What have you heard about Mainz? Chances are – not much. I doubt Mainz has ever made anyone’s list of must-visit German cities. It probably would have been overlooked entirely were it not a gateway to the Rhine Valley and birthplace of the printing press and the Gutenberg Bible – oh yeah, no big deal, just that little milestone of Western Civilization.
Truth be told, Mainz wasn’t on my travel radar either – which is why, looking back on my vacation, it’s a super-pleasant surprise that the two loveliest evenings of the German leg of my trip were actually spent in Mainz.
One involved the best meal of my whole time in Germany. This is actually a much bigger deal than it might seem. You see, I like potatoes, cabbage, sausages and roasted pork as much as the next person (who am I kidding – way more), but 1-that food is far too heavy for 40C heat, and 2-I wasn’t really feeling the German treatment of those foods. I was constantly craving something lighter, a crisp, satisfying salad for example, except most German versions of a salad involved whole lettuce leaves with a couple of sliced tomatoes on top. Days have gone by and though I’ve tried quite a few interesting regional specialties, I still haven’t had a dish that really hit the spot. Granted, that left a lot of room for my Weinschorle consumption, but Anna does not live by wine alone.
Behold the HeiligGeist, or Holy Ghost – a really nice restaurant located in very Gothic former hospital in downtown Mainz. With its refined take on the traditional Rhineland food it was just what the doctor ordered. Fresh salad with delicately grilled chicken filet, strawberries and mozzarella was out of this world, while the cold yogurt-cucumber-dill-sour cream soup was like a sunburn balm for the soul (just go with this metaphor). The German of course devoured a whole pig and his 58th non-alcoholic beer of the day.
Oh yeah, actual downtown Mainz is cute too but I won’t front like some sort of Mainz expert. The Romanesque cathedral in the header photo is a thousand years old though, so that’s something (Mainz itself is in its third millennium).
Another evening was spent not quite in Mainz proper, but technically in Wiesbaden, on the opposite side of the Rhine, overlooking the Mainz skyline. Rhinehufer, or Rhine Riverside, is such a delicious slice of German ingenuity as applied to leisure. It’s Biergarten (and we’ll get to those later) meets beach – think cold draft beer, comfortable lounge chairs and toes in the sand. It’s THE ideal way to relax on a beautiful summer evening, and the perfect place to observe real Germans in their natural habitat, as this is quite off the beaten path for most tourists (but actually pretty easy to get to). If you are spending an evening in the area and the weather is cooperating, by all means, spend it THERE.