I am beginning to understand why the Bavarians are so smug about their state (or separate country, depending on who you ask). At reasonable intervals, as one drives through the rolling, lush green hills of Bayern, dotted as they are with villages clustered around a lone church spire, Medieval towns seem to appear, welcoming you with ancient, stony arms. I live in one, for example, although the part of town bearing the vestiges of its Medieval past is very small and the surrounding area is less … historical. If my state was home to a crop of old, romantic, picture-book towns like, you know, Munich, Nürnberg, Rothenburg and Bamberg all set against the backdrop of green, green forest – all non-Bayerisch Germans, cover your ears – I’d be pretty smug too.
UNESCO World Heritage listed Regensburg ups the ante a bit. It takes Rothenburg’s 950AD and raises the stakes by coolly playing the Stone Age card. Yes, the first settlements in what is today known as Regensburg date back to the flipping Stone Age when it went by the Celtic name of Radasbona. In AD90, a fortress popped up, courtesy of the Romans, and the Regensburg AD ball really began rolling … all the way through a good 2000 years of empires, invasions, battles, religious struggles and the building of a big stone bridge (1135 -1146) which opened trade routes between Northern Europe and Venice, ushering in Regensburg’s golden age.
Yesterday we drove down to meet SG’s family for a walking history tour of Regensburg. The weather did its classic trick of appearing to be cold before we left the house, then busting through the late teens to hit 23, leaving my booted self furious I had missed the opportunity to wear normal shoes and SG vehemently complaining about his choice of apparel, every step of the way. So about five minutes into the tour, led by a very enthusiastic woman with a cap of dark hair, a Radler-thirst made itself known and lingered for the duration. I was also able to follow about 50% of what was said, the tour being in German and drowned out by church bells every fifteen minutes. But, it was a great way to see the city and my bat-ears were tuned in when we stopped by the 2000 year old stone archway (imagine!) and historical wurst kitchen, the oldest take away place in Germany. It dates back to the 13th century. A 13th century wurst imbiss, still alive and well today.
Here are some other things you may want to know about Regensburg:
– It has 150,000 inhabitants.
– Pope Benedict XVI was a Professor of Theology at the University of Regensburg in 70s and has been an honoury citizen of the city since 2006.
– Regensburg was the first capital of Bavaria.
– Now it is the capital of the Upper Palitinate region (the Oberpfalz).
– Regensburg largely escaped allied bombing, which helped the preservation of its medieval centre.
– Regensburg has ‘Europe’s most important golf museum.’
– It is absolutely beautiful and I did get my Radler.