Sunday, September 20, 2015

East meets West

"East meets West" is a popular phrase, used in many contexts. It is used in political conclaves, trade circles, sports, cultural and educational exchanges, and scientific interactions. For the believers, The Lord created one world, but we have succeeded in dividing into many fractions; thereby giving birth to many problems that plague humanity today. East and West are the two bigger fractions among them. Well-known American violinist Yehudi Menuhin and Indian Sitarist Pandit Ravi Shankar gave Violin-Sitar duet recitals fifty years ago in the Bath Music Festival and the event was titled "West meets East". An album was released next year, in 1967, with the same title and the album was hugely popular. Where East actually meets West is purely a matter of opinion and there can be a three-day symposium at the end of which no conclusion would be reached.

With the growth in Aviation Industry and large movement of people between continents, some centers have grown prominently to provide a transit point for the people moving from east to west and west to east. Traditional transit centers like London and Paris have been joined by Frankfurt and recently Dubai in providing popular connections between cities in the east and the west on the trans-Atlantic routes. Hong Kong and Singapore provide similar transit stations on the trans-Pacific routes. Air India and United Airlines offer direct flights from India to USA to avoid transit points during the flights. But the cities served are restricted to Delhi/Mumbai in India and New York/Newark and Chicago in the USA. Passengers traveling from other cities in the two countries have to necessarily take a domestic flight at either end, thus making the journey a two flight affair anyway.  Further, these flights are ultra-long 16 hour flights and many do not prefer such long haul flights. Transit points in London, Paris and Frankfurt offer a near middle point with two almost equal duration flights. Taking a Dubai stopover would still leave an option of a 12 hour long flight.

Frankfurt is the largest financial, educational and cultural center in continental Europe and naturally a popular transit center between East and West aviation routes. Frankfurt claims to have the oldest airport  in aviation history, which was operating from a different location in the city, since 1909. The present airport is a hub of modren efficiency and fascinates a keen observer of airport operations.  Frankfurt Airport is presently 11th busiest airport in the world and handles 60 million passengers a year besides over 2 million metric tons of cargo. The airport spread over 5,000 acres with four runways has a take-off or landing each second and has facility to handle all types of aircrafts including the huge wide-bodied Airbus A-380 and Boeing 747-800. The airport has won the award for "The most enjoyable airport to spend time in, and leader in terms of flights and destinations offered". A careful observation during the  average transit time of 3 to 4 hours brings out the highlights of the clock-work precision with which a huge modern airport is managed. The thoroughness of the security checks impresses a seasoned traveler, though it may be irritating at times. When one understands the necessity of such checks in today's world, there is no bitterness in the outcome of such checks. The systematic arrangement and facilities for movement of people between the big terminals without crowding impresses the tourists.

Our transit halt at Frankfurt this time on 18th September coincided with the 66th IAA Frankfurt Motor Show 2015, held on 17th and 18th September 2015 for trade enquiries followed by public days up to 27th September 2015. The theme of the show was "Digitizing Mobility".  A small car show started in 1897 with only 8 motor vehicles at the Bristol Hotel in Berlin has now grown into a huge biennial show attracting developers, manufacturers, dealers and users from across the globe. Electric cars were the prominent attraction during the current show in Frankfurt. The show resulted in an increased traffic at the airport and all flights were full to capacity.  

It is advisable to keep some Euros when you pass through Frankfurt Airport though, even if you are only a transit passenger. The short flight change time will certainly leave you thirsty and you would like to drink water. A half liter mineral water bottle costs 5 US Dollars in an airport outlet and the change comes in Euros! It is better for beer users since a half liter mug of excellent German beer can be had there for three dollars. A cup of excellent Cappuccino coffee, large enough for being shared by two or even three, can be had for 2 Euros and 90 cents. All other food items are priced comparable to airports elsewhere, but water is an honorable exception. Keep Euros in the pocket or develop a taste for the better and bitter beer! 

A transit stop at Frankfurt airport is indeed a true insight into "East meets West". You can hear more Indian languages in the waiting lounges of the Frankfurt airport than anywhere else. A large number of the passengers are senior Indian citizens, going to either meet their sons and daughters abroad or returning from a similar trip. Half of this group is on an onward journey looking for the excitement of the arrival of a grand child or just finished attending to such an event. You can see anxious elders on their first trip or veterans of several such visits who appear to have an answer to all travel related problems. Each stopover at Frankfurt airport is a unique experience and if the eyes and ears are open, an excellent study for human nature and behavior. 

A stopover at Frankfurt airport is a witness to "East meets West" on daily basis. It is not just that. It is a model of modren scientific achievements and human efficiency. It goes unnoticed as long as things are going as expected.  It gets noticed only when something goes wrong, which fortunately happens very rarely.


  1. Nice Sir, Re kindles my memories of Frankfurt transit while going to US. I spent 5 USD at that time , similar experience , but you will really enjoy when you stand by the glass and keep watching all the landings & take off. Thanks

  2. At Frankfurt Railway Station, though, I came across a Cafe. They refused to charge any money from me for the coffee that I took considering me as a Senior Citizen in 2006. I insisted that I was only 53 then but they respected my grey hair. I dropped some coins in their donation box to satisfy myself.

  3. Good one; it reminds me of my days in Europe

  4. at FRANKFURT IT IS ALWAYS EAST MEETS WEST and never the reverse . our experience is that there is a huge scope for the german staff to improve their english conversational skills nice recount
    devanand upadhyaya

  5. On our return from US, due to delay/cancellation of few India-bound flights, we could find their limitation in 'multi-tasking'. As if New Delhi was next door to Bangalore, they were offering monetary incentives of a few Euros to make Bangalore bound pax take N.Delhi flight!

  6. interesting article, as usual