At the northernmost point on the upper Danube sits the beautiful city of Regensburg, its medieval heart undamaged by the two World Wars of the last century. It began as a Celtic trading settlement. The site was later used by the Romans as a fort, built in 179 AD and called Castra Regina; one tower from the fort still stands, with its gate, Porta Praetoria, leading into the city. The massive size of the stones used to build the walls of the fort is astounding.
Regensburg has been noted since the early Middle Ages for its beauty: its narrow cobbled streets wind from the river to the center of the town, where the Dom (the Cathedral of St. Peter) rubs shoulders with the Rathaus (the town hall) on the main square. The cathedral was begun in the 13thcentury and completed about 200 years later, so the lowest part of the building is in Gothic style, complete with gargoyles, becoming more ornate the higher it rises and the Renaissance takes over.
The twin spires were finished in the 19th century and are so ethereal and lacy that they appear too insubstantial to withstand a high wind. The Rathaus dates from 1250 and is still in use as a city government building. Its main hall is one enormous room whose roof is supported by huge timbers, all original to the structure. The stone carvers who decorated the exterior, though, must have had a wicked sense of humor. On either side above the main door is an ordinary soldier, his features so realistic that you almost expect to meet him around the next corner. One of them holds a rock in his hand, ready to throw it down on the head of the next invader.
But the city’s most noted landmark is the 12th-century Steinerne Brücke, a stone bridge with fifteen arches that becomes higher and wider toward the center, giving it its distinctive middle hump. At the time of its construction, it was the only fortified bridge on the entire Danube; it is still in pedestrian use today. At the town end of the bridge is the almost equally famous Wurstküche, or sausage kitchen, which claims to be the oldest sausage stall in Germany.
Legend has it that the workers who built the Stone Bridge fortified themselves with wurst and sauerkraut from the kitchen between shifts. There is a friendly rivalry between Regensburg and Nürnberg as to who serves the best sausages. The passengers on our tour who sampled both seemed to think Regensburg had the edge.
In Regensburg, we saw for the first time shops displaying what we Americans think of as traditional Bavarian dress: cotton print dresses with tight bodices, white blouses, full skirts, and aprons for women, and lederhosen with suspenders, wool jackets or vests, and green felt hats with “shaving brushes” in their hatbands for men. I think Gerry really wanted one of those outfits, but he kept seeing images in his mind of Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s European Vacation, becoming involved in some Bavarian festival while wearing the full regalia and getting beaten up dancing the Schuhplättler.
From Ratskeller to sausage kitchen, Regensburg is a feast for the eyes and the taste buds. It’s no wonder that it is probably the most popular place in Germany for vacationers, German as well as foreign.
In Regensburg, we also learned something very interesting about German pharmacies. I had a stubborn sinus infection, left over from the bad cold I had before we left home, which wasn’t responding to anything we’d brought along. I was tired of looking like W.C Fields, so we asked the onboard tour director, Steve, for help. He walked us to a local pharmacy, where Gerry asked if we could buy amoxicillin even though we had no prescription. The clerk consulted the on-site pharmacist, who approved the sale, and off we went with a five-day supply. Steve said this result depends on the pharmacy (and presumably the certification level of the pharmacist), but the worst that could have happened was a referral to the clinic across the street, where a doctor would have seen me and written a prescription. Great result, no hassles, and I started my antibiotic regimen right away.
Everywhere we go, I try to take pictures of children and teenagers. I think they make wonderful subjects, with their lack of self-consciousness and their natural grace. In Regensburg, I got lucky: there was a “crocodile” of pre-schoolers, hand-in-hand, coming down the steps of the cathedral with their teachers. Their bright little faces were irresistible subjects for photographs, and I snapped away with my zoom lens. And then came one little girl, so German you could have picked her out of a crowd of a hundred children, with round cheeks and a snub nose and corn-silk hair – and her tongue curled like a tube. Priceless.
To see more pictures of Regensburg, click here.