Frankfurt might once have been a fine city. Today, it's a pimple on the rump of Frankfurt Airport.
More than half the people who land at Frankfurt Airport don't actually want to go to Frankfurt. They change planes to get to nicer places. Today, I'm one of them.
I have passed through Fraport (as they call it) many times. But I never stopped to think what effect the airport had on the city itself.
With a population of around 600,000, Frankfurt is a provincial capital that nestles into the larger Rhine-Main conurbation. It's a little over half the size of Adelaide, South Australia—another provincial capital, and my ultimate destination.
Six million passengers a year pass through Adelaide Airport. Fifty-three million pass through Frankfurt.
(Adelaide Airport rather pretentiously calls its main building Terminal One, ignoring the fact that there is no Terminal Two.)
A giant airport, that can get you to pretty much anyplace in the world, attracts businesses with a high fly-in-fly-out factor. Technology, pharmaceuticals, finance.
Frankfurt is the only German city with a real skyscraper district. A city with only 600,000 inhabitants doesn't really need to build skyscrapers. But all those banks and ad agencies feel more at home in them.
Fraport authorities try to keep up with increasing terminal traffic, endlessly building extensions and renovating older structures. The result is functional, if not thoroughly efficient. And a bit soulless.
Compare it to Singapore's Changi Airport, where I'll change planes. Changi has indoor tropical gardens, waterfalls, free cinemas, a butterfly house, and several Rodeo Drive's worth of luxury shopping.
Travel thrills people. But you'll find no thrills in Frankfurt Airport. Here, flying is all business—the aeronautical equivalent of a cubicle farm.
An uninspiring place to start a vacation. But things will improve.