Regensburg: Old Stone Bridge, Cathedral, Museums and More

Before I launch into today’s post on Regensburg’s old bridge, museums, churches and more, I feel the need to state a caveat. Information on tourist sites and sights in Regensburg is not easy to find from usually reliable sources. At least it’s not easy for me, a major-league lazy person.

The edition of Rick Steves Germany tour book I bought doesn’t have any pages on Regensburg.

For most cities, the walking tour app I have lists all of the major (and many minor) sights, with descriptive texts that appear to be written specifically for the app. For Regensburg, it provided a page that seemed to have been pulled from a blog on the internet.

So here’s the caveat: Other than personal observations regarding the sites and sights, I pulled much of the information below from the internet. I can’t vouch for its credibility.

I don’t know the reason for the dearth of tourist information on Regensburg. It’s a beautiful city on the Danube River—actually, at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen rivers.

Unlike yesterday, when I arrived late and in the rain, there were many tour groups from river cruises. Guides holding signs on sticks indicating their onshore excursion tribe led the groups around.

There was also also a large group of teenage school kids led by an adult. Judging from the accents of all of the kids and teacher/chaperone, I assume they were from somewhere in the United States or Canada, although not somewhere with a distinctive southern twang.

I also overheard a number of couples on the streets who, judging from the languages they spoke, were probably tourists.

The point is, Regensburg is popular with tourists. So, why isn’t it featured prominently in more tour books?

Old Stone Bridge

If you search the internet for sights in Regensburg, pretty well every page you find lists the Old Stone Bridge, which spans the Danube. Usually, it’s listed first.

Not surprisingly, the Old Stone Bridge is a bridge. It’s made of stone. And it’s old. That all kind of goes with the name, Old Stone Bridge, doesn’t it?

The bridge was built in the 12th century. However, the only parts that look like they might—only might—be original are the base and arches. Although, if they are original, they were cleaned so recently and so well that it’s hard to imagine them being 800 – 900 years old.

(I know; I know. The other day I complained about the Powder Tower in Prague needing a good cleaning. But, you know what Ralph Waldo Emerson said. “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” That’s my excuse. And I’m sticking to it.)

The paving stones I walked on for the length of the bridge and the bridge’s low side walls were both made of very flat, perfectly rectangular paving stones. They were a far cry from the irregular, bumpy cobblestones found on most old roads and bridges. So I’d definitely say those parts of the bridge were constructed much more recently.

The following are pictures of and from the Old Stone Bridge.

Brückturm Museum

The last remaining fortifying tower of Regensburg from its time as a medieval city, the Brückturm, now houses the Brückturm museum.

It’s a very small museum, occupying only the tower. The exhibits include a few models of ships and the bridge, along with old photos and drawings of the bridge.

Before paying the admission, I asked the person at the desk if the museum offered English text with the exhibits. She said it did. She was probably only 10 to 25% right. That’s about all of the text that had English translations.

Well, at least I got a seniors rate of €1.50, rather than the less-near-death adult rate of €2.00. So, there’s that.

One of those translations warned me (and francophones, along, of course, with german-speakers) to be cautious on the historic stairs. Um, gulp, how does one be cautious on historic stairs? Was I in danger of crashing through old, rotted wood? Fortunately, that didn’t happen.

For me, the highpoint, figuratively and literally, of the museum was the views out the windows at the top.

St. Peter’s Cathedral

This cathedral is called both St. Peter’s Cathedral and Regensburg’s Cathedral.

It’s an austere gothic cathedral with a high, vaulted ceiling, as gothic cathedrals tend to have.

Note: As happens at some time on most European trips I take, I’ve now reached and passed the point where I think, “Is that all those gothic, renaissance and baroque people did? Build churches and worship in them? Oh yeah, they created art too, but mostly on religious themes. Is that all they have to show for themselves? Religion? Well, ok. Religion and edifices for monarchs and emperors. But, still, what else have they got?”

Nevertheless, I persisted.

Church on a Hill

There was what looked like, from a distance, a cute little church on a hill on the other side of the rivers from the medieval core of Regensburg. I walked up there because I guessed there’d be some great views.

I was right on both scores. The church was little and cute and the panoramic views were great. That’s all I know about the church. It wasn’t marked on my map, so I don’t even know it’s name.

Historische Würstküche

Historische Würstküche is close to the old-city end of the Old Stone Bridge. A brochure I picked up there claims it’s the oldest sausage house in Germany.

That’s a picture below of two of its small sausages in a bun in my hand. You’ll have to trust me that the sausages are under all of that sauerkraut. The sausages were very good, but, thankfully, they didn’t taste particularly old to me.

St. Emmeram Basilica

Damn. Another church.

OK, Joel. Suck it up.

Actually, St. Emmeram Basilica was quite attractive. Its Romanesque design (Romanesque according to the internet; in truth I haven’t a clue) includes three aisles, an impressive altarpiece and attractive, but subdued stained glass windows, among other decorations. The entrance was through a calming cloister.

Reichstagsmuseum

Having seen too many movies about Nazi Germany, I saw “Reichstag” in the name of this museum and got nervous. Very nervous.

I needn’t have worried. Google Translate told me Reichstag means simply parliament. The tour guide at the museum told me it means “diet,” as in “a legislative assembly in certain countries,” not as in “restricting what you eat.” But you probably figured that out.

The only way to see the reichstagsmuseum, which is just the building’s rooms, was on a guided tour. I arrived in the morning. The person at the ticket counter said there was a tour starting in 10 minutes. She told me it was in German, but I could get an audioguide which would give me information in English.

I was about to buy a ticket when she added, “But there’s an English tour at 2:00.”

“Oh,” I replied, “I’ll come back at two.”

Unexpectedly Personal Tour

Not wanting to risk it being sold out, I arrived at about 1:45. I bought a ticket and went to the starting point. At 2:00, the English-speaking guide, Robert, arrived. I was the only other person there. Cutting to the chase, Robert gave me my own one-hour tour.

All of the “factual” information below came from Robert, not the internet. So, in this section, you can ignore the caveat above about the reliability of information obtained from unknown internet sources. However, “factual” is in quotes because, one, how would I know if Robert was just making it up as he went along? I trust that he spoke the truth, but, more importantly, two, there’s a pretty good chance that my memory—and I use the term “memory” loosely—mangled some of the information.

Construction of the Reichstag building began (or maybe ended; I don’t remember) in 1245. Originally it served as both a town hall and as a venue for imperial assemblies. For a few hundred years, the imperial assemblies met for only two or three months. The rest of the time the building served as the city hall.

This dual purpose continued until the establishment of a perpetual imperial diet in 1663. Then, they needed the Reichstag building solely for that purpose and they built another town hall. The imperial diet continued to use the building until 1806, when the Holy Roman Empire, and its German empire, came to an end.

Robert also told me a lot of facts about the building and the compositions of the town council and the imperial diet. However, I focused so much of my energy on remembering the above three years that I had a gerbil’s chance in the vacuum of space of retaining any other information in my memory.

Capital Crimes

The basement of the Reichstag building contained a jail and an interrogation room. The interrogation room was used for capital crimes. Someone could be convicted of a capital crime only if two reliable citizens of Regensburg were eyewitnesses and testified or if the accused confessed.

If someone was accused of a capital crime and there weren’t the required eye witnesses of good standing, the accused was interrogated first without the use of any torture other than being locked in stocks. If he didn’t confess after that first non-violent interrogation, they took him into the torture room.

They then put the accused through up to three excruciating torture sessions using a variety of equipment. If the accused confessed during the first or second session, he escaped the remaining session(s). No matter how soon he confessed, the judges never lessened the sentence. It was always death.

Judges witnessed the torture from behind a screen so they couldn’t be identified and, possibly, be subjected to revenge. A doctor was also present in the torture room. The doctor could pause the torture and treat the accused if he was in danger of dying. The accused wasn’t allowed to die until he confessed. Then they killed him.

Robert said that town records show that exceptionally few accused didn’t confess.

The original torture equipment is still there. According to Robert, this is unusual. Other German cities got rid of their torture equipment when they stopped employing torture. For some unknown reason, despite being among the first batch of towns in the German empire to abolish torture, Regensburg kept its equipment.

In Summary

The buildings and cobblestone streets, along with the Old Stone Bridge, of Regensburg’s old town exude oodles of charm. Because I kept primarily to that area, I can’t say anything about its other neighbourhoods.

For all I know, Regensburg’s suburbs might be as sterile and soul-sucking as suburbs in many (most?) cities. Or maybe not. I don’t know.

Here are some more pictures mostly of the medieval core of Regensburg. Some of the photos probably come close to some of the pictures I posted yesterday. But today they are rain-free and with some sun.

Apropos of almost nothing, I spotted this sign today. It made me think of the cuisine here in Regensburg—and in Vienna and Prague, for that matter. If I were allowed only two words to describe the cuisine in all three cities they’d be “comfort food.” My meals have been generally extremely tasty, but also extremely filling.

The dishes usually consisted of large portions of meet (schnitzel or otherwise) and a considerable portion of starch (potatoes or spaetzle, a local pasta). How the people here are not the size of five blue whales stitched together is light years beyond my ability to comprehend.

I highly doubt that the “Füll Gut” in the sign in fact translates to “full gut,” but that’s usually how I feel after a meal here.

Update: Oskar Schindler’s House

Oskar Schindler’s House

It made a strong impression on me, so I don’t know how I forgot to mention it when I first posted this, but there’s this: One of the astronomically large set of facts I did not know before researching tourist information about Regensberg, but now know, is that Oskar Schindler lived in Regensberg for a few years after the war. Yes, that Oskar Schindler. The Oskar Schindler who started out as a major nogoodnik and ended up as a uber-mensch. The Oskar Schindler whose list saved 1,200 Jews from likely death by the Nazis, about which Steven Spielberg made an epic movie. That Oskar Schindler.

One of the houses he lived in here in Regensberg has a plaque mounted on it. There’s no museum or other commemoration, but there is the plaque.

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