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April 30, 2022
Regensburg, Germany: The Best of the Wurst

Today’s port, Regensburg, is the oldest city on the Danube River. It started out in 179 as a Roman fort. It became important during the Middle Ages, when a Stone Bridge was built across the Danube between 1135 and 1146. The bridge opened up major international trade routes between northern Europe and Venice, sparking a golden age for Regensburg of prestige and power. The city became a cultural center of southern Germany, and a home for wealthy trading families.

Remains of the old Roman fort are incorporated into modern buildings

The Stone Bridge is still used today

Today, Regensburg is famous as the home of Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope in 600 years to resign. Joseph Ratzinger was not born in the city itself; he was born in the surrounding area, but he has been made an honorary citizen.

(By the way, we should explain: “burg” (pronounced [boorg]) is German for “castle,” while “berg” (pronounced [behrg]) is German for “mountain.”)

The Viking Vili docked at Regensburg shortly after lunch. Earlier this morning, many guests departed for an optional day-long excursion to Munich. The rest of us stayed aboard and watched the Vili depart the Rhine-Main-Danube canal to join the Danube River.

The confluence where we joined the Danube River

We signed up for a variant of the 90-minute included “Regensburg Walking Tour,” and embarked on the two-hour “Regensburg Jewish Walking Tour” excursion. From the dock, we had a long ten-minute walk along the riverfront to get into the city. (There were four Viking river longships docked here today.) And because today is Saturday, Regensburg was very crowded with weekend visitors.

The long walk to town, past three other Viking longships

Our first milestone in town is this very strange golden statue (hint: it’s an abstract catfish)

We are not used to so many people!

Learning about the Jewish history of Regensburg was enlightening. When the city became an international trade center during the Middle Ages, Jews were encouraged to come to the city because of their knowledge of international trade and languages. Unfortunately, the Jewish-friendly ruler was succeeded by not-so-friendly rulers. By 1519, Regensburg’s fortunes had changed, and the Jews were blamed for the city’s demise. The Jewish Quarter and the synagogue were destroyed.

In a darker time, residents celebrated the expulsion of Jews by putting up plaques. They have been restored to keep people aware of this history.

The site of the former synagogue. The Christian Church wanted to build over the site, but they ran out of funds. Instead, the creator of this memorial wanted the site to be a place where families and children would gather, to enjoy and celebrate life.

A plaque commemorates the home of Oskar Schindler

More recently, Regensburg was the home of Oskar Schindler, the World War II industrialist who kept 1,200 Jews out of the Nazi death camps, as recounted in the movie “Schindler’s List.”

Regensburg has one more claim to fame: it is the home of Germany’s oldest purveyor of wurst (sausages). Before we left, we made a point to wait in line for a wurst and beer at the historic Wurstküche (“Wurst Kitchen”). We felt quite Bavarian, enjoying our sausage sandwiches on the banks of the Danube River.

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