Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

Worms (the German town on the Rhine) used to induce sniggers in history lessons at school when discussing the significance of the Diet of Worms. Nothing to do with some continental delicacy “a la escargots” (snails), it was in fact an important assembly (Diet) of powerful nobles, churchmen and advisors called by the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V, in 1521 to address the issue of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. Luther had set off a revolutionary wave that swept Europe when he nailed his “95 Theses” to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church four years earlier in 1517.

Worms is in fact pronounced “Vorms” in Germany with an “or” sound rather than “er” as in English. The German word for “worms” is der Wurm or plural “die Wuermer”.

It was only a 40 minute train ride from our base in Mainz down to Worms and so we set off on yet another rather grey and rainy day to explore more (we didn’t have much luck with the weather on our trip this May). Intrinsically involved in the struggles between Catholicism and the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s and beyond, Worms was also a leading centre for medieval Ashkenazic Judaism. This community existed for hundreds of years before being swept away when the horrors of Kristallnacht in 1938 unleashed a terrible tide of destruction. We wondered what the city would be like today and how much of the past has been restored or preserved.

Our first impressions were that Worms seemed like a typical clean and pristine German town. Quieter that we expected and not obviously touristy but it was a rather dreary day and perhaps that had put visitors off.

We made our way towards the Old Town and wandered round the narrow streets. The building on the corner (in the photo below) houses a casual self-service restaurant that offers a wonderful array of local produce and home-cooked food at very reasonable prices. Soups, hearty meat stews, a wide variety of vegetables plus a couple of glasses of the local vino set us up well for an afternoon exploring in between the rain showers.

 

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We explored the old Jewish Quarter in a couple of stages having started off before lunch. The Judengasse (Jewish Alley) leads off the junction in the photo above. This was the quarter of the city where for many centuries the Jews were required to live. The Hebrew word for Worms was “Warmaisa” (see here for more information). Much of its significance derived from its association with Rabbi Salomon ben Isaak known as Rashi who studied at the Yeshiva (Jewish School) in Worms around 1060 and wrote an important commentary on the Talmud.

 

 

In the 1970s and 80s the old Jewish Synagogue was restored and a museum set up in the Rashi House. It was a very moving and poignant place to visit – we looked round the Jewish Museum at some length and also went into the Synagogue but the Mikvah (Jewish Ritual Bath) under the adjacent grounds was closed for restoration work.

 

 

With a break in the rain we headed off to find the Cathedral and also walk along the route of the old town walls towards the Jewish Cemetery. En route we passed through the main town square again and also found ourselves in some attractive gardens. In the centre was a large statue commemorating Luther’s links to the city with various other significant figures to do with the Reformation.

 

 

Luther was lucky to escape with his life.

The upshot of the Diet of Worms was the Edict of Worms, issued on 25 May 1521 by Emperor Charles V. It declared:

For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favour the said Martin Luther. On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther. Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work.

Luther had in fact been “guaranteed” safe passage to and from the Diet under the protection of a powerful supporter Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony. Not surprisingly the machinations going on behind the scenes were designed to trick him and have him arrested and tried for heresy. Frederick, aware of this, arranged for a fake highway robbery to take place whilst Luther was leaving Worms to return home. He was whisked away to the safety of the Wartburg Castle where he spent years in seclusion and translated the New Testament into German.

Illustrating Worms’s rich history we then visited the nearby Romanesque Cathedral (Dom St Peter). Similar to the one in Mainz it was an imposing structure – one can imagine the sense of power and prestige it conveyed in the Middle Ages when the powerful Prince Bishops controlled these cities.

 

 

Nearby we had another moving experience, walking through the old Jewish Cemetery known as “Holy Sands” or “Heiliger Sand”  in German. The oldest grave dates back to 1058/9 and it was in use as a Jewish burial ground for centuries. I read in a local guidebook that for some unknown reason it wasn’t destroyed by the Nazis although any remaining Jews in Worms were deported during the war. It seems something of a mystery as to why it was left untouched. Today it belongs to the Jewish Congregation of Mainz as there is no longer a formal congregation in Worms. The City of Worms maintains the graveyard. Although entry is free, donations deposited in the box on the wall are much appreciated. Many of the graves are very old including those of important and distinguished rabbis. Pilgrims leave gifts and notes asking for prayers to be answered on the grave stones. The more recent ones, which I could understand, were in German. It covers a large area and it is incredible to think it has stood here for so long.

 

 

Worms is one of the three ShUM cities on the Rhine (the others are Speyer and Mainz) which have great significance in European Jewish history. An application is currently under consideration for them to be granted UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Finally after a long day exploring we ended up in a quaint cafe, the Affenhaus, in the Judengasse enjoying some afternoon tea (and some early aperitifs!) before heading back to the station to catch the train back up to Mainz. Worms turned out to be a fascinating place to visit, rich in history, beautifully maintained and easy to explore on foot (in spite of the rain)!

 

 

This wraps up my series of posts about our trip to Germany in May. You can read the others here.

I’ll be focusing on posts nearer home in Western Australia over the festive season then continuing with London (our trip to see our daughter Mlle) plus finishing my well overdue account of our Alaskan travels last year!

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

Back in 2011 we spent a few days staying in the picturesque city of Koblenz situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Moselle rivers (see here for a previous post I wrote about this stay).

One highlight from that holiday, that I’ve not blogged about before, was our day trip on the River Rhine when we took the KD line’s flagship, the paddle steamer the SS Goethe, down to Bacharach. She is still plying the river to and from Koblenz to Ruedesheim. In last week’s post I talked about how we took the Goethe again this May, going from Bacharach to Bingen as part of our return journey back to our base in Mainz.

So it seems fitting to finish my series of Rhine posts (I’ll link all of them at the bottom of this post) by going full circle from Koblenz down to Bacharach. The weather back in spring 2011 was glorious and unseasonably warm so rather a contrast with the somewhat gloomy and rainy weather we had in May this year. Spring can be such an  unpredictable season in Europe – we even had snow on our trip to the UK in 2018!

The 65 km stretch of river between Koblenz and Ruedesheim (including Bacharach and Bingen) is known as the Upper Rhine UNESCO World Heritage Area. It is not hard to see why the region has been given this status as you enjoy the stunning journey through the Rhine Gorge area (another name for the Upper Rhine Valley). Sailing by leisurely on the boat you pass numerous castles and fortifications perched precariously on hillsides. Neatly planted rows of vines cascade down the slopes. Even on a rainy day it is idyllic and on this glorious sunny late April day simply breathtaking!

 

 

We must have been hungry or maybe skipped breakfast because it appears we spent a lot of the journey eating! It was also warm enough to sit out on the deck most of the time enjoying the fresh air.

 

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We stopped off to drop off and pick up passengers at several quaint towns with names such as Braubach and Boppard. I love the half-timbered houses, which you see everywhere in this part of the world.

 

 

The route also braves the narrow channel that goes by the infamous Lorelei Rock (or Loreley in German).  One legend has it that a beautiful mermaid would sit upon the rock and so distracted the sailors that many a ship was wrecked on the rocks below. In reality our captain explained that this is one of the most treacherous parts of the river and you have to skilfully navigate the boat through the strong currents. Unfortunately whilst researching this post I read that a barge carrying 2,400 tons of sulphuric acid capsized on 13 January 2011, near the Lorelei rock. All river traffic was blocked for some time (see here for the news report).

Fortunately all had been cleared by the time of our trip in April 2011! Today the Lorelei still sits on the rock in the form of a beautiful statue.

 

 

We carried on our journey upstream towards Bacharach and decided to stop off there rather than head down to the far more touristy Ruedesheim (where all the river cruise boats stop off).

 

 

I won’t go into great detail here about Bacharach since I’ve already covered it in recent posts, which I’ll link below. We enjoyed lunch on the terrace of one of the little restaurants that nestle beneath the town walls, right by the railway line. Although trains frequently sped by it was not as disruptive as it sounds!

 

 

After lunch we wandered through the cobbled streets and lane-ways of the pretty medieval town enjoying the warmth of the spring sunshine.

 

 

We also had time to head up to Stahleck Castle. From memory it was about a 25 minute walk up the hill from the town centre though we stopped to take photos of what appeared to be an old ruined abbey and the increasingly wonderful views of the Rhine below us in the valley.

Now converted to a youth hostel, Stahleck Castle also houses a cafe. We enjoyed ice creams and the superb views from the courtyard grounds before heading back downhill to catch the SS Goethe again en route back to Koblenz.

 

 

There are plenty of other delightful towns, castles and wineries in this beautiful region that we hope to explore some day on future visits. Meanwhile here are the links to the other three parts of my “Exploring the Rhine” series (herehere, and here)

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

After our pleasant lunch in Bacharach (see here and here for my last couple of posts on the Rhine), we caught the KD ferry heading south. 

We had planned the schedule carefully as we wanted to have another chance to ride on the flagship of the KD fleet, the SS Goethe, the oldest and last remaining paddle steamer plying the River Rhine. The SS Goethe only travels from Koblenz as far as Ruedesheim so we hadn’t been able to take her earlier in the day en route up from Mainz, which is further south. However we remembered her fondly from our trip in 2011 when we took her all the way from Koblenz to Bacharach and back. There is something so special about paddle steamers – you feel you’re being transported back to a bygone era and we thoroughly enjoyed our leisurely ride down to Bingen, another enchanting town on the banks of the river.

 

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Bingen is beautifully preserved like most of the towns along the Rhine. Rich in history (settlements grew up round here prior to Roman times) it was closely associated with Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an abbess, medieval mystic and musical composer. There are many historical buildings of interest such as the nearby Maeuseturm (Mouse Tower) so called because allegedly Bishop Hatto of Mainz was eaten alive by mice here in the late 10th century arggghhhh!!!

Undaunted we set off to walk along the river and wend our way back round into the town. It was bitterly cold especially with the wind whipping up from the water! If you look closely at the photos of Monsieur and myself down by the Rhine you can just make out the Mouse Tower in the background (it is actually situated on a small island just outside Bingen).

 

 

There were plenty of information signs to give you an idea of the history and local culture.

 

We found the town centre pleasantly laid out and with pots of spring flowers in abundance. We also noticed the religious iconography on some of the buildings though it is worth noting that Bingen, like many towns along the Rhine, also had relatively large Jewish settlements from the middle ages onwards though they were often subjected to discrimination and persecution.

 

After an hour or so of wandering round we needed warming up so we made our way back down to the river and found a cafe near the quay. We had a very pleasant afternoon tea whilst waiting for the ferry to take us back to Mainz. It would have been a shame to sit indoors and not take advantage of the superb view so we braved the elements and huddled up on the outside terrace!

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Our return ferry (the same one we had taken earlier in the day up from Mainz) duly arrived right on schedule and we spent a pleasant few hours watching the scenery go by before the lights of Mainz came into view in the early evening twilight.

 

A long day out but well worth it!

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Bacharach is a gorgeous picture-perfect medieval town nestling on the banks of the Rhine River in the stunning Rhine Gorge region.

We took the early ferry up from our base in Mainz (see here) arriving in Bacharach late morning. On our first visit there in 2011 we had lunch in one of the restaurants tucked alongside the medieval town walls overlooking the railway tracks but on this day all seemed rather quiet and nothing appeared to be open.

We wandered beneath the arches of the ancient 14th century walls and set off down the cobbled streets leading to the town square. Bacharach was as pretty as we remembered – charming old half-timbered buildings with dates inscribed on the facades going back to the 1500s and in the case of the Altes Haus (Old House) to 1368.

We stopped to buy some souvenirs at one of the little gift shops and had a pleasant chat with the owner who came from the southern German region of Swabia.

It soon became clear why most of the cafes and restaurants were closed – this was a Monday and the day off for most of the traders. We could have set off to take the climb up to Stahleck Castle perched strategically on the hill overlooking the town and river. Nowadays the castle houses the local youth hostel and we had had a pleasant lunch back in 2011 in the courtyard cafe there.

However we decided that the pub in the town centre would surely open up and it duly did right on midday. Good old-fashioned home cooking and a couple of drinks warmed us up (it was still unseasonably cold). After our hearty lunch we had a pleasant stroll along the little brook (presumably a tributary of the Rhine) that flows through the town before heading back to the quay to catch the steam ship down to Bingen.

I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking!

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

A few years ago in 2011 we spent four nights staying in Koblenz. One of the highlights of that trip was taking the local ferry down the Rhine stopping off at the pretty old town of Bacharach for lunch. We enjoyed the region so much we always said we would return some day and indeed we did in May this year though this time our base was further upstream in Mainz – the photo of Bacharach below was taken on this latest trip.

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The beautiful 65 km stretch of the river from Koblenz through the Middle Rhine Gorge area as far as the charming town of Bingen has UNESCO World Heritage Centre status. Gorgeous old towns with half timbered facades, sloping hillsides dotted with vines and imposing castles overlooking the valley add to the special charm of the region. The scenery is simply stunning!

Fortunately I’ve managed to dig out some photos from the 2011 day trip, which I’ll share in a later post. Today, however, I’m covering our recent day trip from Mainz up to Bacharach (which is in the UNESCO section of the river) and back again. The local ferry service is operated by the K.D.Rhine company, which plies the river from various points including Bonn, Cologne, Koblenz and Mainz.

May was still considered low season and we found there was only one service a day starting at Mainz at 8.30am and returning at 8.30pm (check the timetables if you are planning a trip). The boat from Mainz travels up as far as Boppard (about half way between Bacharach and Koblenz) before turning round for the return journey to Mainz.  We bought our tickets before departure from the office on the quay at Mainz.  It was a long day out but well worth it and our tickets were valid throughout the day for hopping on and off at the various stops as we pleased.

We certainly did not enjoy the same glorious spring weather this year as we had in the spring of 2011. It was far was too chilly with the fresh winds to spend much time out on deck. However there is something so relaxing (even indoors) about sitting on a boat watching the river as the scenery gently passes by. Although not part of the UNESCO heritage area until you reach Bingen, the views are still enchanting with rolling hills, castles and old towns with pretty cobbled squares. If you are feeling energetic you can cycle the route or if short of time take the train instead (they run along both banks of the Rhine).

Since we were about the only passengers on board, apart from a small group at a neighbouring table, we had more or less personal service from the waiter (who happened to come from Moscow and was very excited to learn that we came from Perth in Western Australia!). You don’t have to eat or drink anything on board if you don’t want to (and it’s certainly not cheap) but it is part of the experience!

Since I came back with a plethora of photos and couldn’t decide what to leave out here is a pictorial montage of the morning cruise up to Bacharach.

 

We arrived in Bacharach about 11.30am and set off to reacquaint ourselves with the pretty town. More photos to follow in Part 2!

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

My last posts covered some of the attractions in Mainz, the markets, the cathedrals and museums (see here, here and here). Another place we had highlighted to visit on our trip was the Judengasse Museum (Jewish Lane) and Friedhof (Cemetery) in nearby Frankfurt am Main. Since it was a rather wet and dreary day in Mainz, we decided to take the short train ride (about 25 minutes) up to Frankfurt with our aim to take in the Jewish Museum there. We could have walked from the Hauptbahnhof (main station) but with the inclement weather opted to take the U Bahn out there – a few stops on the metro to Konstablerwache Station. The Museum is situated a short walk away on the corner of Battonnstrasse.

 

 

The Jewish Museum in Frankfurt is actually in the midst of renovations and currently only a part of it covering the Early Modern period of history up to 1800 is open to the public. Another permanent exhibition of Jewish life in Germany post 1800 is due to open in the old Rothschilds’ house (Rothschild Palais) in April 2020.

In 1987 excavations in Battonnstrasse uncovered what turned out to be the remains of old Jewish settlements. In fact it was the site of the Judengasse and the old Jewish ghetto, which had first been built in 1492 when the authorities forced all Jewish residents to relocate to one small part of town. The crescent-shaped ghetto built up over the centuries to form a rabbit warren of buildings, many housing several families together, with their lives all closely controlled by the local authorities. The Judengasse was surrounded by walls and access was only possible via three gates, which were closed each night and on Christian holidays.

 

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Over the years many residents became wealthy and there were some fine homes occupied by wealthy merchants plus a couple of beautifully decorated synagogues. From an original population of only about 150 to 200 people the Jewish quarter grew to 3000 in the 18th century before being dissolved in 1796. Not surprisingly given the confined quarters, a huge fire broke out in 1711 burning most of the ghetto to the ground though it was later reconstructed (see here for more information).

We were able to visit the exhibition depicting Jewish life during the period up to the closure of the ghetto in the late 18th century. There were some old photos including one taken of the Judengasse in the 19th century when only half of the original buildings were still intact following the relaxation of the Ghetto restrictions. An interactive model of the Judengasse and its homes provided a visual idea of the proximity of the homes, the inhabitants and their daily lives.

The main section is a fascinating tour through half a dozen of the houses excavated in the 1980s, again interspersed with some background information on some of the residents who lived here. The photos are rather dark owing to the low lighting in the museum and the prohibition of flash photography, but hopefully they convey an idea of the exhibits.

 

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Outside the museum we visited the Boerneplatz Memorial Site – a wall covered with simple stone plaques commemorating the lives of Frankfurt residents murdered during the Holocaust (known as the Shoah by the Jewish people).  It was a moving tribute adjacent to the remains of the old Jewish Friedhof (Cemetery). The Battonnstrasse Cemetery is the second oldest preserved Jewish cemetery north of the Alps. The oldest is in Worms, on the River Rhine south of Mainz, which we also visited later in our trip. Although many gravestones were destroyed by the Nazis during the 2nd World War some graves were preserved and the end of the war thankfully interrupted further destruction. You can get the cemetery gate key from the desk in the Jewish Museum for a security fee if you wish to look round. We were, however, able to peer through the cemetery gates and see the tree-filled area with the remaining graves over to one side. It was a moving experience – the oldest graves date back to 1272.

 

 

The Jewish Museum is well worth a visit if you are in the Frankfurt am Main area – it’s a poignant and fascinating insight into the way of life in the old Judengasse in Frankfurt.

 

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Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

The Mainz Tourist Centre, conveniently situated a couple of streets off the market place by the Brueckenturm, is highly recommended if you are visiting Mainz, whether for a few hours, days or longer.

We got a general feel for Mainz wandering through the old town centre and markets (see last week’s post here) – we prefer to absorb the atmosphere of a place first rather than heading off to tick off tourist lists. There are several churches of interest including Mainz Cathedral, museums such as the State Museum, Kunsthalle (Art Gallery) and the famous Gutenberg Museum, to name but a few.

With such a plethora of possibilities, we found it was easier to pick up some guide books from the tourist information centre and work out what we would like to see in the time available, bearing in mind we also wanted to take some day trips out of Mainz during our 6 day trip to Germany.

St Martin’s Cathedral (Mainzer Dom), towering over the market place, seemed an obvious starting point. Founded in 975 AD during the time of Archbishop Willigis, who was a powerful religious and political figurehead, it has survived fires, wars and other dramas over the centuries. A combination of Romanesque, Gothic and Baroque styles, we found the building striking though somewhat dark and oppressive. The Treasury, displaying a wide array of jewels, precious objects and artefacts relating to the Prince Archbishops, was worth a visit though some of the artwork in the modern gallery was not exactly to our taste! I have only got a few photos from the cathedral cloisters and some taken inside the cathedral – I think photography wasn’t permitted inside the treasury or I would have taken more. The light also made it hard to get some reasonable shots.

 

 

By contrast we found the beautiful stained glass of St Stephan’s Church (Stephanskirche) more to our liking – it was an exquisite contrast to the dark stone of the rest of the interior. Situated on St Stephan’s Mount across the town from the market place area it was well worth the walk uphill (though you can also take a tram). If you do take a tram you get off near this impressive looking arch (I didn’t note down its significance!).

 

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The soft pretty blue hues of the St Stephan windows have a special story behind them as the beautiful stained glass was designed by the Jewish artist Marc Chagall (1887-1985) as a symbol of Jewish Christian reconciliation in the 1970s. I was so enthralled by their dreamy and ethereal beauty I took dozens of photos! The patterns I think represent angel wings and there are some biblical figures.

 

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The church, which was another of Archbishop Willigis’s commissions (he was actually buried here in 1011), had been more or less demolished during the 2nd World War and was eventually rebuilt. The idea to ask Chagall to design the windows came in the 1970s when Monsignor Klaus Mayer established contact with the artist. Chagall had been born in Russia but spent most of his life in France, aside from his time in the USA as a refugee from the Nazis in the 2nd World War. He was reluctant at first (not understandably) given the horrific events of the wartime period and ambivalent feelings towards Germany but came to see the project as a reconciliatory one bringing hope for the future. Despite being an honorary citizen of Mainz he never visited the city.

 

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The first Chagall window was installed in 1978 when Chagall was 91. Eight more were subsequently fitted including one he completed just before his death at the ripe old age of 97. Fortunately his pupil Charles Marq (from the Atelier Jacques Simon in Reims), who had worked with Chagall for many years, completed a more simple series of windows, which were fitted in the side aisles 19 years later.

 

 

We decided that a visit to the Gutenberg Museum was a must and were certainly not disappointed. Johannes Gutenberg (1400-1468), an engraver, inventor and printer, is one of Mainz’s most famous sons and introduced the printing press to Europe. The highlight was seeing the priceless Gutenberg Bibles preserved in special cases in a darkened room (no photos allowed). There were also several other exhibitions covering the history of printing in general not only from Europe but calligraphy from the East. Many original machines and other printing devices were also on display. In fact you could have probably spent a whole day there if you were a serious printing enthusiast. We did a good couple of hours plus a visit to the gift store, which had some excellent gift ideas including little printing and craft sets, which I picked up for our granddaughters back home in Australia.

Another unexpected highlight came towards the end of our visit to the museum when we decided to head down into the basement to see the advertised demonstration of the reconstructed printing press used in Gutenberg’s time. We found, however, that it had been cancelled as they were holding a practice session for one of the staff members who was training to be a guide for French tour parties (though she was a native German speaker). Fortunately they kindly allowed us to sit in on the session provided we didn’t mind that the demonstration was in French. Monsieur and I can get by on French learnt at school and on our travels so we had the curious spectacle of watching Germans speaking French and forgetting all the technical names for the printing paraphernalia (many of which I wouldn’t have known in English!).

Then to my embarrassment I got hauled up on stage as the assistant! Since I can speak more German than French these days I kept reverting to German when I was trying to speak French and the poor flustered lady demonstrator forgot all the technical French words and kept breaking into English mixed with some German. It must have looked hilarious to other onlookers (a small crowd had gathered by this stage)! Monsieur recorded it all for posterity but I did get to take home a replica print of a page from the Gutenberg Bible!

 

 

There are more museums and places of historical interest in and around Mainz and this is just a selection of the highlights. Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering some of the day trips we took in the region – we packed quite a lot into our 6 days in the Rhineland area!

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

We found Mainz to be the perfect getaway spot for a few days in between family visits in the UK – a sort of extended mini city break. We like towns that, whilst having plenty of amenities and connections, are not overwhelmingly large and Mainz with approximately 200,000 residents fitted the bill perfectly.

 

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A university town, Mainz is pleasantly situated at the confluence of the Rhine and Main rivers (on the opposite bank from their precise meeting point). If you come by train, as we did from Frankfurt am Main, you suddenly realise that you have rivers on both sides of you as the smaller Main opens up to merge with the wide expanse of the Rhine River.  Mainz is the capital of the Rhineland-Palatinate Region close to its border with Hesse (another one of the sixteen German federal states or Bundeslaender). Wiesbaden, which lies on the opposite side of the river to Mainz is the state capital of Hesse whilst Frankfurt am Main is its largest city.

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Not surprisingly Mainz has been a strategically important town for centuries. Named Mogontiacum by the Romans it served as a military fortress on their northern borders and was the provincial capital of Germania Superior. Coming into Mainz by train you pass through Mainz Römisches Theater station, which runs adjacent to the remains of what was once the largest Roman theatre north of the Alps. The ruins were excavated during construction of the railway station in the late 19th century and one of the guidebooks I bought said that the trains now run through part of the original stage! 

Later Mainz became the seat of the powerful Archbishops of Mainz (the archbishopric was established in 747 AD) who were both secular and political leaders as well as religious ones. By the Middle ages the Archbishops of Mainz were Electors of the Holy Roman Empire – their status and wealth was considerable and you can see their legacy in the imposing presence of St Martin’s Cathedral , which towers over the main market square (currently like so many old buildings undergoing restoration work). I’ll cover our visit to the cathedral and its treasury in another post to follow.  I don’t know any of the people in the photo below though!

 

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We were staying in the AC Mainz Hotel near the Hauptbahnhof (see here for my last post) and it was about a twenty minute leisurely walk into the Altstadt or Old Town, which is the main hub of any old European town or city.  Along the way to the town centre we had passed by the memorial statue to one of the town’s most famous sons, Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the typesetting press and printer of the Gutenberg Bibles (more about him in another post – as you can see Mainz is a treasure trove of history). The photo below contains the curious juxtaposition of the statue against a background in the bottom corner of the McDonald’s golden arches – not sure what Gutenberg would have made of that!

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Our first full day in Mainz was a Saturday and the town was bustling with locals doing their shopping at the thrice weekly markets held in the picturesque main square (see here for more details).

The town square is surrounded by colourful historic buildings, most of them beautifully restored following the Allied bombing raids in World War Two when about 80% of the town centre was destroyed. I read that after the war different areas chose alternative paths for building restoration with some going for a more modern appearance (such as Frankfurt am Main) but Mainz preferred to restore the buildings to their traditional historical look. They would have been the homes of wealthy merchants back in the day.

 

 

With spring officially in the air (despite the bitter cold on that particular Saturday) the stalls were overflowing with an abundance of beautiful white asparagus (Weisser Spargel) and juicy strawberries (Erdbeeren). It wasn’t all just asparagus and strawberries though – there was an enormous selection of other fruits, vegetables, fresh flowers, wines, preserves and pestos, produce such as eggs including painted ones. One stall wishing to assure their customers of the freshness of their eggs had their wares being “advertised” by a slightly bemused looking hen. The inscription as far as I can tell reads, “Keine Angst vor Salmonellen im Ei” – literally “have no fears about Salmonella in the egg”.

 

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We actually visited the market a couple of times on both the Saturday and Tuesday (the other market day is Friday) so the following photos are a selection of our two visits.

 

 

It did warm up a bit by the following Tuesday but on that Saturday it was about five degrees maximum with a biting wind so after a quick stroll along the river in the rain, we hightailed into the nearby Messe (Conference Centre) and ate a hearty lunch to warm ourselves up along with sampling a couple of the local drinks too!

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

So I’m finally getting round to publishing my series of posts on our recent trip to Germany (May 2019). My computer has been having a minor meltdown this past week or so! Monsieur has been helping me fixing it but it seems every electrical communications device I own has suddenly reached its “use by” date – a desktop software update has improved things but my iPad and IPhone are apparently well out of date and it’s now increasingly hard to use them for blog purposes. At some point I need to go shopping…..

Anyway back to the matter in hand. We chose to base ourselves in Mainz for 6 days in between visits to our respective families in Yorkshire and Somerset and a later trip back to London to see our daughter, Mlle.

Why Mainz? Well we prefer slightly less well known places, we’d been to the Rhine region a few years back (see here) and were keen to return and it gave me an opportunity to practice my German (I’ve been part of a weekly German class for over 8 years now!). Rest assured though English is widely spoken in Germany it’s just that I prefer to get the German conversation practice with native speakers.

First though I’m doing a bit of a detour by explaining our travel route. We took a British Airways flight from London City Airport to Frankfurt then caught the local regional train down to Mainz (about 25 minutes away). On the way back we took the rail route – 3 trains from Mainz to London St Pancras in under 8 hours.

We hadn’t been out to London City Airport before and the rail journey from our meeting point at Kings Cross Station took us out through East London and the old dockyards by the river – areas that I’d rarely seen before even though we lived in London for 9 years and of course things have changed dramatically in recent years.

We found the airport rather crowded and muddled our way through their self service check in point. I must admit to an embarrassing episode in security, which shows even experienced travellers can mess things up! We had the boarding passes in electronic form on Monsieur’s phone and we were waved away from the manned security gate to the self service gates instead. I tried to go through with Monsieur as he had both our boarding passes on his phone but this unfortunately triggered a security alarm. What I should have done was wait for Monsieur to go through, then he needed to pass his mobile phone back to me so I could activate my own pass. Just beware of this as we had not encountered it before. With the blaring sirens subsiding and the security staff thankfully lenient we made our way (in my case rather sheepishly) through the security screening gates and through to the boarding area.

A meal and welcome glass of wine later we boarded our plane for the relatively short hop over the Channel to Frankfurt. There is only one runway at London City and the planes have to taxi along the runway to take off – again something we hadn’t seen before. Despite the grey skies and cloudy conditions we did get an excellent view of the docklands area as we took off.

 

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The plane was, as you would expect, more of a shuttle service but all very pleasant apart from the very bumpy descent into Frankfurt due to the cloudy conditions. We were scheduled to land at Terminal 1, according to our itinerary. This is more convenient if, like us, you are connecting to a local train as the Regional Bahn Train service is situated under the Terminal 1 building. However for some reason we landed at Terminal 2 instead so had to take the SkyLine shuttle service bus between terminals (see here for more info).

Finally after a very long travelling day (we had both had early starts from the north and west of England respectively) we arrived at Mainz Hauptbahnhof in the early evening. A couple of minutes walk across the main square took us to our hotel, the AC Mainz. With our baggage we preferred to stay close to the station rather than lug our cases into town (about 20 minutes walk away). We easily got about either by walking or taking one of the many trams, which stopped just outside our hotel front door.  Despite the proximity to the station it was actually surprisingly quiet and the hotel restaurant had a lovely view out to the square and the impressive station facade.

I settled down for an evening relaxing at our hotel whilst Monsieur headed out to see a football game FC Mainz against Leipzig (an exciting 3 all draw and he returned with a newly purchased Mainz scarf to add to his collection).

Next day though we set off to explore downtown Mainz – lots more photos to come!

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

I’ve been writing about various walks and gardens in Yorkshire recently – some perennial favourites when I’m back there visiting my UK family (see here, here and here for recent posts).

For some reason I’ve never posted about Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal although I’ve been dozens of times before (apart from a few photos I posted back in 2015 here).

Set in a beautiful location in a valley alongside the River Skell (a tributary of the River Ure),  the ruins of the abbey and the 18th century designed water gardens of Studley Royal have been a World Heritage Site since 1986 and are now owned by the National Trust.

 

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The history of the “Dissolution of the Monasteries” by Henry VIII came about through a series of complicated political and religious machinations in the late 1530s and early 1540s. Sadly Fountains was destroyed in 1539 but, despite the chequered past, the ruins have stood the test of time and remain an imposing and sometimes haunting place to walk round.

Combined with the stunning water gardens of the nearby Studley Royal Park they make a lovely walk especially on a fine day. There is an iconic picture-perfect view of the ruined abbey coming into view as you round the bend approaching from the Studley Royal end of the park.

 

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You can start the walk at either the Fountains Abbey Visitor Centre at the top end of the site or the lower end by the lake at Studley Royal. There is a self-service restaurant serving a wide range of local produce adjacent to the Visitor Centre and a well-stocked National Trust shop nearby too (always a good spot to pick up some gifts and souvenirs!).

For a lighter snack-style meal try the tea rooms at the Studley Royal end or the Mill Cafe by the abbey ruins (formerly the Abbey Tea Rooms). Just note that the pathway from the Visitor Centre leading down to the Abbey, whilst tarmacked, is rather steep and might not be suitable for everyone.

On our recent visit in April we had lunch at the Visitor Centre Restaurant then drove back round to the Studley Royal lake entrance. From there we walked the full loop to and from the Abbey. Prices are fairly steep if you haven’t got a National Trust membership but well worth it.

Here is a pictorial tour!

 

 

 

Restoration of the Studley Royal Gardens is ongoing and we found some interesting information signs along the way including details of the “bosquets” (a landscape design term see here for a more detailed explanation!).

 

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For more information about the history of Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal see the link here to the relevant National Trust website.

 

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For more interesting walks and rambles round the world join Restless Jo and her Monday Walks each week!

Copyright © 2019 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

 

 

 

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