Monday, June 10 - Regensberg

It was time to bid farewell to our floating hotel, the Viking Skadi, and the delightful young people who crew her.  The buses loaded up on schedule and we were off on the first leg of the day's journey.

Once again, the rain made sporadic appearences during the ride, and we disembarked in a slight drizzle at the bus/train stop just outside the oldest part of the city.  So, up went the umbrellas and the hoodies and we were off to explore Regensberg with Gudrun, our archeologist/guide from Geschichte fur Alles.  (A note of apology to all our German purist friends: Please forgive the conspicuous lack of appropriate umlauts, but I haven't had the time, or the smarts, to puzzle out how this is accomplished on my little keyboard!)

Our group set out across the 850-year-old stone bridge that for many years had been the only one of its kind connecting northern and southern Europe.  Part of it is currently under repair, but we we still able to use some of the original span; the flooding that has been plaguing Central Europe was clearly evident as we crossed the Danube, observing as we went the precautions and deterents employed by those residents and retailers whose proxmiate locations to the torrent had put them at risk.

Passing through one city gate, we stopped briefly to see a very large building that had been used as a storage facility for salt during Regensberg's years as a hub for trade.  These days we think of salt (when we think of it at all) not as a commodity but as a ubiquitous and cheap part of of our everyday existence.  However, in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, the salt that was mined in the Austrian Alps was literally worth its weight in gold, and a major component of the stream of costly goods that found its way through Regensberg and out to the rest of the world.  Hence the significant amount of space that was devoted to its safekeeping.

On into the oldest part of the city, our next stop was at a remnant of the gate that had allowed entry into the original Roman Praetorium, or garrison.  This arch and accompanying tower constitute the oldest building pieces in Germany, dating back about 1,500 years.  As we continued into the narrow, winding streets of the old city center, Gudrun explained about the numerous high buildings that had given Regensberg the name, "The City of Towers."  These were actually residences of the wealthy merchants, and very often constructed in the style of the ornate Venetian dwellings of the same period.  Only about 25 of these monuments to ostentatious consumerism still survive, but they lend elegant and lasting testimony to the power of trade.

We made our way deeper and deeper into the oldest part of the city, past tiny shops that offered everything from Baltic amber to handmade hats in every style imaginable.  One of the surprising aspects of 21st century life in Germany is the resurgence of interest among the young people in wearing the traditional dirndls and lederhosen.  There are entire stores devoted to the purveying of these colorful and (for the ladies) figure-enhancing outfits.  My question is, how do they maintain their figures when there is an ice cream shop on nearly every corner?!?!

From the small square fronting the Cathedral of St. Peter, to which Gary and I returned later in the day for photographs of its interior, we wound our way back to the large main square of the city.  From there, Gudrun led us to the old City Hall (or Rathaus), which was the site of the first ballroom constructed in Europe, with glass for its windows imported from the island of Murano in Venice.  There is a more modern City Hall where municipal offices are currently located, and the older building serves several varying functions.  In fact, the Viking group was treated to lunch in the Ratskeller in the basement of the Rathaus.

After lunch we made our way back to the Cathedral, and this was one of the few times that I was really unhappy that the weather wasn't a bit sunnier.  This beautiful edifice boasts glorious stained glass, but it was rather difficult to fully appreciate them in the absence of sunlight to illuminate them.  Nonetheless, it was an exquisite small-scale Gothic space, and well worth the visit.

Departing Regensberg in a slightly heavier rain shower, we were informed on the bus that our itinerary was changing yet again owing to challenging road conditions resulting from the flooding.  Instead of going to Munich, the new plan is to tour Salzburg after our first of two nights at Bad Griesbach.  This announcement was greeted with jubilation!  Salzburg is the birthplace of Mozart and the original home of the von Trapp family singers, and is one of the loveliest larger cities on the Continent.

Dinner was again a noisy, festive affair in the Maximilian restaurant in the lowest level of the Bad Griesbach hotel, with entertainment provided by a pair of musicians (accordion and bass guitar) known as the Happy Bavarians.  A short stroll around the grounds provided a serene finish to a day of travel and exploration.

Tomorrow - Off to Salzberg!  Juch-he!


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