Mainz/NUFC friendly day one
29.07.2017 - 29.07.2017
London to Mainz
Less than a week after we had landed back at Heathrow on our return from Seattle, we were at the airport and flying again - this time on a short hop to Frankfurt with British Airways. Our final destination though was Mainz, where we would be meeting up with friends to go to a football match, as Newcastle United were playing a pre-season friendly match there.
Our flight was a very early one so we decided to drive to the airport as the Tubes couldn't be trusted at that time. We used Terminal Five's new Pod parking - transfer from car park to the terminal is in small futuristic driverless vehicles, eliminating the need to wait for a shuttle bus. Five minutes after parking we were in the terminal.
The short flight landed on time at Frankfurt's Terminal 2, from where we had to catch the shuttle bus to Terminal 1 where the two airport train stations are located. We took a regional train to Mainz from the Regionalbahnhof – cheaper and only a fraction slower than the inter-city option.
We had reserved a room for the night at the Hilton City Centre on Münsterstrasse. There are two Hiltons in Mainz, as we discovered when our friends Pete and Iris decided to reserve the same hotel as ourselves but mistakenly chose the one on Rheinstrasse! Never mind though - we walked up to ours, checked in, and although early were able to get our room and freshen up. They meanwhile had arrived by train from their home in Trier, taken a taxi to their Hilton hotel, and walked over to ours.
Although the football was the main reason for visiting Mainz, we had never been here before and were keen to see a little bit of the city. Pete and Iris know it well (their daughter Stephie studied here) so offered to lead us on a short stroll through the old town as we had some free time before the match.
Our walk took us through Schillerplatz, where I loved the carnival fountain, the Fastnachtsbrunnen. This dates from 1967 and is around nine metres high. It has more than 200 bronze figures and symbols relating to the carnival, which is a big deal here in Mainz (even more so than in many other German cities). The figures include the Fool, the Monk, the Harlequin, the Donkey-rider or Eselsreiter, the Money-bag Washer (Geldbeutelwäsche) and the city goddess Moguntia. The design tapers towards the foot, which is said to symbolise the unstable happiness of fools and also shows how the city and its cathedral are ‘turned upside down’ at carnival time. Some of these photos, by the way, were taken later in the day when the light was better.
From here we made our way towards and around the cathedral via some of the other city squares and streets.
Near Bishofsplatz, and in Leichhof
Statue of Rabanus Maurus, a former bishop of Mainz, in Domstrasse
The cathedral is dedicated to St Martin and is mainly Romanesque, with (as is common) many later additions in different architectural styles, including Gothic chapels and a Baroque roof to the west tower. It was a shame that part of the cathedral was covered in scaffolding - that, and its unusual proximity to the surrounding buildings, means that I have no pictures of the whole edifice, only details.
We went inside briefly. It is impressive though quite dark and sombre. I'm not sure why that should be - the stone is not as dark as it at first appears, and there are plenty of windows, but maybe those surrounding buildings block some light? But there are some attractive details and the windows themselves are lovely in a modern understated way - I liked the monochrome ones at the back, for example.
In Mainz Cathedral
Gutenberg statue in Gutenbergplatz
We walked round a few more streets, with me taking some random photos as we went, and then stopped for drinks at a café in the Gutenbergplatz. It was a hot day and my lemonade with mint really hit the spot!
The statue of Gutenberg (who was born in Mainz) was erected here on the occasion of the 400 year anniversary of his invention of the printing press. He holds a Bible and around the base are scenes from a printing house. Elsewhere in the Altstadt is a museum devoted to the life of Gutenberg, but this was a flying visit with limited time for sightseeing so we didn’t visit that or many of the city’s other sights. But what little we saw of the central area convinced us it would be worth a revisit some time!
By now though it was time to meet up with the rest of our party at the stadium, which lies some distance out of town, so we hopped in a taxi to get there.
Match at the Opel Arena
The Opel Arena was built just a few years ago and opened in 2011. We have been to quite a few such modern stadia but none quite like this in terms of situation, as it sits surrounded by farmland. It was odd to see fans walking towards it through the fields!
Those fans, and Newcastle ones, were starting to gather, although it was still over two hours before the match would start. There were a few activities and attractions organised that had drawn people here early - some live music, fun and games for the kids, food and drink stalls. We watched 'Tommy Freestyle' for a while, who was very good.
We met up with Pete and Iris's daughter Stephie, her husband Dominik, his brother Tobi and his girlfriend Jojo, plus our friend Barry. Finding some seats in the shade, we got some beers and other drinks and settled down for a good chat. We hadn't seen Pete, Iris and Barry for three years, Stephie and Dominik for ten (!) and had never met Tobi and Jojo, so there was plenty to talk about - including of course football (who have we signed and sold, how might the team fare this year, back in the Premier League, etc).
Eventually it was time to take our place in the stadium. Dominik had secured us a block of seats in the Newcastle end but as these were in full sun and the section not full we moved a bit higher up, from where we had a good view of all the action, albeit slight marred by the netting European clubs tend to put around away ends.
At the match - Tobi, Jojo, Dominik and Iris
The hot sun, and the need to avoid injury with the season looming and nothing at stake here, were evident. In the second half both managers made multiple changes, as is often the case in friendly matches, and it paid dividends for Newcastle. The arriving players were more lively and the goal soon followed, helped by some flapping by the Mainz keeper. It looked as if we would come away with a probably deserved draw, but late in the match Mainz scored again and the game finished 2-1 to them.
Despite the heat and rather flat performance, the Newcastle fans were as usual in good voice. At half time we had an interesting chat with the German couple who sat next to us. He a Bayern München fan and she an Eintracht Frankfurt fan, their connection to Newcastle stemmed from the three years she had spent living in Tynemouth.
Leaving the stadium - Jojo, Tobi, Chris, Barry, Pete, Peter
Leaving the stadium - Barry, Dominik, Pete
Evening in Mainz
After the match we took the free shuttle bus back into the centre of town, went first to a pub near the Schillerplatz for a beer.
In the pub - Jojo, Iris, Stephie
In the pub - Pete
From there we went on to a rather attractive restaurant, Heiliggeist, which is in an old church near the river. The food here was very good (I loved the chilled cucumber and yoghurt soup!) but the service a little slow and the room a little warm.
In the restaurant - Pete, Chris, Dominik, Iris, Jojo, Tobi
In the restaurant - Peter, Liz, Barry, Nathalie
In the restaurant - almost everybody! (Pete's photo)
By the time the meal finished we were very tired, understandably so given our early start, so we made our farewells to the group and walked back to the hotel through the pleasant streets of Mainz.