Nov 4th, 2017, 12:05 PM

Fall in Love with Regensburg

By Isabel Guigui
The Stone Bridge in Regensburg over the Danube. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Sharhues
To the weekend wanderer: escape to Bavaria in an alternative take.

Fall, when the leaves spiral gently around us and collect along the streets or sweep into the Seine. Now that twilight appears sooner, and the air takes on a crisper tone, students' assignments pile up with deadlines fast approaching. It's tempting then to plan a couple of ventures to alleviate the mind from fretting about everyday duties, but while some might lay their travel plans out far in advance, others are just now corralling the posse for an autumnal adventure. Today I write for those who play less by the rules and vest more in the fancies of their whims: the weekend wanderer. To the traveler in search of a low-key getaway, to the romantic whose nose scans the winds for that familiar and yet all too mysterious scent of nostalgia, to the flâneur who wishes to explore a new city at a slower pace; I recommend Regensburg. 

With a modest population of about 125 000 and relative proximity to the hub of Munich, this gem is often overlooked by the young voyager. But allow me to paint you a picture of the lovely weekend you could spend in this relic of a city, and you might change your mind. 


As seen from the Stadtinsel, Regensburg is bright even under gray skies. Image credit: Isabel Guigui

Friday

UPON ARRIVAL

So you've hopped on a train from Paris Est in the afternoon and enjoyed a relaxing ride in a fine specimen of the engineering for which the country is so well known. On board the Deutsche Bahn you might have had a coffee as you watched the countryside whiz by, studded by fields of solar farms and sprinkled by lovely little villages. Rolling into the central station on a Friday night, you arrive directly in the midst of the city center with a ten-minute walk to the nearest bars of interest. If you're looking for a livelier crowd, head for any place labeled Gasthof, where you will be sure to find an abundance of warm, welcoming space, good beer (remember that this is the land where you can drink by the liter!) and perhaps a Bratwurst to satisfy that bite of hunger. If, instead, you are nearly ready to hit the hay and are looking for a nightcap, why not check out Hemingway's or the music bar SAX

Saturday

11 AM

Now that you've slept in and you're ready to hit the cobblestones, begin by wandering through the Old Town to Cafe Anna. In this spacious coffee shop, you can spread out at a large table, grab a copy of the Süddeutsche if you are so inclined, and enjoy the glory of the morning in a fresh city in all calm, as they say in German. If the weather is friendly, you may imbibe this pleasure on the terrace, soaking in the sun as your eyes roam the early Baroque facade of the Dreieinigkeitskirche across the square, or watch the passersby heading to and from the shops on the Neupfarrplatz. Once you have ingested your given dose of goodness, make sure to pick up a loaf of bread that the folks in Anna bake fresh all day long. Then, you will be ready for the market. 


Make sure to stock up on fresh produce at the market on Neupfarrplatz. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Grizurgbg

Once you have filled your knapsack with a crop of the freshest local goods, and if you can keep your hunger at bay a little while longer, take your time to seep through the alleys of the Old Town. Here you can relish the appearance of sudden side streets and the discovery of charming shops built into the ancient architecture. Ready for lunch perhaps? Head westward toward the Herzogs Park, an enchanting Renaissance period garden whose high boughs, winding paths, and fairytale ponds will invite you to spread your brunch out on the cool grass. This time of year it also features the confetti of chestnuts, which make for a lovely stowaway pocket souvenir or, if roasted right, an excellent snack—keep your ears perked for cries of "Heisse Maroni !"

4 PM

With a decent meal under your belt and your forces boosted, pack up your picnic blanket and return to the streets to explore the culture of Regensburg. Only a short walk from the Herzogs Park you will find an 11th Century Abbey founded by Irish missionaries and inhabited later by Scottish monks, hence Schottenkirche, or Scots Monastery. The key architectural feature of this visit is the Schottenportal, which originally served as the northern entrance to the complex and made up a third of the wall, and the interpretation of whose ornament is still debated on today. 

Just a hop and a skip away you will come to the Theater am Bismarckplatz, right on the edge of the Old Town. The theater, constructed over two centuries ago, plays host primarily to operas and operettas, but ballets, plays, and readings may also be on the bill. If you came to Regensburg with no prior knowledge of German there is no reason not to see the beautiful building nonetheless; besides, you can always check the program for an early evening concert. 

Theater am Bismarckplatz. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Hajotthu

8:30 PM

Now having strolled, lunched, spread out in the grass, explored anew, and now been immersed in a richly ornate hall of delightful music, your stomach begins to rumble again. As you wander back into Old Town and admire the intricate edifices aglow in the soft evening light, cross the town hall's square and turn into the Wahlenstrasse. A few minutes padding down the crooked stones will bring you to the Orphée Hotel and Restaurant, an icon of the city and self-acclaimed most authentic French cuisine east of the Rhein river. Here the air of the bon vivant will make you feel at home in Paris, while the language and style of service will remind you otherwise. You have wined and dined your fill, but would like another moment in the atmosphere before turning in? Step into the courtyard, and you will find a lively scene of bodega sorts, where the hipper crowds mingle over tapas and more wine. 

Sunday

8 AM 

Off to an early morning as your train leaves in the afternoon? Start by visiting Saint Peter's Cathedral, the double spire 12th Century masterpiece that towers over the city. Often the nationally renowned Domspatzen (literally 'cathedral sparrows') will sing during Sunday mass: those pure voices echoing up 100 meters within the Gothic cathedral will move you regardless of your beliefs. From there head back through the Old Town—which, by the way, is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site—and down to the Danube, where another artifact of the 1100s sprawls across the river. Die steinerne Brücke , the stone bridge, was built in the same period during which the erection of the Cathedral was underway, as the projects competed with one another to finish first. A testament to the Middle Ages art of construction, the bridge stands nearly 900 years later and is now only for pedestrian use. 


View of Saint Peter's Cathedral from the old stone bridge. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Dglester

11 AM

On the other side of the Danube, you will find the neighborhood of Stadtamhof. Here the cafes are peopled by friends and acquaintances meeting over a leisurely late morning drink, in no hurry as businesses are closed on Sundays. If you are ready to have your midmorning break, claim a spot in the cozy and perpetually packed Kuchenbarthe friendly young owner Tom will take your coat, bring you a slice of the fresh tarts his wife prepares, and make you feel at home. Once you have warmed up a bit and you're ready to move on, only a short walk remains until you arrive at the house of Oskar Schindler, the man who famously saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. 

1 PM

The clock is ticking so you start to make your way back toward the city center. Time for one more stop? Hop on a Donauschifffahrt and enjoy a short ride down the murky, turbulent waves. Allow your mind to drift over the water and across time as you envision the history of this vibrant city playing out around you. Watch for the watermarks that tell of Regensburg's worst floods, marvel at the 12th Century ingenuity of the icebreakers built onto the old stone bridge, imagine remembering a time when the river would freeze entirely, and the Bavarians would strap on their skates to play. 

Don't think of your return trip just yet, but let the nostalgia whirl you away. Turn your eyes not homewards but down the river. Ride those waves long enough, and you will arrive in Budapest, so why not enjoy the journey?