"Sie verruckter Englander (you crazy Englishman),” said the driver of the number 23 bus in Wiesbaden, Germany. I had enjoyed a fabulous Rhine-caught Perch, washed down with some local beverage, for my lunch last Wednesday. My overnight flight, only a little sleep, and over-indulgence meant that I had travelled from one end of his bus route to the other, dozing as the vehicle passed through the city centre where I had planned to get off. He took pity on me and didn't ask me to buy another ticket for the return trip.
The next day I gave a talk at an international conference on Project Management, attended by practitioners, academics, and students from all over the world. We all ended the day watching a spectacular thunderstorm over the Rhine vineyard at Schloss Johannisberg, having eaten handsomely on our choice of menu, plus local asparagus, which came with every dish. This is the season for asparagus in this region and I have never tasted anything so good. Wiesbaden is a spa town, with a beautiful centre clustered around the Palace Square. It is only a few miles from Frankfurt and worth the short trip. Following the conference I spent a day at leisure in Frankfurt, located in the state of Hessen, seat of the European Bank, and positioned geographically almost centrally within the European Union.
It is home to 2.3mn people, and the locals proudly refer to the city centre as Mainhattan, on account of its impressive skyline hugging the banks of the river Main. The old part of the city is called Romer, full of historic buildings, restaurants, shops and hustle and bustle. Street theatre was everywhere, with live bands playing for tips, and underground cafés with musicians plying their trade. The weather was kind and the streets were full of walkers, runners, and bikers - having fun and enjoying the sights. I really like the buzz of European cities: as an individual traveller one can observe and enjoy, but it is easy to chat to others, too and to get a feeling for real life and what it means to those who live there. I enjoyed a boat trip and saw several parts of the city that have been renovated and redeveloped, for example around the old harbour.
Architecture is given a high priority - some mistakes made in the past, with bland and unimaginative buildings, are not to be repeated today. I enjoyed the German hospitality and efficiency, and there is no doubt that this is just one of many European cities that are attractive for visitors. With both Oman Air and Lufthansa offering direct flights, this part of Germany is worth considering for a short break away from the sticky summer in Muscat.