In Germany, moreso than Italy or Spain, everything is closed on Sundays, not for religious reasons but for worker-protection ones, which are nice in theory but can leave it hard for a foreigner to figure out how to spend half their weekend. Some people like making plans for big brunches with friends, but personally my favorite ritual is hitting one of the cities museums along the riverbank, often the Städel art museum. As a former art history student, and a NYC kid who remembers spending almost every childhood weekend in either the Met or Natural History museum, I feel relaxed and at home in gallery halls, always finding something new to see as well as re-visiting paintings I remember from earlier trips.
Wanting to avoid the center of the city, where a carnival parade dissected the streets and made navigation impossible (not to mention too many drunk costumed adults), I rounded out the rest of the afternoon in Bockenheim, my favorite neighborhood of the city because of its laid-back student vibe, being the home of the old half of the University campus. I finally made it to Café Crumble, one of the loveliest little places in Frankfurt to get a heisse schokolade or cup of coffee and a slice of cake, where you can feel comfortable either catching up with a group of friends or sitting for a while and reading, as I did.
On my way home I couldn’t resist picking up a pizza around the corner at one of the most popular authentic Italian pizzerias, Da Cimino, complete with Italian soccer games playing on the tvs, where I was pleasantly surprised to find that they remembered not just me but also my order. Officially becoming a “regular” at an Italian place in Germany was random, but not a bad way to finish off a quiet Sunday – not to mention that their simple pizza with mozzarella e basilico is to die for.
Here are some highlights from my visit to the Städel:
The central halls of the Städel focus on 18th and 19th century paintings, including many Impressionists (Degas and Monet, below) as well as Cezanne (above), Max Beckman, Gustave Courbet, Honore Daumier, and of course many more.
Upstairs they have the vast collections of the “Old Masters” from the Renaissance to the 1700s, from Italy and Spain to Germany and the Netherlands. Highlights for me were by two Dutch painters — one of my all-time favorites, Jacob Ruisdael who paints these quiet dune landscapes with incredible moody light, and Vermeer who is of course known for his masterful interior scenes, such as this thought-provoking painting of a geographer.
The caption for this painting said that it was meant to capture the geographer in the moment of making some calculation mentally, staring off into space blankly, as his mind maps the world. I thought this was a beautiful idea, in addition to the painting itself being gorgeous.
There were also several drawings and etchings by one of the pioneers of French landscape painting, Claude Lorrain. For some reason, even in expansive museums, I’m always drawn (no pun intended) to the things that are very small.
And finally, in the early 20th century galleries, this unusual black and red painting of a hotel hallway, empty except for one foot ascending the stairs to the left, caught my eye, amid the many Kirchner paintings and other German Expressionists.