Sorry I dropped off my blogging schedule there – let’s just say there were a couple of days you could describe as “Poorly in Advent” and leave it at that! All better, now, anyway.
And then the pleasure of a weekend in Regensburg, an extremely pretty mediaeval town we’d never visited before. It’s the capital of the Oberpfalz, a region in Bavaria, north of Munich and only a couple of hours away from Prague, too. As it lies on the Danube river, it’s been an important settlement since the iron age. The Romans were there, too, of course, and since the middle ages it’s been the seat of the Bishop of Regensburg and has been a significant trading post with Venice, Paris and Kiev – international connections since the year dot…!
Famous for it’s well-preserved mediaeval town centre alongside the Danube, it’s also known for its Christmas markets and this was the main reason we travelled during Advent for our first visit. We’re lucky enough to have friends who live in Regensburg and who were willing to be generous with their time to show us round the best places!
A very traditional Swabian meal of Maultaschen (comparable to large ravioli), served in bouillon, and potato salad met us on our arrival, accompanied by copious amounts of red wine – we weren’t tired and hungry for long and spent a late evening over our meal at our friends’ beautiful home, with plenty of good music (always!!). Such hospitable hosts!
Energies replenished, we set off on Saturday, well booted, hatted and mittened, to investigate a special Christmas market held in the grounds of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis’ castle. We’ve been to a lot of lovely Advent markets but this one is probably the nicest we’ve seen so far, with the castle’s park making it feel as if it were set in woodland, yet the elegance of the baroque building, lots of fire torches set up, fire baskets to warm your hands (and feet!) over and some more original stands than perhaps is usual. The decor was very natural and many of the goods on offer were original and handmade, as well as some less common food specialities – we came away with Christmas spiced honey, for example, and there was marvellous jewellery made out of cutlery! Now we know what to do with the family silver if it’s ever in the way LOL.
After some pretty potent Glühwein, we continued on through the old town, admiring the pretty buildings and lots of lovely decorative architectural details. Many of the old streets have Christmas lights and you can’t get lost because each has a different design! Despite the fortunes of war, there are very few gaps in the long runs of old buildings and the 13th century cathedral towers above the whole town with it’s lacy Gothic spires. A stone bridge crosses the Danube and has done so since the 12th century – it’s a forerunner of and predates the Charles bridge in Prague – on huge stone pediments, below enormous buildings that show how rich the town was, partly due to the salt trade.
Throughout the town there are several picturesque Advent markets, lots of intriguing shops and places to eat and drink all kinds of specialities. I can certainly understand why Regensburg has such a good reputation and is such a popular place to visit at this time of year, though I’m sure it’s gorgeous all the year round. The markets aren’t as big or overwhelming as Munich or Nürnberg, it’s a more cosy and personal feeling here.
Our meanderings were punctuated by stops for snacks and coffee and crowned by a delicious traditional Bavarian meal at a real old-fashioned inn, the Bischofshof, again beautifully decorated and with excellent food and service – just the thing to lull you into contentment after a chilly, rosy, seasonal day outdoors on the markets. Quite delicious. If you can then follow that up with an evening spent lounging and chatting, with more great music, with people who are on the same wavelength: what more could we want?! Our hosts’ children earned our compliments for being so patient and uncomplaining while taking us around their home town all day long – wow :).
A short tour of the Danube ports by car on a cold and drizzly Sunday morning followed by raising our glasses to another meal made by our lovely hosts and it was time to head off to the station for our return journey by train. The pleasure of the weekend and the company stayed with us all the way home and won’t be forgotten for a long time. On the contrary, I think it’s very likely to be “au revoir, Regensburg“!
With architecture like this and the patrician towers throughout town, no wonder Regensburg is known as the Tuscany of the North!