Funny little characters, beautiful blue windows, destroyed buildings, and K-town
Mainz - Mainzelmännchen and Chagall
Rudolf reserved a table at Hammon’s for breakfast at 8:30AM so we loaded the luggage and headed there for a wonderful breakfast. It was packed, and a couple of people I knew from back in the day also happened to drop in so it was nice to see them. Rudolf took me to the train station in Heilsbronn and it was off to Nürnberg for the next leg of the journey to the Pfalz. I had a little over a half hour in Nürnberg so that gave me some time to grab a pretzel sandwich for the trip and get back to the track. The train was running about 10 minutes late and returned on much of the same route I took back on the 14th when I arrived in Germany: Würzburg and Aschaffenburg. As we entered into the Main/Rhein valley, however, we took a route that avoided Frankfurt and crossed the Rhein right before we got to Mainz, the capital of Rheinland-Palatinate, or Rheinland-Pfalz. The entire trip took about 3.5 hours.
Hans and Mary were waiting for me at the platform – it was so great to see them! We took my luggage up to their car and I said I’d really like to visit the church with the windows by Marc Chagall. So we set off on our way. Mainz is known as one of the craziest places in Germany for Karneval (Mardi Gras), so you can think of it as the New Orleans of Germany. It’s also a TV broadcasting center. The state television station, ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen – 2nd German TV) shows short comics featuring little men known as “Mainzelmännchen” (little men of Mainz) between commercials. State run channels only show blocks of commercials before major newscasts, otherwise shows run straight through without ads. In any case, the walk/don’t walk signals in Mainz feature Mainzelmännchen (see pictures).
We made our way to St. Stephan, the catholic church with the main altar windows designed by French Jewish artist, Marc Chagall. They are so stunningly beautiful. The priest at the church developed a relationship with Chagall, who said he wanted nothing to do with Germany after the Second World War, let alone design any artwork. However, he finally acquiesced and designed and oversaw the making of the 9 windows around the alter – when he was already in his 90’s. The final windows arrived at the church after Chagall's death. They are breathtaking and feature stories from the Old Testament. The rest of the windows in the church feature designs by Chagall, but were not made by him personally, but by his proteges. The blue hues have a calming effect and are now among the most visited sites in the city.
Once we were finished at the church, we walked down near the large cathedral and past the statue of Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. One of the museums in Mainz has some of the original Gutenberg Bibles. We had coffee in an old style Café next to the cathedral and admired the rebuilt houses around the square.
As we made our way back to the car to head back to Rockenhausen, where Hans and Mary live, we had to stop on the spur of the moment (typical Hans) at a butcher shop and get several things both for supper and for dinner Saturday. We drove up and over the Donnersberg, the highest point between the Rhine and the Pfälzerwald, the Palatine Forest and into Rockenhausen, a quaint little town nestled among the hills. See pictures 1 below.
K-Town - impressions old and new
Mary laid out an amazing spread for breakfast – the fresh rolls with all the seeds never get old, plus all the cheeses and meats and jams and eggs – German breakfasts are things to truly sit back and enjoy. I think we were at the table for nearly 90 minutes. We talked about what to do for the day, and I indicated that I had never been to Kaiserslautern, the closest large city. Since it’s only about 20 minutes from here, we decided to go there in the afternoon for a quick excursion.
We left Rockenhausen around 2:00PM and made our way through the gorgeous region of the Pfalz and got to Kaiserslautern, which is only a few miles from the Ramstein Air Base that is mentioned so often in the news back in the US. Because Americans have problems saying the full name, it’s often referred to as “K-Town”. We heard military planes off and on all afternoon.
After catching a glimpse of the Fritz-Walter-Stadium (where the Kaiserslautern soccer team plays and where several of the 1954 World Cup winners, including Fritz Walter played. We parked near the Stiftskirche, a church that has been around since the mid 13th century. In 1818, the Lutherans and the Reformed church (started by Calvin) came to an agreement at this church and founded the Lutheran church of the Pfalz as it exists to this day. The church is rather unadorned inside, but is the oldest church between the Rhein and France.
From there we walked around the city, which is not really that pretty, since the city was completely obliterated during the war. It was a military headquarters even before the Americans established the Ramstein base (and actually this was part of the French occupation zone after the war). Every once in a while you come across an older building, but by and large most everything comes from the 1960’s and 1970’s.
We walked near an indoor shopping center and then came across the remains of the Kaiserpfalz, a residence castle started in the 12th century by none other than Friedrich Barbarossa. Rather than trying to rebuild the structure, they’re trying to preserve the remains, which back in the day would have been quite large and along a pond in the river Lauter (hence the name Kaiserslautern).
After checking out the “Kleine Kirche” (little church), the only church that was usable after the war, we walked along a street where the synagogue used to be. All that remains is a rebuilt section of an archway. On the backside are the names of all the Jews from the city who were killed. The university in Darmstadt has placed digital viewing devices around the large square where the synagogue used to be (it was completed in 1886 and destroyed in the Night of Broken Glass in 1938) where you can view images of what it used to look like from different vantage points. It was very moving.
After returning home, we had a typical German dinner of potato dumplings (Knödel) that we purchased at the butcher in Mainz, along with Saumagen and Sauerkraut with apple, onion, and caraway. It was delicious.
To cap off the day, we watched a movie on Bavarian TV that was spoken only in Bavarian dialect – I understood maybe 40-50% of it. Enjoy the pictures 2 below.
Pictures 1 - Mainz; left to right, top to bottom
Row 1: Butcher; Cathedral square
Row 2: Mainz Cathedral; St. Stephen; St. Stephen
Row 3: Chagall windows; 3 shadow figures; Chagall windows
Row 4: Mainzelmännchen
Pictures 2 - Kaiserslautern, left to right, top to bottom
Row 1: Jewish synagogue arch; little church; depiction of Kaiserpfalz in 1350
Row 2: Hans and Mary Gaul; remains of Kaiserpfalz
Row 3: K-in Lautern shopping center; inside Stiftskirche; Stiftskirche
Row 4: Statue commemorating Calvin and Luther; Statue outside Stiftskirche