October 28, 2023
Today was a busy day, with 2 excursions to different parts of Mainz (pronounced mines) Germany. Since we have been eating A LOT of good food so far, we opted for a very small basic breakfast. And speaking of food, Nancy had a wonderful soup appetizer last night. She loves to try regional foods when we travel so she ordered a bowl of Salsify Soup. As it turns out salsify is a root vegetable and the soup tasted like a potato soup, with a mild leek and oyster flavor. Yummy!!
And then we were off on our first excursion to Mainz, featuring the Cathedral and the Guttenberg Museum. Mainz was founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC as a military fortress and is known for being the birthplace of Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of a movable-type printing press.
As we walked through the town, there was evidence of changes Mainz has gone experienced throughout its history. Like many areas along the French/German border, Mainz has belonged to each of those countries several times during their history.
The fountain below is a marker in remembrance of the Fish Gate which was one of seven gates that marked the entrance into Mainz in the distant past. It used to be near the edge of the river, but now the course of the river has changed and the gate was destroyed, so the fish fountain was created to mark the spot.
During WWII, much of Mainz was destroyed by bombs and fires. When the city rebuilt they originally built basic, modern buildings. But over time people felt the new buildings didn't really represent Mainz, so some buildings got new front facades that looked similar to those of the past. In the picture below the rose-colored building has a new facade, and the more orange building is an original.
Mainz definitely honors its long and historic past. And it also seems to be looking forward with practicality and a desire to keep the city fun and tourist friendly. Below are pictures of the new walk and stop signals (the little guy is the mascot of a local company), blue and red street signs that tell you if the street runs parallel to the river (blue) or leads to the river (red), and graffiti murals on electric boxes created by local graffiti artists paid by the city.
The Mainz Cathedral, originally built over 1000 years ago, is predominantly Romanesque in style, but restorations and additions over many centuries have resulted in the appearance of various architectural styles including Gothic and Baroque.
The cathedral has 2 main altars, which is rare. One altar is at the east end of the church and the other is at the west end:
Johannes Gutenberg lived in the early 1400s and was a German inventor and craftsman. While he is often credited with the invention of the printing press, the printing press was actually invented in China 500 years before Gutenberg's time. What Gutenberg perfected was the movable-type printing press. His work led to an information revolution which helped to fuel the Renaissance movement. The museum had a working press, which they use to demonstrate the process (see Rick helping the guide below), and a collection of some of the very first books printed by Gutenberg (Gutenberg Bibles). One interesting fact is that the copies that Gutenberg made were only black print, all the same size and font, and no decorations on the pages. They were also not bound. All the binding, illustrating and decorative elements were added by the purchaser of the bible.
St. Stephan Church -
St. Stephan's is a gothic church located in Mainz, best known for its windows painted by Marc Chagall. The church was completed in 1340, and has not changed much since then. Chagall painted the windows between 1978 and his death in 1985.
The Belarusian Jewish artist created nine beautiful stained-glass windows in the church. The windows are mostly shades of blue with scriptural figures in other colors. The figures depict scenes from the Old Testament, demonstrating the commonalities across Christian and Jewish traditions. The pictures do not begin to do justice to the beauty of the windows or the overall feeling of calm in the church from the blue windows (some finished by Chagall's assistant) the are throughout the church.
And finally we drove through the area of town that used to be the Jewish section of Mainz. Unfortunately the historic Jewish area was destroyed over time due to fire, plague and bombing. The picture below is of a part of the Jewish Cemetary.
Back at the ship we relaxed for awhile and then headed to the Restaurant for a delicious dinner. Nancy tends to choose local dishes for her meals, and enjoyed a regional beef stew last night. (Sorry, I never remember to take pictures of my food - I just dive in!)
Then after dinner we listened to an amazing violinist playing in the lounge. In some ways she reminded me of Lindsey Stirling as she moved and played. The violinist played a variety of music, from Vivaldi to John Legend, drawing applause and appreciation from the guests.