This morning we slept in a bit, since our morning walking tour was at 10:00 a.m. As soon as I woke, I pulled back the drape and saw the most charming town right outside my window - Regensburg.
The tables in the dining room sit either six people or eight people. This is a plus if you enjoy dining with strangers, but if not, this could make dining uncomfortable. There are cruise lines that provide a few tables for two. But river cruising overall is set up for socializing. Since we are a group of six, we haven't dined with others.... until this morning. Since two of our group were a bit behind schedule, a lovely couple from Scotland joined us for breakfast. We heard about their recent experience cruising along the Ivory Coast, and how their ship was chased by Somalian Pirates. Wow!
After breakfast it was time for our morning walking tour. This time, the passengers were split into groups of about 35. The Viking-provided tours are a huge difference from what happens on an ocean cruise. On the ocean, a wide variety of excursions are offered, and most of the time they cost extra. Some people zip-line, some tour museums, some go on walking tours, ...you get the idea. On a river cruise, there is one tour each day (included in the cost), so all the passengers are doing the same thing. There are some variations though. For example, there was a group for slow walkers; and a couple groups for those wanting an extended walking tour which added on some Jewish history. We chose the extended tour.
Our tour guide was a super sweet girl who grew up in Austria and was now living in Regensburg. She did a wonderful job explaining the town's 2,000 year old Roman Empire history, and even entertained us with a love story and legends of the past. Along the way, we saw an original bridge from the Roman Empire, an arch & tower, plus an original Roman gate that had led to a Roman fortress that once housed 6,000 Roman soldiers. We learned that Regensburg was once a very rich city because of it's location on the Danube. The bridge was at one point the only way to get across the river - so it was a major trade route.
Interestingly, early Jewish history was key in Regensberg losing it's wealth. Basically, the Jews who lived in this town were only allowed to be grave diggers or bankers. During the Middle Ages, the town people blamed the Jews for the plague. They thought the Jews were trying to poison everyone (it didn't matter that Jews were dying too). So, the townspeople expelled the Jews and as a result, the Jews' ability to finance their trading was lost and the economy crumbled.
The Jews returned at some point, but then were expelled once again during the World War II period by the Nazis. Regensburg keeps it's connection to Jewish history visible as a reminder to all, as evidenced by the sign we passed outside the house where Schindler lived for six months out of the year.
As part of the extended Jewish portion of our tour, we learned that a Jewish Quarter no longer exists, but again as a memory of past occurrences, you can now see gold blocks in the street where Jewish houses once stood.
Afterward, we saw the Cathedral of St. Peter, a very ornate gothic cathedral with beautiful stained glass windows. This amazing Catholic Church took 600 years to build.
After our walking tour, window shopping, lunch & beer at the Sausage Factory, and a quick stop in the apothecary (a couple people traveling with us have colds), we attended a Cookoo clock demo. The clocks we saw were all handmade in Germany's Black Forest, and we learned how they're made and the stories behind the different scenes. Sounds pretty hokey, but it was actually kind of cool.
Our ship wasn't leaving until 10:00 p.m., so we were able to have dinner in town. We really enjoyed that because no one has been impressed with the meals so far. We just so happened to pick an Italian restaurant with the biggest pizzas! Delicious!
A couple interesting observations: the cobblestone streets in Regensburg had no lanes for cars. The cars would just drive through completely where they pleased. And people in the towns we've seen so far aren't constantly connected to cell phones. Very refreshing.
Tomorrow: Passau, Germany