Sunday, May 31, 2015

Scenes From Mainz Germany: Part 4

When I was in Mainz Germany a few weeks ago, I spent two days walking around the city. This is the final of four posts highlighting some of the sights and sounds of the city.

We'll start with a view of the city itself.

Some folks walking along the cobblestone streets in the old section of the city.
I believe this is the Gutenburg Museum.
One of the many squares.

A yarn-bombed tree.  I took this for my wife, who enjoys such yarnings.
A bridge over the Rhine river.
A tree covered

Scenes From Mainz Germany: Part 3

When I was in Mainz Germany a few weeks ago, I spent two days walking around the city. This is the third of four posts highlighting some of the sights and sounds of the city.

This is the remains of a heated roman floor known as a hypocaust.
This is the main town library.
 The old tower in this building is the Drususstein,  a monument to Nero Claudius Drusus.   Drusus died in 9BC at the age of 29 years, while on a campaign. His body was brought to Moguntiacum (aka ancient Mainz), where he was mourned by the soldiers before being taken to Rome. Augustus gave the soldiers permission to build this memorial grave here.
 A view from near the Drususstien of the city, featuring the Mainzer Dom.
 Some old buildings along an old Roman wall.
This section of the wall hosts a turret, in which sits the first physical geocache I found in Germany.
 Remains of an old Roman theatre that dates back to before 32AD.  It now sits beside a train station.
An old tower in the old city, dating from around 1300AD
 One last shot of the Mainzer Dom.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Scenes from Mainz Germany: Part 2

When I was in Mainz Germany a few weeks ago, I spent two days walking around the city. This is the second of four posts highlighting some of the sights and sounds of the city.

Jet lag can be annoying, but one benefit is that I woke up early, so I headed out to wander the city from a fresh perspective. These are some shots from that wander.
 The city of Mainz dates back before the New Testament, so the history of the area is quite involved.  However 80% of Mainz was destroyed by bombing during World War II.  So there isn't a lot of old city left to explore.  These are some shots from the parts that are left.
This street is much more peaceful at 5am than when I was last here 12 hours previously.
These line the far side of the square outside then main cathedral in town.  They have a distinct flavour I think of when I think old Germany.
The previous photo was taken around 5:15am.  Afterwards I wandered thru other parts of the city.  When I returned just over an hour later, I found an entire farmers market had moved in.
 Live chicken... can't get much more fresh than that.
This is the largest cathedral in town, the Mainzer Dom.
 One last shot of the quintisential (at least to my mind) germanic architecture across the square.

Scenes From Mainz Germany: Part 1

When I was in Mainz Germany a few weeks ago, I spent two days walking around the city. This is the first of four posts highlighting some of the sights and sounds of the city.

This post is about some of the sculptures featured in the city:
 A jester.
 This is a very small part of an intricate fountain featuring hundreds of characters like this guy
An old roman general.
 Two knights.
 Some statuary found in a cathedral.
 The statue of St. Boniface, outside the largest cathedral in town, the Mainzer Dom.
A left foot.  Why?  Dunno.  Bigger question may be: what happened to the right one?
Its good to have friends who will give you a lift every once and a while.
Ship ahoy!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Geocaching: The Universal Translator

One thing that seems to be universally true is that if one shows up at a cache with other people around, flashing a GPS and beaming with a sense of adventure, one typically makes quick friends.

This truism was confirmed during my first day in Mainz Germany.

I landed at 7:30 AM in Frankfurt, and made it to Mainz around 8:30 AM. I did not speak the language, or really have a plan, except I had a GPSr with fresh batteries and loaded with geocache listings.

So I checked into the hotel, dropped by suitcase, then hit the town to go adventuring.  Almost immediately I started running into geocachers.

After lunch I entered a park on top of a hill in search of a cache. When I was there I ran into a geocaching duo (I believe it was mother/son, but not entirely sure).  They were doing the same geocache I was, so we teamed up.

After the cache was located and the logbook signed, they happened to be going the same direction I was, so I tagged along.  Pretty soon we decided to team up for the afternoon. We did a lot of lab caches, and regular caches together.

The gentleman, who's caching name is schaefix, spoke decent english so we were able to communicate a bit.  The lady did not speak a word of english, but we shared a few laughs anyway.

It was handy to have german speakers to cache with as several of the caches we did were in German only, and many of the signs I needed for the lab caches were also in German, so I got a lot more out of the experience of exploring the town then I would have otherwise.

By the end of the afternoon, fresh from hunting down an 8 stage multi-cache, we stopped at an outdoor restaurant for a pint.

All in all a great way to spend an afternoon.

During the remaining 10 days of my trip (details to come) this experience repeated itself, in smaller scale, a couple more times - once in Zurich, once in Feldkirk Austria

So let this be a lesson. If you are going to travel abroad, be sure to show up with a sense of adventure and enthusiasm, and a loaded GPSr, and you very well make some friends you never expected. Geocaching, it seems, is universal.

Achievement Unlocked: My First Austrian Cache

Yesterday was a geocaching milestone double header. Shortly after grabbing my first Liechtenstein cache, I also grabbed my first Austrian cache as well.

It is always a good day when one adds two country maps to ones geocaching statistics map.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Achievement Unlocked: My First Liechtenstein Cache

Today I added another country to my geocaching map:  The Principality Of Liechtenstein.

Liechtenstein is a small country directly to the east of Switzerland, and sandwiched between Austria.

It is one of the smallest countries on earth - of the 249 countries, it ranks at 219, with only 160 square miles for the entire place.  It also boasts a total of 187 geocaches.

The cache I found was the closest one to the Swiss border, and is a TB hotel.  We then went on to find the very first geocache in Liechtenstein: Liechtenstein's First (GCC2F4).  The country is nestled in the Alps, so I was treated to this amazing view from the cache location:

Friday, May 22, 2015

GPS Maze Europe

When I was in Mainz Germany for the Mainz Gutenberg 2015 Giga event, I also got to take in another unique geocaching experience: the GPS Maze Europe exhibit.

The GPS Maze Exhibit is just that: an exhibit about GPS technology, geocaching specifically, in a winding series of displays.

I have attended the Canadian version of this Maze in Toronto back in January 2012.  This Maze is an updated version of that one, but intended to tour Europe.

The Maze was a very popular activity during the weekend.  I never saw more than ~100 people waiting in line to get in.

The fact that the Maze has its own icon in the statistics page, and that it featured 10 lab caches around the maze, and the Maze being located in the same building as the Giga event, made it an absolutely 'must-do' for all 5000+ geocachers who attended the Giga.

As you can see, the line-up was out the door - and I arrived 30 minutes before it opened.
Most of the displays were in Germany (which, given it was in Germany, makes sense).  However I do not speak or read german, so I missed a lot of the content.  However there was enough in english that I managed to get more out of the experience than I expected.
One of the cooler displays was a time-lapse map of all of the geocaches placed in Germany, starting with the first one in 2000, up to the present day count of 630,000+.  The display below shows the count in Berlin (left, red) and the entire country (right, blue).
The Maze was really well done.  Lots of interactive displays, and a ton of information, made this maze a pretty cool thing to explore.  There was a lot more content than I remember from the Canadian/US versions.

If you are European, or visiting Europe, you may want to track down and check out the Maze.  It is well worth the time.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Achievement Unlocked: My First Swiss Cache

Today, while biking my way thru the mean streets of Zurich on the way to the office, I stopped by a little park called the Klopstockweisse, and found my first geocache in Switzerland.

Thats one more map space filled in for me!

Finding the cache involved hopping a fence in the woods at the edge of the park, which gave it that air of danger and adventure.

It was also situated in the shadow of a castle: Schloss Sihlberg:
It is never a bad geoaching situation when there is a schloss involved. Fact.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

GC50FTF: Mainz Gutenberg Giga Event

I was saddened to learn that a work trip was going to interfere with my plans to attend GeoWoodstock this year. However as a consolation prize, and a happy coincidence, I found I was going to be in the general neighbourhood of a Giga event.

Giga events are rare.  This is only the second one in the history of the world, and both happened in Germany.  So my chances of attending one any time soon in North America were remote at best.  So I jumped at the chance.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the latest Giga event the Mainz Gutenberg 2015 event in Mainz Germany.

If you are not aware, Giga events are geocaching events where more than 5000 geocachers attend - all in one day.  To put that in perspective, the largest US mega event I am aware of had about 2500 cachers.  A Giga is a *lot* of geocachers in one place.

The event was held in Rheingoldhalle, which is a large civic center type place, right on the Rhine.  I was a little worried about the location as a civic center in the middle of a town is not exactly the normal place for a large geocaching event. As you can see its all glass and stone in the middle of a rather modern portion of a large city.
It does have a really large stone courtyard tho, which actually worked out well as many of the activities, and a lot of the food, happened in this courtyard.

Despite my reservations, I had to admit that it did make for a fantastic location to host 5000+ geocachers.  There was (mostly) enough room (there were some choke points, but things soon thinned out to sane levels of human density).  Also the combination of the Rhine on one side, and the amazingly picturesque city view on the other, one couldn't help but be impressed.

I mean, how many Mega events have you been too where you get this as a background?
In the courtyard they had some pretty cool activities.  The first was a high ropes course.  Actually, given that there were several vendors selling climbing gear, I suspect this sort of thing happens a lot in Germany.
Some of the other events included a Segway course, and a European version of the GPS Maze exhibit (more on the maze in a follow-up post).

Of course, Signal was there as well.
Many of the vendors were in the large hall space. They had some top names there like Garmin, Lens Laser, and Leatherman, as well as the usual assortment of geocaching specific vendors (tho generally the European versions)
The log book was a large block with log sheets on all four sides, topped with a crackin' mannequin version of the events mascot.
Although most of the attendees were European, as one may expect, the event certainly did have an international flare.  The map where folks placed pins in the locations where they are from shows visitors from literally all corners of the globe. I highlighted the foreign pins in green so they are easy to see in the map:
Suspiciously vacant of pins is the portion of the world known as Canada.  I placed my pin in North Carolina, as that is where I came from, however I remain a proud citizen of the Great White North. I kinda like the idea that I may have been the sole visitor from my homeland there (although the likelihood of other expats having visited from elsewhere can't be discounted.

The event was not devoid of other entertainments either.  The event was headlined by a rather rockin' rock band known as Gear Down.  They played a lot of the classic Rock tunes.  At the time this photo was taken, they were hip deep into Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones.

Note to other mega event organizers:  Your event should also have a rock band - just sayin'.

So this Giga certainly was an experience.  It was incredibly well run, and aside from feeling a tad claustrophobic at the choke points due to the sea of humanity, and being a tad oblivious to a lot of what was happening due to the language barrier I had a good time.

There were 30 lab caches, 10 for the Maze, and 20 strewn throughout the downtown part of the city.  Most of the lab caches were the typical "go to location, find word on sign, use word to log cache", but they were in some incredible places - they made a great tour guide for the town.  More on the exploration of Mainz in follow up posts.

The best part was really seeing all of the geocachers while out exploring the city.  Mainz has a population of 200,000 people but everywhere I looked I spotted geocachers.  I mean everywhere - in restaurants, on the bus, at historic sites, in the hotel lobby.  You couldn't get away from them :)  It was kinda awesome actually.