Mainz

We are now over a week into the third month of this year, which is exactly the kick up the backside I need to continue with my 30 German Towns Before 30 series.
Today’s location of choice is Mainz.Mainz

I went to Mainz with some ex-colleagues of mine from the place where I completed a year-long internship. For a while, all the southern branches of this major translation firm would meet up a couple of times and do something together, inviting ex-colleagues and (ex-)interns along as well. Sadly, the people who organized these outings have since left the company so they don’t happen any more.

On this occasion, it was the turn of the Mainz branch to organise the day, and so the rest of us converged on their town. The plan was that the locals would show us around before we all headed to the Christmas market for yummy Glühwein (this meetup being in December). I actually mentioned the trip briefly here, but now it’s time for a proper post.

Mainz is a bit of a strange place. Parts of it are really pretty, with gorgeous buildings and views of the Rhine river (not the Main, as I originally thought), but then there’s this random square full of clothes shops/office buildings that’s just awful. All concrete and steel and glass with no character whatsoever. It’s right around the corner from where the Weihnachtsmarkt was being held as well, so if you stand on that square and peer through a gap between the shopping center and some other building you can just about see the prettiness on the other side. Most bizarre. You’d think they’d have at least tried to make the shops fit in with their surroundings!

One of the first things we found on our walk was the Narrenbrunnen (Fool’s Fountain). Mainz is one of the carnival towns – along with Cologne and Düsseldorf – so of course it has to have a Narrenbrunnen – although this particular one calls itself a Fastnachtsbrunnen, Fastnacht being the word for carnival in that part of the world (in Karlsruhe I’ve most often heard it referred to as Fasching, and occasionally Fastnacht, but Karlsruhe doesn’t really do carnival).

Fastnachtsbrunnen

Behind the Fastnachtsbrunnen is the Schönborner Hof – former home of the sovereign princely Schönborn family. Apparantly it now houses a “Maison de France” – an institute that aims to make French culture, language and France itself better known in Mainz. The University of Mainz also uses parts of the building.

Schönborner Hof

The next stop on our walk was the cathedral. It’s quite an impressive building, towering above the old town of Mainz. And inside is quite nice too.

Mainz cathedral

Organ

We also found this guy in there… kind of creepy.

Headless statue

Once the cathedral was done, it was time to head to the Christmas market for lunch and Glühwein. The Glühwein was average, but cheaper than at most other Christmas markets.

Mainz

Later I went and looked in some of the clothes shops on the ugly steel and concrete square (no photos of that!) at the suggestion of another ex-intern. I didn’t buy anything though, and after a while we headed back to the Glühwein stand to join the others.

In the evening, we headed to another part of town for a meal, walking down Christmas-light adorned streets on our way.

Mainz street

After our meal, which took a while with such a large group (and I can’t remember where or what we ate), we had to take taxis back to the train station to avoid missing our trains home, so I didn’t get to see any more of Mainz. Not that I would have anyway – being December, it was dark by that time.

Mainz seems like an okay town, although as I mentioned it’s a bit of a weird mixture of really pretty and really, really not – mostly the fault of the second world war, I’d imagine. I also didn’t get to see as much of it as I would have liked, being with such a large group of people and having mostly been invited there for the Christmas market. I think this is a town that I might have to visit again in order to form a real opinion of it.

Advertisements

… and it still isn’t Christmas

Does anyone else feel like “the season” has been going on forever? The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of buying and wrapping presents, trips to the post office (the last of my parcels to England finally went out last week), parties and Christmas markets. And in between all that I’ve had to do the assessment for my science course (a last minute job which I’m dreading getting the result for), work and keep on top the mundane every day things like cleaning the flat and making sure we have actual food to eat. The upside is that I now have lots to tell my blog. Unfortunately I still don’t have any time, so it’s going to have to be another boring bullet point list. Sorry about that…

  • I want to Mainz last Saturday with my ex-colleagues. I had never been to Mainz before. We went to the Christmas market, where the Glühwein was much cheaper than everywhere else I’ve been. Mainz is a bit of a strange town. It’s really pretty around the market square then you walk into the shopping street and it’s all horrible grey concrete buildings and huge glass monstrosities. The Christmas market was nice though.
  • It’s been snowing here on and off for the past few days. This is worth mentioning because it’s so unusual. Not that Karlsruhe never gets snow, but the little bit that does come is not usually this early. It’s also freezing. Yesterday it was -12°C! I had to go out in it to buy stuff for a Christmas party I hosted last night. It was so bad that I actually got on the tram to go one stop, which I usually think is a waste of time.
  • I had a progress meeting at work last week. There are a few things I’ve been asked to work on, but the verdict was generally positive (and no mention was made of my social skills… or lack thereof. There is something to be learned from this I’m sure…)
  • Last week we went to both my work Christmas meal (at an Italian restaurant) and Jan’s work Christmas party. Mine was more fun, although we missed the last train home and ended up having to wait until 1:06am for a train that would take us to Bruchsal, where we had to change onto an S-Bahn. I also had to work the next day. Tired is not the word…
  • I received a parcel last week, from the lovely Katyboo. It contained a Christmas card and a book – The Children of Green Knowe. Unexpected and very nice – I’ve been wanting to read that book for ages! 🙂
  • On Friday I went to the Christmas market in Mannheim with my colleagues. It was nice but so cold that we only stayed long enough to have something to eat and drink one Glühwein. I was back in Karlsruhe by 9pm!
  • Two more days at work then I’m off for Christmas. We’re staying in Germany this year (at Jan’s dad’s place) then going to Italy to visit his sister for New Year. Exciting stuff.

And now I have to go and do something about my flat, which is still suffering from the after effects of a Christmas party. It may take some time…

Grapes, glorious grapes

Yesterday I went to Heilbronn with some of my ex colleagues. The southern branches of the company had arranged to meet up and I was invited too. There were 10 of us in all. We had booked a walk through a vineyard, complete with guide, followed by wine tasting at the Weindorf (wine village), an annual wine festival that started in Heilbronn last week.

The tour started with a bus ride up the mountain, during which a female guide told us all about the town and especially about its history of wine growing. It seems Heilbronn was bombed to death in December 1944, which is why it’s now full of not particularly pretty modern buildings. A shame as it could be such a pretty town, located among the mountains as it is.

On the mountain we met with a male guide who we walked back down with, pausing every once in a while for him to explain something to us. We also got to try some of the grapes. That there on the left is a picture I took of some before we plucked and ate them. Close to the bottom of the mountain we were taken to a small winegrower’s residence where we were able to try our first wines, one white and one red. The woman explained what we were supposed to taste but as usual it just tasted like wine to me. Supposedly the white one was meant to have a hint of bell pepper in it(!) but I couldn’t taste anything like that. To be honest I’m quite pleased… pepper flavoured wine really doesn’t sound appealing to me! We then had a tour of their facilities before heading down the mountain, into town and to the Weindorf. At the Weindorf we were given some bread and cheese then had the chance to try six different sorts of wine – two red, one rose (there should be an accent there but I can’t make wordpress do one) and three white. The rose one, called Musketto, was very nice, as were two of the white ones whose names I unfortunately don’t remember. After the wine tasting we headed to Lehners for some food. I ate Käsespätzle, a  speciality from this region consisting of small dumplings with lots of melted cheese. Very nice – if you’re ever in Baden-Württemberg definitely give it a try. And of course we drank wine – what else? It just so happened that the wine we chose was made by the same people we’d just had a tour with! It wasn’t one of the wines they’d given us to sample though.

By the time we’d finished eating it was nearly 10pm, time to head home. I caught a tram back with the other people who had come from Karlsruhe, finally arriving home at about 11:30pm. I had a quick look at my photos to see whether any of them had actually worked (screen on the camera is still broken) then went to bed, where I was thankfully not bitten. I’m still itchy from where the mosquito got me on Friday night!