Frankfurt am Main (2)

“(…) We made a short halt at Frankfort-on-the-Main, and found it an interesting city. I would have liked to visit the birthplace of Gutenburg, but it could not be done, as no memorandum of the site of the house has been kept. (Gutenburg, Gutenberg, wer weiß? Die beiden werden ja häufiger verwechselt. Anm. Rheinsein) So we spent an hour in the Goethe mansion instead. The city permits this house to belong to private parties, instead of gracing and dignifying herself with the honor of possessing and protecting it. Frankfort is one of the sixteen cities which have the distinction of being the place where the following incident occurred. Charlemagne, while chasing the Saxons (as HE said), or being chased by them (as THEY said), arrived at the bank of the river at dawn, in a fog. The enemy were either before him or behind him; but in any case he wanted to get across, very badly. He would have given anything for a guide, but none was to be had. Presently he saw a deer, followed by her young, approach the water. He watched her, judging that she would seek a ford, and he was right. She waded over, and the army followed. So a great Frankish victory or defeat was gained or avoided; and in order to commemorate the episode, Charlemagne commanded a city to be built there, which he named Frankfort — the ford of the Franks. None of the other cities where this event happened were named for it. This is good evidence that Frankfort was the first place it occurred at. Frankfort has another distinction — it is the birthplace of the German alphabet; or at least of the German word for alphabet — BUCHSTABEN. They say that the first movable types were made on birch sticks — BUCHSTABE — hence the name. (…) In Frankfort everybody wears clean clothes (…). Even in the narrowest and poorest and most ancient quarters of Frankfort neat and clean clothes were the rule. The little children of both sexes were nearly always nice enough to take into a body’s lap. And as for the uniforms of the soldiers, they were newness and brightness carried to perfection. One could never detect a smirch or a grain of dust upon them. The street-car conductors and drivers wore pretty uniforms which seemed to be just out of the bandbox, and their manners were as fine as their clothes. In one of the shops I had the luck to stumble upon a book which has charmed me nearly to death. It is entitled THE LEGENDS OF THE RHINE FROM BASLE TO ROTTERDAM, by F. J. Kiefer; translated by L. W. Garnham, B.A. All tourists MENTION the Rhine legends — in that sort of way which quietly pretends that the mentioner has been familiar with them all his life, and that the reader cannot possibly be ignorant of them — but no tourist ever TELLS them. (…)”

(aus: Mark Twain – A tramp abroad, Chapter I)


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