City History From a Different Perspective
TimeRide Frankfurt is a new attraction available in Frankfurt since June 20, 2020. Visitors are given VR glasses, enter a real carriage inside the shop, and experience a city tour from all perspectives from around 130 years ago. The special thing is that you can not only look around in the film thanks to the virtual reality glasses, but also notice that the carriage is shaking a bit at the same time. You are immersed in the era of electrification: Frankfurt as we have never seen it before.
The time travel concept has already been rolled out in other major German cities, and now it’s arrived in the financial metropolis on the Main River. For this purpose, a shop was set up near Römerberg and the new old town (Altstadt), where visitors begin a virtual journey through time to 19th century Frankfurt.
The coachman welcomes the visitors, who put on 360-degree virtual reality glasses and can take a look around during the carriage ride.
Timeride Managing Director Jonas Rothe in a Conversation
„Using the TimeRide, visitors can immerse themselves in the history of old Frankfurt and experience everything themselves in 360 degrees.“
— Jonas Rothe (MD TimeRide)
SKYLINE ATLAS: Hello Mr. Rothe, it’s nice of you to take the time for our interview. We are pleased that TimeRide Frankfurt is such a great attraction, and we’re excited to know what we can see. Can you describe in your own words what makes the TimeRide experience so exciting?
Jonas Rothe: At TimeRide, visitors can immerse themselves in the history of old Frankfurt – thanks to virtual reality and elaborately decorated buildings, our guests experience the 19th century in the main metropolis as if they were there themselves. The feeling is intensified by our narrator, the fictional merchant Theodor Riedel. He embodies an ideal typical citizen of Frankfurt – at his side, guests experience a personal view of the defining events of the 19th century.
SKYLINE ATLAS: How did you get the idea for time travel and what fascinates people about it so much?
Jonas Rothe: I’ve been fascinated with history and stories since childhood. The subject of time travel almost automatically conjures a little imagination. You think about what it would be like to live in a different era. For my master’s thesis in cultural management I developed a concept for the use of virtual realities in museums – this ultimately gave rise to the idea and desire to found the company TimeRide.
Before the 360-degree carriage ride begins, visitors are given an overview of the historical developments in Frankfurt. In times of Corona, visitor groups are reduced and a face protection is mandatory.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Today Frankfurt is strongly associated with high-rise buildings. It’s hard to imagine that until 1961 the cathedral was the tallest building. Until the Second World War there was a world-famous half-timbered town of more than 1,000 houses on the site where TimeRide Frankfurt is today. How difficult was it to find a story for Frankfurt?
Jonas Rothe: The history of Frankfurt offers a wealth of exciting stories and historical topics. The challenge was rather to commit to an epoch and then condense its narratives thematically. We therefore conducted a survey of Frankfurt residents and tourists to see which topic touches people the most. We then chose the 19th century because it was such an interesting period of change for the city of Frankfurt. This means that the old town of Frankfurt can now be experienced as it was before it was destroyed in the Second World War.
SKYLINE ATLAS: How much of the 3D ride actually existed earlier or what was interpreted?
Jonas Rothe: In fact, the buildings are actually quite authentic. I can’t figure it out exactly now, but a lot of buildings are shown true to the original. For this purpose, we also intensively and virtually recreated the city of that time with experts. Details such as the type of ships are also close to the original. We have also received a lot of positive feedback from historians. But it is fundamentally fascinating to see how the city has changed. Where the Bahnhofsviertel (Rail Station District) stands today, you can see in the film what was then the exhibition center (Messe).
SKYLINE ATLAS: The play of light and shadow in the film, for example of the trees, caught our eye in the trailer.
Jonas Rothe: These details make the journey through time seem more realistic than if they were missing. The same applies to reflections of the sun and water. Incidentally, the entire production is developed by ourselves, and a lot of people were involved. But in the end I am responsible for the overall quality.
SKYLINE ATLAS: How long did it take to produce TimeRide Frankfurt and set up the attraction?
Jonas Rothe: It usually takes around 9 months from conception to opening of a new TimeRide. The corona pandemic delayed our original launch date in Frankfurt – we actually wanted to open in April 2020. Now we are all the more pleased that we can finally offer time travel in Frankfurt!
SKYLINE ATLAS: What are the expectations of TimeRide Frankfurt in terms of visitor numbers?
Jonas Rothe: So far, our Cologne location has by far been the strongest visitor magnet of all TimeRide locations. We would of course be pleased if Frankfurt could reach a similar audience. The odds are not bad: The city’s history in Frankfurt is so multifaceted, and the topic appeals not only to locals but also to many visitors. It is also something for the whole family: from children to parents to grandpa and grandma.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Are there any more time trips planned here in Frankfurt? Is it conceivable that one day we can travel further into the past or even into the near future with you?
Jonas Rothe: The TimeRide time travel concept can be used for many topics. During the conception, a lot of ideas about what else could be done came up. Now we want to get the locals and tourists excited about Frankfurt‘s exciting city history with the new TimeRide Frankfurt.
After you saw the 360 degree tour of Frankfurt, the tour ends in the shop, where you can still buy souvenirs.
SKYLINE ATLAS: Let’s get in. Thank you for the conversation.
The interview was conducted in June 2020.