Our second stop on the Danube was Regensburg, a UNESCO world heritage site with buildings dating back to the Holy Roman Empire. Our boat was docked right in the city, as my misty morning view suggests. The mist also suggested something else: it was hella cold out! The river was warmer than the air, hence the foggy view.
We’re upstaters, so fill us with a big breakfast and we’re ready for any temps. The view behind the kids is from the opposite side of the ship from our rooms; it’s right against the dock, and you can see the sun making a big difference already away from the water. (But, it was still about 25 degrees that morning, with a predicted high in the low thirties.)
It was interesting to see how many passengers were from sunbelt states like Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. As the week went on, the temperatures kept dropping, and some of the sunbirds started dropping with them–opting out of the walking tours. It begs the question: what temperatures did people expect in Eastern and Central Europe in late December? Sigh.
Our tour guide that morning informed us that her nickname was “the Runner,” so we had an idea of what to expect. One thing that changed a bit with each guide was how they addressed the group. It was always deferential and formal in part because of the differences in construction between the two languages and in part because we were tourists they wanted to make happy. For example, we were “my dear guests,” “my dear/good/welcome friends,” “my dear ladies and gentlemen.” It reminded me of how everyone in Hawaii said, “Mahalo,” all the time to tourists, and you knew that word stood for a whole rainbow of meaning 🙂 I will say that as the temperatures got colder and the streets more crowded, it was definitely comforting to hear a constant voice in your ear reminding you to watch for ice or telling you that a car was zooming at you. The guides did a great job of keeping their groups together and on point.
Our first stop was the remnants of a Roman wall from the 9th century. We live in a house from 1955; this wall is from the 800s. History happened here.
As in Nuremberg, in Regensburg we founds signs that spoke to the city’s origins in a pre-literate culture. Whether stained glass windows, tavern welcome signs, or murals of ownership on homes, these narrative works of art were easily “read” by residents. Today, they just look super cool! Here’s one depicting Jonah and the Whale:
Here’s another with the story of David and Goliath. Supposedly, this house was owned by a gambler who thought he could never be defeated. He was. Hence the mural.
Here’s a more modern day form of mural: Batman-themed grafitti in one of Regensburg’s many narrow side streets and alleys.
And, another that says, “If you rock the bass, come on in,” or something like that.
The density of the city is conveyed by this awesome cast map. Look at how tightly filled in it is. This is not a city built for modern day vehicles. The Danube bisects the map, and apparently, those who live in Regensburg have a saying that one should never marry someone from the other side of the river. That was another theme that recurred over and over: how the line for differentiation between towns and cultures is so narrow but bright in a region that is so very small.
You’ll get an idea of the size of Regensburg’s streets below:
Even a SmartCar isn’t making it through there. Some might make passable one way streets, but they’ve become cobblestone pedestrian malls for the many tourists wandering around the lovely city in search of strudel, Haflingers, cuckoo clocks, nutcrackers, and sausages. In other words: us!
Regensburg is sometimes called Italy’s most northern city because of its connection to Rome and the Italianate style of its historic architecture. The homes and public buildings have towers attached, and the height of the tower was used to signify wealth. These were typically just vanity structures: nothing above the third floor was ever used for anything, and even these three floors were often only used for storage. Some of the towers initially had Italianate features like open porticos and loggias, which did not really function for German weather and were eventually walled in (you can see this in the last photo). Rich people always be crazy no matter the century.
Like each city we visited, Regensburg was remarkably colorful. The buildings popped with bright pinks and blues and yellows or deeper corals and golds and roses. Given the restrictions on UNESCO sites, these colors are period accurate, so it was interesting to think about how much time people used to spend outside their small, dark homes and how this might have driven the color palette for the facades.
Could we visit any city without a Cathedral-selfie (TM)? Nope!
Our tour ended there with a dire warning: the Danube water levels were dropping quickly, and the Baldur had to leave about five hours before scheduled so that we could actually make passage to Passau. So, with our short 90 minutes of free time, we managed to accomplish the following: wolf down some still piping hot apple strudel in a tiny Regensburg alleyway; buy a pair of Haflingers; choose a bear-attack themed cuckoo clock from about 8,000 (BTW, it stopped working on the third day, thanks, Angela Merkel!); find a Santa nutcracker; and–most importantly–EAT REGENSBURG SAUSAGE!
You may recall the legendary Nuremberg/Regensburg sausage throw down from a previous post. How could we know which side to pick? We needed to find some Regensburg sausage, and the most famous sausage place in Regensburg is in a tiny building by the river. How tiny? This tiny–it’s the little building with the brown tiled roof and striped awning:
Not yet sure how small? Check out the size of the windows next to the kids. By the way, in Germany, people eat outside even when it’s in the 20s.
Here’s how tight it is inside:
As you can see, the sausage is cooked over a fire, just as it should be, but here’s the big difference: Regensburg sausage is served with a sweet mustard on a perfectly cooked rye roll. I hate mustard, so I fussed at eating it. I was wrong. This stuff was amazing–sweetened with honey and a perfect complement to the smokiness of the sausage. Maybe it was an effect of standing outside in the cold, but this piping hot sweet mustard sausage sandwich on rye was one of the best things I ate all trip. After eating our first set, we ran back in the tiny shop for more. Regensburg, you’ve got my vote!
While she loved the sausages, Harper was traumatized by the pigeons (taubes in German) that clustered near the tables, as these photos clearly show the transition from suspicion to terror. (She never should have thrown bread crumbs at the ducks on the Erie Canal all those years ago.)
All that was left was to hike back to the boat along the Danube. Although cold, the day was bright with a strong sun and unbelievably blue skies. We even thought to grab a couple photos of the Baldur.
And we were back on board, warming up in our room before heading to the lounge to hang for an afternoon of eating, reading, Bananagram-ing, Shanghai-ing, and resting.
By mid-afternoon, the temperatures were dropping but the day was still simply gorgeous. So, Ned and I wrapped up (side note: the thermal tights I bought three years ago in London and the cheap, colorful wool socks I got on Amazon paired with my Haflingers to keep me complete toasty every day!) and ran up to the sun deck to grab some only-on-the-Danube vistas. It was crazy beautiful and, honestly, looked just like a VRC commercial. We were the only ship on the river (this was the last sailing of the season), making it seem like these views were ours alone. Because the ship typically sails through this part of the river after dark, most of the crew had never seen this section of the Danube before either. So, they ran up there with us.
In the background of our selfie is Valhalla, a tribute to Germany’s heroes. As we sailed, small villages came into view, all against the vibrant azure sky and the loping river waves.
The sun set, washing the sky with a soft orange that faded to grey and began to cover the river with darkness.
This day was surprising. As anyone who has read this blog knows: we do not take relaxing vacations. We wring every minute out of every hour, so to be–in effect–mandated to relax was a nice change. I can’t think of another vacation in which any of us has napped or even sit in one place for an afternoon slipping between reading and daydreaming. Having the glorious banks of the Danube as a backdrop certainly made this forced relaxation very appealing. Time is a luxury to us, and this day felt particularly luxurious. Lovely!
And, so, safely navigating our way through the shallow water to Passau, we say, good night!