The city of Mainz is a big city in a very important region in Germany. It sits at the confluence of two extremely important rivers, the Rhein (the economic lifeline of western Germany) and the Main (whose host cities include the likes of Frankfurt). It is a German state capital -- for the State of Rheinland-Pfalz. And, it sits at the southern end of the Rheinland that winds northward through one of Germany's premier wine regions, its steep ridges dotted with some of Germany's most scenic castles. It also enjoys a tremendous history, as the site of Gutenberg's famous modern printing press that gave rise to mass-produced printed media, and as a major seat of the Holy Roman Empire.
But, for all its importance, Mainz is mostly a modernized city, having been heavily rebuilt after World War II, and certainly seeing its fair share of damage during the many wars of previous centuries. It isn't often a location identified on most of the popular German tours. So, why visit Mainz? After three visits, we offer this reason -- it's big enough to have great museums, shopping, and other attractions; but 'small' enough to enjoy, particularly at festival time because it doesn't get overly crowded like the bigger-named locations.
(Oh, there was one other reason why we chose to go in the first place -- 2004-05 was the year when Mainz's soccer club, coached by our favorite soccer coach Juergen Klopp, played in the first division. Klopp's energetic coaching style and physical resem
Amidst the most glaring signs of modernity (i.e. the rather unsightly concrete-block town hall) most of the magnificent historic structures have been restored to their original glory. One example is the Mainz Cathedral, or Mainzer Dom, shown in the second photo. The Dom is Mainz' main tourist draw, conveniently located in the main square, which is just about two city blocks large. The interior of the Dom doesn't have the color of some of the other restored Cathedrals (see Passau in Bayern), but many of the massive sculptures and plaques have been restored and remounted on the columns and walls. The red sandstone exterior had been recently cleaned, so it shown more brilliantly than other like Cathedrals along the Rhein such as Speyer or Worms. Like some other Doms, Mainz has a diocese museum with some excellent specimens of eccleasiastic art.
This rest of the main square is worth a look, too. Surrounding the square are some very well-decorated (and freshly painted) facades like the guesthouse in third photo and the apotheke (pharmacy) about three buildings to its left. A large fountain in the center of the square contains metal reliefs depicting some important chapters of Mainz's history. Nearer to the Dom are a gazebo of Calvary and a statue of Saint Boniface, one of the earliest and most influential of Mazin's bishops. Further down the square is a huge and brand new (or rebuilt?) theater.
(When Tom went the first time, he encountered something below the theater he thought he'd never see in Germany -- booths seeking donations to support the German Bundesliga of baseball. Yes, you read that right, baseball. We didn't know Germans played baseball, but then again there is a Bundesliga of American football, so I suppose anything is possible. But again, we digress...)
Mainz's Old City, or Altstadt, runs along one main street from the Cathedral about three city blocks. There were two pretty squares along this main street. The first gave the great view of the Cathedral in the second picture, and the other is shown in the fourth photo, with the Cathedral in the distance. This latter square has a couple historic white and red half-timbered buildings covered with vines, along with a couple touristy restaurants that offered traditional Rheinland or "Pfälzer" cuisine (including the specialty known as Saumagen, essentially a thickly-sliced seasoned sausage contained pork and potatoes). Further down the street is a Jesuit Church, with a distinctive exterior and very colorful white and gold interior, probably the best church to visit outside the Dom itself.
The Gutenberg Museum is not far from the main square, and is the most popular of the various museums in town. Tom really enjoyed this one -- from the beautiful garden outside the building to the many interesting exhibits inside. This museum celebrates the printing industry all the way from ancient times and has an original Gutenberg Bible on display.
Meanwhile, much of Mainz's waterfront has been formed into a nice shoreline park and a harbor where visitors can take a pleasant cruise up the Rhein. A beautiful palace (that was heavily under renovation) overlooks the river, and behind it are festival grounds that was being prepared for the city's annual festival. The market square hosts Mainz's annual Christmas Market, which is small in comparison to some other cities, but is very well decorated and draws pretty big crowds.
Mainz is indeed a big city, the evidence of which you see more as you venture outside the old city. The Rhein-Main confluence that also includes Wiesbaden is heavily industrialized. But only a short distance away is Bingen am Rhein, followed by the grand vineyards of the Rheinland. This makes Mainz an excellent starting point (or stopping point) for a tour along this fantastic and historic part of Germany.
Trip taken 17 August 2002 and twice in December 2004 -- Page last updated 01 September 2006 -- (C) 2005 Tom Galvin