Day 7/15 2023 Viking Skadi Grand European Christmas Markets cruise. Regensburg, Germany.
Our tour this morning was starting at 8:30am and we were being loaded onto 3 pretty crowded motor coaches for the drive to Regensburg. Given the high water levels our ship the SKADI could not proceed to Regensburg.
We had been advised that depending on traffic the drive to Regensburg would take between 1.5-2.5 hours. Great! Just what we didn’t like about the Viking Ocean cruise but our only other option was to stay on the SKADI or go back to Passau to walk around because Viking would be running shuttle buses back and forth to town. Since we had already visited Passau as much as we wanted to yesterday, so we decided to go as planned to Regensburg to do our scheduled tour.
The drive to Regensburg took exactly 1.5 hours, so the drive was not that bad. I worked on writing the blog for Passau on my iphone in the NOTES app the entire trip up to Regensburg, so that was an effective use of my time. I copy the text from the Notes app and paste it into a text to myself to get it over to my IPAD and then I copy the text into the Wix blog program. A bit of a convoluted process, but one I became very familiar with when I was sitting on long bus rides on the Viking Ocean cruise and wanted to get my blog finished.
When we got to the bus parking lot in Regensburg there was a public washroom, so we were able to use the WC before we started our walking tour. The weather had deteriorated though on the drive up to Regensburg and we were experiencing 5C, heavy winds and pouring rain. Wonderful!
We met the guide for our walking tour which had a focus on the former Jewish civilization in Regensburg. Our guide who was born and raised in Regensburg said her father when he was alive told her about his memories of the Jews which were interned in Regensburg during WW2. The guide also has an Aunt who is still alive who was born in 1928, still has all her faculties and told her about Kristallnacht or The Night of Broken Glass which in Germany in November 9-10, 1938. Her aunt remembers when the streets were littered with glass after the windows of Jewish owned stores were smashed. Prior to WW2 there were 427 Jews living in Regensburg, but by 1938 268 Jews had left fleeing Germany entirely. 220 Jewish women and children were arrested and held at the local police station. Many were sent to Dachau concentration camp and the Nazi party broke into and looted their apartments. One Jewish trader was beaten to death on arrest. By 1939 all Jewish property had been transferred to Christians as part of the “Aryanization” process. Our guide’s Aunt remembered that the Jews were no longer around after Kristallnacht but since the Nazi’s were controlling the communication at the time, no one knew where they had been moved to.
I knew this tour was going to make me angry inside and that is why I signed us up for it. We cannot forget the lessons we learn from history, no matter how horrible they are.
The Stone Bridge into Regensburg with a collection of Viking red umbrellas.
We proceeded to walk towards the Roman bridge and could see where the Viking Skadi would have docked had the water levels on the Danube not been so high. We could see that the water levels were so high the Danube was flooding and creating a secondary river beside the Danube.
The base of the bridge dating back to Roman times.
Our guide explained that the Romans originally settled near Regensburg in 90 AD. In 179 a new Roman fort was built. The Stone Bridge was built by the Romans across the Danube between 1135-1146. For more than 800 years until the 1930’s the bridge was the only bridge across the River Danube. The bridge is a masterpiece of medieval construction and a recognizable emblem of the city of Regensburg. The bridge was previously open to car traffic but on August 1, 2008 because the city leaders were worried the bridge would be compromised with ongoing car traffic, the bridge became a pedestrian and cyclist bridge only.
The wooden beams in the ceiling still had white marks where the salt had been stored.
We walked through the World Heritage Visitor Centre (formerly a salt storehouse) at the end of the Stone Bridge into the UNESCO city of Regensburg.
Our guide took us through the Vistor’s Centre to show us a shortcut into the city and to show us a map of the old city of Regensburg. The Jewish quarter of Regensburg was originally within the quadrant of the old Roman settlement and experts do not know if the Jewish quarter was settled before the Romans or if they came after the Romans.
We started walking the narrow cobblestone streets towards Regensburg Cathedral or St. Peter’s Cathedral which was completed in two phases the later being finished in 1550.
The stone or brick tower which doesn’t seem to fit with the architecture of the cathedral.
The ‘Eselsturm’ (donkey tower) stone tower was used to construct the second part of the cathedral. A pulley remains in the west loft, and with it materials were lifted through an opening in the ceiling near the west portal.
St. Peter’s Cathedral, Regensburg, Germany
The material used to create the facade of St. Peter’s Cathedral is limestone and green sandstone which is a cheaper, less resiliant material - hence the greenish colour from this cheaper stone. Our guide told us then when she was younger everything on the outside of the cathedral was painted white to provide uniformity to the church. The cathedral was closed for reconstruction so we could not go inside which is what we are seeing in every town we visit. Either the cathedral is closed or open with lots of scaffolding either inside or outside the cathedral.
Porta Praetoria, Regensburg, Germany.
We walked down a street that had a Roman tower and gate called the Porta Praetoria The stonework on the tower had been covered in stucco so the Inhabitants had not known that the Roman tower was actually there until the stucco was removed. It is one of the two remaining Roman stone gates in Germany and there is no pomp or circumstance to the gate with it still in use today as a way to walk from one part of the city to another.
Stumbling stones showing the Jews who had been ‘Emordet or Murdered’ in English and a one person who had been able to escape to Denmark.
Our guide showed us some “Stumbling Stones” or Stolpersteine which were embedded into the cobblestones starting in June 2007, to remember Jewish families which had been rounded up and taken to concentration camps and / or murdered during WW2.
There are many cities with Stumbling Stones around Europe and we first encountered them on our World Cruise when visiting the Jewish section of Rome, Italy. It is very sobering to read the outcome of the individuals mentioned on the stumbling stones. Berlin does not allow stumbling stones as the Jewish people in Berlin say they have been stepped on throughout eternity so they do not want stumbling stones to be stepped on today.
Oskar Schindler’s home, Regensburg, Germany.
We then walked to see the house where Oskar Schindler had lived after WW2 from 1945-1949. Oscar Schindler’s presence in Regensburg was fairly unknown until 1993 when Stephen Spielberg directed and released the movie “Schindler’s List”. Oskar Schindler was a German industrialist, humanitarian and member of the Nazi Party who is credited with saving the lives of 1,200 Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his enamelware and ammunitions factories in occupied Poland and Moravia and Bohemia. Schindler gave Nazi officials bribes and gifts of luxury items only available on the black market to keep his Jewish factory workers safe. Schindler convinced Nazi officials to let him move is factory from Poland to Moravia and Bohemia allowing Schindler to spare his workers from death in the gas chambers. 1,200 Jews travelled to Brunnlitz in October 1944 to work in Schindler’s factories. Schindler spent his entire fortune on bribes to keep his workers safe. After the war Schindler moved to Regensburg Germany where he was supported by assistance payments from Jewish relief organizations. He eventually moved to Argentina with his wife where he took up farming. He went bankrupt in 1958 and then returned to Germany where ‘Schindler Jews’ whose lives he had saved continue to support him. He died in 1974 and was buried in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. Possibly the only person from the Nazi party to be honoured this way.
Our guide showed us a 7 storey, skinny pink house called Baumberger Turm which was built in 1260 and had fake windows except for the first and second floor. The top floors had metal windows in them and the rest of the building was unused. The fact that the building was so tall reflected the wealth of the person who originally had it built for them.
Our guide also showed us where Jewish tombstones had been vandalized in the 1500’s and then mounted on the facades of the palazzos of the local nobility - publicly and proudly exposing the documentation of their vandalism and inhumanity to the expelled Jews of the time.
We continued walking in the rain where we saw the memorial that had been made for the former Jewish synagogue from 1519 which had been destroyed in Regensburg. When the archeologists in 1995-1997 were excavating the area the remains of the old Jewish synagogue were found and rather than rebuild it, the Israeli artist Dani Karavan built a memorial on top of the old remains which people can use to sit and enjoy people watching. The inscription on the memorial in Hebrew translated to English means ‘East’.
Our guide walked us to the restaurant where Viking had a buyout of the restaurant to serve lunch to the 3 bus loads of people who had braved the weather and trip to Regensburg. We had already decided we were not going to have lunch with the group but we found the WC, warmed up, dried off and then proceeded to start exploring Regensburg on our own. We only had so much free time in Regensburg so we didn’t want to spend it sitting in a tour group restaurant when we could be out exploring the city on our own.
The Traditional Christmas Market in Regensburg was right around the corner from the restaurant, so we walked over to the market looking for a Kinderpunch and Kinderpunch with rum for Richard.
The market had a great 1/2 metre long bratwurst on a bun and delicious, warm, sweet
sauerkraut which we had yet to try on this trip. We really enjoyed standing in the market enjoying our lunch despite the light rain coming down on us.
I needed to find one souvenir ornament from Regensburg so as I wandered around I found a cute and quirky ceramic Christmas reindeer. Perfect! Now that was off my list of things to buy in Regensburg.
It was now time for dessert after we had seen all of the market and we saw a stall selling 4 different kinds of strudel. We decided on the traditional apple strudel. The vendor asked if we wanted the strudel warm! “YES please”! The vendor then asked if we wanted warm custard?! “YES please”! Cinnamon sugar?! “YES please”! And finally cherries on top?! Again we said “YES please”! Oh my goodness! What a bowl of steaming hot deliciousness! We couldn’t wait to dig into it!
Wow! I’ve had apple strudel before but not as good as the hot apple strudel we had today! The apple strudel was a highlight for both of us today in Regensburg.
Richard was very cold, wet and getting a bit grumpy at this point so we headed into a department store for him to warm up, sit on a bench and rest. In the department we came to was the men’s shoe department, we were able to find him a pair of Joseph Seibel comfortable walking shoes that fit him perfectly. Wonderful German walking shoes for his upcoming trip directing gigs!
I wandered around the main floor looking at Christmas decorations and then took the escalator downstairs where I found the wine department and a grocery store! I found a nice Italian Pinot Grigio and a bottle of Chateu Neuf de Pape one of our favourite red wines from France! I had to buy both of these bottles for us to enjoy for the remainder of the trip, since we did not purchase the 25 euros per day Viking Silver Spirits package which is not worth it if you consider local wine and beer is included at lunch in dinner, at no charge. When we want a drink before dinner we have our own wine to drink which is frankly better than Viking’s Silver Spirits package wine.
We walked back towards where the buses were to be staged and at 2:30pm the buses were still not there. It was raining. We were cold and we weren’t having too much fun!
We got on the bus when it finally did show up only to be told that our ship which had been in Passau had now moved back down the Danube into Austria. The issue for the crew with our ship in Passau was rising waters and because Viking are worried that they would not be able to get the SKADI back to Budapest with the people that were being transferred from the BRAGI, so the Skadi had been moved 22km further down the Danube. This announcement meant that our drive back to the ship which we thought would take 1.5 hours, would now take at least 2 hours.
We got onto the Autobahn outside of Regensburg to drive back to the ship and immediately we heard sirens. There was an accident on the highway which was going to slow us down for at least 20 minutes. Yikes! Now our 2 hour trip back to the ship was going to be even longer and would more likely take 2.5 hours. We still had to pack everything in our suitcases when we returned to the SKADI, for an early morning - now longer than 3.5 hour bus trip to Nuremberg.
This day is turning into a much longer, wetter colder day than we expected when we originally booked this cruise and even when we heard about the change of plans for a ship switch last night.
What else can we do but roll with it? Climate change is real and Mother Nature doesn’t care what river cruise plans we had. All we can hope for is that once we get to Nuremberg the Bragi continues to sail on our original route. We really don’t want to be on any other long days on buses. The whole reason why we wanted to do a river cruise was to be able to dock in the town we were to visit and walk around instead of sitting on buses for long bus rides. With the high water levels on the rivers we are to traverse, and the fact it is still raining, I’m wondering whether we will be able to finish this trip on a river cruise or if this river cruise will turn into a bus tour of Germany and Holland? I guess time will only tell!
I really enjoyed walking in history today in Regensburg, Germany. Seeing a city that dates back to the Roman times and that was pretty much spared bombardment during WW2, was special to see. I love architecture and seeing the blend of so many different styles of architecture in one place was pretty special!