Few countries do Christmas as well as Germany, from where we get so many of the season's customs. Even modern Frankfurt has its districts where you can imbibe the right mood of nostalgia.
At one of the many Apfelwein and sausage vendors in Sachsenhausen, I stop to sample the dual local delicacies. Typically served from a clay pot into cross-hatched glasses that help sausage-greasy fingers grab hold, the apple wine is sugary sweet and coats my throat. Apfelwein – a sort of flat cider served hot in winter and chilled in summer – is something of an obsession here and it is said that the bottle-green Westhafen Tower, a relatively new skyscraper, is modelled on one of the characteristic Geripptes glasses. The salty, scalding Frankfurter Würstchen is nicer, a world away from the hot-dog Frankfurters that borrow only the name elsewhere. Made of pure smoked pork, they have been a protected brand in Germany since the mid-1800s and can only be produced in the Frankfurt area. They have moved with the times, though: you can get beef varieties (a legacy of the former large Jewish population), and even a curry-wurst. Served with potato salad or sauerkraut, it is a meal in itself.
The pedestrian-friendly Aldstadt (Old Town), north of the river in the city center, is also pretty, with its gabled buildings and souvenir shops. The Römer – the medieval city hall, reconstructed in slightly simplified style after being bombed in 1944 – is painted pink and reminds me of the kitsch my grandma perched on her fireplace. From 1562 to 1792, it was used to celebrate the coronation banquet of ten Holy Roman Emperors, crowned in the nearby Cathedral of St. Bartholomew. Another victim of the war, the Dom was restored in the 1950s and its Gothic tower stands like a rock amid a sea of ongoing new construction.
Römerberg – the square in front of theRömer – is the setting for Frankfurt's Christmas Market, which dates back to the 14th century. It's the place to find seasonal treats such as Christmas tree ornaments, a glühwein mug or Apfelwein soap.