Fabulous in Frankfurt
Nicknamed Bankfurt, Frankfurt, Germany has long held a reputation as a center of finance -- and not much else. Lately, though, this surprisingly sophisticated city of 700,000 has been enticing increasing numbers of tourists with an ever-expanding array of world-class shopping, culinary and cultural offerings. With an LGBT population of 50,000, Frankfurt offers gay travelers in particular much to love, including a notoriously lively, liberal outlook. Notes city guide Sören Appuhn, "The thing is, people can do whatever they want and we respect them. As long as you're not hurting anyone, almost anything goes."
Loud and proud
Frankfurt's version of Pride, Christopher Street Day -- which actually takes place over an entire weekend -- will be held from July 18th to the 20th. Backed by the municipal government and the city's mayor, who will officially open the event on the 19th, CSD draws more than 200,000 people to Konstablerwache, the city's central square. Events include open-air concerts, sets from internationally renowned DJs, panel discussions and plenty of all-night parties at gay hotspots around the city center. The famed CSD parade, with dozens of floats and hundreds of participants, will kick off on July 19 at noon.
Located just north of the Konstablerwache train station and off the retail-laden Zeil pedestrian mall, the Bermuda Triangle boasts more than enough diversions. The city's LGBT district offers a diverse assortment of clubs and bars, including Zum Schwejk, still going strong after a quarter century, and CK Studio, featuring not only top DJs from around the globe but Frankfurt's hottest gay clientele. For a relaxed atmosphere, hit up Switchboard, a cafe run by and benefiting the local AIDS charity; naughtier pleasures await a few blocks west of the Triangle at The Stall, a fabled fetish bar with a darkroom and cages.
Make a Pilgrimage
Frankfurt is the proud home of Germany's first memorial dedicated to members of the LGBT community persecuted during the Nazi era. "The Frankfurt Angel," as the simple yet undeniably powerful sculpture has been dubbed, was inaugurated two decades ago in a quiet corner of the Triangle.
Equally moving is "Injured Love." Erected at St. Peter's Church, it honors those lost to AIDS; each of the city's victims is symbolized by a handmade nail driven into a wall. On World AIDS Day, family and friends make a processional to the memorial, leaving a rose on the wall in remembrance of their loved one.
As befitting one of the most gay-friendly cities in the world, hotels in Frankfurt welcome LGBT guests with outstretched arms. Budget-conscious travelers who want to lay their head in the Bermuda Triangle should consider Hotel Scala, a spiffy Best Western with rooms starting at around 66 Euros. Looking to splurge?
Book accommodations at ultra-modern boutique hotel The Pure, or, for five-star luxury, at the Grandhotel Hessischer Hof. Owned by the family foundation of the Landgraves and Princes of Hesse, it features one of the city's most exquisite dining rooms, including china given to the family by Napoleon Bonaparte.
Nibble and Nosh
Great eateries abound in Frankfurt, but one of the loveliest is Harvey's, named after American gay activist Harvey Milk. Also offering a sleek bar, Harvey's serves both Hessian and international cuisine. Hearty, inexpensive pub grub dished out until dawn can be found at the Brit-style Birmingham Pub, which gets gayest after dark.
But no visit to the city would be complete without a stop at one of the traditional apple wine restaurants located in Old Sachsenhausen, a district resplendent with classic half-timbered buildings. For maximum fun, head to Frau Rauscher, featuring a comical fountain statue of a woman spitting water outside and delicacies like "spine soup."
From the posh designer goods from names like Prada and Cartier found at Goethestraße, to the art and antiques of Fahrgasse and Braubrachstraße, Frankfurt is a shopper's paradise. Among the more unique emporiums are Inside Her, an upscale sex store catering to women, with a wide selection of erotic wear and toys, and Sündige Mode, a fetish shop with all manner of leather, latex and bondage and discipline gear.
Sportswear fans should be sure to check out the ES Collection boutique in the Triangle. A clothing line out of Barcelona, Spain, it's best known for its padded swimwear.
A German national treasure, writer and statesman Johann Wolfgang von Goethe hailed from Frankfurt. The home where he was born in 1749, all shined up and dubbed the Goethe-Haus, is open for tours. Seeking an extra dose of culture? Frankfurt's Museum Embankment, which lines both sides of the Main River, is replete with historical and artistic goodies. Nine museums line the south bank, including the Städel Institute of Art and Municipal Gallery, which houses works from greats such as Rembrandt, Botticelli, Monet and Picasso.
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