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.