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One day in Mannheim

Rosengarten, an Art Nouveau concert hall

Through the curtains, the spire of Konkordien Church struck an imposing silhouette in the golden morning light. After a fitful night’s sleep my brother and I had been awakened by an unexpected phone call from Room 145. “Your sister wants to spend quality time with you two at the salon,” my mother said, “It’s her wedding day.”

Manu, one of the groomsmen, was in the lobby to chauffeur us to our next destination. I asked if he had the jitters. “Me? I’m not nervous. I feel good!” Piling into the car, we turned and sped past the grey expanse of Marktplatz, its cobbles now filled with a bustling weekend market. The previous day we had dined at Meydan, one of two Turkish restaurants opening out onto the square, opposite the recently repainted Altes Rathaus (old town hall) and St. Sebastian’s Church. Alongside the countless cafeterias selling döner kebap and bakery counters piled high with delicious Anatolian pastries, Meydan was indicative of a thriving immigrant community.

Mannheim’s cosmopolitan feel coexists with a storied history evident in the Schloss, the 18th century Elector’s Palace, and other landmarks within the downtown area. Among Germans, Mannheim has acquired the nickname die Quadratestadt, “City of the Squares”, the result of a Baroque grid plan not found in most European cities. “Mannheim is laid out like an excel spreadsheet,” my father would say, referring to its unusual numbering system. Since 1811 the city centre has been almost entirely devoid of street names, with blocks marked by labels such as F5, Q4 and L10.

The makeup and hairdressing salon stood just outside the quadrate and across from the Wasserturm, an Art Nouveau water tower that is the undisputed symbol of the city. Stopping a few paces from the salon’s glass doors, Manu sat at the wheel, looking concerned and ever conscious of the time. “Maybe you should go inside to ask how long it will take.”

I mumbled my sister’s name and was pointed down a corridor tacked with photos, thank you cards and magazine clippings, faced by racks of gleaming merchandise. Peering through an open doorway revealed a mirror-lined wall with three large sinks, and I almost gasped. My sister sat calmly by the window, her makeup and elegantly coiffed hair lending her the appearance of a royal princess.

The young Turkish stylist – with a closely-cropped beard and an easy smile – drifted leisurely around the room in his black vest and jeans. I watched, mesmerised, at the patient dexterity of his hands as he combed through the delicate curls, fastening several clips to keep them in place. Manu’s question had been quickly forgotten, and soon he too would join me inside the salon, waiting in awestruck silence.

Later on I wondered if the enormity of the occasion – and the sight of his glowing, fairytale bride – would be enough to make the groom cry. He eventually did, and standing just behind the maid of honour, I felt my own eyes well up with tears.

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Markplatz (Market Square), the Altes Rathaus and St. Sebastian’s

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Another angle on Marktplatz

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Konkordien Church from the hotel room

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This tower survived WWII bombing almost unscathed

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The reconstructed domes of Mannheim’s Jesuit Church

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Looking towards the former Schloss, now a university

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Late afternoon light on the Schloss

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Many of the city’s landmarks employ red sandstone from nearby quarries

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Turkish bread basket at Meydan

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İmam bayıldı, “the imam fainted” – stuffed aubergine with tomatoes, onions and herbs

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Beyti kebap, served with tomato sauce and yoghurt

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Two enormous portions of Pide

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İrmik Helvası, made with semolina, pine nuts and sugar

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Sütlaç – traditional rice pudding

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Wasserturm (‘Water Tower’), the symbol of Mannheim

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On Wasserturm’s terrace

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Garden gallery at Friedrichsplatz

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The copper domes of Christ Church

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Art Nouveau on Werderstrasse

The Wedding

The Wedding

26 Comments Post a comment
  1. When I went to Yangon and found out that the streets at the old quarter were labeled 1st to 57th street, that made exploration of that part of the city easier, since I’m not good at navigating my way through foreign places. But the blocks in Mannheim sound even better with that excel-spreadsheet-like numbering. It’s very hard to get lost there I suppose. Mannheim does look like a very nice city and those Turkish dishes look so authentic. They look so similar with the ones that I had in Istanbul. Thanks for such a lovely post with such nice pictures, always! And congratulations for your sister!

    October 17, 2013
    • Thank you, Bama! I would say Mannheim is fairly underrated… not many visitors make the effort to spend a bit of time there, most go straight to nearby Heidelberg! It is such a pleasant city to walk around, and the grid plan is similar to most North American cities. I’m a sucker for Art Nouveau and red sandstone so Mannheim had enough to keep me occupied for those four short days. 🙂

      As for the Turkish food, it was truly a guilty pleasure. I now count İmam bayıldı as one of my favourite dishes and I can’t wait to try the equivalent in Istanbul!

      October 17, 2013
  2. I shared this post on twitter. It’s really wonderful this place. Compliments with heart for your beautiful adventures around the world! 🙂

    October 17, 2013
    • Grazie mille for sharing – I appreciate it!

      October 18, 2013
  3. James, beautiful photos; I especially like the domes of Mannheim’s Jesuit church. There is one problem here!!!! Where is a photo of your sister? I so wanted to see her in her wedding dress.
    Congratulations to you all on this wonderful occasion.

    October 17, 2013
    • Thank you Angeline!! I suppose it was silly to write at length about the wedding without showing a photo – I’ve just uploaded one from the ceremony.

      October 18, 2013
      • Oh, she is beautiful! Thank you for giving us a glimpse of the glowing bride!!

        October 18, 2013
      • You’re welcome, Angeline. 🙂

        October 18, 2013
  4. Reba #

    So pretty!! I’m jealous.
    I want to see pictures of Erica!

    October 17, 2013
    • There will be more to come, Reba!

      October 18, 2013
  5. Great post! I’m going to Mannheim on 22th Dezember, hope to see a lot of snow and a beautiful place, as showed in your photos.

    October 18, 2013
    • Thank you! Mannheim is wonderful but you can also use it as a jumping off point to see picturesque towns and cities nearby – I especially recommend Speyer, Heidelberg and Strasbourg.

      October 18, 2013
      • I’ll live in Heidelberg 2 months from 05th january to 28th feb o/

        October 18, 2013
      • You may include Schwetzingen.

        October 25, 2013
  6. As always I love your pictures and I am honestly surprised how positive you managed to portrait it with them! Mannheim is pretty much one of the worst top 5 cities of Germany (for many reasons) and I would rather kill myself than marrying somewhere there. Your sister seemed tohave a great wedding though. Hope you guys had a great time! Greetings!

    October 18, 2013
    • Haha, I love your frankness Suze! I find it hard to believe that Mannheim has such a bad reputation among other Germans – it seems like such a pleasant city, and my sister hasn’t had any complaints about her experience of living there…

      October 18, 2013
  7. Though we didn’t go to Manneheim when I went cycling and touring with my (German)-Canadian partner, I so relate to the spirit and architecture of our Mannheim photos…yes, the Schloss (or castle/manor), clean streets (very typical of most medium to small cities in Germany), etc.

    Did your sister marry a German citizen/resident or they’re just there temporarily?

    My partner’s family is based southern Germany approx. 30 km. from the French border, right in wine country near the Rhine. There is still a vineyard and hotel in the family ..since the 1700’s.

    Dearie knows more German than I know my Chinese –I know: we play word games to test each other’s fluency.

    We were there during white asparagus season: http://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/cycling-for-spargel-kirsch-and-blue-painted-bikes-black-forest-region-germany-june-3-11-2010/

    If you type in Germany in my blog, you’ll see some other things we saw in Germany which you might have seen already too!

    October 18, 2013
    • What a story, Jean – especially with the family vineyard and hotel! My sister married a German citizen, she speaks the language fluently and I never doubted that she would stay in Europe long-term. I would even say that her personality is well-suited to life in Germany!

      October 18, 2013
      • Ah, she is ..um organized, on time and specific. Am I correct on that stereotype of German life. Wow, great that she speaks German well. I did meet a number of ex-pat German engineers with the firm I worked for when I lived in Vancouver. Several married some Chinese women. (The firm had a major project building a road-rail-bridge in Taiwan a few years ago.)

        And I did meet some who could speak German well. But then it’s no different from Chinese-Canadians who live in Montreal and can speak 3 languages well.

        Hope she is happy for many decades.

        October 20, 2013
  8. Reblogged this on Just Go Places.

    October 18, 2013
  9. What a beautiful post James! Your sister truly looks like a fairy princess!! And all that Turkish food has me drooling.
    I am so behind with my blog reading. Promise to catch up after I have packed off the grandkids back to their mom this weekend 🙂

    October 19, 2013
    • Thank you, Madhu!! I haven’t looked through your blog in a while myself – excited to see what spots you uncovered on the grand roadtrip across the Hindi Belt! 🙂

      October 19, 2013
  10. Best wishes to your sister, James! It’s nice reading again (and lots of backreading!) posts from blogs I follow. 🙂

    October 21, 2013
    • Appreciate that, James! Good to see you back in the blogosphere. 🙂

      October 21, 2013
  11. Mannheim is one of those cities that’s been on my list for a very long time. Sometimes, I will skip a big city, and go a little off the beaten track. It sounds like it’s a dream to navigate!

    Thanks for sharing about your sister’s wedding! Sounds like it was a very emotional experience, too.

    November 9, 2013
    • You’re welcome Stephen. You can’t really get lost walking around Mannheim, it’s all on a grid plan and the numbering system is easy to grasp!

      November 11, 2013

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