Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Visit to Mainz

I had the opportunity to travel to Mainz Germany a couple weeks ago on a trip for work.  I was able to take a few hours and tour through the city and of course do my favorite thing when in a European city: visit its' cathedral!

It was last March that I got to visit Basel in Switzerland and see the Rhine river.  I got to see the Rhine again on this trip as well!  Mainz is about 200 miles north of Basel.  Oh, and as I learned, it's not pronounced like the plural of the state of Maine, but more like "meiynz".  Or maybe if you see how the French spell it "Mayence" that will better explain it.

Anyway, here is the Rhine river, a much further north and much more downriver version that what I saw a year ago in Switzerland.

Just like Basel Switzerland, Mainz is a very old city, first starting as a Roman settlement.  Another reason you should know about it is that it's where Johannes Gutenberg was born and where he, in 1455, printed the Gutenberg Bible.

I didn't get to go to any museums during my tourist day there because they were all closed.  Much to my surprise, I learned that this area of Germany is very Catholic.  I guess it just never occurred to me since we always get taught about Martin Luther and such.  So anyway, when I was there it was immediately prior to Fat Tuesday.  But it wasn't really a celebration of just Fast Tuesday like we have in the US - it was more of a week long carnival/parade celebration, in fact the locals did refer to it being "carnival".  There were parades, parades and more parades, stalls were set up in the main squares for food and games for children and everyone was just generally jolly! 

The big celebration day was what they called "Rose Monday (Rosenmontag)" (the day before Fat Tuesday) when they said 500,000 people descend upon the city for a day of parades and carnival.  I didn't see that day due to work, but I saw lots of other parades over the course of many days!! 

The whole town was done up in red, white, blue, yellow and most disturbingly, clowns, which is the theme of carnival.

Lots of cities in the region have carnivals, for instance Cologne is another big one that celebrates.  Also, apparently each city's carnival has a "battle cry" - so while paraders are parading, they shout out the battle cry and the people on the streets shout it back.  And it's bad form to shout another city's battle cry.   :-)

I know the Mainz battle cry quite well now - it's "Helau!"  The paraders would give a big arm wave and shout it while grinning and the parade watchers would shout it back - when I first heard it I had no idea what it was and I the only thing I could compare it to was the Jerry Seinfeld episode where he and George pretend to be talking like a stomach would say stuff like "HEL-LOOOO".  That kept me laughing for a while while watching the parade.  :-)  Oh - and the parade watchers also dressed up in crazy clothing and costumes as well.

Lots and lots of paraders wore military uniform costumes that reminded me of what we see the British forces as wearing during the American Revolution.  I learned later that the costumes were to mock different military forces that have occupied Mainz, especially during the early 1800s.

So yeah, big learning experience there!

Fortunately, although the carnival had the museums closed, I still go to go to the cathedral in Mainz, which they refer to as the "Dom".  It's another red sandstone cathedral just like the one in Basel was. 

Interestingly, the buildings that had been built up right next to the cathedral have not been demolished like in so many other cities, so it's hard to get a good feel for what the cathedral itself actually looks like at its base.  But then again, I appreciated seeing one like this because really, it's more like what it really was all these centuries.

The entrance to the church is that dark looking wide alley where you see the person standing!  It's hard to find when buildings surround the cathedral!

But you can get a good view of a very old bit - the Gotthard Chapel which was built in the 1100s.  There is a very large wooden cross in there from the same time period, very beautiful.  That's a statue of St. Boniface out front.  As an American, it's hard for sometimes to comprehend age of buildings.  I live in the Northeast and I see colonial houses all the time but they only date usually from the 1700s at most.  And that's it!  There's very very little of buildings from the 1600s to see in the US.  To see a building that's been standing there in that very spot and looking just like it looks now since the 1100s boggles my mind!

Can you imagine trying to retro-fit a thousand year old cathedral for electricity and heat and internet and stuff?  Not easy!!!  But I guess there is always a way!


  1. I loved this post. I went to Germany in November. I spent time in Munich.