The digital readout kept putting up a screen saying something in German at regular intervals and I began to fear that it was telling us that there was an issue with the journey forwards. My lack of German proved to be no barrier. I was right. The line was closed and we would not reach out destination. I was on the point of losing it. The same thing happened to us in Melbourne for the Australian Open, which makes two AirBnBs in a row where we have chosen them for the convenient rail links only to find the rail is busted.

On advice from some of the other passengers, we disembarked at the next stop and returned on another train to Frankfurt Central. Here we sought the assistance of two assistants sitting at a DB Help desk. “Can you help us in English?” They nodded an affirmative, the man grinning as he handed us over to the girl next to him, I suspect because he knew she would be out of her depth. She fluffed around with an app on her phone and pretty much failed before he came to the rescue and sorted us out. We were off again to find Platform 4 and a RE (Regional Express) to Offenbach and a 650m walk to our apartment. Platform 4 had an ICE (Intercity Express) train waiting, which threw us, but a young lady who was waiting said it would probably (hopefully, maybe?) be replaced by an RE train and to follow her lead, as she was wanting the same train as us. The ICE did indeed depart and the RE slide in. We found a seat. When it got to around ten minutes past the departure time, a lot of people got up and left, leading us to have doubts that things were going well. Asking around, it seems that there were issues with the automatic doors failing to operate and the train would be delayed for an indeterminate amount of time. Some had elected to leave and seek another train. We stuck it out, mainly because we didn’t know how to seek another train. Suddenly, the doors closed, remained closed, and we were off to Offenbach.

Offenbach station looked like something out of “A Clockwork Orange”, graffiti layering over more graffiti and corridors occupied with homeless. We had managed to get our travel SIMs working at long last in our phones so Google Maps directed us on the easy walk through the graffiti lined streets to our apartment. After mis-interpreting the entry directions three or four times, we hauled our bags up the one flight of steel stairs to a snug, quirky but reasonably comfortable apartment that would be home for the next week. The central heating worked (essential given that the max for most days was around 12 degrees) and there were enough comforts to keep us going.  After dumping our gear, we set out to find a super market. We headed down a street with the amusing name of “Frankfurter Street” and asked a pair of young women if they spoke English and for directions to a supermarket, as luck for have it, one was an English teacher. They gave us the location of the local “Penny Mart”, which stocked a wide range of goods at surprisingly low prices. A basic shop of supplies for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a couple of wines set us back €30 ($A50), a great start to the tight budget. The centre of Offenbach looked exciting to explore, with numerous cafes, restaurants and interesting shops, many set in a walking precinct. Well content, we had a quick bite to eat and crashed to try to reset the biological clocks.

Our apartment is one level up on the left.

Offenbach – 21 April – We spent our first full day doing very little, needing to fully recover from the long flight. We both woke very early, around 5am, with dawn coming at just after 6. With breakfast down, we went out for a stroll around the Offenbach CBD. There are a number of walking only streets and promises of Friday market stalls. These didn’t really materialize, other than a few fruit and veg stalls along with some flower sellers. The fact that it was 5 degrees may have had something to do with it, with very few people out and about early. Otherwise, the range of shops is interesting, with lots of small variety stores side by side with some very upmarket fashion boutiques and swank jewelers. After a long walk around we dropped into the Penny Mart and grabbed a few more supplies. It is a challenge to find goods in small packages, because we have limited room to lug groceries between cities. Sometimes, we just have to accept that we will keep half a packet of something and leave the rest for the next guests in our apartment.

After lunch and watching a dismal performance by the Dockers against the Bulldogs (we have Kayo), we headed off for another walk the opposite way down Frankfurter Strasse to check out the tram terminus. A tram line that services Frankfurt Central terminates about a kilometre down the road and represents a much nicer and cheaper way to get around than the RE train. The walk took us through what was obviously once the elite part of Offenbach. Beautiful old houses set in spacious gardens adorned both sides of the road. Most were now apartments, some were professional suites and the odd one looked as though it was still a house of some grandeur. Opposite the tram stop was a park, Spielplatz Parkstraße, which was full of magnificent trees, now sporting the emerging spring leave coverage. We correctly identified a couple of English Oaks and a Holly bush before being stumped by some towering fir like trees. Christine has an app on the phone that identifies plants and we were surprised to find they were Giant Sequoias, or Californian Redwoods. It was a peaceful and lovely walk and we managed to soak up the charm of a beautiful part of this German City.

Frankfurter Strasse in Offenbach

Palmengarten – 22 April – It was an early rise (5:30) to watch the Eagles get beaten soundly by Port Adelaide. I have no idea why we thought this was a good idea but there it was. Later in the morning, we set off to the tram terminal to catch the No16 tram into Frankfurt, a trip of around 25 minutes. The tram ride was beautiful, winding its way through some truly lovely streets. When in Frankfurt before, we had stayed in the central part of the city where very few old buildings had survived the bombings of WWII. The only old buildings were reconstructions of gothic structures. On the south side of the river between Offenbach and Frankfurt, many of the streets were lined with stately 18th and 19th Century buildings, now turned into apartments. Green parks dotted the area, many still sporting flowering fruit trees and tulip and daffodil gardens were common.  It being a Saturday, the sidewalk cafes were busy, made more so because it was the first day over 15 degrees for some time, the maximum predicted to reach 21 later in the day.

It was noticeable on the tram, and elsewhere, just how reserved and polite the people are. People stand back and let others alight before boarding, pass greetings and apologies if they get in someone’s way. We were surprised by the sight of several people boarding the tram with dogs on leads. A noticeable feature is how multicultural the population is, Germany having absorbed large numbers of migrants and refugees over the last two decades. In fact, more than half the population of Frankfurt has a migrant background and nearly a quarter are foreign nationals. Frankfurt is one of the World’s wealthiest cities and has the sixth highest number of ultra-wealthy individuals.

Frankfurt has an excellent tram system

We got off the tram at Frankfurt Central Station, Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof, thinking we would have to find another tram or underground to our destination, Palmengarten (Palm Garden Botanical Gardens). I looked at the maps and found that the No16 tram kept going right past Palmengarten. Before getting back on, we walked around and checked on the location of the Flixbus Terminal in preparation for our move to Cologne and the location of The Alder Hotel, where we would stay for one night in July before flying home. As is often the case, the area immediately surrounding central railway stations is a magnet to the homeless and some of the sidewalks were somewhat on the nose. The homeless are very much in evidence, mostly North African or Middle Eastern and one can only feel a sense of sadness that our World has enough resources to help everyone if only we can even up the distribution somehow. To its credit, Germany has done quite a lot to help, but the sight of so many people in difficulty is a tough one when we live in comparative luxury.

The Palmengarten proved to be a wonderful experience. The grounds are full of exotic trees and plants, although many are still to regain their foliage after winter and the rose garden had been pruned back completely. What carried the experience was the numerous enclosed climate controlled enclosures that featured palm collections, an amazing cactus garden, tropical rainforest plants from around the World and a fascinating butterfly enclosure, with a wonderful collection of free flying brightly coloured butterflies feeding on a variety of flowering plants in a moist tropical environment. The grounds are large enough that by the time we emerged from the butterfly enclosure, we decided the legs had done their work for the day and we made our way back to the tram, to ride all the way back to Offenbach, leaving further exploration for another day.

The Palmengarten

By the time we got back near the apartment, it was around 2pm so we decided to splash out on lunch at a seafood restaurant around the corner from our lodgings. It rates highly on Trip Advisor, and rightly so, because the food was sensational. It is a bit sad that here in an inland city far from the ocean one can get a better and cheaper feed of top quality fish, prawns and calamari than back home. The fish was Sea Bass fillets, perfectly grilled. The prawns and pieces of squid were also grilled, with a side of chilli sambal. It was fresh, crisp and really tasty. The meal was served with an excellent salad and a modest serving of small potato rounds fried. It was a far cry from the battered deep-fry-up that is the norm back home. All up, the meal, with two beers, was €34 ($A50).

Then it was home to crash out, perhaps too much so, as our sleeping clocks are still not synched yet.

Old Frankfurt – 23 April – We took the tram into Frankfurt again today to walk around the old city area and Romer. It being a Sunday, there were a lot of people out and about in the tourist plaza of the Romer and the nearby old streets of the reconstructed gothic city area. We have spent quite a bit of time in the area on a previous visit but this time the artificial appearance seemed accentuated and overly touristy. It makes for good photography but not much more. The area is filled with churches and they all seemed to peal their bells at once. It was quite jarring and discordant, with a lack of a good musical director. We stopped at a bakery and brought a couple of pretzels, which also proved to be a bit underwhelming. Abandoning the tourist area, we strolled down the roads to find a shopping precinct to look for some warm loungewear only to discover that most businesses close on Sunday, including the large shopping centres. This practice is at odds with some of our politicians back home who insist that the rest of the world is open 24/7 and Western Australia needs to catch up. Later, we found the “Closed on Sundays” rule extends to many restaurants and take-aways. The supermarkets in Offenbach, the Lidl and Penny, were both closed as well, leaving us with few food options later in the evening. Overall, it was a lack-lustre day but still far better than not being here at all.

Old Frankfurt

Offenbach – 24 April – We had a lazy day in. The manager of the apartment block came around to unblock the shower drain, otherwise, not a lot happened. We did go out a couple of times to walk the area and discover more shops and sights but it was a quiet day, and the body appreciated it. The temperature has dropped too, and the magic weekend weather has given way to a 14 degree max with grey skies and light rain. Tomorrow looks worse.

Offenbach – 25 April – We rugged up and headed out to the Oppenbach Markt, a local produce market operating on Tuesday, Friday and Saturday. It was interesting to see the variety of different fruit and vegetables. Most were labelled with the country of origin. There were some very strange turban shaped cabbage things from Portugal. White asparagus is very common and cheaper than the green variety. The fish and meat vans had pork, lamb and beef, although the beef is extremely expensive. All meat is pricey, with chicken being at least affordable and turkey even cheaper. Fish is more expensive than it is at home and there is far less choice. The flower stalls were outstanding, with beautiful arrangements available for around $A15. There were huge bunches of tulips and amazing bunches of bud roses.

The Offenbach Markt

We were excited to see a wurst stall, selling a variety of sausages with bread and a sauce. These are common further south, in Bavaria and especially in Austria but we had not seen many in the Rhineland. We chose a Bratwurst with a curry sauce and bread roll. It was delicious. We chose to share one serve and we both hoped the other would instantly take ill so we could eat it all.

What has surprised us is the lack of English amongst the general population. Granted, Offenbach is not a tourist area in any sense but Frankfurt is one of Europe’s biggest transport hubs and economic centres. Our feeling is that there is less English in this part of Germany than in Croatia or Italy. This extends to signage and menus, most of which are German only. Google Translate gets a good work out.

Wiesbaden – 26 April – We awoke to a temperature of -1ºC so before we headed out, we rugged up with the full thermals and jackets. We took a train to the nearby city of Wiesbaden, a journey of around 50km. We opted to buy an all day ticket, which proved useful because it is a slight saving on the return trip and it also gave us access to the bus system in Wiesbaden, the whole region falling under the RNV transport system. The trip took us through Mainz, another city on the junction of the Main and Rhine rivers. Although smaller than Frankfurt, Wiesbaden is the capital of Hesse, and Mainz is the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate. Wiesbaden has 15 thermal springs dotted around the city so it has been important since Roman times as a spa city. It enjoyed an almost cult status amongst the wealthy during the 19th Century and many fine houses can be seen throughout the city. Even today, the city has one of Europe’s highest number of ultra-wealthy people and very high overall average wealth.

As soon as we emerged from the central train station, the beauty of the city was obvious. Wide tree-lined streets lead away to the old town square, with numerous pretty parks, fountains and gardens, sporting a glorious array of tulips and the cherry trees in full bloom. Many of the stately homes are now either apartments or professional offices but the grandeur of life near the late 19th century was easy to picture. The city sustained very little damage during WWII and so there are fewer of the austere 1950s plain blocks of offices and apartments that characterise many other German cities. The town square was dominated by a majestic town hall and the towering triple spires of the Markikirche, an enormous protestant cathedral built entirely of brick. A fresh food market was in full swing, along with a wonderful array of food trucks, so we helped out the local economy by indulging in yet another “Curry Wurst und Brot”. It must be the cold weather because these things are getting addictive.

Around Wiesbaden

After getting some advice at the Tourist Centre, we caught the No1 bus out of town to the Nerobergbahn, a quirky little funicular railway that climbs 83m along a 400m track to the top of a hill overlooking the city. Built in 1888, this railway is famous because it uses an amazing system of water ballast. Two cars operate, one going up and the other down. When at the top, one car is filled with 7,000L of water, making it around 7 tonne heavier than the one at the bottom. As it descends, it hauls the other one up to the top. Once at the bottom, the railcar dumps all its water, which is pumped to the top of the hill again to fill the other car. The views from the top are sweeping, allowing us to take in the whole city. The hill is also home to a Russian Orthodox Church and a war memorial to the fallen in the Great War, which, seen the day after Anzac day, was a reminder that the tragedy of WW1 was not a one sided affair.

The Neobergbahn

Back down the hill, we caught the bus back into the city, alighting to inspect one of the thermal springs, a 66ºC fountain with multicoloured deposits creating a low dome in a small plaza.

A thermal spring

From there, we made our way back through picturesque streets to the town square, stopping along the way to have a lunch of salad rolls and coffee in a bakery. The Germans certainly do bakeries well, with an amazing variety of delicious goods at affordable prices.

We had considered stopped off in Mainz on the way home but we had already walked around 7km so decided enough was enough. Wiesbaden had delivered the goods. A beautiful city well worth the visit.

Tomorrow, we leave Offenbach to journey north to Cologne (Köln) via Flixbus. We are very happy with our choice of staying out of Frankfurt in Offenbach because it has given us the chance to really appreciate this interesting and comfortable city. It is not on the tourist lists, but we can recommend it.





  1. Yvette and Rob

    An interesting and comprehensive read. Some good tips, too.
    Continue to enjoy xxx

  2. Wow! You have had some amazing adventures! I wish I was there!

  3. Paula Wies

    Love the story so far .. keep on travelling and take us all with you !!!

  4. Ros Organ

    Looking forward to reading your new adventure after a long hiatus…travel safe x

  5. Steve Fisher

    Danke Terry & Chris. Looking forward to reading more adventures.

  6. Glenn Arundell

    Thanks Terry and Christine. I love reading your travel journals. Here we go again!
    Glenn A

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