The Frankfurt airport is all gray and glass; so modern. The exit signs (I realized) show a figure running, almost prone. He’s about to tip over from his own momentum.
There are whole areas of the airport that are like a mall, all in English. It’s strange and unsettling to realize English is the second language here. There are aisles of perfume and of alcohol, and Gucci and Mulberry and Hermés boutiques. Kiosks in the center aisle between gates sell wursts and pretzels. I feel like I’m in an Ikea. All the cafe interiors are far more styled — or more stylishly styled, really — than in an American airport, but they somehow still feel corporate. The newspapers are very wide, but rather short. They look cleaner and nicer, somehow, than American newspapers. General design sensibilities seem to be simpler and less hokey here. Every once in a while, somebody rides by on a bicycle, sitting straight upright and pedaling docily atop tiny wheels. Everything is like a cartoon of German life: a sort of corporate-Ikea feel.
The two strangest parts were emerging into the jetway, with its big glass-green gray-rimmed walls of windows that were decidedly not part of an American airport, and the matching modern gate, and turning the corner to see a policeman dressed in the same blue of American policeman but, large on his back, the word I learned in second-grade German: Polizei. He was young and blonde with close-cut hair, and when he looked at me I looked away uncomfortably, and found that I was thinking of the photographs I’d seen of walls of Nazi men. Jolt. I was ashamed of and shocked by myself; certain he could see in me what I thought.
It’s raining out and the glassy green goes well with the gray inside. I’ve been looking over at the Lufthansa desk at the gate, with sleek machines that look like subway ticket-scanners. I’m eager to investigate them. In fifteen minutes, we board for Rome.