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The Dangerous Business of Going Out Your Door I am often tired of myself and I have a notion that by travel I can add to my personality and so change myself a little. I do not bring back from the journey quite the same self that I took. - W. Somerset Maugham

Final Days in Frankfurt and the Numbers from Germany

GERMANY | Sunday, 5 June 2016 | Views [589]

My last days in Germany found me in Frankfurt am Main, a city I had never visited despite having passed through so many times before, both by plane and train. I am not the only traveler who has been skipping it. Out of the millions of people who transit through Frankfurt annually, only a fraction actually visits it. The nicknames “Mainhattan” and “Bankfurt” may not inspire those looking for the romanticism of Germany’s old castles, the camaraderie of Bavaria’s beer halls, or the intriguing history of Berlin and the former East Germany, but Frankfurt certainly holds a place in my mind as the diverse face of modern Germany.


First Impression and Spargelzeit

For those expecting a homogenous German sterility, the area around the train station can be a bit of a shock. Dirty and destitute, it did not offer a warm welcome, nor did it provide a fitting foreground for the glitzy financial center only a short walk away. All sorts of shiftless and shady types hung around there, making a striking contrast with the industrious efficiency of the railway and the affluent skyline of downtown. The massive display of wealth that is the 46-foot high euro symbol in front of the European Central Bank seemed to make a mockery of the struggling humanity around it. At the same time, the sun, not to be outdone by anything man-made, asserted itself by reflecting wildly off of all the surrounding skyscrapers. It was an uncomfortable power play, blinding in its intensity. I changed course to find something more pleasant.

Soon, the skyscrapers gave way to more traditional buildings and calming views of the River Main. Walking along the banks, I was impressed by a lovely serenity that I never expected to find in Frankfurt. One hears of the beauty of the Rhine, the Moselle, and the Danube rivers, but not much of the Main. I crossed over it to the neighborhood of Old Sachsenhausen, known for its cozy ambiance and comfortable apple wine pubs. Ducking into one such pub, quiet and darkly paneled, I finally allowed myself to indulge in the highly-prized white asparagus spears. If you've never had them, you must forget all you know about green asparagus and try to imagine something about three times as thick with a succulent fleshiness that melts in your mouth. They are only available in the spring, when restaurants and produce stalls celebrate Spargelzeit (asparagus time), and many restaurants even have a dedicated Spargel (asparagus) menu. This particular pub offered asparagus with either Hollandaise sauce, butter, or herb sauce. I asked the waitress for a recommendation, and was entertained with a list of pros and cons for each one before she definitively settled on the Hollandaise sauce as her personal favorite. It was encouraging to have a chatty waitress, a rarity in Germany that I had not encountered in Leipzig or Munich. On my right side sat a German family, and half way through my meal, an Italian couple was seated to my left, all of us enjoying our own Spargelzeit.


Cravings and the Final Days

I considered the meal an indulgence because it was expensive for my budget, the cheapest I had found being €14 ($16) for four asparagus spears with a side of potatoes. My Spargel craving had started in Munich, but I had not been willing to pay so much for it, settling instead for a €7 ($8) bowl of asparagus soup. While delicious, it did not satisfy the craving, nor did the next attempt with a €10 ($11.50) portion of asparagus risotto. Those dishes did nothing but cost me more money while I unsuccessfully avoided what I really wanted. Even this far into my travels I was still making such rookie mistakes. I should have just paid the price for the real thing and thus spared myself the extra expense of trying to avoid it. When I finally allowed myself to have the asparagus spears, it was one of the most satisfying meals of the trip, because it was exactly what I had been craving.

Away from the train station and downtown, Frankfurt turned out to be the most satisfying German city of my trip, and I wonder if I had been craving it without knowing it. Leipzig had been very interesting, but it did not completely satisfy me, nor did the touristy Munich. I had not been able to connect with those cities in the way that I connected with Frankfurt. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the cities themselves, or perhaps it was the mood that existed only in my own mind while I was there. For whatever reason, I did not feel lonely or bored in Frankfurt. The people seemed friendlier, and I perceived a general sense of well-being. In the neighborhood around my Airbnb apartment, tall, leafy trees provided a peaceful canopy perfect for strolling amongst the playgrounds, local pubs, and neighborhood grocery stores. The weather was perfect, and every moment held a poignant importance as one of the last moments of my sabbatical. 


The Numbers

I'm dividing the expenses out into each city I visited to show not only the differences in price between cities, but also to show how the costs skyrocket when you only stay for a short time.

Berlin: Includes 1 day, just overnight and the next morning to meet my husband at the airport and fly together to Bulgaria

  • Flight from Riga to Berlin (one-way): $88.66
  • Private room with private bathroom in a hostel for 1 night (my half): $32.25
  • Daily expenses (food, bus tickets): $29.69

Berlin Total: $150.60 for 1 day 

Frankfurt (1): Includes 1 day, just overnight and the next morning to drop my husband off at the airport

  • Flight from Prague to Frankfurt (one-way): $107.16
  • Private room with private bathroom in a hostel for 1 night (my half): $35.99
  • Daily expenses (food, airport shuttle): $21.49

Frankfurt (1) Total: $164.64 for 1 day

Leipzig: Includes 6 days

  • 1/2 of BahnCard (provided 25% off all train tickets): $10.94
  • Train from Frankfurt to Leipzig (one-way): $25.05
  • Private room with a shared bathroom in a pension for 6 nights: $173.91
  • Daily expenses (food, transportation, laundry): $87.90

Leipzig Total: $297.80 for 6 days

Leipzig Average: $49.63 per day

Munich: Includes 4 days and daytrip to Dachau

  • 1/2 of BahnCard (provided 25% off all train tickets): $10.94
  • Train from Leipzig to Munich (one-way): $25.05
  • Airbnb private room in a shared apartment for 4 nights: $202
  • Daily expenses (food, transportation): $78.06
  • Day trip to visit Dachau: $13.17

Munich Total: $329.22 for 4 days

Munich Average: $82.31 per day

Frankfurt (2): Includes 4.5 days, daytrip Rhine tour to Koblenz, and return flight home

  • Bus and train from Zagreb to Frankfurt: $41.40
  • Airbnb private room in a shared apartment for 4 nights: $203
  • Daily expenses (food, transportation): $106.23
  • Day trip to Koblenz on a Rhine boat tour: $62.81
  • Airfare from Frankfurt back to the US (one-way): $206.26 + 20,000 AAdvantage miles

Frankfurt (2) Total: $619.70 for 4.5 days

Frankfurt (2) Average: $137.71 per day


Combined Average for Germany over 16.5 days: $94.66 per day

The two one-night stays in Berlin and Frankfurt pushed the average up, but Leipzig was a very inexpensive place, so it balanced it out. Considering my two daytrips to Dachau and Koblenz, and the fact that my second Frankfurt stay had to absorb the flight back home, I must say I am very pleased that my daily average managed to stay below $100/day. Germany is not known to be a cheap destination, but budget travel is possible with some discipline. Just remember to splurge on the one meal you really want rather than paying for two meals you don't want before you eventually cave anyway. :)

Tags: asparagus, budget, craving, frankfurt, germany, main, sabbatical, solo, spargel, travel


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