Cruising along the River Danube, you’ll encounter a rather confusing succession of quaint, mediaeval towns ending with –burg or -berg. I had to make careful notes, and all my photos and videos are date-stamped, so I think I’ve got it right.
Three days out from Budapest, we came to Regensburg. It was the home of Oscar Schindler, of ‘Schindler’s List’ fame; another noted native was Josef Ratzenberger (Pope Benedict XVI). We only had an afternoon here so, rather than join an organized tour from the ship, we did our own thing. We started with a longish walk along the quayside … it seemed we had drawn the short straw for mooring places. We slowly made our way to the Old Town … where, outside the Cathedral, a land-train waited.
I haven’t seen one quite like this before; it was, apparently, built locally, with almost all-round visibility, and a commentary in whatever language you wished; you just sat in the appropriate car. It wasn’t a ‘hop on/hop off’ service, but took us around the most important places to be seen.
That evening, after we sailed from Regensburg, we left the Danube behind, and sailed into the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, for the next stage of the journey.
What is remarkable is that the canal in its present form wasn’t completed until 1992. There had been canals connecting the two rivers previously; the Emperor Charlemagne had ordered the construction of one as early as 793 AD. In the 19th Century, a narrow channeled canal was built, but this was closed in 1950, following a decision not to repair damage caused in WWII.
With the construction of the ‘new’ canal, a good-sized ship could now sail from the Black Sea all the way to the North Sea.
Our next stop was at Nuremberg, which is famed for the Nazi Party rallies held here in the 1930s, and for the war crimes trials held here after the war. It was chosen for the former for its central location and excellent communications, and for the latter because it was the only place with a suitable courthouse and adjacent jail still intact after Allied bombing.
But, long before that, its location at the intersection of many trade routes made it a centre for trade from all over Europe; important enough for an imposing castle to be built, which still stands. From the castle, steep cobbled streets lead down into the Old Town itself.
‘One of the oldest and most noted towns in Germany’ (George Bradshaw)
I am always in admiration of a place that can set up modern shops and expensive boutiques without destroying the atmosphere of an old building. Even McDonald’s can take a bow here! In the Market Square, an Easter Market was in full swing. We hear a lot about the Christmas Markets … even copy them. But this is the first time I’ve come across Easter Markets.
Maybe the Germans want to keep this one for themselves?
The canal terminates where the River Regnitz joins the River Main at Bamberg. Since it was never bombed in WWII, Bamberg is still pretty much like it was in the Middle Ages … apart from the fact that there are a few more motor cars around, and it’s crumbling a little more around the edges. But, since the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, much preservation work is going on, and many of the buildings are covered in scaffolding.
There’s still enough to make for a very enjoyable stroll around; we walked along a canal bank, past an area with old waterside houses, formerly inhabited by fishermen, called Kleine Venedig (Little Venice), and passed through imposing baroque buildings and quaint old streets,
‘A beautiful town’ wrote George Bradshaw, back in the 19th Century. More recently, the Lonely Planet called it ‘A byword for magnificence’.
The highlight of the town is the Old Town Hall. When they built it back in the Middle Ages, they couldn’t decide which side of the River Regnitz it should go on; both factions wanted the prestige of having the Town Hall on their side of the river. So, they compromised. They constructed an artificial island in the middle of the river, and built the Town Hall on it.
The River Main is a tributary of the Rhine, and it’s ‘all downhill’ from here to Amsterdam. But, there is still much to see on the way there … even a few more ‘-bergs’ and ‘-burgs’ to visit.