We headed to the Danube, or Donau in German, to see Regensburg. Our stop was at Bad Abbach, a quiet rural town up in the hills and pretty unremarkable but for its large bathing complex, Kaiser Therme. Our aire was at the car park entrance and we bagged a space that afforded some shade from the hot sunshine, again at 40 degrees.
Needing supplies we marched up and down the hill to the local supermarket then retreated to the relative cool of the bathing waters, heated at 34 degrees. A range of pools pummelled and nearly drowned you in cascading torrents of water but it was both invigorating and relaxing for hot and tired legs.
The luxury of a bus stop on the doorstep meant we were in charming, riverside Regensburg the next morning by 10am. The medieval town is a UNESCO heritage centre and retains part of its original Roman walls and gate built for Emperor Marcus Aurelius, the Porta Pretoria.
Cobbled streets wind around gothic and Romanesque churches, arcaded courtyards and bubbling fountains. It was a treat to come out of the dazzling morning sunshine into the dimly lit interior of the splendid cathedral of the town’s patron saint, St Peter.
Vast stone columns stretched up almost out of sight and joined like branches to form the intricate canopy of the sculptured vaulted ceiling. The huge interior was only just lit by light entering through delicate stained glass windows dating from the 1300s. We gazed up at the characterful faces and figures of medieval painted wooden statues. The cathedral is known for its smiling arch angel Gabriel but I preferred a solitary and nameless woman alone on a wall in her own shrine.
A climb up to the top of the Bruckturm gave gorgeous rooftop and river views amid playful packs of swallows and swifts. The town’s 900 year old Steinerne Brucke was unfortunately under scaffolding so instead of crossing it we enjoyed coffee in the Rathaus Platz and the bubbling excitement of wedding parties waiting for their slot in the medieval town hall and registry office.
The faded ochre, terracotta, grey and putty colours of the rendered low-slung terraced buildings, together with the large stone archways into cobbled courtyards and the searing heat of the day gave the town a feeling more akin to Central America then central Europe.
At soot- covered St Jacob’s church we peered at the strange entomological figures adorning the Romanesque portal. Their meaning continues to baffle theologians and social anthropologists. Inside, the largely undecorated stone chancel is lit by gold candelabras set in painted motifs along the walls. Another idea to be stolen for my Roman-inspired bathroom!
Regensburg has a student population and the many posters advertising art, music and theatre events showed it to be a lively town. We perched on stools in a graffiti covered bar (fische schwimm, vogels sing, I drink) for a salad lunch and watched office workers roll up their sleeves to tackle steaming bowls of fish stew and tomato soup (in this weather!) whilst chatting and drinking lunchtime beers with colleagues. It was Friday after all.
The afternoon bus wound a seemingly endless way back up the golden harvested hillsides to Bertha where it would be another hot night. We listened to ‘ghosts’ until the outside pressure was relieved for a short while by another thunderstorm and rains.