DM and MM's Germany 2007 Diary

Day 8 - Bamberg to Regensburg

Saturday, 28 April, 2007

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We're up early this morning because we need to have breakfast and check out by 08:30 in order to catch our train to Regensburg. Now it's time to pack our bags and head off.

21:45 Room 43, Hotel Kaiserhof am Dom, Regensburg

And we thought the view from our room in Bamberg couldn't be beaten! Despite having our hotel, the Kaiserhof am Dom, apologise for not having a cathedral-view room available when I booked by e-mail, they have given us Room 43 on the south-east corner of the fourteenth century building, with a window facing east directly at the face of the monstrous Regensburg Dom. The window is tall, a good two metres or so, and you have to have your face within 50 cm of it to see all the Dom, from its base four storeys below in the platz to its towering filigree spires soaring high above. Our window provides pretty much the best view we can manage to find anywhere in the entire town of Regensburg.

Hotel Window #2
View of the Regensburg Dom from our hotel room

We arrived in town after an early breakfast back at Hotel Brudermühle in Bamberg, checking out, at which the woman gave us a couple of apples wrapped in serviettes for the road ("für Ihrer Reise"), followed by a 20 minute walk to the bahnhof to catch our train to Nuremburg, where we got a connection to Regensburg. The first train was a regional express, meaning no reserved seats. We managed to find a pair of seats facing forwards on the shady side of the train before the rest filled up with travellers, possibly heading into town (Nuremburg) for a Saturday of shopping or somesuch. While crossing between platforms at Bamberg to use the WC before our train arrived, I managed to ask an old lady if she needed help with carrying her luggage up the stairs, remembering to put my verb at the end: "Kann ich Sie helfen?" She turned it down saying (I think) that it was light.

Our connection at Nuremberg was to a Eurocity Express, which was actually going to Vienna and Budapest. But we got off at Regensburg, after a bit of an adventure getting on when it seemed everyone got on the wrong end of the carriage and had to do a double-shuffle up the narrow aisle with multiple large pieces of baggage to get to their seats. We had seats facing each other next to the aisle. Although a nice train, it wasn't as nice as the ICEs we got from Berlin and Dresden. As we approached Regensburg, we were greeted by our first sight of the Danube River, following along the left side of the tracks. It was kind of brown, not blue at all. I guess you have to see it in Vienna for that.

Steinerne Brücke
Steinerne Brücke and the Danube River

After Michelle stopped for a toilet break at the Regensburg Hauptbahnhof, we walked north into Regensburg's Altstadt area and around the immense cathedral to our hotel and its stunning view. Despite it being before 12:00, we were allowed to check in immediately and dumped our bags before taking to the streets. Our first order of business was to find some food. We walked down some likely looking pedestrian streets, more or less at random, until we found a delightfully aromatic place selling Persian dried fruits, where I bought 100 grams each of dried pear and mango. It was €5.20, but I didn't have any coins handy so offered a €20 note. The guy asked if I had the 20 cents, but I showed him my wallet and said I only had a €5 note. He said that would do, so I thanked him and left, impressed by the friendliness. Michelle told me that a few minutes earlier when she had got a take-away coffee from another shop nearby that she'd handed over €2, and the woman had said it was €2.05, but not to worry about the five cents. Michelle had paid it anyway, finding an extra 5 cent coin. Very generous, the locals here.

We were now within sight of a bridge which we later learnt was the Steinerne Brücke, an 850-year-old fortified bridge, and an important historical crossing point of the Danube. We wandered over to gaze at the views east and west along the Danube, with the city and cathedral behind us to the south. The bridge was very busy with foot traffic going to and fro to the far bank and the occasional taxi; private traffic was banned from the bridge. (Speaking of taxis, I should mention that many of the drivers we saw were women - something extremely unusual back home, so notable to us.)

Gargoyle and Harpy
Dom exterior detail, with gargoyle

We headed back into town, turning past the Historische Wurstküchl, a sausage establishment in what looked like an ugly old medieval block of blackened stone by the river. It was churning out delicious smelling cooking smoke and packing the customers into the rafters (figuratively, since the customers were all seated outside). A few turns took us past the Porta Praetoria, a Roman-era gate in a wall built in 179 A.D., which I have to say was nowhere near as impressive as the Lonely Planet had led us to believe, at least visually.

Regensburg Dom interior 1
Dom interior

From there, we rounded the block to approach the Dom. After some exterior shots we went in and were blown away by the most impressive of the many church interiors we've seen so far on this trip. This was the first to have stained glass window, and what windows they were. On all four walls, in glorious multicolours, metres high, and spanning the length and breadth of the vast building whose interior was otherwise dark and cavernous. I spent some time with the mini-tripod setting up some long exposures and HDR sequences, which will hopefully turn out well and at least attempt to do justice to the place. Before we left, we went down into the crypt, where bishops of Regensburg are commemorated since some obscenely ancient year in the 700s to the present and where several are laid to rest.

Bavarian band in a town square

We then headed south-west, taking a zig-zag path among residential lanes to emerge at Emmeramsplatz, where we first took a look in the Basilika St Emmeram, which was stunning in its own way, simply because of how mind-bogglingly obviously ancient the place was. The Dom may have been old, but this place was a whole new level. It's clear that none of the cities we've visited up to now hold a candle to how unimaginably ancient the buildings are here in Regensburg. Presumably there's been a town here for much longer than any of the other places, which were probably only settled relatively recently, maybe just 1200 years ago or something. The Basilica held the bones of not one, not two, but three saints, and we saw the reliquaries of Saints Emmeram, Wolfgang, and Ramwold. Astounding stuff. It was so old that several floor stones originally deeply engraved with reliefs and inscriptions had been worn so smooth by millions of feet as to be completely illegible in places. Others were slightly less worn, in less trafficked parts of the church.

Basilika St Emmeram
Basilika St Emmeram

We took a brief look at the outside of Schloss Thurn und Taxis, but didn't go in as it was close to closing time. We took a zig-zag route to the Schottenkirche St Jakob, which has some truly ancient Romanesque sculpture adorning the main entry. The entry was protected by a new glass enclosure attached to the outside of the building, clearly indicating how important its preservation is. The carvings were done in the crude semi-realistic style of the pre-medieval periods, showing various people, cats, and other animals difficult to identify. We poked our noses inside, but there appeared to be a rehearsal for a confirmation or something going on, with a priest and a large group of kids. The quick glance around the interior I managed before beating a hasty retreat showed it to be virtually inconsequential compared to the exterior.

What are these things?
Schottenkirche St Jakob

We then meandered back to our hotel via Haidplatz, passing numerous busy restaurants and cafes which reminded us it was time to grab some dinner. Michelle suggested we try a place from the Lonely Planet, which it said had good veg food. We located it down a dingy alley and were distinctly unimpressed by its grimy feel and menu boasting a whole four uninspiring vegetarian items amidst a range of meat dishes. So we backtracked until we found a place that looked and sounded more inviting, settling on a restaurant named Vitus that had a garden out the back, where we grabbed a small table a few minutes before it really started to fill up.

Pasta and flammkuchen at restaurant Vitus

The menu was in French with German subtitling, but the food didn't seem particularly French, with a wide selection of pastas - I chose one with chicken, onion, and mushrooms in a mustard cream sauce - and "Flammkuchen", which Michelle ordered, and it turned out to be a very lightly cooked sort of pizza with a paper-thin base and a topping of what looked to be sheep's cheese plus melted cheese of another sort and barely warmed veg ingredients that looked more like a fresh salad than a cooked dish. It was all good, despite my misunderstanding of our waitress at the end of our meal when she asked us if it was okay and I said, "No, the bill please." I thought she'd asked if we'd wanted desserts. I realised after she left to get the bill that I may have misunderstood her query in German and explained when she got back. She was most understanding, as I begged forgiveness in English, which thankfully she spoke quite well. We all had a laugh over it.

Dom St Peter, Regensburg
Dom at night, from our hotel room

After eating we wandered back to the Steinerne Brücke for a glimpse of the Danube at sunset, then back to the Porta Praetoria so Michelle could have another look in a shop window where earlier in the day a noisy band of wedding cars had driven by, decorated with flowers on the exterior and all beeping their horns. We walked back to our room through the courtyard of the Bischofshof am Dom hotel, an expensive place which had its restaurant there in the open and doing a roaring trade. Back inside, I took some night shots of the cathedral from the best spot we had: our window.

Guess the focal length
Dom at night, from our hotel room

I had some trouble downloading photos to iPod because the iPod wasn't fully charged and threatened to run out of puff halfway through the first batch. I stopped it, recharged for a while, and started again, expecting it to remember what photos it had already downloaded, but it began again from scratch. So I had to cancel and delete the already transferred photos from the card, and then transfer the rest.

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