Sunday, September 27, 2015

Regensburg: a Unesco World Heritage Site seen on a solo trip

Regensburg, off the beaten track in Germany, traveling solo

A wonderful city to walk the lanes and avenues, even if the sky is overcast.   Arriving by train in the morning gave me almost an entire day to become oriented to the city.   Day two I would visit many of the locations my guide, Michaela Ederer from Regensburg Marketing, suggested to me.  

Leaving Hotel Central Regensburg my tour took us down cobbled streets of shops, restaurants and apartments.    You imedaitely notice how clean and well kept German towns are.  Regensburg is a Unesco World Heritage City with most of the  the old town within this designation   I found there is far more to see than you can do in two days, plan to stay longer.

This charming bakery is the only one to supply rolls for the famous sausage restaurant we visited.
 (see below).   A steady stream of local shoppers proved it was very popular.
The spire of St Peters can be seen over the roof tops

The Cathedral of St Peter, another amazing structure that always makes me pause to think 'how was this done?"

                                                     The organ pipes are massive.

                       On a sunny day I am sure the colored glass windows are stunning.

Let them eat Cake:    I asked in each town I visited for the oldest or best known bakery or a cake that was considered 'the signature cake' for that town.   Prinzess Cafe, "Regensburg's first address for chocolates, coffee and fine pastries" as per their web site, is considered the best.

The window display gave me a hint of the treasures inside.
There was a massive display inside on chocolates and candies.  These are chocolates you select individually and carry the in a box.    The cakes were just as impressive.    

The mad hatter:   Andreas Nuslan leads the 100+ year old family company Der Hatmacher.  As we passed the colorful windows I had to stop when I saw the hat created for Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland!     
I made a second visit the next day and toured the extensive displays on two floor.    The process of making hats by hand is very intensive, hand labor.   The company web site states they are still using the old traditional 'englische Zuriche'.  "This rare technique is only possible with direct manual labour.  and only with this complicated process, which includes between 60 and 80 working steps, can the felt become strong and stable".     It would be amazing to watch a hat being created.  You can see this on the web site video.

A large selection of pins that can be added to your hat.  There were pins for almost any hobby or affiliation
My visit was just after Easter so there was a colorful array of headwear

One of the staff who kindly told me about some of the styles.    

Local Artisans:  Often a city or town will specialize in a craft or traditional arts.   Visiting artists shops often give a perspective that you won't find in a large store.   Regensburg has Kunsthandwerk Orignial.  This small shop showcases hand crafts and art work by locals.   

 I was tempted by many of the fine pieces but limited suitcase space and another 8 weeks on the road encouraged me to select a hand made wooden pen.

 SAUSAGE with sweet mustard
Not much to look at from the exterior this small waterfront stand, the historic Wurst-kuchel, was packed earlier in the day.   When I returned to try one of the sausages late in the afternoon, I was the only person there.

A shortened summary from Wikipedia gives some of the history of this well known stop for sausage:  "The Historic Sausage Kitchen of Regensburg is perhaps the oldest continuously open public cookshop in the world."  "First as a construction office for the building of the stone bridge you can view from the patio out front, it became a favorite over the centuries".   .
In addition to the walk up stand with a few inside tables, there is a more formal restaurant across the patio.   Note:  perhaps because it was the end of another long day, don't expect a chatty staff or any explanation on where your are allowed to sit.  My sausage was handed to me on a plate but I was told I could NOT take the plate to a table or to the outside stand up site.    I will need to research this before I return to try more.

The room to the left of the kitchen has tables and benches.  I did not see any wait staff.

In this tiny room two woman grill hundreds and hundreds of sausages

The secret is the sweet mustard.
I rarely eat sausage and never hot dogs so I was surprised at the first bite.


The sausage is served on a caraway flavored roll from the bakery mentioned earlier and sauerkraut.

At the end of day two I met my guide again for dinner at a traditional Germany restaurant: Weltenburger am Dom, in the center of town near the Cathedral.   This is a large restaurant and a solo diner will have no problem finding a table early in the evening.

                You can tell from our meals the portions are LARGE.   And so are the potatoes.

So Much More to See:
There are many other important sites to see  and you will find better details on any of these from tourist office in Regensburg.  The staff here were perhaps the most friendly and helpful group I have encountered in my last 2 trips to Europe.   

Some of the other places I visited:
The snuff museum:  What a fascinating history of snuff.   The original setting, tools and factory take you back in history.

World Heritage Visitor Center:  World Heritage sites are on the top of my travel list but this was the first visitors center I have seen.  It is located in the old salt warehouse at the foot of the old bridge and across from the sausage restaurant.   A large tour arrived when I did so I was unable to see much of the exhibits.  However the staff is very helpful, you will find maps of the city and other publications  NOTE:  on the first floor there are lockers you can rent and a free WC

The Palace Tour:   Thurn & Taxis Palace   I was the only English speaker on the tour but an audio tour that follows the guide is available for rent.  Yes, you miss a lot of additional information but the guide was open to any and all questions in both languages 

The church of St Emmerem next to the palace is a great photo opportunity 

St Peters Church:  If there is a tour available or if the choir is performing, try to schedule your visit to enjoy either or both.  NOTE:  the map in the church indicates a WC.  However, only the porter has access to open the door.

One of the first cities where I learned about Stumble Stones.

 Other things I would have enjoyed: 
  • crossing over the Stone Bridge to see another part of the city
  • taken any or all of the boat excursions to spots outside the city (at this time of year there were fewer available and the weather was very wet for a boat trip)  particularly to Walhalla
  • Visiting any of the countless museums
  • Visit the 'oldest' knife maker in the city
  • Tour/visit of the theater
  • The Scottish Church or Schottenkirche:  I do love those carvings
  • Visit the interior of any of the remaining towers
  • Seen by tour guide only is an underground exhibit, Document Neupgarrplatz.   Archaeological excavations from Roman times to a WWII air raid shelter
and much more

Solo dining:  In addition to the many cafes, market stands near the center square and restaurants, the large Galeria Kaufhof  department store has a top floor restaurant with an outdoor patio.  Even though the weather was not pleasant it was lovely to sit overlooking the rooftops.  (WC on this floor is free) 

The well stocked book store  Bucher Pustet  in the Old Town has a small café on the first floor where you can sit for awhile


Across from the entrance to the Palace is another museum with a lovely outdoor café.  Indoor seating also available.  WC to left of the courtyard.

EVERYTHING apparently closes on Sunday in Germany.   This requires some planning if you like to shop or need an item you did not bring with you.   I found the self service machines in one location very interesting.  In addition to coffee, drinks and some food items the machines sold toilet paper.

Juice and toilet paper
Soup as well as hot drinks 
something for a last minute meal?

My host laughed when I expressed such excitement about the policy in Regensburg to promote locations where the use of the WC is free.   No purchase is necessary to use a bar or restaurants facilities when this sign is displayed.  A donation is welcome to defray costs of added use.

This is an idea I hope will spread 

Note:  the train station is across from this massive mall, Regensburg Arcaden, if you need to replenish travel supplies.  The small information booth had a map of the city so I could find my hotel. There is also a free WC in the mall and lots of fast food outlets to pick up a sandwich for the train trip.  The mall closes earlier than USA malls, I believe 7 or 8 pm and it may also be closed on Sundays.

I want to thank Regensburg Marketing for hosting my trip and sharing their wonderful city with me.  my tour guide was kind and very accommodating to answer my countless questions about solo travel is this city.  
The opinions are my own and all the photos are the property of Mature Solo Travel.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Wiesbaden Germany: off the beaten track solo

Wiesbaden, Germany:   off the beaten track
 on a 14 day adventure for a solo traveler

The old building is reflected in the newer architecture

Arriving late in the day and taking a taxi to the boutique hotel Klemm a delightful oasis close to the center of town, I had to wait until the next day to take any photos of Wiesbaden. 

I had a lovely dinner with my hostess Ms Yvonne Skala in a typical (as I view it) German restaurant and tried a famous dish, which was potatoes!   Each town I visited on this epic journey was unique and I tried to experience whatever was 'famous' in each city.

Next day I had a fact filled adventure with my tour guide, Mr.Patrick Walz, a scholar with a staggering knowledge of history.  He also made the tour fun with antidotes and answers to my many questions on life in Wiesbaden.   Every professional I met on this trip had an endless knowledge of German history and today my guide was perhaps the most impressive.   Besides history, Patrick  ex-
plained major events that  impacted Europe as well as Germany.

First stop was the hot springs.   At night this park had a mist rising.

Marktkirche:   Market Church) is the main Protestant church in Wiesbaden.   The square in front of the cathedral holds a farmers market with local products.   Markets are always an easy place for solo travelers to meet locals and sample some of the local life.

Wiesbauden has a mini tourist train that takes you around the city.   I would not normally take this type of tour but our next stop was high over the city and on the way up there was a commentary. German since I was the only English speaker.   Winding through the residential area I had an opportunity to see the architecture for private homes.  We alighted the train at the Russian Orthodox church set in a wooded park.

                    The Russian Orthodox church on Neroberg with its five golden domes

No photos were allowed in the interior and I was surprised at the compact size.   Stone and wood carvings embellished the interior.  There were no tIt would be interesting to attend a service here if allowed.
There is an old cemetery behind the church that looked interesting.
As we left the church there was a sign explaining you could ask the caretaker, who was selling religious icons near the door, for the key.   This will be added to my list for a return visit.

Maps of the paths for hikes (not walks) through the park

There are many paths and lanes throughout the woods and we ascended the hill to the top of Mount Neroberg hill for lunch at Opelbad.   The terrace restaurant gave us a wonderful view of the city below.

          It was a long way down to the bus stop or a quick hop on the oldest water powered train,
 The Neroberg Mountain Railway.  Patrick arranged for us to ride in the front with the driver and although the process was explained to me twice, I had to look up the details!

                            Patrick told me the story of the street artist who wrote scripture on sign posts 
                         every day.  He had become something of a legend.

The Kurhaus is one of the cultural centers of Wiesbaden.   This large complex houses the state theater, a casino, restaurant and conference facilities.  The massive park and lake surrounding the building offers an oasis in the center of the city.

Wiesbaden is also a spa town although I did not 'sample' any of these services.

And a final treat for the day was a stop at a well know cake shop,Cafe Maldaner.  The traditional coffee shop is one  is very large.  The first room displays the endless cakes and individual pastries.   There are tables for 2 or 4 set close together.  A perfect place for a coffee and cake.  I could envision enjoying a pleasant hour enjoying a book while sipping your tea or coffee.

There is a second room that is more ornate with upolstered chairs and banquets.   This room is suitable for quiet meeting or perhaps a small celebratory cake and coffee event.

                                                             Let us eat cake!

The photos above are the property of Mature Solo Travel.  I am very thankful for  the wonderful two days Wiesbaden marketing arranged for me.