The historic city of Mainz on the Rhine is currently enjoying a soccer boom. Top-flight football never before figured in the history of flagship club 1. FSV Mainz 05, a history that stretches, as name would suggest, back to 1905. Now looking forward to a seventh straight year in the Bundesliga, ‘Die Nullfünfer’ are still basking in the memorable year of 2011 when they finished fifth after starting the season with seven straight wins – and the following summer opened the Coface Arena, the newest stadium in the Bundesliga.
Modern history conspired to give the game in Mainz more complicated early development than in cities such as, say, Nuremberg. Immediately after World War I, the French occupied Mainz until as late as 1930 and reoccupation by the Nazis was swift and brutal. One of the club’s founding fathers and long-term patrons, Eugen Salomon, was forced to flee to France – he was later murdered at Auschwitz. The war destroyed most of the city and rebuilding was slow.
1. FSV Mainz had been established after a meeting of Salomon and fellow enthusiasts at the long-disappeared Café Neuf on Große Langgasse. Games were later played on a patch of land between today’s Am Fort Gonsenheim and Dr Martin-Luther-King-Weg (previously Bretzenheimer Bruchweg), where first the Sportplatz am Fort Bingen then, from 1929, the Stadion am Bruchweg, were used.
Now occupied by the Mainz reserve side that compete in the fourth-flight Regionalliga Südwest, Bruchweg was where later Dortmund master coach Jürgen Klopp ran out as a forward throughout the 1990s before coaching Mainz here for most of the following decade.
The Klopp era changed Mainz from provincial also-rans to a top-flight football club. It isn’t just the Coface Arena – the whole city is jumping on a Saturday, bars all over town fly the red and white, and supporters know their football history. A campaign by fans saw the path leading up to the new stadium named after Eugen Salomon. In March 2013, plaques were placed at the last house in Mainz he lived in – overseen by the club, a group of fans and Salomon’s living descendants.
The nearest airport to Mainz is Frankfurt, only 40km (25 miles) away. A regular direct rail connection between the airport terminal and Mainz main station takes 20-30mins. A local Mainz taxi firm (+49 6131 910 910) would charge €50.
In Mainz, city transport consists of buses and trams. A single ticket is €2.60, a day pass €6.10. The city centre is walkable but it’s a fair stretch from the station to the river.
Mainz tourist office has an online booking service.
Hotels cluster around Mainz station, including the superior three-star the advena europa, with its weekend packages; the regular Königshof and City Hotel Schottenhof; and age-old Italian-run the Terminus, whose publicity postcards still give prices in Deutschmarks. On the other side of the railway bridge that the stadium bus passes over, the InterCity Hotel Mainz offers attractive online advance rates.
Bars dot downtown Mainz, particularly the central stretch of Große Langgasse and its later continuation of Weißliliengasse. A few key spots also make a river visit worthwhile.
A fine starting point is the wonderful Onkel Willys Pub (Binger Straße 5) near the station, a treasure trove of Hollywood and 05 kitsch, with table football and pool at the back. Moving closer to town past Munsterplatz, the Sixties Große Langgasse 11) is a large, friendly bar dedicated to the party decade, 05-centric with football on TV. Nearby, the equally large Porter House pub puts live football first. Its competitor, the below-ground Irish Pub, also screens matches and offers live music, too.
Nearby is the excellent, and popular pre-match Eisgrub-Bräu, which serves its own house beer in three- and five-metre towers, and sausages by the metre.
Of the many downtown local bars with an 05 bent, mention must be made of the Kölsch-serving, traditional Kleines Andechs and Zum Gockel (Hintere Bleiche 29) covered in 05 memorabilia.
Towards the river, old locals gather at Die Bierbumb (Frauenlobstraße 57-59), the most demonstrative of the city’s 05 bars, while further down, music-focused Hafeneck still attracts a fair few 05 fans. Nearby trendier Schröders (Illstraße 14) offers big-screen football before DJs and cocktails take the spotlight.