Mainz vs. Wiesbaden

Posted on October 12, 2011

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After spending the daylight hours of September 2nd in Frankfurt, Julia and I made our way to Mainz, where Julia lives. After a delicious homemade dinner, we made our way to the Mainzer Winzer, a wine festival celebrating Riesling Wines from the nearby regions. When I explored Frankfurt with my parents the day before, there was a good amount of wine tasting going on in the streets, but my parents noted the menus consisted entirely of Rieslings, which they disliked. What we drank at the festival, however, were extremely dry and very tasty. I highly recommend trying a dry Riesling if you think Riesling is only sweet, it will drastically change your opinion about the region’s wine production for the better.

Delicious dry Riesling at the Mainzer Winzer

Mainz

The next day, Julia took me on a morning tour of Mainz, where we spent a good amount of time exploring the Mainz Dom. Similar to the Dom in Frankfurt, it was constructed with the red sandstone mined further down river, giving it a unique red tint. It was also undoubtedly the largest Cathedral complex I have been in.

Inside a hallway in the Mainz Dom

While the mass area was large, there was an adjacent courtyard with lots of great historical relics. In front of the Dom there was a market taking place as well, full of German people shopping in the shadow of the massive cathedral.

Market before the Dom

After exploring the Dom, we strolled through the market towards the river while I continually quizzed Julia about historical things. Interesting facts included that Mainz is where Johannes Gutenberg was born, and that no one knows exactly why the city’s symbol is two wheels.

The City Symbol of Mainz

When we arrived at the River Rhine, my camera battery pooped-out, so I wasn’t able to take pictures of the Rhine. I was pretty bummed about this because the first time I visited Germany in 2005, I took a boat along the Rhine from Cologne to St. Germain. Ever since then, the Rhine has held a special place in my heart.

At the river, however, Julia told me about the rivalry between Mainz and Wiesbaden. They are both capitols of their Bundesländers, or Federal States (Mainz is the capitol of Rhineland-Palatinate, Wiesbaden is the capitol of Hesse), and the two cities are split by the River Rhine. The biggest differences between the two, as far as I could tell, is that Mainz has a very large University (Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz), and Wiesbaden is much more wealthy (Frankfurt am Main, the commerce hub of Germany, is in the Bundesländer of Hesse). Julia likes Mainz more, even though she grew up in the Hesse region, but to let me form my own opinion, we spent the afternoon exploring Wiesbaden.

Wiesbaden

Looking over Wiesbaden

That afternoon, Julia and I drove over the Rhine to Wiesbaden, where we ate an exquisite German lunch at her friend Kate’s house. I met Kate the night before at the Mainzer Winzer, where I learned she studied at Colorado State University in Pueblo. My first question for her at the festival was “why on earth would you study in Pueblo?” It turns out the University in Mainz has a special relationship with CSU Pueblo, which explains why she studied in an isolated city in Colorado instead of Denver or Boulder. She was quick to say that while Pueblo was not a very exciting town, she traveled a lot in the States when she was there. On the train to Magdeburg the next day, I remembered meeting some Swedes from Stockholm in Colorado a year ago, and when I explained I studied in Karlstad, they asked me “why on earth would you study in Karlstad?” What goes around, comes around, I suppose.

On the Nerobergbahn Funicular Railway

After lunch, Julia, Kate and I took a walk to the Nerobergbahn Funicular railway, a water-powered tram that brought us up to a great view of town. At the top there was a pool with a great view, a Russian Orthodox Church, and an overlook above some vineyards. The Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth seemed slightly out of place in this mostly Catholic region of Germany, but was strikingly beautiful nonetheless.

The Russian Orthodox Church of Saint Elizabeth

Church Detail

We could not get into the church for free, so we took the funicular back down and walked into town. Our first stop was the Kurhaus convention center, a very elegant building I would later learn is the largest building in Europe supported entirely by pillars.

Kurhaus with Fontain of the Bowling Green

We walked to the city center discussing the city’s history and future, especially considering a visit from former US president George W. Bush, when he announced the primary American military base in Europe would be moved to Wiesbaden. Kate explained there was a growing American presence in town because of this, for better or worse.

Looking at the other side of the Kurhaus

Similar to Mainz, there was a Saturday market going on in the city square in Wiesbaden. We worked our way through the crowds, got some ice cream, and headed back to Kate’s house.

Wiesbaden Cathedral

Julia and I said our goodbyes to Kate and headed back to Mainz for dinner. Afterwards, we made a stop at the delicious brewpub in Mainz for some beers with Michael, another German national we studied with in Karlstad. Oddly enough, while we waited for Michael to arrive, we overheard the people at the table next to us speaking Swedish, a pleasant indication we were in the right place that night. After sharing more memories and stories since our time in Sweden, we called it a night before getting up early for Julia to head to a career workshop in Frankfurt and for me to head to Magdeburg.

As to which city is better, it’s hard to say. Mainz certainly had a younger, creative feel, while Wiesbaden had a pleasant, older feel. Each city claims the other lives “on the wrong side of the river,” but as far as I can tell, they simply live on either side of the right river.

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Posted in: Backpacking, Germany