by travelephant | Dec 6, 2016 | Germany
Sitting in the shadows of Frankfurt, the much larger city down the road, Mainz is worth a visit entirely in its own right. It has more of the charms of a small European city and is easily traversable by all pedestrians as the main township doesn’t extend for more than a few kilometres. Frankfurt is a far more industrialised city, whereas Mainz is somewhat more suburban with its university catering for approximately 35,000 students.
Mainz was first colonised by the Romans circa 38 BC, although this area had been civilised since around 300,000 years earlier. So there is no shortage of history in this part of Germany.
The main attraction in town is the impressive Cathedral that dominates the centre of town. If you come into the town centre at a decent hour, there is the option to have breakfast (or lunch, or even brunch!) at one of the many cafes & restaurants that fill the town square opposite the cathedral. Admire the amazing architecture in the relaxing ambience that is Mainz before walking around the town.
After admiring the cathedral over breakfast, we ventured inside for our first stop. We weren’t sure what to expect on the inside, whether it would be as spectacular as the outside. But surprisingly, it was even more spectacular. You certainly will not be disappointed with visiting here.
As with all churches, entry is free. However, please dress respectfully by covering your shoulders.
Like the vast majority of German cities, Mainz has multiple other churches around the town and they are all different – we would recommend the church of St. Peter for those interested as the ‘best of the rest’ in town.
Mainz also suffered during WWII, when it was extensively bombed by the Allies and 80% of the city was destroyed. One of the buildings destroyed during the war was the church of St Christoph. Built circa the 13th century, all that remains are the outermost walls and the tower. These have been reinforced and the remains acts as a war memorial.
It is certainly worth a visit for history buffs & war enthusiasts as the information inside is quite extensive (and it covers English & German among other languages). Keep in mind that there is no roof over the majority of the church, so be mindful of the weather if you plan to visit here.
Mainz is set against the beautiful Rhein River, where it meets the Maine River. Walking along the waterfront is perfect for photographers of all abilities and it will provide an endless amount of potential. Crossing the Theodor Heuss Bridge over the Rhein River will take you into Wiesbaden, with even more spectacular views looking back towards Mainz.
We timed our visit to coincide with the Mainz Wine Festival. It is on every August and runs over two weekends. Mainz is one of the most prominent wine regions in Germany, so we figured it would be well worth experiencing. Every year it is hosted in the Rosengarten (Rose Garden) and there are in excess of 40 different wine producers from the region offering tastings. If wine isn’t your favourite then rest assured, there are also a variety of beers & food on offer too.
Entry is free and the food & drinks are well priced so make sure you wonder around and make the most of the lovely early Autumn weather.
For our stay in Mainz, we stayed at the Park Inn by Radisson hotel. Whilst it was a lengthy walk from the centre of town (about 6.5km, just shy of an hour for the average person), we found the rooms very good value priced and quite close to all amenities. There is a large shopping centre across the road with a late hours service station (which we found great for a bottle of wine and some snacks late at night) as well as a McDonald’s restaurant.
Of course there are options closer to the centre of town but we were unable to find anything for a reasonable price due to the wine festival.
*mention breakfast/wifi/parking & link to our review
The city of Mainz also offers a guide to the most prominent attractions for walkers. You can find the guide here.
We did experience some difficulty navigating the public transport system here, and that was with a native speaker too (don’t worry, the ticketing machines translate into a huge variety of languages – we just couldn’t work out which line went where). And it was also fairly expensive to use.
by travelephant | Dec 6, 2016 | Italy
We visited the beach resort town of Rimini in mid September, just after the peak season had finished. With the best of the beautiful summer weather gone, the waterfront areas of the town resembled a ghost town. There were more street vendors than tourists and many of the cafes had closed their doors for the year.
But the sudden departure of the swathes of tourists doesn’t mean the end of the good weather. We experienced a mix during our time here, from sunny mornings to afternoon thunderstorms. So if you do visit outside of the summer months, anticipate losing some time to poor weather. So perhaps book a hotel with good facilities – we found the Hotel Sunset on the waterfront to be excellent value out of season, from 25€ per night including buffet breakfast – how can you go wrong!?
Read our review of Hotel Sunset here:
But aside from Hotel Sunset, there were an abundance of hotels with great facilities for bargain prices.
Despite the sometimes inclement weather, the water was still quite warm at all times during our visit. So swimming isn’t entirely out the question! The waterfront is dominated by private beaches, meaning that, in season, you will have to pay to use the facilities. However, most hotels have a private beach or at least an agreement with one for their guests. Visiting out of season has no such issues, even during our visit, all the sun chairs were empty!
Dining along the waterfront can be tricky, there is a huge amount to choose from during the peak season and prices are competitive. Outside of the summer months a lot of the eateries are closed which makes choosing a destination much easier. For those who are interested, we found that Poker Pizzeria offered great food at bargain prices. The staff spoke great English & were excellent company, making the experience all the more memorable. We normally try different eateries to get a taste of what’s on offer but we found ourselves returning here for most meals!
Outside of the expansive beach & waterfront areas, Rimini does offer visitors something other than surf and sand. About 1km inland from the beach is the historic town centre. Rimini has been populated for over 2,000 years and still features remnants from the Roman Empire scattered throughout. If you are in town, it is well worth looking around and exploring. The town centre offers better shopping and dining experiences than you will find along the waterfront.
Ultimately, Rimini is primarily a beach resort, so it is best to visit during the peak summer season. Whilst there is a great deal of history associated with the town, it isn’t well preserved – we found the town centre to be quite dull and uninspiring. Prices are much inflated during the peak season, especially during the school holidays, so if possible try to schedule around the Italian & German school breaks.
Rimini is also an excellent base for visiting other cities nearby. Which is why visiting early to mid September isn’t a bad idea. You will still get warm summer days to enjoy the vacated beach and on those wet/cloudy days you can make a break and head to nearby Bologna, Ravenna or Ferrara, all of which offer a different Italian experience to Rimini.
Alternatively, you can visit the Republic of San Marino. Buses run regularly between Rimini & San Marino and it takes about 45 minutes each way. Although it is younger than Rimini, San Marino offers a much richer history experience for those seeking a break from the beach.
by travelephant | Nov 20, 2016 | Italy
If you know anyone who has travelled around Europe then chances are you have heard of Positano. And like us, heard tales of amazement & awe. Well we are here to offer you an exaggeration free, more realistic version so you can make a properly informed decision.
We visited Positano during mid-September, when the peak season is supposedly waning. If possible, we would advise leaving a two day space to visit – hopefully ensuring you get at least one day of perfect mediterranean summer weather.
The town of Positano, despite being one of the larger towns along the Amalfi Coast, was surprisingly small. First up, there is almost no parking in the town, so whether you came by coach or drove yourself, expect a long walk along the side of the road. Hopefully the coach drivers can drop you off closer to the town. Like everywhere else, the earlier you can get up, the closer you can park close to the town. Our late rise on our first attempt to visit Positano beach meant we were a 3 kilometre walk from the beach… On a 35 degree day!
Once you actually reach the town of Positano you quickly realise a few things. Firstly, it seems there are 100,000 tourists in a town for 3,000. And where there are tourists there are overpriced restaurants & vendors.
The second, and most disappointing realisation, is that the beaches are very average. Coming from Australia where we have an abundance of pristine white sand beaches really made us wonder what all the fuss was about here. The beaches are wholly pebble and private beaches dominate the waterfront. You’ll see hundreds of metres of umbrellas with deckchairs sitting empty whilst the minimum public beach is filled with beachgoers.
If you are interested in the private beaches, you can use the umbrellas and deckchairs for 10€ per person per half day.
We really were astounded at how little of the waterfront was designated as public beach. And if you stray across the designated boundaries you will be shouted at by one of the many 60 year old walruses that guard their territory like a wild animal… Whilst there are a few more secluded beaches further from the town you’re looking at more walking or even hiking to get to them.
But despite all the negatives described above it was still difficult to not enjoy ourselves in Positano. The weather was amazing & the beach was clean. The water was warm, about 25 degrees for the time we spent here. We managed to find a reasonably priced cafe close to the waterfront to enjoy some food & a few beers.
It really is a postcard perfect town. Everywhere you look are amazing photo opportunities, even as you walk along the side of the road. Whether you’re looking back up the cliffs from the beach front or out to sea. Make sure you take your good camera along regardless of how far you have to carry it – you will certainly regret it if you don’t.
Whilst accommodation is very expensive in the area, we found that staying in nearby Sorrento was much cheaper and only a 20-30 minute drive to Positano. Ultimately, all to see & do in Positano can easily be done in a day and for us, the overwhelming numbers of tourists certainly diminish the experience. We had planned to come back for a second day but opted not to, and frankly, I don’t think we missed out on much at all.