Mainz – Day Trip to the Rhine

pic-story-mainz-titleAs I mentioned in my post on Frankfurt, I noticed that the S-bahn went all the way out to some of the neighbouring cities, so when I was planning my trip to Frankfurt I decided that on one of the days I would head out to Mainz, if only to have a look around. Actually, I’m not really all that sure as to why I wanted to head out here, not that Mainz was all that far from Frankfurt – the trip only took about half an hour by train – but I guess it had something to do with that urge that I have to go and see what happens to be at the end of a railway line (though I somewhat shocked my cousin when I did that in Hong Kong once and landed up in a place was certainly not on the tourist track – in fact when I went to check in somewhere on Facebook the only thing that was in English was the local lending library).

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The Frankfurt Train map – in case you are interested

Actually, having a look at the map I noticed that they refer to it as the ‘Schnellbahnplan‘ (sticking with German’s love of sticking words together to create an incredibly, and ridiculously, long word), which literally translates to ‘fast rail map’. Okay, that piece of information is probably not going to change your life all that much, but I thought that it was interesting that they referred to the heavy rail network as ‘fast rail’, as opposed to trams or light rail (probably because trams end up being slower since they have to navigate city streets, and we all know what other drivers are like).

So, to continue with my tradition of catching random trains to random places, I decided that I would head all the way out to Mainz, and in doing so I caught one of the ‘stopping all stations’ trains. Actually, it wasn’t a slow train because I believed it only stopped at a couple of stations before we arrived at the station that I wanted to get off at – Mainz-Kastel – namely because there was supposed to be a castle there and both my brother and I like exploring castles. So, we jumped off the train at Mainz-Kastel and made our way around to the castle only to discover it was closed. Actually, that turned out to be the constant theme of my day trip to Mainz – everything was closed, especially the bars.

I suspect that may have something to do with the European mentality, particularly since I discovered the same thing in France, but then again the French seem to be incredibly laid back – taking their time to come and serve you, yelling at you when you approach the counter to make an order, and then taking their time to come and collect your money (though I suspect if you got up and left without paying they probably wouldn’t take their time chasing you down the road). However Germany doesn’t have the reputation of being laid back, they have the reputation of being efficient, but then again having the bar closed during the day (because in reality people don’t drink beer during the day so what is the point of having the bar open during the day – this of course is rubbish, but I’m trying to think efficiently here) is probably a form of efficiency, or else it could simply be that they aren’t allowed to open until 6:00 pm.

So, we had wandered around what turned out to be a closed castle (and despite the fact that I can sort of read German, the signs outside the castle weren’t really all that much help, so I ended up resorting to the internet), and decided that since we were here we might as well go to one of the cafes on the bank of the Rhine and have a drink – only to discover that they were also closed. I guess my plans were going down hill pretty fast, so realising that there was nothing happening on this side of the river it was probably time to cross over to the other side of the river (and fortunately there was a bridge that allowed us to do just that).

Before I go any further, it is probably time for me to embed a map of the town (or city as the case may be):

Bridge Over the River Rhine

Mind you, the Rhine is actually a pretty big river, or more specifically a pretty wide river. I’m not sure how long it took us to cross the bridge (including climbing up the stairs at the side because the bridge was also pretty high to allow all of the barges that travel up and down the river to pass underneath it, not that the barges are that tall anyway – they all tend to be rather shallow, and flat, and that is also the case with riverboats. I suspect that the reason that are a lot shallower is because rivers don’t tend to be that deep, nor rough, though there are  certainly some rivers that are incredibly rough, but the riverboats and barges don’t tend to go up those rivers, or that far up the Rhine where it being rough is going to cause it a problem.

The thing that fascinates me with these river barges is that you basically don’t get any in Australia – at all. You certainly don’t get any of then trundling down the Murray River (and the Darling River is just way to narrow for anything beyond a dingy), however the Rhine (and other rivers) seem to be a superhighway even today – there would be heaps of barges heading up and down stream. I guess the reason for this is that even though traveling by road would be much faster, you can carry a lot more on a barge (and getting stuff on and off them is less tricky that trains).

I remember sitting in French class talking about how there are two words in French for river (and this is probably the case in German as well, though I am only aware of one – Fluss) – rivier and flueve. She told us that a rivier is one that you can swim in, while a flueve is one that is wide enough for boats to travel along. Anyway she asked us what the English translation was and we said that we only have one word – river (a creek is too shallow to actually swim in). It was then that I realised that in England you don’t actually have rivers that are incredibly wide, which means that they were never able to hold anything larger than a dingy (with the exception of the Thames, but the Thames is described as an estuary, at least up to London, where is narrows significantly). Mind you, while we do have the Murray River, the only boats that tend to travel along it these days are houseboats.

So, we reached the far side of the Rhine, and as I had come to expect from Europe, there were some pretty awesome looking buildings on the shore (or at least across the road). One thing that I noticed was that there was this mock beach foreshore area that ran along the Rhine, and it looked as if there were some restaurants, and bars, there. In fact it seemed as if it would be a pretty cool place to spend some time – if it was open, which it wasn’t. Then again it was around 10:00 am (or 11:00, I can’t quite remember when and the metadata on my photos doesn’t help all that much).

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Probably better at night

I have since discovered that for some reason my camera, and my phone, were on Malaysia time, but even then the metadata on my phone was one time, while my camera was a time that was, well, like 7 hours later, despite the fact that the photos were taken within two minutes of each other. Actually, come to think of it, I have photos from Singapore that were dated as being taken on the 3rd August 2016, despite the fact that on the 3rd August 2016 I happened to be in Germany (Dusseldorf to be precise).

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Apparently this photo was taken on Thursday, 28th July, at 7:49:57

Finally, a Coffee

Well, after wandering wandering around what appeared to be an abandoned (or at least closed) castle (more like a chateau, but I’m being pedantic), and crossing the Rhine, I finally found a place that was open. However they only did coffee and cake, not breakfast. I was going to justify this by saying that Starbucks doesn’t do breakfast, but if you are French, it actually does (they sell crossoints). Mind you, since coming back to Australia I have been really hestitant in trying a crossaint, not because I don’t like them – au contrait – they are really, really nice – it is just that I simply do not trust the Australians to do them properly (and I definitely don’t trust Starbucks to make a decent croissant, though my Brother didn’t seem to complain). What was even better was that it turned out that this particular coffeeshop happened to be a coffee shop that was on my list of places to visit, and as it turned out, one of the very few places that was open, and German (by the way, the name of the place was Blumen).

As it turned out, Blumen was next to a church, so we went inside and had a look around, and as one can expect from walking into a Catholic Church in Europe the place was absolutely beautiful. Mind you, I’m not really all that sure if the Catholic Churches here in Australia are anywhere near as awesome as they are in Europe, but that probably has a lot to do with the fact that you don’t walk into Catholic Churches in Australia to simply have a look around. Mind you, there does seem to be this thing about going into Cathedrals, and I have to admit that when I was in Europe I would always go into the local Cathedral to have a look around. I remember over hearing an American the last time I was in Europe making a comment about how after going to so many churches they all end up being the same, but I have to disagree. Sure, there were similarities, but every single church I walked into was different. Mind you, being a Christian probably has something to do with it.

Actually, on the subject of churches, when I was in Mainz (as is the case with a lot of these smaller cities – my brother said that if it had a bus route it was a town, and if it had trams, or trains, then it was a city) as I was walking across the Rhine I could see a number of spires sticking up over the surrounding buildings. Anyway, I went to Kirke St Peter, which was next to Cafe Blumen, but then Google Maps also indicated another church nearby – Christuskircke. So, we went there expecting to see another awesome Catholic Church only to walk inside to discover that it was basically a hall with a pulpit and a bunch of chairs – it was protestant. Mind you, even though I happen to be protestant, because I grew up in an Anglican Church, I have expected there to be at least some religious art, but then again the Anglican Church, at least some branches of it, could be mistaken for the Catholic church (which is why I walked out of Westminster Abbey scratching my head).

Wandering Through Town

As I was walking back from the Protestant Church (actually, as I was walking towards it, but that is beside the point), I walked through a square where there happened to be what looked like some Roman carvings on it. Well, Mainz does happen to be on the left bank of the Rhine, which was the eastern extent of the Roman Empire, though it turns out that Frankfurt was a Roman colony, which left me scratching my head because Frankfurt happened to be on the right side of the Rhine, and when I asked the curators of the Archeology Museum all I got was ‘Ich Verstehe sie nicht‘. Okay, I could always check out Wikipedia because they probably have the answers, but since I am writing about Mainz as opposed to Frankfurt I’ll leave it for another time.

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So, since I still hadn’t had anything to eat yet it was time to try, at least, to find some place that was going to rectify that problem, and while I did have another place written down on my piece of paper, when I got there – you guessed it – it was closed. It’s not as if Mainz was actually a small town or anything like that, but then again I suspect that if it was a small town then the cafes would probably be open namely because there probably isn’t all that much else to do there. However, I did eventually find a place where I could grab some breakfast, despite the fact that it was now pushing 11:00 am, which would mean that it isn’t breakfast, and not quite lunch, so it would fall into the realm of that hipster meal known as brunch (though I’m not sure if the Germans have a concept of brunch, or at least not in their language (breakfast is Frühstuck and lunch is Mittagessen – maybe Mittagstuck? That seems to work).

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A spot of Mittagstuck

As it turned out the cafe that we ended up having a bit of Mittagstuck (or at least me – my brother had already eaten – his breakfast basically consists of cornflakes) around the corner from the Marktplatz. Like a lot of these old Marktplatzen it is surrounded by some really old style buildings, and the Mainz Dom dominates one entire side. Actually around this section of Mainz there are a few open areas, including one that is in front of the Mainz Dom called Leibfrauenplatz (or at least that is the name that Google Maps gives it). This is also where the Guttenberg Musuem, a museum dedicated to the printing press, is located, though that will be the subject of another post (though I will say that despite the fact that there aren’t any signs anywhere saying that you are not allowed to take photographs, you aren’t allowed to take photographs – I got into a little bit of trouble for doing so).

Anyway, as I have done on previous occassions, I once again wandered into the Cathedral (though annoyingly my photos didn’t turn out as wonderful as I thought they did, but half the problem is that I tend to rush it a bit too much which means that the camera never has enough time to focus). Like many of the cathedrals there is a gorgeous pulpit in the middle of the church, but this was so that the parishoners could hear the speaker, and furthermore back in those days they didn’t actually have seats, so everybody would stand (though no doubt the nobility would have their own special places). As well as the main church there were numerous shrines around the side, and a crypt underneath. The biggest problem though was that unlike a musuem, the statues and such weren’t labelled, so you end up having to guess what their purpose actually is (or who they are).

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Something to Do

Well, we had visited the Cathedral, the Market Place, and the Gutenburg Museum, so it was time to go and have a drink – except that the pub next to the Cathedral (called the Dom Kniepe) was closed and didn’t open until five o’clock. Well, I had no intention of hanging around until five o’clock just to have a drink at a pub, so instead we continued wandering through the Altstadt (old city), had a coffee, and then went and grabbed some lunch at a restaurant that I have picked out earlier, only to discover that it wasn’t actually a German restaurant (it was sort of hipster Italian). Oh well, I wasn’t all that hungry anyway since I had just had breakfast, so while my brother ate his lunch I ended up having some soup, and some rather ordinary (as it turned out) German beer.

However there was only so much of the Altstadt that we could wander around. Sure, walking along the old main street was pretty cool, and the buildings looked really nice, I was actually looking for something that was a bit more substantial, and unfortunately that ‘bit more substantial’ didn’t actually exist. Well, there was the City Museum up at the citadel, so we decided to head up there, only to discover that while the Citadel was open (which now makes me wonder what the Mainz Castle was, because there was also a castle on the other side of the Rhine), I couldn’t find the entrance to the Museum (and they also appeared to be setting up for a music festival, and since this is Germany no doubt it involved electronic music). By that time I had become a little fed up with the whole experience and decided that it was probably time to make our way back to Frankfurt.

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The Other Castle (or Palace)

Except that the railway station happened to be on the other side of the city. Well, not quite because as I later discovered there was a railway station nearby which happens to be next to the old Roman Theatre (and is named as such). However, trains have this awful habit of not stopping at every station, so I decided that the best thing to do was to head to the Hauptbahnhof because at least I could catch a train back to Frankfurt from there – expect that the Hauptbahnhof was on the otherside of the town – so we started walking. Actually, with the exception of sticking my head into a comic book store we didn’t end up stopping anywhere for a drink because – yep, nothing was open. Well, there were restaurants, but I wasn’t really all that keen on having just a coffee, or a beer, at something that basically looks like a restaurant (not that it stops me in Australia, but the again people expect you to go to a pub just to drink beer).

Actually, looking at the map I discovered a place I could have checked out – an Irish Pub, surely an Irish pub is going to be open at reasonable hours. Well, I clicked on it and the opening times seem to pretty much line up with the opening times for the rest of the bars in Mainz – 5:00 pm.

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The Hauptbahnhof

To walk back was uneventful, and even somewhat unfulfilling, namely because while we did wander through a few back alleys, we ended up in what happened to be the main shopping district which was basically full of modern shops and buildings. After locating another bar that ended up being closed I decided that it was high time to catch the train back, and when we finally arrived at the Hauptbahnhof I was pleased to discovered that there was actually a bar that happened to be open, so at least I managed to get a drink while in Mainz.

Oh, they also have a couple of trams that trundle through the city, and here is a video of one to finish off.

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