BAVARIA, Germany 

  Debra's Diary June, 2009 ~ This 'Footloose' was an opportunity for me to reminisce about my youth because we were driving to Bavaria, so I persuaded Dave to stop off in Bonn on the way.  I lived and worked in Bonn in the '70's, and I had a hankering to go back.  I'm not sure that's always a good idea; we stayed in Mehlem, beside the Rhine in the shadow of the Drachenburg - so familiar to me - and went looking for my old 'haunts'.  I discovered that Bonn-Bad Godesberg had changed almost out of all recognition - the Embassy I worked in as an archivisit/cryptographer was gone; so too was the British Embassy where my sister worked for 18 years.  Gone, vanished.  I got talking to an elderly German lady in Mehlem, and together we reminisced about the good times, when Bonn was the capital of West Germany, and she seemed pleased to find someone who remembered.  It rained all day in Bonn, so we just carried on down the autobahn to Regensberg.  

We started our walk in Kallmunz, a pretty, traditional town that sits on the river Naab, beneath its own medieval castle ruin.  We met Bernhard, a charming local amateur historian with a distinct sense of humour, who is also an actor and artistic director for a theatre that performs inside another ruined castle!  He walked with us up to the Kallmunz castle, bringing with him the keys to the tower, which gave us some great views of where we were walking to.  The walk was not difficult, and we found most of our five castle ruins easily, looking for the cute little knight figure that is nailed to the trees or stuck on various obvious surfaces in the villages.  It's a landscape with a lot of history, and I particularly enjoyed the intact pocket castle Wolfsegg.  It reminded me of another one on the Moselle - Burg Elz - but that's another story!  I always feel that if you sit quietly in a corner of these places, a real sense of its history comes through - if you close your eyes you can almost hear those cooking pots rattling; or the clanking of metal in the Knights' chamber.  I always did have a good imagination!

Walking in Germany is always a pleasure and because it wasn't school holidays, we mostly had the countryside to ourselves.  I was impressed with the amount of cycle trails, and even more with the numbers of older people pedalling away.  The walk beside the Danube was more structured, with proper paths, and as we neared the city, the foot and pedal traffic became heavier.  The first glimpse of the twin towers of the Dom is inviting, because you know it isn't that far.  We reached the Roman gates of the city and ended the walk there, mainly because it was getting late, but it was the start of the city walk which was of necessity going to be quite different.

I knew Bavaria was an ancient kingdom, and I was prepared for medieval relics, but I completely forgot that Regensberg is far older than the Middle Ages.  The Roman remains were such a bonus; and the former Forester Rheinhold was an entertaining and informative guide, displaying the distinctive Bavarian sense of humour.  He clearly loves his job, and really wanted us to learn as much as we could about his city.  Olivia also, felt a very strong attachment to Regensberg; she came from the Canaries and never went home again! I understood what she meant when she said she felt that 'the walls can tell you stories' - the atmosphere in Regensberg felt calm and confident, as if it had nothing to prove.  The centuries of being an imperial free city, of all that debating and negotiating and diplomacy seem to have seeped into the walls.  I really enjoyed the Snuff Museum - the smells were so alien.  So many words to describe this one sense - there were pleasant aromas, a strong stench in one part, almost a stink in another room! And in the last room, definitely more of a fragrance or a scent - how can one product produce all these variations? I wasn't sure about taking snuff - I was nervous I was going to completely fluff it and get it all over my nose, face and end up choking!  I opted for the menthol one, with no nicotine, and felt rather uncomfortable having this white powder on the side of my thumb and then sniffing it!  But my goodness, it certainly cleared the old nasal cavities! It was amazing - but I dread to think what kind of 'hit' the snuff takers of old got from the nicotine laden mixes.  Our guide Elle was very knowledgeable, but that's not surprising when you discover that her grandfather worked there, and she used to come as a child.

In this programme, all we seemed to do was eat!  The chocolates were delicious, and I hope everyone noted that I restrained myself and did not buy a sackful!  The dampfnudeln were another matter - I was quite sure they would be stodgy and difficult to digest - how wrong can you be? So light and delicious that we actually had a plate each, and Uli was very funny.  He does speak English, but was shy to do it on camera.  He nattered away to us off-camera, and when he couldn't think of the word he wanted in English, he just shouted out to his customers to supply it for him.  A real character, and one we almost didn't get to meet - all of us - Olivia, Uli and Dave and I - completely forgot that the day we arranged to film him was Corpus Christi and therefore a holiday.  We turned up at the Turm to find it shuttered and barred, and we thought that perhaps he'd changed his mind, as has happened in the past!  But no, he was up for it, and even gave us a cd of him singing his own composition with a local band.  And of course, we had to sample the famous Regensberg skinny sausages at the oldest 'kitchen' in the city - and you can't have those without the local beer, now can you?  You also can't film a beer garden without partaking of the cuisine or the brew - it would be rude.  So perhaps we should have done it the other way round - walked the castles trail after visiting the city, to walk off those extra pounds! Our side trip to Walhalla was interesting if slightly surreal - it's a massive, very grandiose structure on the side of the hill - another of Ludwig II's extravagances.  It is dedicated to commemorating famous Germans throughout history.  Be warned that the cruiser leaves you there, there are no facilities and there isn't anything else to do but visit the building and it's quite a climb up the cliff.  Lovely views of the Danube though.

You can't visit Bavaria without going to Königswinkel; it's de rigeur to visit Neuschwanstein, after all.  But goodness, it was SO busy.  There are some wonderful walking trails in the foothills of the Alps there, but everyone seemed to be congregated around the tourist town between the two castles. Bernhard did warn us, but the weather was so superb it felt like the whole world had come.  I was frankly terrified of the Marienbrücke - not only was it spanning a sheer drop, but it was quite narrow and people just kept coming onto it; it was an absolute scrum and still people were crowding on.  I had my fingers crossed the whole time Dave was on it - 'elf and safety would have had a fit! But it's a magical place, no doubt about it, and being a royal seat, reminds you that Germany had two royal houses and was not a unified country before the First World War.

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