And Gutenberg Lived Here: Of Johnny G, Ceremonial Baths In Wine Vats, And The Gentlemen’s League Of Printers.

It’s that time again.

The one weekend each year

when the real Gutenberger-

the Meenzer- those born within the sound of the church bells,

the Määnzer- those born in the city, but not within the sound of the bells,

and the Mainzer- those who have moved in and now live here

turn their faces to the fiftieth parallel,

which runs a good deal away from the place the locals planted the metal plaque,

so tourists have a place to have their picture made.

Then, with reverence,

and an eye on the huge amount of tourists he has brought to the city,

the true sons of Gutenberg Land slowly bow

and  pay reverence to their hero-

Johnny G-

as he is called at the University.

For Johnny G,

actually Johannes Gensfleish,

inventor of the printing press,

often called Gutenberg,

has a birthday this weekend-

on the twenty-fourth, actually,

which is mirrored in the fact that children from that time

were often named after the Saint on whose day they are born-

in this case, St John, whose day also marks

the last day to legally sell strawberries and white asparagus,

and is the reason for the famous St Johannes night festival-

the day when, since the middle ages,

all outstanding bills have to be paid,

and then you boogie.

To the sound of loud street bands,

the clinking of wine spritzer and strawberry wine glasses,

a quick rummage through all the junk shops-

and artists’ stands,

especially the jewelers, who, in this area are particularly good.

And, of course, the stands, and stands, and stands,

of antique books,

looking for new homes,

in the myriad of rucksacks,

and specially made book carriers-

particularly good for swinging to make way

through the multi-million tourists,

at this “biggest summer festival on the Rhine”

on their way to see the highlight of the festival-

the “gautschen”-

traditionally the huge blow-out party thrown by the newbies

to the book printing guild-


in the middle ages till early modern times,

had to pay up to two years’ salary

for this  party,

or who,

as an alternative,

and as it is done today,

merely get dunked under water

in a huge vat in front of the local opera house,

and held down for a moment or two by the “catchers”-

a group of muscle men, all printers,

who have to catch and dunk the newbies,

as they, the newbies,

try by all means,

and with the help of the crowd,

to escape.

Never fear.

They all get caught,

and carried to the vat,

where they are dunked,

then scrubbed with huge natural sponges,

before being dragged out,

to join in a toast to the league of gentlemen printers.

Congrats, kids.

More power to you all.

May you be happy in your chosen field,

and may it, in one form or another,

continue forever.

copyright 2017 All Rights Reserved

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