An easy walk out of Oppenheim, and a sense that up there on the hill, the old clerics did their job further afield. They could see so far. The Rhine is not elusive today, but still I walk an inlet, see some archery, and then turn around, feel stupid.
At Nierstein a wine loving couple give precise instructions and big smiles, soon I am in the vineyards and the lines and the smells are fantastic. They go on and on; I almost believe in white wine for a while. Then down to the river, which means the other side of the railway line that always follows me, I tune it out, and on for the afternoon towards Mainz.
The town arrives in a six at night glow; beer gardens on the river, kids playing frisbee (new sport) and laying around. The light is as if God decided Mainz around Harvest Moon should be Ectachrome, all sixties. I don’t know if I am on the Campus of Berkley 1968, or something earlier and George Seurat. Very nice.
The bells are ringing of course. It’s probably 6.15 but it feels welcoming. Everything is good, the Dom, the Marketplatz; the modernity of the Rathaus and the combination of the two worlds. But no wifi in the hotel; in fact a sort of analogue dismissal.
I wander the streets of the old town pimping for a signal – in Germany I haven’t yet found anywhere to give me a new SIM and 3G access, as in Switzerland. There’s a bar, an “of course”, and soon I am talking to two professional photographers. They make their money shooting new born babies at the hospital; most hospitals now have websites with such things. The great thing is, everybody is happy at the shoot. They recommend an Italian place for dinner.
I sit outside and listen as a pair of Mainzers, husband and wife, she dictating from her IPhone, discuss the evening football scores in the Bundeslige. I ask if they support Mainz, currently top of the league. It is early in the season. Of course, but the fun ends on Saturday – Mainz plays Bayern Munich, the Siegfried of Teams. The husband was born in 1942, his family left Berlin at the end of the war, came here. “Mainz is very Roman,” he says, you will see. And the Dom? Well the craftsman who made that…is very respected, the academics say so.
Back at the wifi cafe the Baby Photographers are still drinking; it’s someone’s birthday, maybe even one of them. I go inside to write; they come later, on their way home, to tell me I am a very “open” man. Later lawyers, students, they all want to work abroad. Spain or New York.
In the morning the Gutenberg museum is a riot of questions. A sea of wonder on many floors, where in the basement kids watch a printing lesson and upstairs I get another lesson in how little I know about the quality and the web-page like intensity of mid sixteenth century print works from the region. It is also a sea of lost meanings, a man stands on a fish, in turn suspended on an Ionian column. He holds a basket of fruit in one hand, a wheel in the other. From the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, grr, supposed to know about that stuff. I am sure I can find out the “meaning”. But I’ll never share the illustrations’ assumptions to its contemporary viewership. I think about this in the DIY Dom, all being fixed up, the film crew on location with some school kids. Nice, but wrong vibe. Didn’t sing for the Chagall stained glass either, he was 91 when he started, after all.
Last night’s Husband and Wife go back to Berlin twice a year, even then they are amazed at the changes. East Berlin….”is like New York.”
I’m proficient at old towns now; know how to wake up to their bells, wanner their logical streets, centre myself at marketplatz and think. I hear there is a Mainz “Willemsberg”. I weg my way there, for hours. Pass the Mainz football stadium, a couple of high schools, and there is a cross between Hampstead Garden Suburb and the Arsenal at Woolwich, that is an old munitions factory. There are supposed to be lots of creative artisans there. I find only a bunch of non-creatives having lunch. Ask the barmaid. Ach yes, photographers and fashion designers and architects and ceramicists and painters and…it is Medici Florence.
But I just find the seamstresses and the assistant to one fashion designer “of London”. she studied at St Martins, a few years ago. Where is everyone, I ask Gudrun. Holiday?
No, they just don’t feel creative, I guess. Not everyone can be creative every day. Gutenberg spun a little in his grave. And I am sure the workaholic baby photographers did too. I change hotels to one which began in 1346, and is next to the Guttenberg museum. Write and drink coffee and realise, again, how little I know. And how hard it really is to be creative. Tomorrow, well later today, but written tomorrow, the oldest Brothel in Mainz, some Publishing Talk and a bit of a take on 9/11. Mainz kinda Town.