Sunday, July 24, 2016

Regensburg Is Not A Berg

Friday, June 26, 2015

First a little pedagogy point! Learned that a "burg" ending on a place name generally means an old fortified town, thus Regensburg.   If the ending is "berg" it means more a town on a hill or mountain. Get it? Got it? Good!

I was up early to catch our first glimpse of the twin towers of Regensburg's signature 13th century Saint Peter's Cathedral in the foggy distance.

From Wikipedia and my own journal it is clear that Regensburg is old--perhaps the oldest town on the river.  There is evidence of Celtic and Roman settlement prior to its major flourishing in the Medieval period. By the 12th century it was the wealthiest and largest city in southern Germany. Today's population is around a 140,000.  Important from this cruiser's point of view is that it lies on the confluence of the Naab, Regen, and Danube rivers at the most northernly navigable portion of the Danube.  This is a point we will cover in more detail in the next two posts.

While I have been preaching the history gospel, our ship has been pushing closer to town.

And now here we are sliding up alongside a sister Viking Longship.  We experienced this kind of docking on a Nile cruise some years ago. You tie up alongside another ship then exit your ship and walk through the entrance area of the next one to get to shore.  It saves mooring space as long as the ships are the same.  It also teaches you to keep the drapes closed in your cabin as you may be about two feet from a stranger's window on the other ship.  

 It was clear immediately that Regensburg was in the midst of a waterfront construction boom.

It was also clear that wherever they dig, there is something underneath. In this case it is something Roman.

Our morning walk to town was handled by a sprightly Barvarian who knew his stuff and larded it with plenty of good humor.  

Almost immediately we were confronted with more history.  A Roman Fortress dating from the late 100 AD's was called the Castra Regina (Fortress by the River Regan) and pieces of its walls have been preserved by literally being built into the fabric of later buildings.  It is a little jarring, but is certainly a fine way to preserve things without carting them off to a museum.

Below is a part of a gateway to the old Roman encampment called The Porta Praetoria.

The most iconic monument of the city is the ancient Stone Bridge is nearby and it has been carrying traffic across the river since the 12th century. As you can see it is in the throes of major restoration so we were not able to approach it too closely.  Suffice it to say that most internet sites dealing with the city will have a picture of it unfettered by scaffolding.  

 Coming off the stone bridge you walk through some arches.  You are now on Bridge Street and if  you turn around you will see the bridge through the arches in the rear of the photo.  The bridge was guarded by gatehouses--one of which is now restored as the Bridge Museum and Tower.  Next to the tower on the right is another historic Regensburg building. The magnificent early 17th century (1616-1629) Salt Warehouse.  Salt, in the days before refrigeration,  was a prized commodity and Regensburg was a major European center for its distribution. 

We turn around again away from the river and walk up Bridge Street into the Old Town.  The Bridge Tower is now behind us and the Salt Warehouse is on the left.

According to our guide we sort of parallel the walls of the ancient Roman Fort. This much newer structure does homage to all the years passed in its various window treatments and arches.  It also adds a moral lesson with a massive David and Goliath painted on the stucco wall.

Painting scenes on walls has been a fixture of human habitation since the stone age and it provides some nice variety and dimension to what might be rather large expanses of plain surface. 

A bit further on our guide spun the tale of the Bamberg family tower. There are a number of these narrow high structures in the old town.  They were built by patricians to reinforce and consolidate their importance in the community.  Just as in Renaissance Italy,  the higher and more ornate the tower, the richer and more powerful  the family.

Our guide even claimed to be of Bamburg descent and thus touted that this was his own family's tower. 

Here's another example stretching skyward.

We were also entranced by the smaller forms of creative expression. You may need to click on these photos to see in detail all of the fanciful figures modeled into the signs.

We marched on to the Rathausplatz (Old Town Hall) 

where we were delighted to find a wedding party just exiting. 

We saw the happy bride and her parents

followed by the happy couple's departure in a snazzy decorated two seater. 

The mood shifted as we were given an opportunity to reflect on the long history of antisemitism that has been a part of Europe for hundreds of years. We heard some of this story while sitting in a 2005 memorial to the destruction of a 13th century synagogue.

 In 1519 some 500 residents of the Jewish Quarter were told to exit the city in 48 hours.  The houses, synagogue and surrounding cemetery were destroyed. Some of the rubble, including even some  tombstones from the cemetery,  were actually reused when new buildings were put up. A few of them still survive high up on older walls. Still pretty insensitive even after all these years. 

Our trusty guide also pointed out some (what he called "stumbling stones" set in assorted pavements around town. They feature brass plaques commemorating more recent Holocaust victims.

Roman Catholic structures have fared considerably better in Regensburg.  Our next stop was at the city's landmark church--St. Peter's Cathedral.

The exterior carvings are copious and often fanciful.

and the interior is gothic, clean, and serene


I especially liked these two smoochers having a private moment off in a corner.

We could go on for several day in this UNESCO World Heritage site.  It has over a thousand listed buildings to see and explore.

Unfortunately hunger claimed us and we were urged to head back down to the river's edge alongside the Stone Bridge to sample the food at Regenburg's historic old Sausage Kitchen called the Wurstkughl.  Some have called it the world's oldest continuously running food purveyor as it was the place for workers on the Stone Bridge to get their lunch.  Now it is this quaint little building.

In front of it are shaded community trestle tables where you chow down on a traditional meal of small brats, kraut, and bread for a most reasonable price.  You munch with a mixture of tourists and locals.  We definitely heard languages aside from English and German being spoken.  


So smother these critters in the Wurstkuchl's special brand of sweet mustard and DIG IN!

And of course don't forget to wash it all down with a brimming stein of the local brew.

Wish there was time for a nap before setting out on a trip to see Kelheim and the Upper Danube, but no rest for the wicked.  See you on the next leg of our journey.