Day 6 and 7 – Regensburg

Our drive from Passau brings no uncomfortable situations and gives us the chance to sit and watch the world we are currently in, slip by.  The afternoon is bright with few clouds and a reasonable temperature (actually somewhat warm given what we have experienced lately).  This may not have been the original transportation to Regensburg, but it is nonetheless pleasurable.

At long last we arrive at our ship.  A secret I have managed to actually maintain is about to reveal itself.  Our room, the number of which had been put on the tags of our luggage, was no longer our room.  I quickly got the key passes to keep this little fact unknown to the very last second.  As we made our way up to our room, I walked past the room number that was well known to both of us.  A couple of doors down I stopped and was immediately questioned as to why we came this far.  I put the card in the door, it unlocked and as I pushed it open, I simply said, “Happy Birthday Dear”.

Our room…is now our suite. 🙂  Whether another river cruise happens is dependant on the future.  With that in mind, it seemed prudent to enjoy this cruise a little more, just in case it’s the one and only.  And seeing her eyes widen and the smile spread…yep, it was a good choice indeed. 🙂  Big thank you to Carol, our Fabulous travel agent who helped me put this together.

As many ocean cruises as we have done, we have become rather accustomed to a certain size of accommodation.  The physical restrictions put on river cruise ships do not allow for that size…unless you get a ‘suite’.  In name only, as there is still only 1 real room and a bathroom, the extra 83 square feet is an absolute improvement.  The fresh bouquet and bottle of German white didn’t hurt either.

The balance of the late afternoon was spent with a quick exploration of our room and the ship.  A very short welcome by our cruise director and down to the dining room for supper.  Some things never change, in this case the quality of supper.  Very good indeed.  However there was one very notable difference.  Free wine (or beer) with dinner.  And if the contents of your glass evaporates, given the extremely dry air conditions, a most attentive wait staff is there to ensure your glass remains full.  All through supper.

Into bed (after finding out the bed has now been turned down, the requisite chocolate placed squarely on the pillow and the fireplace channel turned on to welcome our return) and sleep comes.  Thankfully.

The alarm clock in the room had been set by a previous guest and left in the most annoying ‘on’ position.  So at 6 AM it dutifully started its annoyance.  A push of the button, in the pitch black of our room, silenced it thank goodness.  For 5 minutes.  It then resumed its irritation.  After 2 more unsuccessful attempts, I finally managed to push the ‘proper’ button and we got to sleep to our intended awakening – 6:45.

Dressed and fit for human association we joined our other travel companions once again in the dining lounge for a wonderful breakfast buffet.  Then back upstairs and out to our awaiting bus for the days crusade.

Ernie is our tour guide this morning.  She (apparently her parents didn’t realize that Ernie was a boy’s name) has a most noticeable accent and an even more noteworthy ability as a tour guide.  Her knowledge is extensive (in that, she is the same as any guide we have had) but her way of explanation at times had howls of laughter ring through the bus.

Our trip this morning is down the road aways to step on to a much smaller river ship.  That will then take us on a short jaunt down the Danube.  The Danube is the second longest river in  Europe (first place goes to the Volga) and runs about 3,000 km from the Black Sea to the Black Forest.  An interesting tidbit is that the length is actually measured from the mouth to the source (which is backwards to normal).  About 2,450 km are navigable.  The Danube River Gorge, that we will be travelling through, is the narrowest (about 80 meters) and deepest (about 20 meters) part of that whole 3,000 km.  We start at Kilheim, a little town of about 13,000 which sprouted up around the 12-13th century as the home town of the dukes of the area.

Our river trip from here takes us through the gorge about 6 km to end up at the world’s oldest monastic brewery – The Weltenburg Abby.  It’s been in existence since 1050 A.D and has truly mastered the art of dark beer.  So much so, they have won gold in world dark beer competitions 3 times, the latest of which was in 2012.  And that was against 600 other competitors.  I think they know how it’s done.  Our stop also included a sampling of their fine product.  I’m not a big fan of beer in general, but I think here in Bavaria you’d be hard pressed to find a beer you didn’t like.  This is certainly no exception.  Our return trip will be by bus, so as Ernie so artfully explains, no pier after the beer.

Driving back we notice the area in and around Regensburg has huge fields of asparagus.  The German people love it even though it contains no fat and almost no calories.  They compensate with Hollandaise and/or plain butter as additives.

We get back to the ship in time for a nice light lunch after which we join Mathias for a city tour of Regensburg.

Regensburg is another smallish city (some 150,000 people) that has a very high university student population (some 30,000),  It is likely to also be the only university to have had both a professor that became a pope (Benedict 16th), and a winner of playmate of the year, as past attendees.  Must be something in the beer…

The city is also very special in that, during WW II, it was never hit with bombing raids.  It had nothing to bomb, no industrial complexes, no political mainstays, nothing to attract attention.  Ergo it has about 1,000 very old buildings that did not need to be rebuilt…they simply remained as they had been for the last several centuries.  In fact they still have an original entrance to where a fortification had first been built by the Romans some 2,000 years ago.  After 300 years, the Romans left and immigrants came in to take over the buildings.  They were known even then as Bavarians.

As much old as there is here, there is also much new they are excited about.  Berlin (capital of Germany) has been in need of a new airport for many years.  One was started several years ago with a completion date of 2012.  Current estimated completion date is somewhere in 2018…if they’re lucky.  Regensburg, however, has a new world class museum being constructed.  It is not using federal funding, relying only on money from Bavaria.  It is slated to also open in 2018 and is fully on schedule.

As with everywhere in Europe, history abounds and I could go on for many pages without leaving Regensburg, never mind all the other places we have yet to attend.  Suffice it to say, history has much to teach and much to show.

Once again we return to the ship but this time it is to finally really begin our journey on the river.  We set sail at 4 PM while sitting on the top deck which provides an excellent view all around…and above.  Why do I mention above?  We weigh anchor and within 20 minutes are slowly entering our first set of locks (there will be 66 altogether this trip).  I actually stuck my hand over the side and slid it across the concrete side of the lock.  Shortly thereafter we pass under a bridge that was so low… (How Low Was It??)…the crew members came around to make sure no one was sitting on anything higher than the supplied chairs (and certainly not standing upright).  In addition, the Captain lowered his cabin so that only his head was visible through a hole in its roof.  A river too high could enable a bridge to become a guillotine.

A little while later it was mandatory to go downstairs to sample free beer.  That was followed by a glass of champagne and canapés so we could be introduced to the crew department heads and be shown the requisite safety drill.  And, of course, that had to be followed by the ‘welcome aboard’ dinner.

It’s been tough but we’re struggling through.

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