After Fasching, Mainz goes back to being a peaceful and reserved German city on the Rhine. During Fasching, it’s a madhouse. My German teacher describes it as a town where one boards a bus and everyone is quietly reading a book or looking out the window, but then during Fasching everyone is smiling, singing, and wanting to be friends. “Instead of Germans,” he said,” “everyone’s acting like Americans!”
I felt that black and white helped to balance the city’s competing identities in these photos. I hope you enjoy them.
The calm before the storm.
Life is like a carnival ride. You can play it safe and ride the merry-go-round, it’s predictable. But, myself personally, I will ride the rollercoaster, for all it’s glory and thrills, It’s ups and downs, twists and turns, and rushes. Isn’t life a rush ?
– Lynette Mack, Moonshadow
The day before the Rosenmontag parade in Mainz, Wiesbaden hosts a smaller, but still fun, parade of bands, dancers, and festooned floats. Some might say a warm-up for the main event, but it’s more like a really really delicious appetizer that you vow you’ll order as the main dish next time, but then you don’t do that next time because after you had the main dish the first time, you decided you really do want that as the main dish the next time…point being, both are awesome, but the main dish is better. Comparisons aside, we had a blast at the Fasching parade in Wiesbaden. We danced to the music blaring from our friends’ homemade sound system cart. A group of five dancing penguins, we made friends easily. Others dressed as penguins even wanted to join our colony. One of the floats, in addition to tossing out candy, gave me a bottle of champagne. It was a great day. But when I looked back at my pictures, I realized that I only chose to shoot really scary things, kids, and dancing penguins. Either Fasching is actually really scary and the bubbly protected me from realizing it in the moment or I’m naturally inclined to photograph the bizarre. I’m leaning to the later, but either way, I had a great time and so did the little kids, who were way too preoccupied with collecting candy to be scared. Here it is.
Last Friday, only five out of eighteen students showed up to my German class. Didn’t I feel like a nerd! Everyone else, assumedly, partied too hard the night before or had already started enjoying Carnival festivities that day. I don’t blame them. Learning a new language is half about learning grammar and half (even more importantly) about learning hand gestures, accents, customs, and drinking songs. With everyone’s minds on costumes, parades, beers, and brats, our teacher turned the class into a walking tour of Mainz, complete with a history lesson on the city and its famous festival: Fastnacht.
It happened! I understood German and paid in exact change at the market! The kind woman selling local root vegetables said, “Drei Euro sechzig,” and I handed here 3.60 Euros. Woohoo! And then I paid in exact change at the olive stand, at the coffee cart, and at the butcher’s stand. I even ordered ten eggs and understood the spunky little old German man who sells eggs with his massive live rooster perched next to him on the table….yup, that’s normal to me now, even though it reminds me of the scary owl from the Secret of Nimh. During my sabbatical, I am appreciating the small things and this, to me, was a huge thing. Also a huge thing – my medium cappuccino cost 2.20 Euros. And its considerably more delicious than any $6.00 caffeine at Starbucks. I love the market.
My friend’s German colleague said to her, “Speaking German is easy. Even babies do it.” Well, okay, true, but screaming, “JUICE!”, in the middle of a restaurant only gets you so far after age five…so I decided to sign up for a language class.
“Do you speak German?”
That was the test I had to take to be able to sign up for beginners’ Deutsch at the Mainz Volkshochschule. If that was the test that my classmates had to take, then 90% of them are liars. On the first day, our teacher began the class by speaking only German. I was shocked when several people responded to her! In German! Those liars are not beginners. Despite my initial feelings of betrayal, I am happy to report that my classmates are incredibly friendly and eager to learn, I can now, after a little over a week of classes, sprechen ein bisschen Deutsch…and my accent is atrocious.
I can’t seem to walk past the Marktplatz in Mainz without whipping out my camera. A transportive scene, feeling both modern and historic at the same time, the Markplatz is so many things: door step to our apartment; home to Mainz’s thrice weekly market and several lovely cafes; stage to the occasional opera singer and accordion player; and location of the massive Mainzer Dom or St. Martin’s Cathedral. I have no doubt that this will be one of several ode’s to the Marktplatz.
Marktplatz during the Saturday market: