So this was the moment we’d been waiting for: someone else was going to lug around our luggage!
I know, I know. How can that even be a deal? You just heft that overstuffed carry-on in and out of the car, up and down stairs, loft it up to the bin on the airplane. Nothing to it. Except if, between two of you, there is a collective deficit of age, bad back, bad feet, bad shoulders, it becomes a deal. Which is how we ended up on this tour in the first place.
We could sit at home and roll our eyes at how we’d never be part of a group tour, or we could swallow our pride and end up on the Danube. And so, here we were in Prague on a fine fall morning, gazing hopefully at our hotel room door, waiting for someone to knock. And because this was Tauck, the knock came exactly when they said it would. Off went our bags, and we headed downstairs to the bus.
The bus. Yes. Oh, how far we’ve fallen. Remember those stories about how people used to hitch-hike through Europe in the 60’s? Yeah, well, those people are old now. Pride swallowed? Check. And as for the bus, they don’t even call it that. They call it a coach. Like we’re in a fairy tale or something. And as we board, we see why. It’s sleek, it’s spacious, it has phone chargers by every seat, and you’re riding high enough to sit back, relax and look out and survey your kingdom.
One last look at the Vltava:
and we were off on our three-hour drive from Prague to our destination of Regensburg, Germany. Our guide from the tour the day before in Prague accompanied us on the bus, and as we left the city, she pointed out the vast landscape of socialist bloc apartment buildings from the ’60’s, ’70’s and ’80’s. They were prefab concrete, of “Soviet design”. The Czech people call them “rabbit hutches”, she said. “Everything was gray”, she remembered of the era under Communist rule.
But soon everything became green as we departed the city and headed southwest through the countryside toward Regensburg. I didn’t mind the coach. The ride was smooth enough to read, or you could look out the window and take in the scenery. As our guide pointed out the site of the seventeenth century Battle of White Mountain, I settled in and thought there might be worse things than riding in a tour coach.
And there are far worse places than Regensburg. As we alit from our coach and walked across the Steinerne Brücke (Stone Bridge) I could tell this Bavarian town was going on my “places I would go back to” list. It was lovely! Like a fairy tale!
We were on our own for lunch and fell in with a couple we’d sat with at dinner the first night of the tour. (What? Were we actually talking to people?) Laura and Jerry were also from California and over a convivial lunch together on the terrace of Bischofshof am Dom, we discovered those proverbial six degrees of separation and all the places and people we had in common. We toured the village and the imposing Regensburg Cathedral together before joining back up with the tour and our knowledgable new day guide, who had lived all her life in Regensburg.
Lunch on the terrace:
Our sweet new friend Laura:
St. Peter’s Cathedral:
Our guide explained that the town of Regensburg dates back to 179 A.D. when it was originally a Roman military camp housing 6,000 soldiers. After the Stone Bridge was built in the 1100’s, Regensburg became the cultural center of southern Germany. In modern history, the town escaped serious damage during WWII and the nearly intact medieval city center is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After the war, Regensburg was the site of the largest Displaced persons (DP) camp in Germany, and, notably, was briefly the home of WWII legend Oskar Schindler. It was, she said, the closest city to the Iron Curtain during the era of Communism.
The town bustled with happy tourists and we would like to have stayed longer, but like Cinderella, we had to mind the clock and return to our coach or risk turning into pumpkins. Our guide led us down the main street, past the fanciful 13th century David and Goliath wall mural and back over the Stone Bridge to where our buses awaited.
But our fairy tale day was not yet at an end. We clambered aboard our coach and began the last leg of our drive: an hour’s trip to Vilshofen an der Danau where we would trade our coach for a boat and our river journey would officially begin. Soon we would be cruising the Danube!