Le Chic En Rose

Diaries of an independent traveller

Getting back into routine after the festive season! Our visitors have left us and it seems a bit strange to have the house back to just ourselves and the pets.

We’ve done quite a few local outings over the past few weeks including a pleasant day in Fremantle with Mlle when she was here from London.

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I have posted about a previous trip to Fremantle (see here). By Perth standards it’s quite a historic place being the first port of call back in 1829 when the first European settlers set up a colony at the mouth of the Swan River (see here). However, importantly, it also has a rich indigenous heritage, which you can read more about here. There is an acknowledgement about the land and traditions on the City of Fremantle website:

The City of Fremantle acknowledges the Whadjuk people as the traditional owners of the greater Fremantle/Walyalup area and that their cultural and heritage beliefs are still important to the Nyoongar people today.

It’s always lovely to wander the streets and explore the older style buildings from colonial days. The Fremantle Markets are a wonderful way to while away time and pick up supplies (I have discovered an excellent stall selling all manner of loose leaf teas including all my favourites!)

 

 

Aside from the markets, Fremantle also has plenty of interesting shops selling all sorts of things – artwork, old books, maps and clothing. Monsieur was on a mission to find some old vinyls for the new turntable he received at Christmas! He duly found a store selling a myriad of old records and I left him there to browse for quite a while.

We wandered back down to the sea front and passed by Notre Dame, the univeristy situated in Fremantle – its locations are spread out over a number of old-style buildings.

Later we met Mlle for lunch at coincidentally the same place as my previous Fremantle post – Little Creatures down by the front! I should stress however that there are numerous other cafes and eateries from which to take your pick – The Raw Kitchen restaurant is another of our favourites and the adjoining shop a great place to pick up gifts.

 

 

After lunch we strolled around the historic port front – it was a blustery day though the sea breeze was most welcome. There are some displays about the port’s heritage, an art gallery and steps leading up to the Round House used to house prisoners for many years (we have visited quite a few times so didn’t go up there on our recent visit).

 

 

Fremantle is a perennial favourite somewhere I often pop down to even when we don’t have visitors. If anyone is coming to Perth I’d highly recommend it – it has a charm and character quite distinct from the far more modern Perth city.

 

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We have fortunately not been affected in the Perth Metro area by the horrific bushfires, though there was a severe fire in the Yanchep area to the north before Christmas and the eastern part of Western Australia has been badly impacted by fires near the South Australian border. This is a relatively under-populated part of the state though it has alas burnt through large hectares of bushland and caused traffic delays on the Eyre Highway (the main link road between Western and South Australia).

Thoughts continue to go out to those affected further east by the drought, terrible fires and most recently floods.

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Belated “Happy New Year” to everyone from Perth, Western Australia!

The photos below were taken on my morning walk today – we have had beautifully mild weather for the past few weeks in contrast to the heatwaves of November and early December. We are so lucky to enjoy unspoilt bushland in the city so close to our home but it is something never to take for granted.

It is heartbreaking to see the terrible destruction being wrought on such a vast area by the horrific bushfires burning out of control in virtually all states of Australia at present (this does include WA though mercifully so far the fires have been in relatively underpopulated regions).

There are many debates going on about causes, solutions and current and future planning but this is not the forum in which to discuss all of that. For now hearts go out to those affected and utter sadness for the loss of lives, homes, native bushlands and forests, wildlife, livelihoods and more…….

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2020 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved

Here is a little pictorial roundup of the last few weeks out and about in Perth – not sure where this year has gone, it’s hard to believe we will soon be in 2020!

 

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and very best wishes for the New Year!

 

 

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

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

 

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