Airports are in-between spaces – places we walk or run through to get to the next destination. If they are memorable, it is for what they represent in our lives: I remember the first time I took a plane and the first time I landed in the country that would be my home. Usually they are mundane – places in which bureaucracy washes out the possibility of transformation that crossing borders always presents.
And yet as long as one is at the airport one is trapped at a border. With that suspensive geography comes suspensive time. Time at an airport is always now because as long as we are at a border we are nowhere, and time needs space through which to travel.
In the world right now is a perfect place in which the sensation that space and time have ceased is made visible. Last December, the Hilton opened a high-end property at the Frankfurt Airport in the Squaire building, a structure that looks like a space ship and sits on top of a train station. More than 1,000 flights a day use the airport, but the hotel's triple set of windows ensure the only roar you will hear will be from the water jets in your bathtub.
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
Perhaps not all planes lead to Frankfurt, but as the main international European hub, it is the most likely connecting point for Euro-bound travellers of all persuasions, from holidaying families to business types.
Built over the railway and beside the highway, one can watch from on high as high-speed trains depart and arrive from all over Europe and cars tear down the autobahn.
We were returning from a holiday in Spain, and Frankfurt was the second touchdown in a 17-hour journey. Stopping and resting for the transatlantic flight was sensible.
If we had more time, downtown Frankfurt is a 15-minute train ride away.
IF I COULD CHANGE ONE THING
I wouldn't change a thing. "Officer, I lost my passport. Could I go live at the Hilton?" It really is far more comfortable than my house.
Because it is housed in the space-ship-looking Squaire (a name derived from square plus air), the hotel's design was dictated by a building that is not shy about its structure. Bridges between the two wings of the hotel are made of glass and riding the glass-shaft elevator feels like flying, with the visible cables swinging wildly.
Amsterdam is the next destination for Hilton's airport hotel renaissance – a trend that started in Asia and turns the necessity of a stopover into an oasis-like visit.
Being stuck in a giant airborne peanut shell for hours on end depletes everything. The hotel's gym, with an adjacent sauna and steam room, can replenish you. After a workout, the lighting built into the back of the bed frame makes reading and relaxing almost enough to forget that another flight awaits in the morning.
WHO YOU'LL MEET
German businessmen with sharp, body-conscious suits and grey-rimmed glasses are in abundance at the Hilton, but even the hotel's staff has been surprised by its popularity with families. I could have predicted that.
For those with small ones in tow, a relaxing night before a long journey can set the tone for an entire holiday. We spent the night after our stay at the Hilton sleeping on the floor at Newark airport because of a storm-related delay.
The contrast could not have been more stark, but thanks to a restful night's sleep in Frankfurt, my six-year-old was a trooper.
RESTAURANT OR ROOM SERVICE?
When we arrived late at night, baths all around took precedence over food. In the morning, we almost missed our connecting flight lingering over the breakfast buffet spread.
I concluded the hotel must take advantage of its airport location to order just-sprung-from-the-oven croissants from Paris, Serrano ham from Madrid and coffee from Milan. Add organic fruit yogurt from Germany in perfectly proportioned glass jars and you will see why the EU is worth saving.
The writer stayed as a guest of the hotel.