20 Hours in Frankfurt

I didn’t initially think there would be any story to tell here. I was just flying in and out of the Frankfurt airport with a brief stop at a hostel; how much trouble could there be? But there were enough little surprises, that I figured I should share so….

After flying in, everything seemed normal enough. The bustling airport with 24 hour restaurants, and all the typical features…and then I stepped outside…. Seeing how this is a European airport in the heart of a major city, I figured there would be an obvious way for me to walk out into the craziness. Wrong! There were 4 separated roads, full of taxis, buses and private vehicles…and the whole thing is a complete story above ground level. I walked around the perimeter for a bit, but no obvious walking path presented itself.

Ok, no big deal; I’ll catch one of the free shuttle buses the hostel advertised. A bus pulled up, I asked him about my hostel, and he had no idea what I was talking about in spite of it being within visual range of the airport (not that I knew that as I’d never seen the place in person before). I later discovered that the driver I was talking to was in charge of the bus that shuttles people to and from my hostel…as well as 2-3 other hotels. Seriously, this guy should have known exactly where I wanted to go when I showed him the little favorite marker on Google Maps.

Well, I was at terminal 2, and the buses to terminal 1 were free. Maybe I’d have better luck there. On the way to terminal 1, the bus stopped at a ‘bus stop’ that was on the ground level, and had sidewalks! Finally, what I’d been looking for. I hopped off and headed in the hostel’s direction.

But the sidewalks had other plans…. There were a lot of busy streets so I wanted to find a nice crosswalk, because…rules and whatnot. There were plenty of sidewalks and a very nice pedestrian/bike path, but nothing seemed to cross this one road that I knew I had to get around. So finally, I said screw it, and froggered my way across. The land of bike paths everywhere and amazing trails though the forest ended up letting me down….

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The hostel had some interesting features I’d never seen before. It was a 6 person, mixed dorm with… 2 bunk beds, and 2 single beds pushed together. I couldn’t stop myself from wondering what if the bunks were taken, and 2 strangers walked in? Would they have to sleep in, effectively, the same bed? Fortunately, I didn’t have to find out as it was just me and a woman in the room. But it still seems so odd…

Something else I’d never encountered before was the apparent lack of power. I flipped all the switches, and checked all the outlets: nothing. After about 5 minutes of trying to figure out how I was going to charge my devices, I noticed what looked like a light switch with a slot on top. Figuring it couldn’t hurt anything, I slipped my room key (an electronic card) into the slot…and the whole room lit up! So someone has to have their card in the slot for the power to work. Interesting. I wonder if that caused any problems for the woman who was staying there when I had to leave in the middle of the night to catch my plane. Oh, did you just wake up and want some light? I guess you need to find the slot on the wall in the dark.

I eventually got hungry and decided to get some food from the airport. Because me, being the idiot I am, didn’t think to just get some before I left. The path back to the airport was pretty obvious until I got right next to the building. It turns out there’s this ramp for cars that has a tiny sidewalk next to it (like only large enough for one person at a time). That worked for me, but I wondered how someone significantly larger than myself would have felt having cars flying by him. Once I discovered this, walking became a whole lot easier.

The last thing of note is that German airport security to get into the secured area is the most strict I’ve seen. I thought US security was insane with the TSA, but now, that seems…well…still drastic, but not the worst. For one, they also have body scanners (as opposed to most of the world’s simple metal detectors). I also got pulled out of line while they searched my bag because I hadn’t pulled out my portable chargers and USB charging cables. I made it through US and Icelandic security with all that plus my Kindle and GoPro still in my bag.

Travel hack: When traveling from a German airport, ensure you remove every last liquid, electronic device, and cable. You can take them with you, but they all have to be outside your baggage when they go through the scanner.

I’m sad to say this whole experience has put me off traveling through Germany by plane. Which is even more of a downer considering how much of a hub they are for European travel. Add that to not wanting to go through US airport security, and that means 2 continental hubs are a major pain in the ass.

Next time, I’ll ensure I have lounge access. Then I’ll never have to leave secure areas until I’m out of the problem countries.

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