The loveliness of Mainz

Mainz
Mainz Marktplatz

On Friday, I had to go to Mainz for a two-day seminar on the world of banks. I was worried that it would be boring, but the presenter did an excellent job of explaining things in an interesting and understandable manner. Always a bonus!

So, it turns out Google Map directions are crap! I took the train to Mainz R├Âmisches Theater, which the seminar holder had said was the nearest train station, and followed a mixture of instructions from Google Maps and the website of the place to get into town. It was all fine to start with, but then Google Maps tried to make me go in a massive circle around the building to approach it from the other side while the website instructions simply said “walk straight down the street until you see the destination on the other side”. Needless to state, I went straight ahead. Silly Google…

After the first day’s seminar, I hung around for a bit with the others who were staying in Mainz and didn’t have plans so that we could arrange to meet up for dinner, then I headed off to find my hotel. The Google maps directions were fine up to a point, then they suddenly stopped making sense. I then bumped into another girl from the seminar who it turned out was looking for the same hotel. We compared maps and found that Google wanted both of us to “take the steps”… except there were no steps on that street! We eventually asked somebody, who said he’d never heard of that hotel or the street it was on, but the streets surrounding it were definitely on the other side of the train tracks. We were standing next to a bridge at the time, so we went under that then started comparing our maps to the street names again. At that point, a woman came up and asked whether we needed any help. She did know the hotel and was able to give us directions (basically follow this hill allll the way round until you get to a REWE. The hotel is next door). Lovely Mainz person number one ­čÖé

We’d taken so long to get to the hotel that I only had time to quickly wash my face and renew my deodorant before heading back out. Part way down the hill I actually spotted some steps. As I was hesitating at the top wondering whether that was what Google had meant, a voice behind me asked whether I needed any help. I said I was just trying to get back to the cathedral area and was wondering whether these steps led anywhere useful. The guy replied that this was the shortcut and that he could tell me where to go. We then went down the stairs and I found myself ona platform at the R├Âmisches Theater train station! So if those were indeed the stairs Google meant, it would probably have helped to be told to go through the station! Helpful Mainz guy then pointed out the ruins of the actual R├Âmisches Theater (Roman Theatre) beside us… I had been wondering! I knew where I was now, so my “saviour” and I parted at the front of the station and I headed off on my way. Thanks to the shortcut, I ended up being early to meet the others and had some time to take photos of the old town. It was a gorgeous day, and the blue skies made the pretty buildings look even better!

I recognised these buildings from when I was in Mainz for the Christmas market If you look closely at the top right-hand corner, you can just about spot where the weird concrete/glass shopping area starts. Soooo not in keeping with its gorgeous old town surroundings!

Mainz

This is where we had the seminar. It’s a weird place, with many twists and turns. We had to go through the cafeteria to get to our seminar room, and finding the toilets was an adventure in itself!

Mainz

After we’d eaten, I headed back to my hotel. It was easy to find now I knew the way! I took the shortcut through the station again, and since it was still light I grabbed a few snaps of the old theatre. The next day, with some time to spare before my train left, I climbed the stairs again and took some photos from above. This is a combination of the photos from both days:

Back at the hotel, my first act was to fling open the window. Outside, things had actually cooled down for the first time in days (actually, as far as I know Mainz had been cooler in the evening all along…) but inside the room it was still hot. I lay on the bed savouring the breeze and following the BBC live stream of the Netherlands match (my TV appeared to be broken). Mainz is on the flight path for Frankfurt Airport so I also got to see some planes coming in.

Can you see it?
Can you see it?

After breakfast the next morning I checked out and headed off for day two of the seminar. We started earlier on Saturday, but were also finished earlier than planned, meaning I was able to get a train home at┬á 5 p.m. instead of the 6:15 that I had originally planned! The seminar was interesting and this time Mainz had showed me its lovely side (the old town, of course, but especially the people – who I would literally have been lost without!).

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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 Gl├╝hwein (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 D├╝sseldorf – 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 Sch├Ânborner Hof – former home of the sovereign princely Sch├Ânborn 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.

Sch├Ânborner 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 Gl├╝hwein. The Gl├╝hwein 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 Gl├╝hwein 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.

… 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 Gl├╝hwein 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! ­čÖé
  • 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 Gl├╝hwein. 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…