Wiesbaden and Mainz: A Tale of Two Cities

I get rivalries. I really do. I grew up deep in Bulldawg territory, and I feel like I fully understand the relationship between UGA and Georgia Tech. I also understand arch-rivalries (at least to some extent). Again, I grew up deep in Bulldawg territory, and it is in my blood to be a Gator Hater (these are all references to American style football teams for those of you not in the US). I have a little bit harder time understanding how a city can have an arch-rival. That just seems a bit much to me. In any case, though, Wiesbaden and Mainz, two cities basically across the river from each other, are arch-rivals. So we decided to do them both in 1 day. 🙂

Wiesbaden is the capital of Hesse (one of the 16 German states) and is home to about 280,000 people (a little less than 20% of these are foreigners to Germany; my guess is that many of those are Americans). Wiesbaden is old, like many (all) places in Germany, and has always been popular for their sauna/bath lifestyle. In fact, there are English-speaking churches that date back a long while for the British spa visitors. Most of Wiesbaden’s existing structures were built in the mid-late 1800s through the start of WWI. Wiesbaden only had about 30% damage/destruction during WWII, so it still looks largely the same as it did when it was originally built. And it is lovely!

Wiesbaden is a musical, for sure. At our (most wonderful) dinner party among the opera folks, they lauded the music scene (and the buildings the music scene takes place within) in Wiesbaden, so… It they said it, I believe it! We saw a lot of different examples of this, though, although I only included my favorites in the gallery above.

I think that the fact that there is such a huge presence of US Army folks in Wiesbaden may have tainted it’s reputation a bit so that it seems somehow less German than some other places, but it is much, much more than just an Army base. It has the balance of classical and refined down pat.

After thoroughly enjoying walking around Wiesbaden, we drove 15 minutes or so across the river and into the state of Rheineland-Palitinate’s capital city, Mainz. Mainz is where the original printing press, invented by Guttenburg, was used.Mainz itself is also extremely old, and as it turns out, the arch-rivalry dates back quite a few years (from what I gather, Emperor Frederic II was at war against the pope, and somehow in the process, the Archbishop of Mainz ordered the destruction of Wiesbaden; in 1242. That’s right 1-2-4-2). Mainz appears to have really gone through the ringer with a bunch of Napolean stuff and archbishop this and that stuff… And then almost 80% of the city was damaged/destroyed in WWII, so… It’s historical, but it’s also a lot newer.

Our main attraction, of course, were the windows. They were gorgeous, and the pictures really don’t do it justice.

View across the Rhine river in Mainz.

The Iron Tower. Extremely old, but otherwise… meh. We did go see it outside the car, but if you are pushed for time, a drive-by will suffice.

Sculpture on one of the pedestrian plazas.

They are proud of their homeboy, Gutenberg! (of course, he did get kicked out of town (along with his family) almost 30 years before the press was 1st used, but really, who is keeping track?!)

That was Saturday in a nutshell. I tried to stay neutral in this rivalry (Switzerland has a tough job!), but… for what it’s worth, my vote is for  Wiesbaden. 🙂

(In the gallery above, if you click on any of that area, it will bring the picture out in a slide-show like format; I’m experimenting a bit here, and I wasn’t entirely successful (thus the duplication), but I’ve given up trying to fix it today!)


3 thoughts on “Wiesbaden and Mainz: A Tale of Two Cities

  1. I like that we can see you taking the pic in the rearview mirror. Cool.

    Looks like it was a fun day!

  2. Great post! My gf lives in Mainz and I visit her a few times a year, and the disdain toward Wiesbaden is thick amongst her Mainzer friends. I really appreciated your historical insight. From my experience there seems to be a bit of class warfare at work as well–a nice 20th century touch to a 13th century rivalry! Great pics as well!

    • Thank you! I wondered (as I wandered) if there were some class-based biases playing into the feud. I hope she likes living there as much as I enjoyed visiting there! 🙂

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