Thursday, September 27, 2012 – Mainz and Rudesheim

Rain again

[A few more days to go to complete the trip blog.  To read about it from the beginning, click here and go to the following days in turn by clicking on the upper or lower right.]

This morning most of our group went to Heidelberg, ostensibly to see the University, but I think many went to shop at a huge Christmas ornament store we had been told about. I think Cathy and Gordon were the only ones from KPBS that came with us to the Gutenberg Museum. Mainz was built by the Romans in the first century. We saw an unusual sight for this part of the world:

A tropical paradise on the Rhine River

A sand beach with thatched huts and folding chairs on the Rhine!  It was built as a project by university students and has been very successful commercially.

Our guide for Mainz and the Gutenberg New Zealand was Irmi. The castle of Mainz took 150 years to build, but one of the Queens didn’t like living there and moved to the building next door.  I guess the Royals can do pretty much what they want.

The King (left) and his seven electors

The Romans were here 2000 years ago. It seems like the Romans were everywhere we went, either 1000 or 2000 years ago. We saw a monument to the election process for Kings, with the elected King on the left, and seven electors. We saw another Monument to Richard Wagner, built by his publishers with whom Wagner had financial difficulties.

Originally Mainz was on both sides of the river, but when but when Germany was divided after World War II, the other side wound up in the American Zone and eventually became Wiesbaden.

The Matchstick House

There was a meeting of historians going on in town at this time with dignitaries so notable that the Cathedral was off-limits to tourists and so we could not enter it. The contrasts of architectural styles in Mainz is astounding. After World War II, concrete blocks were the fashion, but now both residents and visitors hate it. We saw a structure that looks like huge broken Venetian blinds but turned to be a design in slats of plastic.

The other side of the Matchbox House

It was called the Matchstick House, and the residents hate it. What is surprising is that the other side (the front) of the same building is composed of three beautiful examples of a more traditional style.

We saw a remarkable multi-splined sculpture from a Spanish artist who named it “Power of Life”. Teresa calls it “design” and not sculpture at all.

The Power of Life

We saw St. Martin’s Cathedral which was burned down the day it was completed. The tower itself has burned down seven times.  They have no business building anything called a Matchstick House.

A replica of Gutenberg’s printing press,.

We then visited the Gutenberg Museum which was really interesting. Before Johannes Gutenberg was ever interested in printing, he studied alloys with metallurgists and bell makers in Strasbourg, and then began the invention process for movable type. A local investor loaned him 800 guilders, which amounts to half $1 million today. But it was not enough, and he had to borrow 800 guilders more. Eventually he failed to repay the money on schedule, and in court he lost his establishment to his creditor and an apprentice. He was saved financially by being appointed courtier to a king who provided him with lodging and more than enough food, which he sold to make ends meet.

Here I am, printing.

There are several steps to making movable type. A punch of hard metal is carved with the image of the letter. It is then used to make a negative impression in a “matrix” of softer metal. The actual type is an alloy of tin, lead, and antimony which melts at only 300 Fahrenheit and yet is strong enough to withstand the printing process.

The finished product!

Each line of type is assembled in a composers stick which is then assembled into the galley which is the size of the page. If the page is to be multicolored each section of color is inked separately before it is assembled into the galley. Although our demonstrator used rolling inking pads, in the early days they used inking pads made of inflated dog skin because a dog skin has no pores to leak air.

Gutenberg’s columns of text are perfectly justified both left and right, which couldn’t be done if you simply had one version of the 25 different letters of type to work with. Gutenberg actually made 290 versions of the typefaces to handle the 25 characters. Gutenberg’s Bibles were printed only in black, but later, color was added. A rubricator added colored text, and an illuminator embellished the page with other colors and gold.

After the museum we decided to walk home exploring the town and do a little shopping. We were so surprised and disappointed to find that a souvenir Gutenberg plate was not available anywhere to add to our little collection at home. What a missed marketing opportunity for someone.

Finally the sun came out.  What a wonderful sensation that was!

St. Augustine Church

We found a wonderful little St. Augustine Church with not a single explanatory word in English. It was marvelous. I think the parishioners wanted no part of the tourist trade in their church.

Too soon it was time to find our way back to the boat.  We had no real idea where we were. We were able to find our way to the water because in Mainz the blue street signs run parallel to the river and the red signs are perpendicular. But when we got to the river there was no boat in sight. We were much farther along the river then we realized, so it was quite a walk.  We got back to the boat a couple of minutes late, but we were not the last to arrive.

The train to the Rudesheim wine cellar

The afternoon expedition was to Rudesheim and a wine tasting. We took a Disney-like train through town to the Ādolf Störzel wine cellar which was built in 1580. The town itself seemed rather modern but it had its older areas too. Our wine “explainer” was a comedian and an actor and put on a pretty good performance. We tasted three Rieslings.  They always start with the driest and end with a dessert wine. He said the first wine had had the taste of apple, pear, limes and cypress.

The Ādolf Störzel wine cellar

I’m a skeptic when it comes to the tastes people say a wine has, and I would like to see independent wine experts describe some wines and see if they come up with the same fruits and vegetables.  I would bet they won’t.

As we’ve heard before, 80% of the grapes grown here are Riesling grapes. We also learned that 15% are Müeller Tur Gau (phonetically) grapes and 5% are Pinot Noir. Their Pinot Noir has lower alcohol

The first wine

content and is paler than the typical Pinot Noir and is generally considered inferior. Wine that is left over from various operations including wine tasting, is turned into schnapps.

The second wine was sweeter with less acid and was bottled in 2011.

The second wine

2000 years ago Roman legionnaires arrived here and planted grapes to satisfy the requirement that soldiers must drink at least 1 liter per day for medical reasons. The grapes and wines the soldiers produced were not good at all. Then the French Cistercian monks arrived and introduced the Pinot Noir grape and wine which was a big improvement.  But the region came into its own when it was found that the topography, soil, and weather really suited the cultivation of the Riesling grape.

The third wine

The third wine was much sweeter with 60 g of sugar and was really a dessert wine. Cultivating grapes on the steep slopes here is much more expensive than on flat land. What can be done in three hours on level ground by one man operating a machine, takes eight pickers three days on the slopes. This wine had the name Spätelese which means late harvest. There’s a story about that. It seems that when the grapes were ready to pick they had to send for permission from the governing cleric. The long wait for permission angered the vintners. But what they found was that the 10 day wait made the wine much better than it would have been had they picked the grapes earlier.

Our wine “explainer”. Funny guy.

Our host also discussed ice wine, which is made from frozen grapes.  To make the wine it takes three consecutive nights at -7° C (19°F) , which typically happens only three times in a decade. The last time was in 1953-54 and 35 pickers went out at 4:30 AM to pick the grapes at -9° C. They produced 400 L (106 gallons) of ice wine from 1.8 acres of grapes which would normally have produced ten times that amount of wine. That’s why a half bottle of ice wine costs €60 ($77). In 1921, a bottle of ice wine sold for €27,000 ($34,5000).

During the wine tasting the rain came down in buckets, judging from the sound, but when the wine tasting was over the weather was clear and sunny. What timing! We then wandered through the storybook town of Rudesheim. I bought a geometric steel mobile with a motor to make it slowly spin.  I plan to hang it over our bar from a beam.  [UPDATE: I put it up when I arrived home and it’s been spinning there ever since.]

Teresa and John on the sundeck

Back at the boat, Teresa and I bundled up, made hot chocolate, and headed to the sun deck for the little bit of sun that there was. It was a good place to be. When it was time, we headed for the lounge to listen to Dejean’s pitch for the evening in which he covered disembarkation procedures and tomorrow’s activities in Cologne.

Marcia’s birthday party

At dinner we celebrated Marcia’s birthday with a sparkling fountain cake, presents, and a song.

Then it was time for an evening visit to Rudescheim’s Music Cabinet Museum.

A Major music box

The first machine we saw was huge and simulates 19 instruments and was built between 1925 in 1929. It was wonderful to hear it play 12thSt. Rag, a song my mother used to play. We heard an 1877 Edison phonograph play “Que sera”. Another music box we saw originally sold for 15,500 marks, the cost of a countryside home today. Today its value is €300,000 ($383,400).

We saw a machine that includes six violins automatically played. The method was ingenious: The bow was a horizontal

An automatic violin machine

circle inside of which were placed the violins. Each violin was set up to play a single string and when that note was sounded it was simply moved against the rotating circular bow. Siegfried Randall who is now 77 was the collector and whose sons are now operating the business. There are 350 instruments in the collection 95% of which are working. It was an extraordinary collection and an interesting visit.

Then back to the boat for the evening

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