Dateline: Regensburg, Germany and points east.
We crossed over from the Main-Danube canal into the Danube sometime when I was sleeping and made our first stop on that river at the town of Regensburg this morning. The Danube, despite Johan Strauss’s propaganda, is not a beautiful blue, not even this close to its source. It’s more of a muddy green/brown but as I have no intentions of swimming in it, that’s neither here nor there.
Regensburg dates back to Roman times and the cathedral is built on the site of an old Roman temple (pieces of which can still be seen in the crypt) and is another one of those small Germanic river ports that we have been calling at all week. I did not feel like another guided tour of the cathedral and old town (which seemed fairly indistinguishable from various other cathedrals and old towns we’ve been to this week) so I struck out on my own walking tour, leaving the old town behind to take a look at the more modern city outside the medieval walls. Not that different from the modern US city with plenty of handy Aldi grocery stores. There is a lovely greenbelt with walking paths surrounding the historic town so I walked along that as well. The one thing I noticed was no squirrels in the parks. I don’t know if there’s been a coordinated extermination campaign, they simply aren’t around or the species here are nocturnal. It was just a little odd.
I must admit I did poke my head into the cathedral (more interesting on the outside than the inside), wander the old town a bit (like most of the others, a pedestrian/bike friendly zone of shops and cafes), and finally caught up with the group as they were about to enter der schloss. The local palace is still a private residence, belonging to the princely family of Thurn and Taxis. As they more or less invented the modern postal system and had a monopoly on it for several centuries, they aren’t hurting for money. The dowager princess Gloria is in residence (she was not included on the tour) and her, son the Prince is off somewhere in Italy. The dowager is my age so I thought perhaps she could use a walker, but my German is probably not good enough to get by. The prince, unmarried, is a bit young for me at 36 but I could be talked into it. However, I am unlikely to be able to give him children and dynasty is important.
As for the palace, the newer parts (late 19th century), aren’t that interesting and the state rooms are not very good rococo (MNM would love it). It is a real working palace, continually hosting various events and it’s interesting to peep a bit behind the scenes. it’s also built out of the remnants of a medieval monastery and those pieces which date back more than a thousand years with Romanesque design and Gothic additions were much more interesting. Some of the monastic cloisters still exist and were much more interesting than the baroque fantasia upstairs.
Then, back through town and everyone on the bus. The ship had already headed downstream due to the threat of low water from Europe’s current heat wave. The water levels remain high enough for smooth sailing and we were only slightly inconvenienced when the tour company sent the wrong coordinates for the docking station to the bus drivers leading to a meandering tour of the German countryside while everything was sorted out. I helped the Australian-American family of five with their jigsaw in the lounge for a while and so to bed.
I think my first encounter with royal palaces was in 1984 when I made my first European trip. My first few stops were Holland, Belgium and Luxembourg and I don’t recall any palaces in those places – my first encounters were in France when I got to Paris. Like all good tourists, one of my first stops was the Louvre. This is before the IM Pei redesign and the pyramid. I paid my francs (pre Euros) and entered. I remember being very impressed by some of the larger rooms and galleries but also marveling at how cramped some of the rest of it felt. It also had the filthiest public toilet I think I’ve ever come across. I immediately exited and held it for several more hours. Several days later, it was time for Versailles. I lucked out and came on the one day a month that they turned on the fountains. They don’t do it more often then that as 17th century plumbing is somewhat delicate. As I wandered the grounds on a hot and humid July day, I wondered what it would have been like to have been outside in 17th and 18th century court dress and immediately understood why the fountains were so important. As for the palace itself, lovely but not to my taste and the famous hall of mirrors was much smaller than it had been in my imagination. As I continued through Europe, I went to more castles and palaces and ultimately had to marvel at just how ordinary some of them were. I think my favorite was the Danish Royal Palace from the 19th century whose name escapes me which struck me in terms of its contents and layout as a Victorian era garage sale. Give me a domestic space that looks lived in by real people and has a good HVAC system.