Founded around 12 BC as a Roman military post, Mainz is a gem of a city sitting on the Rhine River with a rich history and vibrant present. As with any city, it’s character is determined by its inhabitants. And Mainz has had a lot of interesting ones. Fist the Romans, of course, then the Franks, the Germans, and, perhaps most famously, the inventor of moveable type, Johannes Gutenberg, whose name now graces the gates of the city’s university. From 1919 to 1930, following WWI, the city was occupied by French military forces. This French occupation was the fuel for much of the city’s Carnivale (or Fasching) traditions mocking political figures (and the French military) that continue today and make up the most famous Fasching parade in Germany next to Cologne’s. During WWII, about eighty percent of this beautiful city was destroyed by air raids. Fortunately for us all, the city’s former charm lives on in the restored buildings of the Altstadt (old town). After the war, the city was once again occupied by the French from 1945-1949. Today, it’s home to the Fußball-Bundesliga team, FSV Mainz 05 – that’s soccer for all the Americans out there. More importantly, in my opinion, it’s home to several excellent winemakers and host to a multitude of wine festivals. S and I plan to take full advantage of those this summer! It also happens to be one of the centers of Germany’s wine trade and home to the Rhineland-Palatinate wine minister. How does one get that job? Sign me up!
For now, Mainz is also home to me and S. It’s where we explore German cuisine in the local restaurants and weinstubes, learn about German culture from the incredibly friendly locals, and walk along the Rhine, taking in the magnitude of our luck in having this experience. Mainz has a slogan that it puts on posters advertising events around town: Ich mag mein Mainz. I love my Mainz. And we do.
If you’d like, please join me on a mini tour of this charming city:
Dominating the skyline and commanding center stag of the Altstadt, is the Mainzer Dom, also known as the Cathedral of St. Martin. The Dom is over 1,000 years old and the episcopal see of the Bishop of Mainz. Much of the cathedral, except for the vault, was destroyed during WWII, but, as you can see, it has been fully restored and now serves as the striking backdrop to the city’s major festivals and the thrice-weekly market.
The Dom, again. It never gets old.
St. Stephan’s Church was built in 990, in honor of the widow of the Holy Roman Emperor, Otto II. Largely destroyed during WWII, it was restored and now is host to nine stained glass windows created by famous Russian-French artist Marc Chagall between 1978 and 1985. The windows depict scenes from the Old Testament, including common traditions in the Christian and Jewish faiths. Chagall himself was Jewish and fled France during the Nazis invasion. He intended these windows to be a symbol of reconciliation between Germany and the Jewish people.
A Chagall window from the outside. It’s amazing what a change of perspective can do. Seeing it from the inside is a must.
I hope you enjoyed the tour! What’s your favorite German city?