Dec 20, 2018
Regensberg is another town that we visited in the summer of 2013 and my memories of it were closer to the mark. This time we docked closer to the old town center and it was only a 500m. walk to the old roman walls and gates that now form part of the foundations, where our real walk began. This was where the Romans became serious about occupying the regions and keeping the barbarians (you know? Huns, Visigoths and Goths) back from the Europe they had civilized. The site of Regensberg was a major crossroad for numerous trade routes and therefore needed defending (like the South China Sea???). They started out with a small force but increased to thousands as they built a walled town with stones that weigh as much as a small car. They built towns like these right across the continent, largely with the main rivers at their back, so Trier at the headwaters of the Mozell River in the west and Regensberg here on the Danube in the East.
For 400 years the Romans occupied the town and region and created a lot of stone blocks to build walls and residences. With the fall of the empire, the barbarians took over the town and called themselves Bavarians. Get it Barbarians/Bavarians or Terrorist/Tourists. They in turn dismantled the buildings and repurposed the stone, building a town with largely stone buildings. The German and Austrian expression for wealthy people is to say they are “stone rich”. Rich enough to build stone houses. Others not so well of who could only live in timber houses are “stony broke”.
Anyway, the connection with Italy stuck, as centuries later, still thriving as a trade center, the influence of San Gimignano became evident. San Gimignano is famous for its stone towers. They served no real defensive purposes, but were built to show off. The wealthier you were, the higher the tower you could build. The Italians introduced the same competition to Regensberg. Here the towers can only be occupied to around the first three floors in line with the surrounding buildings. Everything above is empty space, all for show. We came across one that had a blunted top and was several stories lower than the others. Here a merchant had fallen on hard times, and he was told by his former peers that he should reduce the height of his tower in keeping with his reduced stature as a merchant.
Fortunately for Regensberg, by the time of the two world wars, it had no significant industry or strategic importance. Consequently it wasn’t bombed and it retains a magnificent bridge that crosses the three branches of the Danube, an equally magnificent entrance gate at the end of the bridge and a town filled with grand stone houses and towers and a private family palace like few others.
Regensberg also boasts the oldest takeaway food stall in the world. It’s a small freestanding stone building on the banks of the Danube, beside the bridge and gate. Reputedly set up to feed the workers who built the bridge, serving BBQ sausages, it still participates in the river long competition and claim to serve the best sausages in Germany. We ate here in 2013 and decided they were good enough to eat again. Nine sausages, each the size of your index finger for 9E means you are paying for the experience. They are good sausages. As to the best, the same sausages in Nuremberg are pretty good as well and a lot cheaper.
We also visited the best strudel house in town and purchased one to share as we had given up on ever having any strudel on this trip. This was all before returning to the ship for lunch. More a mid morning snack.
Later in the afternoon, we went to the Christmas Markets set in the grounds of the palace. Now that we have experience Christmas Markets at night, we are sorry not to have seen these ones at night as they were certainly the most stylish of all the markets. In fact, after the event I have read that they are voted as being the best in Germany; the Romantic Markets.
There is a board game called Thurn and Taxis. The board is a map of southern Germany and nearby parts of other countries; it is marked into nine provinces, most of which are grouped into five regions. The map shows 22 cities and a network of roads connecting them. The players move around the board building postal routes. Yup, it’s based on the Princely House of Thurn and Taxis, a family who for four hundred years from the 1500’s to 1800’s were major players in the postal service of Europe. Not just major players but for large areas of Germany, a monopoly. They diversified into brewing and building castles and today are still one of the wealthiest families in Europe.
St Emmeram Castle in Regensberg is still the family home, ruled over by Mariae Gloria Ferdinanda Joachima Josephine Wilhelmine Huberta Gräfin von Schönburg-Glauchau, or as she was known in the 80’s, “Princess TNT”. Some thirty years younger than her husband and something of a marriage of convenience, she wore brightly coloured hair and avante-garde clothing. Today at 58 y.o. she’s quite conservative. The castle is the site for the Christmas markets, both on the outside of two of the castle/palace wings and the vast courtyard inside. The stands are substantial ones, not the cheap timber board ones seen at other markets. Some are cottages. They had surprised looking Llamas, street accordion player and a vintage postal van.
We spent a good hour and a half at these markets, without actually buying anything. The crowds were starting to build, but we missed out on the level of excitement that would have come in the evening.
Our evening was to be the farewell dinner back on board, and I provided the excitement. More of that in the next posting.