Regensburg – a medieval marvel

Sometimes the most unplanned trips turn out to be the best trips. 

We’d had Regensburg on our bucket list of German cities to visit but hadn’t gotten around to it. As fate would have it, we had to plan a trip to the city for a work-related visit. So we set off on a lovely sunny evening with blue skies. It’s a short drive to Regensburg from Ulm and we made it there while the sun was still shining bright.

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First order of business was food. There’s a TON of options for delicious food in Regensburg. Our restaurant selections are generally driven by the beer variety. And, we were so pleased to discover that Regensburg has a ton of spots for good beer as well, including some very cool craft beer bars.

While you are in Regensburg, you should definitely visit the Wurstkuchl, the oldest sausage kitchen in the world.

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The smell of grilled sausages wafting through the air will have you drooling instantly
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Add a pint of the delicious Jacob’s Weissbier and you’ll be transported to heaven

If you prefer a quick bite, they have a takeaway corner outside. There’s usually a long line but don’t be deterred as it moves quickly and we promise you the sausages are worth the wait! Wurstkuchl was established in the 12th century as a small canteen of sorts primarily for dockers and masons working on the city’s renowned Stone Bridge.

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This is just a view of half of the Stone bridge, the other half is currently under rennovation

This old Stone Bridge over the Danube river was built in the 12th century and is one of the oldest bridges in Germany. Although the Steinerne Brücke goes thru regular renovation and restoration, much of the old stones are still holding up the bridge. The bridge is always packed with locals just trying to get to the other side of the city and tourists flocking to admire the old bridge and to get the best views of the city.

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A view of the old town area from the Stone Bridge
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Colorful buildings at the Stadtamhof, on the other side of the Stone Bridge

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The river banks are usually crowded with people picnicking with friends and family. Some get their hookahs and beers and enjoy the views of the beautiful Danube flowing thru the city. It was such a pleasant sight to watch children running around, people basking in the sunshine and enjoying a little siesta.

Regensburg is situated at the confluence of three rivers – Danube, Regen (possibly what the city was named after, joins the Danube from the north) and Naab (joins the Danube from the northwest). It’s amazing to see this confluence and the Danube splitting into little streams through the city and then merging back to flow as one mighty river. The best way to experience the beauty of Regensburg is to take a boat ride.

You have a whole range of options to tour the gorgeous waters of the Danube. We took the Strudelrundfahrt, a one-hour boat ride along the Danube where you can enjoy the sights of the old town and the pristine scenery of Regensburg.

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The towering spires of the Regensburg Cathedral in the distance
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A little castle in the old town area
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The Danube keeps splitting like this and rejoining
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You also have the option to hop on one of these cruise boats that take you on a longer tour over the Danube lasting a few days

The Danube cruises are world-renowned and is a very popular activity with tourists looking to explore Germany and its neighboring countries. It definitely seems like a fun, relaxing mode of travel if you’re not someone who gets sick on the water. Most rooms have a lovely little sit-out and the rooms and the inside of the boat itself seem quite cozy and comfortable. One of our family members did the Danube cruise which started from Passau (which by the way is a lot like Regensburg with a confluence of three rivers as well) and traveled through Austria and Eastern Europe.

The old town area of Regensburg is filled with a whole bunch of historical sights, and pretty little cafes and biergartens tucked into cobblestoned alleys. There are a number of churches as well. Of course, the most visited one is the Regensburger Dom.

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The Regensburger Dom or St. Peter’s Cathedral is possibly one of the most visited sights in the city. Built in the 13th century, its imposing twin towers and gothic style is simply remarkable.

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The front view is similar to that of the Kölner Dom (Cologne Cathedral)
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And this side view where the two towers merge to look like one makes the cathedral look a lot like the Ulm cathedral, the tallest church in the world

With the Danube flowing through the city and its medieval cathedral, Regensburg reminded us of Ulm in so many ways. It is just a bigger Bavarian Ulm with a lot more restaurants, cool bars, and a stronger craft beer presence.

The craft beer culture in Regensburg is simply impressive! They have an annual craft beer festival that happens sometime around May. We were just lucky that the dates of the beer fest coincided with the dates of our visit. It was just an amazing stroke of beerluck!  If you are a beer enthusiast visiting Regensburg around spring/early summer, plan your visit around the craft beer fest dates – you won’t be disappointed! Click here to read about our adventures in the craft beer festival and our recommendations for great beer haunts in Regensburg.

There’s a ton of things to do in Regensburg but we were there for a short couple of days and spent a lot of our time at the craft beer festival. When we were not at the beer fest, we were walking through the little lanes of the Altstdadt or old town area. It’s such a gorgeous little city with plenty of beautiful old buildings. You will find remnants of its rich history all around the old town.

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Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall) – popular for its torture chamber
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Cosy little lanes with colorful old buildings adorn the Altstadt
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The Goliathhaus has stood strong since the 13 century!
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What you see here is remains of the Roman fortress, Portra Praetoria / Castra Regina dating back to 179 AD !

One of the other impressive churches in the old town area is the Alte Kapelle or Old Chapel. The exterior of this church is quite simple and unimpressive compared to its rich, stunning interiors.

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This ancient little town with its 2000 year old history has much to offer. It wasn’t so surprising when we found out that it was the first capital of Bavaria.

Regensburg is one of Bavaria’s most beautiful cities and is well worth a visit if you are traveling through south Germany. We’re absolutely thrilled to have visited this city and will fondly cherish our memories of this place and the amazing people we met here.

Passau – a city of three rivers

Passau is one of those charming little German towns that fills you with an unbelievable sense of joy. We were in Passau for just a day but in this short stay, we made some beautiful memories especially because we explored the city with family whom we hadn’t seen in years.

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Artists’ Alley

Walking thru painted little cobble-stoned streets hand in hand on a cold autumn day, sipping some delicious Glühwein, admiring the lovely handcrafted wares in the little stores, visiting the most beautiful churches, walking by the river at dusk watching the boats sail away and the city light up, and of course hitting the local breweries is how we spent our short stay in Passau.

Passau is more commonly known as the city of three rivers, the Dreiflüssestadt. The Danube (second largest river in Germany) meets the Inn and the Ilz rivers at Passau. Each of the rivers appear to be in different colors in an aerial view – the Danube being blue, the Inn green, and the Ilz black-ish. The city is popular for its Danube river cruises and you will see a whole bunch of boats docked in the promenade. In fact, we were visiting Passau only to meet with family who was taking one of these river cruises which start here in Passau and go thru Austria and Eastern Europe. These boats look pretty neat and cosy on the inside!

The city is surrounded by lots and lots of water and you’ll find yourself walking by the river thru most of the city. Unfortunately, this also led to some really bad floods in the area. The worst one was over 500 years ago but then the recent one in 2013 was almost as bad. The flood levels are actually marked on one of the old town hall walls.

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Most of the boats are docked at the Fritz Schäffer Promenade

Apart from the rivers and its cruises, the city is also known for having the largest cathedral organ in the world. The St. Stephen’s Cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches in Germany and the huge pipe organ to its collection makes it all the more spectacular. It is said to have 17,774 pipes!!! Organ concerts take place in summer and we hope to attend one of these someday. The interior of the church is done up in baroque style and the paintings & sculptures are simply exquisite – some of them depict fairly morbid scenes and yet weirdly you feel at peace looking at them.

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Organ at St.Stephen’s Cathedral
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Baroque art at St. Stephan’s Cathedral

We were in Passau a couple of days before the Christmas Market and the stalls and decorations were still underway but we enjoyed some of their delicious Glühwein or mulled wine which is generally available during Christmas time.

Of course, we were eager to explore their local brews as well and were not disappointed despite it being your typical German brews. The dunkel (dark) lager we had at the Brauerei Hacklberg was pretty decent compared to the dark lagers we’d been drinking across most of Germany. The food at this brewery was phenomenal – one of the best meals I have eaten in my year-long stay in Germany. A visit to this brewery is definitely worth it.

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Ancient Battle Horn at the Peschl Terrasse

We also visited the Peschl Terrasse which serves the Aldersbach beer. We had the Aldersbacker Kloster Dunkel (dark lager) and the Aldersbacker Kloster Weisse Dunkel (dark wheat beer) and the dark wheat beer was quite nice.

We unfortunately could not visit the Aldersbacher brewery itself as it was quite a ride away from the city. The brewery was established in 13th century and had some bocks on its list and seemed to be into craft brewing as well. Something to do on our future visit to Passau along with a visit to a few of the other breweries in this little city.

There’s a bunch of other things we couldn’t do like visit the Veste Oberhaus, a 13th century fortress. The views from here are apparently pretty amazing. There is a bus that takes you up to the fort but we were visiting during off-season and this bus was not running. We would have done the 30-minute hike uphill but the weather was pretty nasty with heavy rainfall.

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This quaint, picturesque city has plenty of stuff to do and it deserves more than an overnight stay and we definitely plan on visiting the city again, hopefully soon!

Prague – an old-world charm

Prague is this dreamy, old-ish, culturally-rich, architectural wonder of a city that you’d ache to go back to for more…

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We visited Prague during Easter and the city was beautifully decorated, especially the city centre or Old Town Square where they had the Easter markets. Majority of the stalls were filled with gorgeous Easter eggs (with unbelievably intricate designs) and other exceptionally handcrafted decorative items. Some stalls also sold some mouth-watering local delicacies. Traditional song and dance shows were also part of the festivities.

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Trdelnik – a local pastry – grilled and tossed in some cinnamon sugar
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The bustling Prague Old Town Square

The Old Town Square is the heart of Prague. The church you see in the background with its twin distinctive Gothic spires is the Church of Our Lady Before Týn. Prague is filled with churches and lovely, old buildings that are all adorned with some or the other piece of art.

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You’ll see horse-drawn carriages and vintage cars lined up to take you around the city.

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The square is also filled with lovely restaurants serving local beer and food. Prague is known for its beer and you’ll find loads of good beer everywhere…

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Where are my hoppy ales!?

We craved for ales in a city known for its pils and lagers. But, like they say, ask and you shall receive.. we did some quick research and found a neat little place which was swarming with hopheads like us. The Prague Beer Museum has some really good ales and some very unique lagers. Prague made us very happy that evening. Through the Old Town, you will also find little cafes or bars playing live music – we especially enjoyed the blues scene the city had to offer. We visited Jazz Republic – a cosy live music club where the Alice Springs Blues Quartet was playing that evening. These guys put on a great show – this is one of our cherished moments from our trip.

The Square also features the renowned Astronomical Clock which is part of the Old Town Hall. Every hour, crowds gather to watch the clock in action. The four figures beside the clock represent Vanity (with the mirror), Greed (with his money bag), Death (the skeleton), and Pagan Invasion (represented by a Turk). On the hour, Death rings a bell and inverts his hourglass and the twelve apostles parade past the windows above the clock. It’s a pretty sight. Not as beautiful a parade put up by as the Munich Glockenspiel but still a good one to stop for.

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We spent a lot of the day just walking around the old town area exploring the hidden alleys which were filled with little treasures.

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In a store window

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Another hugely famous landmark in Prague is the Charles Bridge – definitely worth a visit despite the insane crowds.

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If you are determined to see the full bridge in its true splendor instead of a crammed bridge with hundreds of people, you should muster the will to stay up thru the night or rise and shine in the wee hours to catch the breath-taking view at dawn. Well, laziness and sleep got the better of us and we went to see the bridge at dusk. It was packed with hundreds of visitors and locals just using the bridge to cross over from the Old Town to the Mala Strana. It was a beautiful sight nonetheless.

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The bridge was filled with caricature artists and folks selling junk jewellery

The views from both sides of the bridge are absolutely gorgeous! You get a wonderful view of the Prague Castle and the St. Vitus’ Cathedral which is the most popular side of the bridge while the other side presents a pretty picture of the city in the backdrop of the Vltava river.

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View of the Prague castle district from the Charles Bridge

The best way to experience the beauty of this charming city is to do a boat tour sipping on some delicious chilled beer.

The next day, we visited the St. Vitus Cathedral . The cathedral is in the Prague Castle area (or Pražský Hrad). It is magnificent, both on the inside and outside. The stained glass windows have wonderfully depicted scenes with a beautiful fusion of colors. The walls on the inside of the Cathedral as well showcase intricate paintings from a bygone era.

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 The Prague Castle area also features the Golden Lane – a wonderful little street filled with modest, little houses that used to be inhabited by the workers at the castle – goldsmiths, blacksmiths etc. One of the houses has been converted into a little museum of sorts displaying ancient torture tools.

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The Rack – no escaping this mean machine
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If you can’t get them with a bullet, slice them.

One of the houses in the Golden Lane was briefly occupied by Franz Kafka, a well-known German writer born into a German-speaking Jewish family in Prague. The city views from all around the castle area are simply beautiful and it was a day well-spent and definitely worth the steep climb.

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At the Jewish Quarter

Our next stop was the Prague Jewish Town. A visit to the Old Jewish Cemetery leaves you feeling melancholic especially when you see the graves of the little ones.

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The cemetery is piled with 12000 tombstones, most buried on top of one another due to the lack of space.

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The Spanish Synagogue

The Prague Jewish Quarter also has a bunch of beautiful synagogues – the notable ones are the Spanish Synagogue with a remarkable interior design and the Pinkas Synagogue which was turned into a memorial to the ~80,000 victims of the Shoah (or Holocaust). The names of all these victims are inscribed on the walls of the synagogue. The synagogue also has a permanent exhibition of pictures drawn by the children in the concentration camp. Some of these pictures will make you smile but some of these will also make you cry thinking of the shattered dreams and tortured lives of these young children.

Prague is an amazing city that is wondrously rich with history and culture – you simply cannot stop exploring all that the city has to offer. We left knowing that we will surely go back someday to soak in more of this incredible place.