GAPP Exchange Journal 2012
Touring Old City in Regensburg
The Salzstadel Along the Danube
The outdoor seating area of the Wurstkuchl sausage tavern was in the shadow of one of the largest buildings in the city known as the Salzstadel. The main source of commerce throughout the region is rooted in the salt trade mined from the surrounding Alps. The salt, affectionately known as "White Gold" was traded throughout the continent with Regensburg becoming a major hub of distribution strategically located along the Danube River. The salt was unloaded from ships tied to the docks and horse drawn carts that traveled overland from points east. The precious mineral was then hoisted into the salt depot warehouse known as the Salztadel and stored on three large main floors for safe keeping. As salt continued to pour into the city, additional storage space was created on five upper attic levels within the Salztadel. The massive weight of the heavy mineral required the main wooden supports of the structure to be reenforced with stone. Additional revenues were collected from salt ships and other trade vessels passing through that were required to pay a toll tax to travel beneath or across the stone bridge. Geography can provide an economic advantage! First built in 1620, the building was completely restored in 1991 into useful space. The towering bright white stucco walls stood out in contrast with the deep blue sky above. Today the building houses a restaurant, several shops, and a variety of other commercial spaces. Standing for almost 400 years, it has been reborn to once again contribute to the economy of the city as a historical asset of commerce.
Historic Cobblestone Streets of Old City
Today the city of Regensburg is more than just a tourist destination... The population of the city and surrounding metropolitan area has grown to over 135,000 people. In addition to tourism, the local economy is supported by three universities and is home to the industrial giants of Siemens, BMW, and several biotech companies. We continued to navigate the winding streets following Andy's lead, some wide and others narrow. The towering spires of the Regensburg Cathedral loomed overhead, partially shrouded by the bright stucco buildings accented with the ever present colorful flowers of deep reds and purples. Soon we approached the cathedral's square, a wide open cobblestone covered space that gave the front of the Gothic church plenty of room to show off its grandeur. The structure was immense as it towered above us... Once again I heard the phrase resonate in my head... I can't believe I am here... Standing in front of an actual cathedral! This location contained its first church as far back as 700 AD but was lost to fire and rebuilt several times before construction began on the large current cathedral in 1273 but was an agonizingly slow process that spanned over six centuries! The signature twin spires were not completed until the final decade of the project in 1869 at the suggestion of King Ludwig I who thought it looked unfinished without them and insisted they be added. The results were inspiring!
Front Facade of the Regensburg Dom
We took some time to take in the intricate architectural designs of the exterior, which can take an entire afternoon if you want to try and examine them all. So much thought and planning went into the design of every available surface, often symbolic of historic church figures, including saints, bishops, and the twelve disciples... just to name a few. The detail was truly exquisite, accentuated by the architectural theme of the Gothic style that integrated the vast parts of the exterior spaces together. As with all historic buildings, restoration projects are often ongoing and can sometimes block the view of the building but thankfully, the majority of the building was currently free of scaffolding. One of the interesting elements of the cathedral's exterior is an old Romanesque tower known as the Eselsturm or Donkey Tower. During the extremely long construction process, several temporary towers were built to lift building materials to the top heights of the ever growing structure. Following completion of the cathedral, they were all torn down with the exception of one... An accidental oversight? The tower remained and has been there ever since. Today the Donkey Tower is often viewed by many as a monument to all the craftsmen and workers who labored on the project for over 600 years. The most impressive section of the exterior of the cathedral was the triumphal arched doorway that was framed by rows upon rows of ornate religious figures carved in stone.
Triumphal Arch of the Regensburg Dom
---------------------------------------------------------------We entered inside and passed through large, tall, modern, plate glass doors of smoked glass installed to protect the interior space and artwork from climatic threats. We passed through the doors, entered inside the sanctuary, and were further blown away by the creative aspirations of man. The interior was a series of columns and accompanying buttresses that rose to incredible heights. It was an enormous stone shell, void of any useful purpose, other than to serve as a monument to the glory of God. It is impossible to put into words or to capture in photographs much of what I witnessed in person throughout my travels in Bavaria. And I was immediately confronted by that fact more than anywhere else, while standing within the cavernous sanctuary of the cathedral. I was humbled by the end result of what man dreamed to create and was determined to build. The incredible skill, commitment, and industrial spirit that was essential to create something so grand and beautiful... I was in awe. I thought of the countless people who worked so hard on a project knowing they would never live to see complete. They spent their entire lives working, seeing little progress, and their efforts were void of any conclusion or end result. Inspiration from a higher power must have been essential to motivate them to continue their efforts.
Interior Sanctuary of the Regensburg Dom
We took the time to take it all in... the paintings, sculptures, wood carvings, the stone columns... It was so quiet inside, as the crowd visiting the cathedral respected the sanctity of the sacred space. The quiet, soft, and calm atmosphere of the interior magnified the holiness connected to this special setting of worship. The power of place... The cathedral recently got an upgrade of a newly installed organ that is said to be the largest and heaviest hanging organ in the world. The organ, like everything else, is mammoth in size with a height of 61ft, a width of 25ft, and a depth of 14ft. There are a total of 5,821 pipes that can play 80 ranks, with a combined weight of over 40 tons! Now that's some serious organ power! It hangs 27 feet above the north tower suspended by four one inch steel cables fasted to the ceiling. I decided not to stand underneath it... The project cost the equivalent of over 2.1 million American dollars to purchase. It was the first organ the cathedral ever had, so in a way, the evolution of the cathedral's construction continues. The other star of the show are the 21 enormous stained glass windows that light up the cathedral's interior with stunning color. During World War II, when Regensburg became a potential target of allied bombing raids, all 21 windows were removed for their own protection and stored in a safe location. After the war, they were restored to their rightful place and brought out into the light once again. Current Pope Benedict VI has local connections to the area. He was once a theology professor at the University of Regensburg and still comes to visit on occasion to see his brother who still resides in the city.
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Baroque Church / Alte Kapelle Apse
It was time to leave the cathedral in search of other historic treasures. We exited and took in the view of the Gothic exterior one more time as we walked around the side of the church. There was a line of gargoyles perched high above that once served as rain spouts with water pouring from their open mouths to the distant streets below during storms. They have since diverted the rain water to preserve the gargoyles and protect them from further erosion. A short distance away Andy wanted to show us the contrast in style between a Gothic and Baroque church by showing us the Alte Kapelle or Old Chapel. The outside of the church was plain and nondescript, giving no hint to the overwhelming visual splendor inside. We passed through the ancient looking wooden and iron clad doorway and entered into the narthex at the rear of the sanctuary. A wedding was about to begin, so we were fortunate to get a quick look as the guests were in the process of taking their seats within the wooden pews. Wendy and I were instantly taken aback by the Rococo Baroque style of the interior decor, which was first created in France during the early 18th century. The bright white, gold, and borderline gaudy presentation was as an obvious antagonist to the much more reserved Gothic artistic and architectural style that it preceded. The entire sanctuary was a work of art with so many curves, carvings, and frescoes, it was nearly impossible to mentally absorb everything. The stark contrast of the bright white plaster and elegant gold leaf accents made the room appear almost like a gigantic wedding cake for the happy couple about to exchange their vows. Due to the pending ceremony, we only had a few minutes, and were not able to go beyond the narthex to get a closer look. However, I was appreciative of the brief opportunity to view an interior space of unparalleled religious artistic expression. Both the Regensburg Cathedral and Alte Kapelle chapel were created as monuments to God but varied drastically in different pronouncements of style and decor. They were both beautiful and inspiring in their own way with the intent of reaching for the heavens.
Just enough time for one more quick look at a church called the Schottenkirche Saint Jakob or the Scots Church and Monastery. The north portal of the church was enclosed in a huge plate glass vestibule to protect the fragile stone exterior from further attack from the elements. The massive stone wall and accompanying triumphal arch of the portal date back to the early 12th century. The abbey was first created by Irish monks in the year 1100 and grew to include other buildings surrounded by a protective stone wall. However, like many ancient buildings with an extensive history, it was destroyed by fire several times. The church and cloister were last rebuilt circa 1870, following the tradition of Romanesque architectural design consistent with the original structures. In 1577, the charter of the property was reassigned under the authority of the Pope in Rome to abbots from lower Scotland. Later, in 1820, the space was converted into a priory monastery for both men and women. By 1862 the church grounds were again reinvented into a seminary of the Roman Catholic Church, which still remains today for the local German Catholic Diocese. Inside it was dark and musty, matching the suggested atmosphere of the ancient portal we just passed through. The interior was absent of sound and activity, with the exception of the flickering votive prayer candles at a side altar. The sanctuary was bright with white stonework, dark rich wooden paneling, accented with a light touch of scarlet red. Like all the places of worship we visited throughout the day, they were all beautiful in their own individual expression of design.
Parkside Flower Gardens
We had walked about 48.71 miles around the city so far and it was time to refill the tank! Time to once again sample some of the local fare. Andy continued to ebb and weave us through the twisting historic streets of Regensburg, navigating us to another scenic city park. The pathway took us through green gardens accented with stone statues and cascading fountains. We climbed a stone staircase and walked through a beautiful community rose garden in full bloom and later scaled an old stone lookout tower to get an incredible view of the city and Danube River. We had covered Regensburg from one end to the other but had only scratched the surface of the history, museums, and culture contained within the ancient streets. We walked along the bank of the Danube and crossed to the Lappersdorf side by way of a narrow footbridge. We were all getting hungry and Andy wanted to take us to a restaurant with an outdoor biergarten terrace he knew along the river with a view of the famous stone bridge and unforgettable skyline of Regensburg. We arrived at the Alte Linde and were able to get a table right away in the outside shade of the biergarten. The view did not disappoint. The cooler temperatures and low humidity of Bavaria make outdoor dining common and the preferred seating choice for most people. The outdoor biergarten was crowded and the interior dining area was completely empty, however, I imagine things are opposite during the winter month of January.
View from our Table at Alte Linde
Another excellent meal was presented before me consisting of sausages, bratwurst, and roasted pork accompanied by a strange yellow round ball called a rice dumpling, which was kind of sticky! And of course, sauerkraut... did I mention that I have to watch my level of sauerkraut consumption? I tried not to eat it all... but... So far, it was kind of unavoidable! Our meal in the picturesque terrace was the perfect way to end a perfect day. Wendy and I had a great time and Andy was an amazing host and tour guide. We headed back over the Stone Bridge one final time and took in the incredible views of the city and river. We navigated our way through the streets and city park to catch our train back home. The ride home was comfortable and relaxing as the need for rest began to creep in, aided by the soft hum of the train. We walked back to Andy's house and said our goodbyes until tomorrow. Time to get some rest... Tomorrow another adventure awaited for Wendy and I as we were scheduled to tour Lake Chiemsee also known as the Bavarian Sea. Stay Tuned!
Please stayed tuned for the next installment of our adventure!
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I lived in and around Regensburg 8 years (1972-1980) and return often to visit old friends. Without a doubt my favorite city on earth. If you can't find peace there you probably can't find it any where. Last September we sat in the same biergarten on the Danube and admired the Dom.ReplyDelete