Regensburg and Weltenburg Abbey

Buses, beer and boats on the Danube

One thing that we have really noticed doing this trip in the reverse direction from our 2014 trip is how much longer it seems to take to get to places. Whether that’s because we’re going slower, or going against the current, or just having bad luck with traffic at locks, I’m not really sure – possibly it’s a combination of many factors. Whatever the case, after a full morning cruising to Regensburg, we were eager to get off the boat as soon as it docked.

We were disappointed to discover the night before that we wouldn’t be arriving in Regensburg until lunchtime, as one of the highlights of our last trip was the chance discovery that the “Cathedral Sparrows” (the Regensburg Boys Choir) perform at the Regensburg Cathedral every Sunday morning at 10:00 am. Sadly, it was all over by the time we arrived in town.

The second disappointment was learning that if we wanted to do any of the tours today, it meant we wouldn’t have any time in Regensburg itself. As we were pretty keen to head off to Weltenburg Abbey, this meant that we only had about an hour between the time we docked and the time the coaches left, so Ness and I jumped ship as soon as the ropes came off the gangplank, and we made our way to the famous sausage kitchen for a quick purchase of their wonderful sweet mustard.

Inflation seems to have hit hard in the 8 years since we were here last, with the price of a bottle having risen from €1 to €2,70 in that time. We pushed our way into the shop, past all of the different cruise groups waiting for a table, and ordered a dozen bottles. We then pushed our way back past the groups and made our way to an ATM, as the sausage kitchen, despite having operated as a restaurant for over 900 years, has yet to discover the digital economy. Finally, with Euros in hand, we pushed our way back in and picked up our supplies, before making our way back to the boat.

A short time later we were on a coach and heading to the Abbey. Despite having been on the charger all night, my audio unit was showing around 2% charge, and although Vanessa had downloaded the app to her phone so that we could listen to the guide, it was flaky at best, so we decided to forgo the tour commentary entirely and wander on ahead. Actually, I decided to wander on ahead – Vanessa piked out and hopped on the geriatric bus for a ride straight to the Abbey gates.

In the meantime those of us remaining had an easy 10 minute walk, downhill along the Danube Valley, past towering cliffs of limestone, until soon we too had reached the Abbey gates.

The group then seemed to mill about for what seemed like an eternity – because we were unable to hear the guide we weren’t exactly sure what was going on. It later emerged that we were waiting for a local guide who had been booked to show us through the church, however he/she hadn’t shown up. This has been another strange phenomena we’ve had to get used to with this current tour – local Scenic guides are with us for the coach trip and to herd us all back on to the buses at the end of the day, but they hand over to other guides when we reach the actual attraction we’re visiting. I can’t say I recall that having happened on previous cruises.

So eventually we took ourselves into the church to have a look around – I think I must be the only tourist to ever visit the Abbey who DOESN’T have pictures of the inside, judging by all of the camera flashes, phones and tablets being held up in there, but in my case at least I did respect the signage.

Back outside, we joined the mass of humanity (and diggity-doggety) assembled in the courtyard for the main attraction – the dark red beer brewed by the monks. Because our tour of the church was supposed to have taken 30 minutes, we were told we’d have to wait for our table to be ready, so we spent the next 20 minutes or so patting dogs and dodging cigarette smoke outside. At least it was a beautiful sunny day.

Finally we were shown to our tables inside, where we were treated to a large pretzel with sweet mustard each, plus a glass of the local Dankel beer. We have formed a great group on the ship, mostly made up of fellow Aussies and some wonderful Canadians, with a few American couples thrown into the mix as well. Most of us have been together since Prague, and we’ve been having some great laughs over plenty of food, wine and of course, beer.

After the beers, it was time to walk the calories off with a stroll along the river to the cruise boat, pausing briefly at the obligatory flood level marker on the corner of the building.

The brochure had promised us a leisurely cruise on a small, locally operated cruise boat, back to Kelheim via the Danube Gorge, where our coach would be waiting to take us back to the ship. What they neglected to mention was that we’d be sharing that privilege with 540 other tourists, most of whom had just spent the afternoon loading up on beer, pretzels and sweet mustard.

Still, we somehow managed to squeeze on, hold our collective breaths and allow ourselves just enough arm room to take some great snapshots of the stunning scenery through the gorge.

After some time we reached Kelheim, and surprisingly the boat managed to stay upright despite the mass rush to reach the exit. Whether it be on the roads or in multiple queues indoors, one thing German people don’t seem to have much time for is the ‘zipper method’ of merging traffic. Basically, it seems instead that you push your way in front of everyone you can until you reach a point where the person in front is bigger than you and likely to do you an injury, and then you yield. That’s of course unless you are a little old lady with a handbag, and then even the biggest oaf is fair game.

Back on the bus, it was about a 40 minute trip back to Regensburg, where we rejoined the ship and sat at the bar and ordered more Dankel beers, just for old time’s sake.