Our week in Mainz was truly special as we were able to spend quality time with family and experience the town and gorgeous surrounding areas. The scenery on the two hour train ride from Cologne kept us from doing anything but admire the endless vineyards nestled between charming old towns and castles along the Rhine. When we arrived, Jenn’s cousin Andi picked us up at the train station and after a quick drive back to her home we were welcomed by Andi’s husband Dieter, and also Geri and Christoph – Andi’s cousin and husband who were visiting from Florida. We shared a great meal and a couple bottles of Riesling from Dieter’s collection, which we learned is a staple grape grown in the Rhine Valley – not too sweet and very refreshing! Jenn hadn’t seen Andi, Dieter, Geri and Christoph in years so there was a lot of catching up to do!
Downtown Mainz is a mix of history, shopping and restaurants that also included a fresh market where we picked up some local produce and fish for dinner. Andi walked us through the square and gave us a tour of St. Martin’s Cathedral, which had been restored after being damaged during WWII. We ended up walking back again that afternoon to pick up some new sneakers and a fresh pair of Birk’s for Jenn. We also tried a tasty local hefeweizen before heading back. Our last visit to the downtown area was to check out the Gutenberg Museum, named after Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the modern printing press.
Sitting around a table to eat three meals a day is something we rarely do back home and we really appreciated during our time with Andi and Dieter. The usual distractions of chirping phones, laptops and TV were gone and it was refreshing to us. Additionally, Andi is the best hostess and cook and we certainly felt spoiled by her hospitality! Some of our dinners included a tasty chicken curry, traditional German sausages with grüne sosse or “green sauce” made with a variety of chopped herbs, sour cream, minced hard-boiled egg and quark which is similar to ricotta. It was delicious! Andi and Jenn prepared a traditional Hungarian stew called Lecsó on the last night we were in Mainz. It’s a very simple and flavorful dish made up of sautéd onions, peppers, tomatoes and a ton of fresh paprika which Andi had gotten from a friend in Hungary. The stew was served with a German potato dumpling called schupfnudel, similar in texture to gnocchi but much bigger and a perfect accompaniment. The paprika had a burst of flavor and intensity and was no comparison to what we have in the states.
We were also fortunate to see Andi’s daughter Maira and husband Tobias and their beautiful family who had stopped for a night before going back to their home in Zurich after a summer holiday in Greece. Maira and Tobias have 3 beautiful girls with such personalities and competitive spirit! We chatted, played a couple of board games, and then had dinner together that night and learned about their life in Switzerland. It was really wonderful to have the chance see them!
One evening Andi took us to a carnival to see fireworks on the Rhine, which we loved since we were in Barcelona over the 4th of July. There were endless food stalls, games, a big ferris wheel and the fireworks show even had accompanying music and colored lasers projecting from across the river. It was fantastic! Another evening we enjoyed ourselves at a local wine festival in a neighboring town and shared riesling and a number of German specialties including bratwurst and flammkuchen pronounced “flam-ku-hen”- Andi helped us with the correct pronunciation! We enjoyed our food and wine with another lovely view above the festival.
Toward the end of our stay, we had a great day with Andi in Bacharach after Dieter had left for his yearly hiking trip in the Alps. The drive was about 40 minutes from Mainz and on the way we stopped at a local farm owned by Bjorn who is a friend of Andi and Dieter’s. We met Bjorn, learned about his family farming business and got a chance to walk through his new distribution center, which was huge! We left with some delicious raspberries, apricots and apples and made our way up the mountain to the house. We were immediately taken aback by the views overlooking the river. They were truly magnificent! We went for a long hike down the hill, through a 12th century castle that was converted into a well-known hostel, before strolling through town and stopping for some delicious riesling ice cream. The Italian ice cream store has been in Bacharach for over 30 years and is known for this flavor for obvious reasons! The owner is from southern Italy and spends about 6 months in Bacharach every year with his family to sell his mouth-watering treats. After our snack, we hiked back and by the time we got to the house we were starving! We enjoyed an al fresco lunch on the porch of fresh salad, meats and cheeses to be followed by a nap in the sun. Re-energized, we helped Andi tackle some yard work, got cleaned up and took another short stroll through rows of wine grapes before meeting up with a neighbor and having a drink with the locals. That evening Andi prepared a nice dinner of beef stew by candlelight along with dessert, of course! The day was really special and a true highlight of this entire trip!
Andi & Dieter – we can’t thank you enough for having us in your home(s) and being such wonderful hosts! We will always remember this leg of our trip and can’t wait to share more time together in the future!