Mainz was an immense Medieval city. Its sky above was riven with towers and soaring spires that have since been leveled by land war and aerial bombardment. The Fischtor was one of 34 gates and watchtowers and was about seven stories high. It protected the city from the harbor entrance. Now the gate and all the buildings around it have gone, replaced by a fish themed fountain and a rectangle of grass leading to the river.
On the east side of the cathedral, underneath the distinctive three spires, is the wide open Liebfrauenplatz. The reason the square is so big is that it used to be home its namesake's church: the Liebfrauenkirche, but this was pulled down during the Napoleonic wars. Now it is home to that church's foundations, a patch of flowers, a chain of plane trees, but most importantly of all: the Gutenberg Museum, housed in the grand pink building of the Haus zum Römischen Kaiser (Roman Emperor's House). Going east takes you to the Rhine and the town hall, and going north and west around the side of the cathedral takes you to the prettier, if smaller, Marktplatz.
On both my first two visits to Mainz the musical tiles on Adenauer-Ufer have proven to be irresistible to children and even some adults. The chiming bells beneath the tiles are activated by stepping, walking or jumping and are so in tune that the pitch-perfect foot of a Chinese tourist was able to tap out a homeland favourite while my son waited patiently nearby to have his turn.
September is Federweißer time in the German wine regions. Time for the new wine - freshly pressed grapes with added yeast but not quite fully fermented producing a bubbly sweet beverage with about a 4% alcohol content. While white is more popular and common, new wine from red grapes is also available in some places – this is called Federroter or Roter Rauscher. Both are sweeter than wine – more like grape soda (with a little kick!).
While the new wines are in the fermentation process, they appear to be cloudy and you can sometimes see bits of yeast still floating in them. Because the fermentation process is quick, you cannot seal the bottles airtight – the carbonic acid being built up with cause the bottles to burst. Any bottles you do purchase (and you can purchase bottles of the new wines) need to sit upright to allow the gases to escape as well as to not spill the contents since the lid is not on tight.
Two stalls are set up daily beside the cathedral in Mainz each September that serve both the white and red new wines. It is a favorite stop of ours if we are eating out in Mainz or showing visitors around the town. We purchase our drinks and then stand beside the fountain looking up at the cathedral while we enjoy a few moments sampling the new wine. Federweißer is served up in regular glasses (not typical wine glasses) and 2012 prices were €1,50 a glass. These stalls also serve Zwiebelkuchen (onion cake) that is popular to eat while drinking your new wine.
Each year in July, a beer fest takes place in several cities around Germany. The Bierbörse brings together in one place a plethora of international beer vendors and some wonderful fest food stalls as well as musical entertainment. In Mainz, the location is spectacular – next to the Rhein River.
We have been to two of these Bierbörse in as many years. Hubby enjoys sampling the various beers and I like the atmosphere, location, and food. I also serve as the designated driver for the evening. The beers have come from all over – various parts of Germany, Czech Republic, Croatia, Poland, Belgium, and more. There seemed to be a lot of Kirschbier (cherry beer) at the festival and one stall was even advertising a banana-flavored beer (however, when Hubby asked about it, the guy selling it really discouraged him from buying it!).
On our recent visit (July 2012) the storm clouds were hovering over us for the early part of the evening. We went on a Friday night and met some friends. About half-way through, the rain began to pour so our umbrellas went up and people crowded under the vendor stalls and table umbrellas. Since we walked to the event (having parked across the Rhein), we were rather wet once we reached the car from the rain and the wind blowing the rain every direction but down.
The Bierbörse sells a very small glass (fee is a deposit) that can be used as a sampler glass, with stalls charging €1,50 for your glass to be filled (and they will rinse it out for you between beers). It also makes a nice souvenir; but if you don’t want to keep your glass, you can give it back to one of the vendors and get your deposit back.
I imagine we will go again next year since it has been fun both times (despite the rain this year). Other locations for the Bierbörse are Leipzig, Schwerin, Hückeswagen, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Leverkusen, Dorsten, Cologne, Karlsruhe, and Mannheim. Check out their website for more details (only in German language).
Mainz was the first Christmas market we went to. We had heard so much about these annual markets and were looking forward to the Christmas season to partake in this annual tradition. It was so much fun! All the people, the lights, the food, and the little stalls selling things made for a wonderful evening with friends.
A local friend had told me that the Mainz market was small but not as commercialized as others in the larger tourist-popular towns. I thought the market was pretty big (it stretched the entire length of the Dom, filling up the Marktplatz and spilling out into the front of the Dom.
Everything was so festive with lights; there was a large advent calendar in the shape of a house - as the days countdown a window is opened to reveal a surprise.
There was plenty to eat (Reibekuchen and other goodies, both sweet and savory) and plenty to drink (Glühwein - hot, mulled wine). Vendors sold just about everything from Christmas decorations and ornaments to everyday things like wallets and handbags.
I'm looking forward to going back as well as going to other Christmas markets during the season!
Click HERE for Googlemap of where the Christmas market it held in Mainz.
The city of Mainz was previously a Roman camp (Castrum Moguntiacum) from the first century and parts of this camp still exist today. We learned that there was a Roman aqueduct in Mainz but could not find it on the typical tourist map.
Although we had a hunch where we might find it, we just weren’t sure how to get there. So we set about on a clear sunny Saturday to find the ruins of the Roman aqueduct. It took us some time and we made some wrong turns, but then we came down from a hill and across the way we saw the tall stone pillars in ruins that used to be part of the arched portion of the aqueduct that ran from the northern springs to present day Mainz.
Now, before I get to the ruins – don’t let me chase you off from finding these because on our way back, we learned how easy it really was to find them (but we just didn’t know it at the time). It is a simple walk along a main road from the train station! (more later on that)
While what remains is impressive, you need a sense of imagination to fully envision how massive this structure must have been at one time. Other parts of the aqueduct were reused to build other buildings later in history, but what remains in Mainz is a nice pathway with these pillars beside the path that you can easily walk along as well as get up close and personal with the aqueduct.
The westernmost part of the aqueduct can be found near the University of Mainz. The columns are set about 8-9 meters apart. If you find it on a map (Googlemaps for sure), look for “Römersteine”. What remains are just the pillars (or actually the inner core of the pillars since the outerlayer was pilfered early for building materials). But you can get a good idea of the amount of work that the Romans put into building this vital piece of infrastructure to bring water to the camp.
If you are a history buff or simply looking for a good place to walk to, I suggest you look for the aqueduct.
As mentioned earlier, you can take the round-about way and hope to find it by heading towards the University, or you can start at the Mainz train station and head west on Bingerstrasse – simply follow the train tracks along the road which becomes Untere Zahlbacherstrasse (well, walk on the sidewalk not on the tracks!). You will find the aqueduct on your right – you will see large stone pillars and you will know you are there.
This isn’t on the tourist map, but if you click HERE you should get the Googlemap with walking directions from the train station to the aqueduct.
The late winter/early spring brings the carnival (Fastnacht) season. It is not uncommon to see folks walking around in costume on the weekends in Mainz. But on the final week, the real parties begin. At night around the city you will find tents for dancing, food and beverage vendors, and lots of people!
There are several parades. The really big parade is a major event for Mainz, a day that they close the roads so that you cannot drive in or out of the city. The parade goes on for miles and lasts for several hours as floats go by throwing goodies to the spectators. Children quickly scoop up those items that have fallen to the ground and people fill up bags with all kinds of things! Many attending the parade are also in costume.
There are countless bands, floats, horses, cars, and other groups that are part of the parade. Everyone greets each other with a cheerful “Helau” as the parade winds its way through Mainz.
Park outside of Mainz and take the bus, train, or walk into town. We typically park on the Mainz-Kastel side of the Theodor Heuss Bridge and walk over. If you go as a group, it is much more fun! Dress up and have a good time. The 2012 parade week will be February 16-22, 2012.
Be sure to visit my two travelogues - Carnival Part 1 and Part 2 - for photos of the many unique floats and people that come to Mainz for Fasching!
Mainz is still a busy port on the Rhine, with a steady flow of barge traffic. There are also river cruises out of Mainz, as well as nearby Cologne. You can get an extended pass that allows you to travel between the two cities. Or you can sign up for a short day cruise on the river. Either way, you'll see some enjoyable sights along the way.
A park for the people, "Volkspark" - that's the name of the largest greenspace Mainz has to offer. It is located north of the city centre and includes a large grass area where you can play football/soccer, picknick, grill or just relax in the sun. There's also a adventure-playground for kids, a cafe, a minigolf course and across the street you find a bakery. And on the northern end of the Volkspark there is the youth hostel.
If you walk towards downtown Mainz to the southern end of the park, there is another park - the Rosengarten (rose garden), which is only separated from the Volkspark by a small street. There you not only find roses but also a little zoo with flamingos, goats, sheep, tame - and green wild parrots flying around!
The "Favorite Park Hotel", which is located at the street between Vorlkspark and Rosengarten also offers a aquarium and terrarium inside the lobby - as well as a restaurant and a beergarden with children playground.
The Volkspark is a perfect start or ending point for a walk to discover Mainz. From the park you can either go directly to the old city (via the little goat and sheep "zoo", cross the street at the redlight under the bridge and head towards the movie theatre "CineStar"). Or your can head to the rhine river (by taking the bridge after Favorite hotel on the right over the street and railway, and head down towards the rhine walkway).
The Kupferberg company produces sparkling wine since the middle of the 19th century. At their house they offer a guided tour through the cellars and a museum with interesting pieces, such as historic advertisements or champagne glasses. The guided tour also includes a tasting if you wish. You need to apply for tours in advance. There is also a boutique selling sparkling wine and accessories.
The soccer club FSV Mainz 05 is in the first division (Bundesliga) and plays against famous teams like Bayern Munich. The atmosphere in the stadium is unique in Germany - worth a visit even for folks who are not into soccer: You can see fans of all ages and sexes, a lot of families with kids, it's a party-like atmosphere, boiling during the matches but always not too agressive (no need to worry about your safety).
Although it is difficult to get tickets right before the matches, with a bit of luck you can be successfull in front of the gates.
This is a picture of the famous Lorelei Cliff which is located towards the middle of the Rhine River section I toured. It's somewhere south of Boppard but north of St. Goar. This cliff is famous because old sailors who used to use this river believed there was a ghost who lured their boats into the cliff by her beauty. I guess she was named Lorelei? It was hard to hear the commentator on the boat! This is one of the 'hardest' stretches of the river to navigate because the cliff juts out so sharply and the bend in the river is horrid.