Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Frankfurt - An Interview with Mariam M.Kobras

- Mariam, you were born in Frankfurt and know the town really well - how would you describe Frankfurt to someone who doesn't know it?
Frankfurt is a very modern town. It is dominated by its Financial District and the high rise buildings that make up the impressive skyline - and by a lively intellectual scene, enlivened by the annual Book Fair, the most important one world wide. Sadly, not a lot of the old town is left. You won't find a lot of historical buildings or a lovely medieval part in Frankfurt, but you will find diversity!
Growing up in Frankfurt, we were very strongly influenced by the American Way of Life because of the presence of the US Military in our surroundings, and you still get a lot of that now. Of all German cities I have seen. Frankfurt had the liberty to embrace the ease and pace of America early on. Thus, the high rise building? Never thought of it like this before, but it makes sense.
Today, Frankfurt is a little like New York, I think. It is the closest to New York that I can see in Europe.

- When you're there, Mariam, are you aware of a special feel about it? Meaning, is it different from other (German) towns?

All cities feel different from each other, I think, and a good thing, too.
There is something about Frankfurt though that is indeed special: I never got a feeling of "old" history in Frankfurt, like, say in Nuremberg or Munich. It has a distinct "After WW2" feeling to me, as if the city re-invented itself then.
There are some historical highlights, of course, like Goethe's birth place and the Paulskirche and City Hall, but that's about it.

-Would you say there is a "Frankfurt mentality"?
Not.... really. Or is there?
I think there is a strong intellectual mentality, which has its origin in the Philosophical Scene that developed around Adorno and his group, and of course the ever-present Book Fair. Way in the East of the city, where it borders on Offenbach, you'll find Oberrad, which is a bit of a surprise because it is indeed something like a farming area. That is where the famous "Green Sauce" herbs are grown. A small heart of the old Frankfurt, where you will also hear the original dialect being spoken. These people are "natives", and indeed have a mentality of their own.

- That's facinating! Is there anything in particular you yourself like especially

It's home. It's where I went to school and to the movies and shopping, and I love to return whenever I can. I've long since lost the native language, but when I'm back, I'll fall into the patois within the hour. There is one place I love particularly, the Kleinmarkthalle, a farmers' market inside a huge, old hall right in the center of the city where you can buy EVERYTHING that is edible all year long. I've never seen anything like it anywhere else in the world. Oh, and I lied further up about history: Frankfurt has one of the most wonderful Gothic cathedrals ever, and a number of German emperors and kings were crowned there. ("Kaiserdom")
And I like the food in Frankfurt. The local, hearty fair, but also the curries, sushi, the Malaysian, Arabian, Indian, Thai (especially that!!!) American, French, Italian.... oh you name it. Another thing I like very much are the museums along the Main river. The city has done a brilliant job there.

Mariam, this has been absolutely fascinating. You talk so animatedly about your home town. I could imagine, quite a few people have now become quite curious to see what it's like... in fact I'm very much looking forward to going there myself in a couple of weeks

Mariam M. Kobras is a writer and teacher. Check out her profile and blog


  1. What a wonderful sky line and how lovely to hear someone talk about their city with such love and pride xx Great post

  2. I've never been - only seen the vast airport. Might take a look next time!

  3. The thing I personally appreciate most about Frankfurt is its connectedness and geographical location - right at the heart of Europe. Living in Scotland which often feels a bit marginal and forgotten, I envy Frankfurt its airport, its high-speed train link to Paris and Berlin... ah Europe!

  4. My most favourite, favourite view is in Frankfurt...
    Sitting on the balcony of the Dinea on the the top floor or Galeria Kaufhof. It is very, very beautiful. Makes me smile every time :o)

  5. I also lived in Frankfurt for quite a few years, and despite it being a rather difficult town to handle, with its mixture of 1950s buildings, high-rise banks, a distinctly dodgy and puzzlingly unreformed red light district bang in front of the main station, a horribly ugly central section of the S/U Bahn at Hauptwache, the Zeil of course (ugh), the total absence of proper Wochenmärkte (sorry, but what they have is sadly below par for a town of this importance)....I quite liked it. Why? The people have a curious mixture of relaxed-cum-distinterestedness, which comes across as liberal, there are less numbers of fussy, self-important pensioners that you tend to find in the more stately nearby Wiesbaden, the surrounding countryside is lush, and it is a tad more cosmopolitan than say Düsseldorf or (dare I say it) Hamburg. So, birthplace to Goethe, home to the European Central Bank, here's to you - long may you flourish. Hoch die Tassen.