Cruising through Germany on the Danube & Rhine

May 19, 2009 by


Editor’s Note: This is another in the series of Jodi Rose’s adventures in a barge along the Danube.

The small town of Regensburg in southern Germanyg was a revelation. We docked there at sunset, next to a butcher selling the region’s famous wurst, then strolled through the winding narrow streets to the magnificent cathedral, which is apparently the prime example of Gothic architecture in southern Germany. We could only admire the exterior, as we stopped for a late-afternoon ice cream across the square, and watched as the last visitors straggled out and the door slammed shut.

The stone bridge in Regensburg

The stone bridge in Regensburg

Walking aimlessly through the centre of Regensburg, every corner revealed another beautiful street, and being a student town it is bustling with life and energy. I have also never seen so many people out in traditional dress as their day-wear, many of the girls wore wench dresses and the lads in lederhosen were even out clubbing at some of the night spots we visited. I believe this was some kind of pre-Oktoberfest celebration, although it wouldn’t surprise me to learn it was normal for the Bavarian ambiance. The town has applied to be recognised as an historic medieval city, as it is ‘the only preserved medieval metropolis in Germany that is also still functioning as an urban entity.’

Beer, Wurst & Water Hockey in Regensburg

Facade of the cathedral in Regensburg

Facade of the cathedral in Regensburg

Wandering across the green iron footbridge, we discover a charming and relatively quiet beer garden, which it turns out is – or at least claims to be – the oldest guesthouse in town. I can certainly vouch for the quality of the beer, with a slight cinnamon flavour, and the plates of wurst looked totally delicious, and enough to feed an army of starving scholars. Strolling along the river banks towards the gorgeous ancient stone bridge, we seem to have stumbled onto the most popular activity in town.

Both sides of the river are teeming with young couples and groups of students, people sitting gossiping or reading alone, and one particularly foolhardy bunch who were playing water hockey in their canoes at the point where the stream going under the bridge flows strongest, as it wraps around the stone pylons. Simply called the stone bridge, this is the oldest functioning bridge over the Danube, and the oldest in Germany – building started in 1136 and it’s still standing!

One of the most magnificent bridges I have ever seen, and believe me, I’ve seen a few (and heard them too) with sweeping stone arches, lit up with a golden glow from the sunset, and a solid sense of victory over time, water and space.

An evening out in Regensburg

The evening’s entertainment begins at Heimat, close to the end of the stone bridge, a small bar with an eclectic program of live performances. The night we arrive to see Der Tante Renate, a hilarious electro-pop act from Hamburg, one man wielding an array of 8-bit laser-sound-toys and synthesisers to great effect, making us dance and laugh in equal measure. One of the local DJs we get chatting to at the bar directs us to Suite 15, as alternative club downstairs in a parking station, a 15-minute walk through town.

Just another night at Heimat

Just another night at Heimat

We head to the main square and ask people randomly, eventually finding out way past the more commercial venues – Susie Wong and other lounge bars – and down into the basement of the parking lot. After paying the 3 euro cover charge, we find ourselves dancing the night away to classic ’50s rock ‘n’ roll and swing in the smaller back room, and then more contemporary indie rock in the main space. People are friendly, and I noticed a few young women out clubbing in their traditional Bavarian dresses, a nice blend of the old world and new.

Cruising through Frankfurt, Mainz

Floating through Frankfurt, we missed Robert Johnson, the minimal techno club at Offenbach, recommended by a Berlin friend who knows these things. Described as ‘electronic music clubbing in its purest form… it is no-frills, grassroots, genuine and above-all, minimal’. If you’re in the area, pay him a visit!

Moving onto Mainz, one of the oldest cities in Germany, founded in 13 BC by the Romans, in a stunning location on the Rhine. The other claimant to this title is Worms, a few miles further along the river, although I only dropped in there for a few hours, I found Mainz more interesting. My first love in the town is Weschel Darkside Store, where I found my fingerless pirate gloves, an essential item in any punk gothic diva’s wardrobe. Outfits supplied for all the goth and punk kids who collected by the river in the evening to enact pagan rituals and celebrate the weekend.

Finding your way into the old part of town is easy, just follow the stream of people heading into the ever-narrowing streets, and marvel at what I’m sure are some extremely significant buildings, with wine bars, cafes and boutiques throughout the romantic Rococo facades and Baroque houses. I need a Viator tour there to inform me! Johannes Gutenberg, inventor of the modern movable-type printing press, was born and died here, while the city is famous for its carnival and parade.

An evening out in Mainz

The first night, we have a pre-dinner drink at one of the cozy traditional-looking bars on the corner of the main street into the old town, the one with a big tree in the square, opposite an Italian restaurant and ice-cream bar. We continue on to the Weinstube Bacchus (Jakobsbergstraße 7), recommended by a local friend, specialising in marvellous French cuisine, the Boeuf Bourgogne was a favourite with my French companions, and I heartily recommend the desserts. The rich gooey chocolate decadence, or tingly sweet profiteroles were both amazing,while the main courses were stunningly cooked with authentic French provincial flavours.

After dinner, wander round the corner to the Arabic smoking lounge, or along the curving road away from the old town towards the Red Cat nightclub, a super-crowded basement packed with young hipsters and playing various music from punk to electrofunk to hip hop and postmodern indie alternative on different nights. This took me back with a blast to high-school disco nostalgia, extremely crowded, low-ceiling cellar dance-floor, with a young pushy crowd who kept moving between rooms in a steady stream of elbows and stomping feet.

Bulldozer ballet in Mainz

The next morning, I discover a man doing ballet with a bulldozer in the square near the river, part of a theatre festival taking place in the old red brick factory building nearby. I ducked into the courtyard for what turned out to be the highlight of my stay, a French theatre company doing one-person performances in tiny caravans. I choose ‘The Little Match Girl’, and have a magical experience with this told in cabaret-style by the wonderful performer, using vinyl 7″ records for the soundtrack and a ’50s television as the set, she created a completely immersive fairy-tale.

The railway bridge at the end of the marina is the location of my dream-home, a princess tower built into the pylons. The trains rattle past every few minutes, the graffiti along the metal struts and constant pedestrian and bicycle traffic along the wooden walkway bears witness to the contemporary relevance of this bridge.

I am surprised by the mix of contemporary and traditional culture available here, there is a lively theatre scene, and even a sound-art performance, offering many alternatives to the state theatre and other cultural events, and will definitely be back for more of the particular Mainz ambience when I’m in the area.

Jodi Rose

Planning a trip? Browse Viator’s Germany tours & things to do in Germany, from Rhine River tours that include Mainz to things to do in Munich. If you’re a German speaker check out Viator’s Deutschland Touren. You speak French? You will prefer activités en Allemagne. And the Spanish, please let’s not forget the Spanish. Your link is Alemania tours.


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