|While sober Euro-bankers swarm into nearby Frankfurt, Mainz is immersed in Fastnacht, the carnival season. |
The city's population of 200,000 more than doubles for a fancy-dress street party and the spectacular Rosenmontag parade on February 20, when sweets and other goodies are thrown from floats. In the weeks before, local troupes in elaborate costumes throng the streets, playing piccolos and glockenspiel.
Mainz stretches along the Rhine at its confluence with the River Main. Coloured street signs provide instant orientation: blue for streets parallel to the river, red for those at right angles (it is said to prevent late-night carousers from getting wet). The Old Town extends south of the massive Dom (cathedral) along the attractive pedestrianised Augustinerstrasse that leads to a Roman theatre. The train station is not much more than a kilometre west of the Dom. Quiet cobbled lanes, comical statues of Fastnacht and Virgins peering down from niches reward random explorations on foot.
Take a view
Because Mainz is built on a hill it is easy to gain elevation to survey the city's roofs and spires, for example from Kupferbergterrasse or the Zitadelle. To appreciate Mainz in its riverside setting, it is best viewed from the railway bridge across the Rhine. Romantics might be tempted to add a "love lock" to the thousands of inscribed padlocks fastened to the metalwork of the bridge before throwing the key into the river.
A wonderful farmers' market takes place every Tuesday, Friday and Saturday in the shadow of the Dom. It provides the most photogenic food shopping experience. Dozens of varieties of potato and apple are sold, with most labels prefaced "Deutscher" to indicate home-grown provenance. Long, brown salsifies are piled up next to fat pomegranates, and the egg stall is presided over by a fierce cock.
Shopping streets and lanes fan out from Marktplatz. If the cheery chocolateries and novelty shops along Augustinerstrasse are not sufficient, head for the Römerpassage, a small precinct with some trendy shops. Underneath, the artfully lit remains of a Roman temple dedicated to Isis can be visited for free. This was discovered only 12 years ago when the area was being developed.
Lunch on the run
The farmers' market has great take-away vans selling specialities such as Leberkäsweck (meatloaf on a bun), wurst with senf (choice of sweet or spicy mustard) or Fisch Brötchen (herring and bread), from €2. Finish with a pastry topped with toasted hazelnuts from the bakery stall and a coffee or hot chocolate from the converted old Citroën van called Caffee Moguntia.
Take a hike
Most Mainz residents have walked or cycled the Three Bridges Walk dozens of times. This two-hour circuit heads south from the city centre along the broad riverside path favoured by joggers and cyclists towards the railway bridge.
The section on the other side is far from scenic, but grit your teeth, bear left when you come off the bridge and carry on to the second bridge over the Main and into the peaceful neighbourhood of Kostheim.
Sticking close to the water you pass a shallow bay where water birds congregate.
Carry on back to the Rhine and pause at the Dom Blick Terrasse & Biergarten for a reviving drink or bite to eat. Before climbing up on to the Theodor-Heuss road bridge back to the city centre, look under the bridge for skilled wielders of spray cans who endlessly re-decorate the massive concrete arch with high-quality graffiti.
Dining with the locals
In the tranquil upper part of Mainz, the regional kitchen of Heinrichs at Martinsstrasse produces dishes
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