Mainz on the Rhein
A short train ride from Frankfurt sits the ancient roman city of Mainz (pronounced like “mines”). When my parents came to visit, we started our vacation here, with a weekend on the Rhein, exploring Mainz and neighboring river villages. The funny thing is, when we told our German friends our plans for our trip, which included visiting Köln, Amsterdam, Bielefeld (obviously), and Mainz, everyone responded the same way:
“Mainz? Why would you go to Mainz?”
The Rhein river, which runs through Germany from the North Sea, is a major thoroughfare for shipping vessels and river cruise ships. Mainz is a popular stop for these cruise ships for two main reasons: The Mainzer Dom and the Gutenberg Museum. Mainz is not a major tourist destination, but rather works as a jumping-off point for other places. Many cruises start, stop, and visit there, but it doesn’t seem to be a main destination. There were still locals there, and the economy didn’t seem reliant on tourism. (Mainz is also the capital city for the state of Rheinland-Pfalz, so it’s got that going for it.)
Really Old Stuff
Being American and coming from such a young country, seeing things that were built hundreds of years ago is still mind-blowing. I don’t think it will ever get old. Our first day in Mainz, we walked through the Altstadt, the old town. There were buildings that were from 1450! 🤯 The Mainzer Dom was built over 1000 years ago! 🤯🤯
And let’s not forget about our boy, Johannes Gutenberg, who was changing the world in 1452. You can see 2 original Gutenberg bibles, learn about the Gutenberg printing press, and the evolution of the written word at the Gutenberg Museum.
For someone like me, who has a degree in Journalism and English, loves anything about printing/books/publishing/etc., seeing the first mass-produced book raised the hair on my arms. It’s absolutely beautiful. And completely illegible. It’s not a book, it’s art.
To see even more old stuff, take one of the many river cruises up the Rhein. No need to book beforehand, they leave daily and offer hop-on-hop-off services up and down the river.
Cruisin’ the Castles
One of the easiest ways to see the crazy number of castles that line the Rhein is by river cruise. We took a short boat ride about an hour from Mainz to Rüdesheim am Rhein, drinking Pilsner and enjoying the views along the way. Don’t be fooled by the blue skies, it was cold.
We opted for the warmth of a train car for our return back to Mainz, and my parents got to experience what I like to call a “Knight Bus” on the way back to the hotel.😂
A Warm Willkommen
Dear German friends, I’m going to answer your Why would you go to Mainz? question now (in case you haven’t already figured it out). Mainz offers an easy transition into “German” life for the first time visitor. It’s not overly crowded, it’s easy to navigate, and it has a familiarity for Americans who might have a more romantic expectation of Germany (castles, cobblestones, and cafes).
Also, it’s kinda cute.