In search of... Faust in Frankfurt

A child murder in the city where Goethe was born inspired his most famous work. Ian McCurrach hunts for other devilish connections

I thought Frankfurt was a cutting-edge city all full of space-age towers. What's it got to do with pacts with the devil?

Well, dumbo, like me, you might be surprised to find out that Goethe, aka the Prince of German Poets and author, of course, of Faust, was born here in 1749 and spent his young adult life in the city.

Oh really? Goethe was more than just a poet, though, wasn't he?

Yes. He was also a noted lawyer, scholar, philosopher, playwright and natural scientist. Most Frankfurters pride themselves on being able to come up with a couple of quotes from the master, such as "On the 28th August 1749, as the midday bell struck twelve, I was born into Frankfurt by the Main", which is how he described his birth in Poetry and Truth.

Did the city provide much inspiration for Faust then?

You bet. As a young man he experienced the court case of the infant murderer Susanna Brandt, whose fate moved him deeply. Years later he paid tribute to Brandt with the figure of Gretchen in Faust (Marguerite in the operatic version), in which a disillusioned academic sells his soul to the devil in return for love. In fact, Goethe's memory lives long here, as the city is littered with statues and buildings associated with him.

So where should I start?

Prime destination is the poet's birthplace, The Goethe House, Grosser Hirschgraben 23-25 (00 49 69 13 88 00; www.goethehaus-frankfurt.de), which is a wonderful example of how the well-to-do lived in the 18th century. See where little Goethe got to be such a brainbox. Goethe senior wanted the best-educated children in town and there are rooms dedicated to each of the arts. The library was dubbed the torture room by young Goethe, because it was here that he and his sister Cornelia were made to read and write in five languages. Goethe's study on the third floor is where he wrote the works that were first claim to fame: Goetz of Berlichingen and The Sorrows of Young Werther.

Any more devilishly clever connections?

Right next door, in fact, to The Goethe Museum, which has a fascinating collection of art and artefacts connected to Goethe, along with a vast library of his works. For example, in the Arcadian Room is a painting of Maddalena Riggi, from Milan, the girl to whom Goethe is thought to have lost his virginity when he was 35 years old. The master was terrified of contracting syphilis, which might explain why he left it quite late in life to begin sexual relationships. What this does indicate is that his early love poems may have been the manifestation of his unconsummated physical desires.

I'm getting quite interested - where can I find out more?

Just a hop, skip and a jump away. Cross the road to the excellent local bookshop. At Büchergilde, Grosser Hirschgraben 20-26, you can stock up on loads of works by Goethe, translated into English.

Anything else I should see?

No visit is complete without taking in the Gerbermühle, Deutschherrnufer 105. This former mill on the banks of the Main was once the summer residence of the banker, Johann Jakob von Willemer, whom Goethe visited for a month in 1815. It was here that the poet, aged 65, met young Marianne von Willemer and fell in love with her. Their love letters were immortalised in Goethe's West-Eastern Divan. Today, it houses a small hotel with large gardens overlooking the river where you can contemplate the master's work.

I'm getting hungry?

There's nowhere finer than the terrace of the Alte Oper, Am Opernplatz, which comes complete with a statue of Goethe. Tuck into a delicious salad and a refreshing glass of apple wine in this beautifully renovated space in the old opera house.

Where else should I visit?

Goethe frequently sailed to the nearby town of Hochst, which is now a suburb of Frankfurt. The old town hasn't changed much, so expect tradition-steeped inns around the main square, a 16th-century castle and the famous porcelain factory. Goethe was a great admirer of the Hochst work, and was so close to Melchior, the modelling master, that he became the godfather of Melchior's son. You can tour the factory, which still produces the Goethe portrait first made by Melchior. Höchster Porzellan-Manufaktur, Bolongarostrasse 186 (00 49 69 30 09 02 0).

At the risk of sounding a bit shallow , are there any Goethe connections that are a little less worthy?

Sure. After such heady stuff, why not indulge in retail therapy. Goethestrasse is the city's most exclusive shopping street where you will find names like Prada, Hermès, Armani and Jil Sander.

OK, I'm convinced. How do I get there?

There really is only one way to go. BA (0870 850 9 850, www.ba.com) flies from London City to Frankfurt with return fares from £81. The best place to stay is The Hotel Hessischer Hof (00 49-69 7540-0, 00800 2888 8882; www.lhw.com), from £229 per night. A one-day Frankfurt Card from tourist information offices costs €7.50 (£5.20) and covers travel on S-Bahn and U-Bahn train, trams and night buses, along gives half-price admission to 17 museums. German National Tourist Office (020-7317 0908; www.germany-tourism.co.uk).

News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
News
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
Bruce Chatwin's novel 'On the Black Hill' was set at The Vision Farm
travelOne of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
Sport
footballManchester City 1 Roma 1: Result leaves Premier League champions in danger of not progressing
Arts and Entertainment
Gay and OK: a scene from 'Pride'
filmsUS film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
News
i100
Life and Style
Magic roundabouts: the gyratory system that has excited enthusiasts in Swindon
motoringJust who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
booksWell it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Management Accountant

    28,000 to 32,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our client, a hospitality busi...

    Food and Beverage Cost Controller

    18,000 to 20,000 per annum: Accountancy Action: Our fantastic leisure client i...

    Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive

    £20 - 24k: Guru Careers: A Marketing Analyst / Marketing Executive is needed t...

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    Day In a Page

    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
    The magic of roundabouts

    Lords of the rings

    Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
    Why do we like making lists?

    Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

    Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
    Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

    A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

    As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
    Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

    Paris Fashion Week

    Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
    Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

    Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

    One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
    10 best children's nightwear

    10 best children's nightwear

    Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
    Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

    Manchester City vs Roma

    Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
    Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

    Trouble on the Tyne

    Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
    Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

    Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

    and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

    The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
    Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

    Last chance to see...

    The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
    So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

    Truth behind teens' grumpiness

    Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

    Hacked photos: the third wave

    Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?