10 surprising things you never knew about FrankfurtRheinMain

Frankfurt isn’t as diverse as Berlin? It’s too sleepy to rival Hamburg’s raucous nightlife? It can’t rival Munich’s great outdoors? The German finance capital is often characterized as provincial. But a closer look shows that it has great things to offer.

10 surprising things you never knew about FrankfurtRheinMain
Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

The finance capital is Germany's most international city

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Frankfurt has been described as “a city of minorities” due to the fact that not even Germans make up a majority of its inhabitants. While walking down its bustling streets you could meet locals from Mongolia, Mogadishu or Montana – over 90 percent of the world's 194 countries are represented here.

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Berlin may well have a reputation as being Germany's cultural melting pot, but Frankfurt and the town of Offenbach are in fact the German cities that have the most inhabitants with foreign backgrounds.

Small city, big region

Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

Anyone who has been to Frankfurt will know that it is a pocket-sized power house. It has gleaming skyscrapers to rival those of New York – hence the nickname “Mainhattan” – but you can travel under the downtown area in a handful of stops on the metro line.

What is much less known though is that Frankfurt is the centre of one of the biggest metropolitan areas in Europe. Mainz, Darmstadt, Wiesbaden, Offenbach and several other cities make up a larger urban area seamlessly linked by a suburban train network and a great highway system. It takes 20 to 30 minutes to drive from one city to another.

So while Frankfurt's population is roughly three quarters of a million, the wider FrankfurtRheinMain region has 5.5 million inhabitants. And many of these places challenge Frankfurt for their cultural importance. Mainz is the proud home of a 1,000-year-old cathedral, while glamorous Wiesbaden is famous for its 19th-century spa and casino that inspired Dostoyevski to write ‘The Gambler'.

Hidden after-work drinks culture

A walk around wealthy neighbourhoods such as West End may give the impression of a city enjoying the quiet life. But appearances can be deceiving. In recent years a whole host of hip bars have sprung up in the Bahnhofsviertel, the district around the central station as well as in North End and Bornheim.

Bahnhofsviertel is grungy to say the least – it is the centre of Frankfurt's red light district. Scratch under the surface though and you'll find vibrant bars and clubs hidden in courtyards and on the top floors of buildings. Many of these establishments don't advertise themselves to ensure that only those in the know find their way inside. But it is worth one's while to seek them out – venerated DJs and club promoters have moved into the neighborhood, earning it comparisons with the edgiest parts in Berlin.

Photo: FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH

Technological hotspot

We all know that Frankfurt is one of Europe's finance capitals. But it is no exaggeration to say that the FrankfurtRheinMain region is also Europe's digital capital.

Frankfurt is home to the largest internet exchange on the globe, the DE-CIX, which handles more than 6 Terabits per second of data, or roughly the equivalent of half a million books. The DE-CIX is so crucial to German life that when it was hit by a rare power outage last year, internet connection speeds in much of the country slowed to a crawl.

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Similarly, the city of Darmstadt shows that the whole region is contributing to this thriving digital economy. Predictably a “software cluster” in the city has earned comparisons with Silicon Valley. But the fact that 11,000 IT firms employ 100,000 people with a turnover of €25 billion annually means this small city truly is one of the tech capitals of Europe.

Robust sport scene

Rugby has a proud history in the Rhein-Main region. SC Frankfurt 1880 have been playing the sport for well over a century. The club has the largest youth training system in the country and has won almost every title in the youth divisions at the national level. And they're not the only ones mauling near the Main. Eintracht Frankfurt, the city's most famous sports club, have been playing the sport since the 1920s.

The region's international character also means that homesick expats from India and Australia set up its first cricket club back in the 1970s.

A resurrected old town

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For centuries Frankfurt was defined by its medieval old town, the largest in Germany. This knot of timbered houses was described by the city's most famous son, writer Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, as so “bustling and crowded that we feared to get lost in it.”

Sadly the medieval homes were reduced to ashes in the Second World War and post-1945 the rubble was used to create a concrete town hall. But a recent revival of interest in the historical led to the town hall being ripped down and replaced by replicas of the original buildings. No expense was spared on the painstaking reproductions which have been built using traditional methods. Since last summer the heart of the old town is once again open for visitors to wander through.

Nature inside the city

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Frankfurt is one of the few cities in which you can feel completely removed from the hubbub of the city while remaining firmly within its boundaries. To thank for this is the Stadtwald (city forest), the largest urban forest in the country which spread over an area of 3,866 hectares. Joggers are not likely to have too much trouble coming up with new running routes on the 450 kilometers of paths through these expansive woods.

A prestigious wine region

Just to the south of Frankfurt lies one of the most distinguished wine regions in the world. The Rheingau, located near the banks of the Rhine river, is famous for its Riesling wines, delicate white wines which were particularly beloved of Queen Victoria and are still revered today known as 'Hock' in the Angle-Saxon world.

An excellent way to visit the Rheingau vineyards is by setting out on one of dozens of marked hikes that wind through forests and past ruined castles and historic mills.

The world's biggest trade fair

Thanks to its advantageous position on the banks of the Main and a stone's throw from the mighty Rhine river, Frankfurt has been at the of international trade routes for centuries.

The city used this location well, convincing the German emperor in 1240 to offer special protection to traders who travelled to the city. The result was an explosion in the popularity of Frankfurt trade fairs. By the 14th century the city would double in size during fairs, as merchants and guests alike flocked to the market square. Even back then the city earned the name “das Kaufhaus Deutschen” (the Germans' shopping hall).

Messe Frankfurt, the company that owns the modern exhibition grounds in the west of the city, has kept this heritage alive. It is the largest fair organizer on the planet, putting on 150 exhibitions a year and attracting companies and people from all over the world.

An airport that'll take you practically anywhere

Photo: Mr_Worker / Pixabay

It is well known that Frankfurt has the largest airport in Germany, beating off competition from Munich and easily outdoing Berlin's outdated landing strips.

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But in 2018 it was also the best airport in Europe in terms of direct connectivity, offering just over 5,000 direct flights. This all means that the people of Frankfurt can reach almost any corner of the world with the minimum of fuss – it takes just 30 minutes by car to reach the airport from almost every corner of the region and 10 minutes by public transportation from Frankfurt city centre. Fitting figures for a small city that has always seen itself at the centre of the world.

This article was produced by The Local Creative Studio and sponsored by FrankfurtRheinMain GmbH.
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What you need to know about the EU’s plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Union has approved a new regulation that would force tech companies to use a standard charger for mobile phones and electronic devices. What does this mean?

What you need to know about the EU's plan for a uniform phone charger

The European Parliament has approved an agreement establishing a single charging solution for frequently used small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. The law will make it mandatory for specific devices that are rechargeable via a wired cable to be equipped with a USB Type-C port.

The rules have been debated for a while, and the announcement of the agreement has caused controversy, especially among tech companies and enthusiasts. US giant Apple has repeatedly lobbied against the standardisation, saying it halts innovation.

The EU says that the new rules will lead to more re-use of chargers and “help consumers save up to €250 million a year on unnecessary charger purchases”. Disposed of and unused chargers are estimated to represent about 11,000 tonnes of e-waste annually, the bloc says.

So, what exactly are the changes?

Which products will be affected?

According to the European Parliament, the new rules are valid for small and medium-sized portable electronic devices. This includes mobile phones, tablets, e-readers, earbuds, digital cameras, headphones and headsets, handheld videogame consoles and portable speakers that are rechargeable via a wired cable.

Laptops will also have to be adapted, the EU says.

Those devices will have to be equipped with a USB Type-C port regardless of their manufacturer.

When will the changes come?

For most devices, the changes are set to come by autumn of 2024. However, the date is not yet set because the regulations need to go to other proceedings within the EU bureaucracy.

After the summer recess, The EU’s Parliament and Council need to formally approve the agreement before publication in the EU Official Journal. It enters into force 20 days after publication, and its provisions start to apply after 24 months, hence the “autumn 2024” expectation.

Rules for laptops are a bit different, and manufacturers will have to adapt their products to the requirements by 40 months after the entry into force of the laws.

Where are the rules valid?

The rules will be valid for products sold or produced in the European Union and its 27 member countries. But, of course, they will likely affect manufacturers and promote more considerable scale changes.

The USB-C cable, with the rounded edges, will be the standard for charging in the EU (Photo by مشعال بن الذاهد on Unsplash)

Why the uniform USB Type-C?

The bloc said the uniform charger is part of a broader EU effort to make products more sustainable, reduce electronic waste, and make consumers’ lives easier.

“European consumers were frustrated long with multiple chargers piling up with every new device”, EU Parliament’s rapporteur Alex Agius Saliba said.

USB Type-C is a standard of charging that has been around for a while but still is one of the best options currently in the market. Also known as USB-C, it allows for reliable, inexpensive, and fast charging. A USB-C port can also be input or output, meaning that it can both send and receive charges and data.

Unlike other ports, it can be the same on both ends of the wire (making it easier and more universal in its use). It can also power devices and sends data much faster.

USB-C can also be used for video and audio connections, so some external monitors can charge your laptop and show your screen simultaneously with the same cable.

What criticism is there?

The project is not without criticism, most vocally from US tech giant Apple, a company that famously has its own charging standard, the “lightning” connection.

Apple claims that forcing a standardisation will prevent innovation, holding all companies to the same technology instead of allowing for experimentation. Still, Apple itself has been swapping to USB-C. Its iPads have already dropped the lightning standard. Its newer laptops can now be charged with the MagSafe proprietary connector and USB-C.

Apple iPhones are still charged with the company’s lightning ports – or wirelessly (Photo by Brandon Romanchuk on Unsplash)

The company’s popular earbuds and peripherals (including keyboards and mice) all charge with lightning. And, of course, the iPhone, Apple’s smartphone, also uses the company’s connection for charging.

While there have been rumours that Apple is working on new iPhones with USB-C connection (though definitely not for the next launch this year’s), the company could go away with wired charging altogether. Instead, like many tech manufacturers, Apple is improving its wireless charging solutions, even creating products dedicated to its MagSafe charging.

It won’t be completely free from the EU regulation if it does that, though. This is because the rules approved by the EU also allow the European Commission to develop so-called “delegated acts” concerning wireless charging. The delegated acts are faster processes that can be applied directly without being put to the vote.