I just realized that the comment function on my blog entries was not activated. I have corrected this and now you can comment if you wish.
I just realized that the comment function on my blog entries was not activated. I have corrected this and now you can comment if you wish.
Today would be one of the most interesting but also most confusing days we spent on the Maria Theresa. Little did we know that morning we would spend only two more nights on our lovely ship due to problems beyond the control of our Captain.
Fortunately, the day started out very well, with beautiful sunshine and warm but not hot temperatures. The ship made another technical stop at Kelheim, to unload the passengers who had chosen to tour the BMW plant. Because this option called for two separate tours, first briefly in historic Regensburg and than at the plant, it would last six hours. Thus those that selected this option would go first to Regensburg by bus while the Maria Theresa slowly sailed the final miles to the Regensburg quay with everyone else.
This was not in the original Uniworld plan, but we all could see that the water in the Danube was very low, and this forced Captain Martin to steer our very large boat slowly through the deepest channel available. Often times, we noticed the propeller churning up mud from the river bottom.
Our affable Captain Martin had been a visible presence every day and always took time to explain what was going on to the passengers. Every evening before dinner, our tour director, Chad along with the Captain, would discuss what we would be doing the next day, but our biggest concern was the low water. By this time, the passengers knew that we might not finish the cruise on the Maria Theresa and we had our fingers crossed. Obviously we hadn’t gotten a firm answer to our questions about the water level yet because at this point nobody knew for sure.
Uniworld had cancelled the sailing of the European Jewels cruise immediately before this one in hopes that the water levels would come up, but there had been little rain, and the lowest spot, between Regensburg and Passau, was still very low and still ahead of us. Passau would be our next stop on the Danube if we could get there on the Maria Theresa. Uniworld had gone ahead with our cruise because it started in Amsterdam, so most of the cruise would be completed even if the Maria Teresa couldn’t get through the low spot.
There wasn’t much the passengers could do about the low water but hope for rain at night. So we climbed aboard the bus to Regensburg at 8:30 AM determined to enjoy our day. When we got to Regensburg, we could see that there was a considerable amount of construction going on which resulted in even more walking. As it turned out, it was fairly fast walking too. We got the most exercise during the whole cruise on our day in Regensburg.
Up til now, the Ramblers had been with the Gentle Walker group which moved at a fairly slow pace. Because of the change in plans due to the low water, those who chose the BMW tour had to do them back to back, and there was no Gentle Walker option. After our first stop at the historic Roman center of Regensburg we would go directly to the BMW plant by bus.
We learned that those who chose not to tour the BMW facility, relaxed on the Maria Theresa until it got to Regensburg around 1:30. Then they had the choice of either “2000 years of Regensburg,” or a “Jewish Regensburg,” tour that lasted about two hours.
We had been warned that the visit to the BMW plant would involve lots of walking, so there weren’t many Gentle Walkers on our bus. The Senior Rambler wasn’t excited about all the walking, but I was determined to go on the plant tour. The only way we could do this was to take these tours back to back and so we did, though he was not a happy camper most of the time.
Our original tour schedule had included a leisurely lunch in Regensburg . However the lunch break was eliminated from the town tour so we would get to the BMW factory in time. The Ramblers never managed even a snack in Regensburg that day. There were some interesting looking sausage places in town, as Regensburg prides itself on its bratwurst. The Wurstkuchl, a tiny restaurant on the bank of the Danube is thought to be the oldest fast food restaurant as it dates to the middle ages.
First we had to cross the Danube to get to the medieval center as our bus had parked on the wrong side of the river. Unfortunately the Steinerne Brucke (old stone bridge) was being restored and this involved even more walking over a series of ramps and passages to get across the river. The bridge was built in the 12th century, an architectural wonder in its day, as it is over 1,000 feet long and well worth restoring.
The Celts first came to the area around 500 BC and by the second century it was a Roman military post in perfect position to protect river traffic on the Danube and unlike the Celts, left many relics of their stay. By the 7th century, Regensburg was a beehive of Christian activity, serving as a hub for missionaries who traveled into the countryside to convert the Germanic tribes. Thus it has been an episcopal center for more than a thousand years.
Regensburg was also a military post for hundreds of years because of its strategic location. During the middle ages, Regensburg was the most important city in southeastern Germany, both a political and intellectual center and for centuries, the capital of Bavaria.
As you might expect, there was much to see, but mindful that our time was limited, our guide kept up a brisk pace as she herded us along the ubiquitous cobblestones of the old town.
The historic center of the city is a UNESCO designated World-Heritage medieval city center and the Ramblers would have liked more time to enjoy it.
Once in the alstadt, it was easy to see the remains of Roman construction. The Germanic people who followed them, had incorporated the Roman stonework into their buildings.
St. Peter’s Cathedral dominated the medieval center of Regensburg as its builders had intended when the edifice that stands today was finished ca. 1520.
A church had first been built near the area of the Porta Pretoria (the north gate of the Roman fort) in 739, and rebuilt many times before this date. The bell towers stand 105 meters (344 ft 6 inches)above the city. We were not surprised to see scaffolding on the building because these ancient structures need constant looking after. The state has an organization, the Dombauhutte (Cathedral building workshop) that supervises the ongoing maintenance, restoration and even archaeological exploration of the cathedral.
The last complete restoration of the Regensburger Dom took place in the 2000’s.
Unfortunately because we were on the quick city tour, we didn’t have time to go inside but mainly walked around the narrow streets. Along the way we admired the medieval Rathaus, the Roman gate and other interesting buildings. There were many photo ops but photos had to be taken quickly if at all. I did manage a good photo of a striking mural of David and Goliath, in Renaissance style, only to learn later that it was not a Renaissance era painting but a recent one. Oskar Schindler had once lived briefly in the building that it decorated.
Although most of us would have liked to stay longer, our guide soon rounded us up for the hike back to the bus. Our day was only starting! At least we got to relax on our bus ride.
I always mean to research the cities we will visit before the Ramblers leave on their trip. This sounds good, and would be very good, but usually it never happens. Life intervenes and instead I find myself knowing only what we have learned from our guides and the handouts provided by Uniworld. Obviously the quality of the information on our tours,depends on the knowledge of the guide, and while most are at least good, some could be better at their jobs.
The first part of our tour, which had featured a drive through the ruins of Hitler’s grandiose rally grounds, really was almost self explanatory. And the rally grounds were still there, in pretty bad shape to be sure, but recognizable. The second part of our day featured a walking tour of the historic old town of Nuremberg , and it looked looked amazing. Looking around as we walked on the cobblestone streets, the Ramblers could imagine that nothing much had changed since the middle ages. Our guide mentioned that the whole area had been heavily bombed during WWII, but it wasn’t until I got home and did some research, that I realized the extent of the damage. Those same beautiful medieval buildings, not to mention the castle, had been reduced to rubble, or in the case of the Frauenkirche, merely a shell of their former selves. However, the people of Nuremberg were determined to rebuild them and rebuild they did, using bricks from the debris, although half of the old imperial city was lost forever.
For the sake of accuracy, I must mention that the castle was crumbling in the 19th century, and they had already done some restoration work before WWII. However afterwards, the buildings were almost flattened.
On 2 January 1945, the medieval alstadt was systematically bombed by the RAF and the USAF and about ninety percent of it was destroyed in only one hour; 1,800 residents were killed and roughly 100,000 displaced. In February 1945, additional attacks followed. By the end of the war, about 6,000 Nuremberg residents are estimated to have been killed in air raids. Why did the allies rain terror and destruction on the heart of this beautiful city known mainly for its manufacture of toys before the war? Of course, the fact that Hitler had chosen it as his special city didn’t help. In addition, during a bombing raid in 1944, the allies suffered their heaviest losses to date, losing a hundred planes to the defenders of the city. Six months later, the Germans had run out of fuel and were only able to offer a token resistance. Thus the allies could bomb the city almost unopposed.
Obviously, the historic center was not a military target, and so the raid did not have a military purpose.
We were glad that the Nurembergers had worked so hard to restore their city as it provided us with an enjoyable visit to the past. Our bus dropped off the Gentle Walkers at the entrance to the Nuremberg castle grounds. This was one stop where it was impossible to get out very close to our tourist target. As we know, castles are almost always built on the highest ground for strategic reasons, and the sandstone Nuremberg castle, first built in the 13th century, was no exception.
We followed a long, winding, uphill path, which led past the moat, now dry, and seemed almost endless to this Rambler as I started to puff and wheeze. Determined not to give up, I finally made it, at the very tail end of the Gentle Walker group, but it was worth it. The view of the alstadt from the castle walls was beautiful!
We did not go inside, the castle but instead enjoyed walking around the grounds on a beautiful day with not a cloud in the sky.
From the castle, we had a long stroll downhill on lumpy cobblestones, but now we were on our own. The Ramblers could take our time, and even stop, although there were no places to sit down. I eventually regained my lost breath, and began to enjoy our surroundings. We walked down a maze of cobblestone streets past the four story Albrecht Durer house, which is now the home of an interactive museum on his life. Most people have seen his etching of the”praying hands,” but his work is much more complex and interesting.
Our downward stroll eventually led us to the market square which was faced with shops and restaurants on three sides and the Frauenkirche which took up the fourth. The market square is also the location of the “beautiful fountain” but unfortunately we were unable to appreciate it as it was under reconstruction and hidden from view.
In the square, market vendors had on display a beautiful, multi-colored selection of fruits, vegetables and flowers which were tempting. However, since we were very well fed on the Maria Theresa, it did seem silly to purchase any, especially since our room didn’t have a refrigerator. I couldn’t help myself though and eventually selected some giant fragrant raspberries. Unfortunately the pricing was somewhat mis-leading and I ended up buying the most expensive berries I have ever eaten. The cost was 7 Euros a box,holding less than a pound. Ouch! Not wanting to say that they were too expensive, I paid up. Oh well, next time I will ask about the cost before I buy. At least they were delicious.
Our final stop was the Frauenkirche, built in the 14th century as a Catholic church and still Catholic church today, unlike many medieval churches in Germany which converted to Lutheran during the Reformation.
. Unlike the larger, highly decorated baroque churches, the Frauenkirche is quite simply adorned on the interior. Many of the statues looked like they dated to medieval times, and had probably been restored after WWII along with the church itself. Tired from our long walk, the Ramblers took advantage of the seats available inside the church, enjoying a rest after our long ramble down from the castle.
I took the opportunity to light a candle for travelers and those at home while we were there.
The Frauenkirche is famous for a large mechanical clock, the Mannlienlaufen which springs into action once everyday at noon. It is supposed to have done so every day for centuries without fail, but I doubt it was operating in the days after the horrific bombing in 1945.
Although the Ramblers were still in the square at noon, when the bell began to toll, we were at the far end, so we really didn’t see much of the medieval figures who came out, paraded around and rolled back inside the clock. It would have taken very good eyesight to see them without binoculars from our location. And because my excellent camera has a fixed lens, I was unable to zoom in on the clock.
Here is a video from You Tube that shows the Mannlienlaufen in action complete with the ding dong of the church bell that accompanies it. Just highlight the link and it will play. The entire sequence takes 5 1/2 minutes, as the Frauenkirchen Bell chimes first then the trumpeters and drummers spring to life and finally the electors parade.
As it was, we were supposed to meet our bus at noon, and Chad, our program director, busily rounded us up for the buss ride back to the Main Canal and the Maria Theresa. Nuremberg was a wonderful stop, truly a city of contrasts.
Finally, I have included a photo of the Frauenkirchen from the preceding post which shows the church in 1946, one year after the bombing. Some vendors have already set up shop in the central market.