It was another cold day when we set out to explore Mainz. It turned into a lovely sunny day after lunch, and suddenly the outdoor cafes were full, but the morning was something else.
We walked through lovely old streets and squares, including Münsterplatz and Schillerstrasse, complete with his statue. Almost every town we’ve been to seems to have had a Schillerstrasse. He did get around, having been born in the south and lived much in the east including Leipzig and Weimar, but we suspect this reference relates more to his significance in German culture.
We saw, as we have in most German towns, statues, but fewer monumental men on horses. There are the busts and statues of famous men, but there are again statues and other sculptures of the public and folk art variety, if that makes sense. Whimsical, abstract, reflective, representational. Sue finds it hard to walk past them. She wants to know what they are about. We saw several in the first ten minutes of our walk from our little apartment which was just outside the altstadt. There was the Schiller, but there was also the fun FF fountain, also in Schillerplatz, and many others all over.
As we hit the Marktplatz, to the side of the Dom, we came across the best produce market day we’ve seen on our trip. It occurs three days a week, and was serious business. Sue loved the egg stall complete with tame hen. We don’t think it was for sale too. Len checked out the eating and cooking plums, and the physalis. The Platz is gorgeous and the busyness, the life going on, was great to see.
We then walked to the tourist office, and from there is was a few steps to the modern Rathaus and the Rhine.
Our guide-book suggested there were really only two main sights in Mainz, the Gutenberg museum and the dom. But, there was more. However, the Gutenberg Museum is a must. He is by far Mainz’s most famous son, and there are a few statues around town of him.
We did the audio tour which was nicely divided into the main Gutenberg tour, and side tours such as one on the book before Gutenberg, one on just after, another on Islamic bookmaking, and so on. We did the first one, and the two about books before and after. Not all of it was new to us, but we enjoyed seeing the story told in situ (though the audioguide itself felt more geared to students than adults in its tone). We broke our tour to attend a little demo of printing as developed by Gutenberg, using a replica press. We loved the German scout leader who translated the demo into English. Perhaps his group was an international scout camp of some sort.
We were fascinated by the fact that Gutenberg had a system for ensuring right justification of his books: he made narrow and wide letters.
One point they made was that Gutenberg’s invention enabled the Reformation, because ideas could be more easily printed and distributed … and in so doing, changed the world.
Augustiner Keller for Lunch
Our helpful air bnb host suggested the Augustiner Keller for lunch so we gave it a go. It was a cosy, downstairs, typical German Keller and we enjoyed our food, though Sue was not expecting what looked like a Pork Shank when she ordered her roasted pork dish. It was big, but delicious, complete with crackling.
We have probably been to as many churches as museums on this holiday. We enjoy them. We’re not sure why that is, but you never know exactly what you are going to see when you open those big heavy doors and go in. We saw three in Mainz.
St Augustine’s Church
Near the Keller where we’d lunched, was St Augustine’s built for monks in the 18th century. It’s a lovely light Baroque church. One of its most delightful features is its 1420 “Smiling Madonna”. Presumably it belonged to the monastery that had been on the site since 1260.
The Cathedral of St Martin and St. Stephan
The Cathedral has a long a fascinating history going back to 1009, or before, and so, like many cathedrals, contains a variety of styles. It has been burnt and damaged many times, including being bombed in WWII. One of its most interesting works of art from our point of view was the 1975 crucifix. Contemporary art is pretty rare in these old cathedrals.
It was hard to get a decent photograph of the cathedral’s exterior: it’s huge, so fitting it in and getting even lighting is a challenge, and one of its towers was hidden under scaffolding.
St Stephan’s Church
This Gothic church built in the thirteenth century is now most famous for its stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall. They are wonderful, with their depiction of Old Testament stories like Adam and Eve. He apparently saw his work as contributing to Jewish-German reconciliation.
The church also has lovely late Gothic, 15th century, cloisters. We love cloisters and their colonnades and gardens.
At this point Sue and Len separated, Len to go home to rest and Sue to wander more. Among the things Sue saw was a Federweisse stand in Schillerplatz. We discovered later that it is a low-alcohol drink made from fermented grape must.
And, as the weather had turned out nicely, Sue loved seeing all the out-door cafes filled with people enjoying the afternoon.
After our hearty lunch we didn’t want a big dinner but it’s nice to go out and be part of the world, so we set off and rather by accident came across a place Sue had read about but couldn’t recollect where it was, the Proviant-Magazin. It is a big place located in an old weapons factory/supply store, that also houses the Cabaret Archives. Nearby are something called Professors’ houses. Apparently, one of the 18th century professors accompanied James Cook on his second voyage.
We had a lovely meal. Sue had Pumpkin Soup (with a few pumpkin seeds scattered in it) followed by a scoop of sorbet with some Secco poured over it, and Len had Goulash Soup followed by a sentimental German favourite of his, icecream with hot chocolate sauce. Our friendly waiter was Tunisian.
LEN: Old-fashioned printing
SUE: Reformation, Renovation, Recreation
… and the stills slide-show
… and a video of market day in Mainz