Updated: Jan 7
In May, Frankfurt is beautiful. The sun does not get so hot that the walkers can stroll easily next to the Main, which is 525 km long and the longest river running through Germany. Along with it, the financial centre of Germany and the European Union raised up, recognizable by its high-rise business buildings. This centre of Frankfurt is known as Mainhattan, but there is not much hustle and chaos as in the American model. After all, this is Germany, in the very heart of the Bundesrepublik, in the federal land of Hessen.
This story came quite accidentally (if at all there is a coincidence). A two-day visit to Frankfurt had a completely different intent, as long as the author of this article did not go to a great gastronomic event at Frankfurt's Rossplatz. Days of green sauce (Grüne Soße), a pint of traditional culinary art took place. It is a cold sauce made of seven different types of herbs: borage, chervil, cress, parsley, salad burnet, sorrel and chives. This combination of weird names gives a greenish sauce with bitterness like horseradish, and is traditionally served with hard boiled eggs and boiled potatoes. It is not the culinary highlight, but is a proud representative of the work of local farmers for generations. The most famous myth is that green sauce was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's favourite dish, invented by his mother. Actually, the first green sauce recipe was published in 1860 in a cookbook by Wilhelmine Rührig, but Frankfurt locals love to connect their favourite fare to the renowned author, who was born in Frankfurt. All these herbs can be bought at the Kleinmarkthalle market or other marketplaces in the city.
The peak of the year is the Grüne Soße Festival, which has become a true seven-day event in Frankfurt with renowned German singers and musicians, as well as various culinary stalls of small producers and famous Frankfurt restaurants offering this sauce. This is already the case with elaborated dishes, which are traditional specialties of the Hessen region, especially with meat dishes and sausages, but also with vegetarian options. During the festival, various combinations of green sauces are tested, so recipes from the African, Caribbean, French, Italian and various other cuisines of the world are prepared. Somehow it is more interesting to try domestic combinations for a visitor, but there is still a known dish with which green sauce does not blend so often.
It is the famous Frankfurt sausages. "Frankfurter", as Germans call them, are long, thin sausages that are flavourful, lightly smoked and made from pork. Traditionally, they are served with bread, yellow mustard, horseradish and sometimes with potato salad. The name of "Frankfurter Würstchen" may only be used for sausages that are produced in the greater Frankfurt region. Butchers outside of this area have to call the sausages "Nach Frankfurter Art", which means "they are made like Frankfurters, but not in the Frankfurt area". Tasting can be done at every corner, although it is not certain that everything is made according to old recipes.
With the city's skyline and its business centre, it is difficult to imagine that Frankfurt offers something else than only its modern face. That's not so. Though the area is small, Frankfurt has a beautiful old town, centred on Römerberg Square. It is located in front of the Römer building complex, seat of the Frankfurt city administration since the 15th century. As the site of numerous Imperial coronations, trade fairs and Christmas markets, the square is the historic heart of the medieval Altstadt (old town) and today a popular tourist destination. The Old St Nicholas Church and Historical Museum are to the south. On the west side of the square is the reconstructed Römer medieval building. To the east is the modern Dom-Römer Project and beyond that is Frankfurt Cathedral. All of this is easily interconnected and one can visit it all in half an hour. Römerberg is a major location for the outdoor Frankfurt Christmas Market.
There are numerous restaurants and inns in the area that offer various other culinary experiences in the Hessen region. Frankfurt loin ribs is a traditional dish served in Frankfurt. It consists of pork cutlets, slowly heated in sauerkraut. It is traditionally served with sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and yellow mustard. Handkäs’ are small round regional cheeses marinated in oil, vinegar and chopped onions, served with bread and butter. Among the sweets, a special place is given to the Frankfurt Bethmännchen. These small biscuit-like treats are made of marzipan, rolled into a little ball and then decorated with three halved almonds. The story of the Bethmännchen dates back to the early 19th century and the famous Frankfurt banking family, the Bethmanns. Upon a time, a sweet biscuit was served during a lunch in 1838, decorated with four almonds representing Bethmann's four sons: Alexander, Karl, Moritz and Heinrich. After Heinrich's death in 1845, they used only three almonds. Frankfurt Crown Cake was created by an unknown master baker in 1735. It symbolises a crown, with golden brittle placed around the outside and jewel-like cherries as decoration. Frankfurt was seen as the "crown city" of the German Empire for many years.
Not only that, it is also the city where the first German constitution was created. In the church of St. Paul, where today's museum is dedicated to this event, gathered representatives of all German countries and founded the first German parliament in 1849 as the democratic will of the German people. More than half of the deputies were highly educated, and the parliament had no representative of the working class. However, due to the emergence of various political parties and free discussions, Frankfurt remains the birthplace of German democracy.
It is very likely that many advocates have been toasting with apple wine. The Frankfurtian apple wine - known as "Ebbelwei", "Schoppe" or "Stöffche", has been for over 250 years the most popular Frankfurter drink. The locals traditionally enjoy it in rustic town inns where they are served in the earthen vessel, usually called "bembel", and is drunk from a special ribbed glass, known as the "gerippte". Over the years, the grey jug with its blue design has become the premier symbol of Frankfurt's time-honoured apple wine culture. It is deliciously sour, with a strong flavour of fruit. The procedure is different from making cider, so it is rightly called wine. Among the most famous vineyards for this particular wine are Born in the Wetterau, Matsch & Brei, Pomolo, Der Alte Hochstädter, Herberth, Nöll and Rapp's.
Frankfurt is great for a multi-day stay, not only in the city centre but also in the immediate vicinity, rich in fruit and herbs, which is great for exploring the region's flavours in the heart of Germany.
Photos by: Taste of Adriatic & Visit Frankfurt (Holger Ullmann)