Last Friday my teammate of three years, Tammy Henrich, celebrated her thirty-wonderful birthday. I always appreciate the fact that she attains a newly esteemed age a couple of weeks before I follow suit. It gives me something to hold over her head that I can smile about. This year her birthday fell in the midst of a long weekend. The 28th of October is the day that the country of Czechoslovakia was created in 1918. Rather amusing that this day remains a holiday, despite the fact that it represents a country that no longer exists. Both the Czech Republic and Slovakia celebrate the day, however, and so we had an extra long weekend as it coincided with this year's Fall Break as well. So Tammy decided that in order to truly celebrate the monumental occasion of her birth we should leave the country.
For the past couple of years friends of mine have been singing the praises of the city of Regensburg, Germany. They said that it was rather like visiting a smaller version of Prague. It made me curious, but the opportunity to go there had never presented itself before. Therefore, Tammy, Kathryn and I headed out bright and early on Friday morning to check it out.
Before we could depart, however, we were all in need of Euros. While not being under the Euro system means that things here are generally cheaper than they might otherwise be, it does pose a small problem when traveling. Fortunately, I've found a nice little exchange booth with a friendly grandfatherly-like proprietor. I'd checked the times, and saw that it would be open at 8 which should just give time for us to make our exchange before rushing the rest of the way through town to catch our 8:22 train to Marktredwitz. Things were going all right in the beginning Kathryn and I approached the hole in the wall business shortly before 8, encouraged that the sign was already set up outside, only to watch the man step out, re-lock the door, and saunter slowly into Billa, the nearby grocery store. Had I been thinking, the logical thing would have been to call out to him somehow, requesting a quick audience before he went in search of something for breakfast. Instead, we stood, slack jawed, and watched him walk away.
The night before this venture, while having pizza with Mark, I'd talked to Tammy about the prospect of doing our fund exchange and then catching the train. It had all seemed totally doable at the time. I'd given a "piece of cake" type of reply, and figured there had been no lie told. As soon as I hung up, Mark, always the practical - or should I say pessimistic - one, pointed out that there are worst case scenarios that must be taken into account. For example, there could be a long line of German tourists ahead of us in search of Czech Koruns. There could be a money shortage, or the transaction could take 12 minutes per person. I'd shaken my head at him, insisting that I really did know what I was talking about. And then I just watched the man walk away.
As Kathryn and I stood there, the minutes slowly ticking away, our eyes inspecting each person who exited the grocery store, and our chances of making the train rapidly decreasing we began to envision what was likely happening inside the supermarket. It went something like this: Every day Miroslav (or insert whatever other common Czech name you wish) went to Billa to pick up a tasty snack to nibble on before things got really hectic inside the exchange booth. His choice was never hard to make. He knew what he liked. He got what he liked: a couple of fresh rohliks, six precut slices of eidam cheese, a package of ham, and a Jonagold apple. It was predictable, and the very predictability of it brought him comfort. With the ever changing rates of exchange, it was nice to have something that wouldn't change. But today...today there was something in the wind. He was thinking of all the construction being done on the street in front of his shop. He was thinking of the the way the sky was turning so gray and dull. He was worried that another early snow, combined with the cumbersome construction, might decrease the number of people coming to Cheb for sight seeing purposes. Suddenly, his eyes wavered in the baked goods section. He was confronted by piles of rolls with various ingredients baked right in. There were sunflower seeds, grains, cheese, even chocolate erupting from these little goodies. The thought of his plain rohliks sickened him a little. There was so much he had been missing. And it was all right here. All within the reach of his hands. And beyond that he glimpsed trays of cheese in varying hues, not to mention the sausages and packets of salami. He'd never even realized that apples came in more than the red blushed green Jonagold form. The fact that it was now 5 minutes past 8 and his hours stated he would be open at 8 no longer had any sway over him. He had choices to make. Choices galore....
At about ten past 8, just as Kathryn and I were beginning to think we'd be better off just withdrawing money once we crossed the border, the man did reappear. He strolled along, watching the tractors at work tearing up the walkways, and slowly approached us. Upon seeing us standing there, clearly waiting for him, he smiled cheerfully and greeted us. It was hard to be irritated with this jovial Czech, especially when you see so few of them in the customer service profession. We labored through the general explanations that we don't really speak Czech or German. Having worked with him before, I really wanted to continue being as friendly as possible, even though time was definitely shoving me along. As he typed in the conversion for me I wondered if he'd always been so slow. Eventually he did get us our money, after having to borrow Euro change for me in order to work it all out. He then requested if he could buy more change from me, but we really did have to be moving.
I've never been a runner, let the record state. With the exception of the few years I attempted to run the 100 meter dash in grade school, I've long known that running was not my calling. We won't even go into the years of sports induced asthma. But today, running was definitely called for. Kathryn and I both kicked it into high gear, sprinting across the two intersections just ahead of changing lights. We pushed just hard enough that we were able to merely hustle up the hill, rather than taking it at a full run as well. Fortunately, Tammy had gone directly to the station and purchased our ticket, we were able to go directly to the train.
After all the for-story, I must confess that there isn't nearly as much meat in the rest of the tale. We had a decent trip in to Regensburg. With more than an hour "lay-over" in Marktredwitz we were able to walk through the old section of town and take in the shopping mall before continuing on our journey. We arrived in Regensburg around 11:30 with really no idea what we were going to do there. We found a map that we didn't really read correctly, and wandered around for quite some time before finally finding anything of interest.
Our first meeting with beauty took place within a little park. It was quite beautiful, and we enjoyed walking around and enjoying the fall colors therein.
From there we made our way to the Danube River. Apparently, as I just read on another website, Regensburg is the oldest city along the Danube. It really is a gem of a city. We saw the ancient stone bridge there, which is rather reminiscent to the Charles Bridge in Prague. It actually passes over three rivers (one of them might be a canal) and offers really lovely views on both sides.
From there we went on to see the massive St Peter's Cathedral. There were quite a large number of impressive churches in the town, but this one is by far the most incredible. We enjoyed it inside and out, marveling in the crypt that sited the bishops in this place from as early as 617. That's right, not 1617 but 617. Really makes you pause in awe now, doesn't it?
We wandered around, after a quick lunch at McDonalds, and enjoyed a number of beautiful churches, including the Lutheran one in which I lit a candle. I took a copy of a little poem about the candles that are lit there which I can attempt to loosely translate from the German:
Here in the still
I light a candle
And come into peace for a moment
Here in the still
The light of the candle represents my life
in another light.
Here in the still
He speaks, "I am the Light of the world"
and "You are the light of the world."
Here in the still
I light a candle for the people
Who need the Light.
Here in the Still
My candle keeps burning
When I go.
Here is the church as well as another one we looked at.
After all the churches, (and a little shopping in which I got a great new gray knit hat!) we made our way to the palace. Unfortunately it was already closed, but we were able to get some really amazing pictures in the courtyard of one of it's old churches.
So in the end, I did manage to get at least a few lovely fall pictures in :)
After all the wandering we decided to take train that would have gotten us back to Cheb around 7:30. Unfortunately we were delayed and ended up having to kill another couple hours in Marktredwitz. We found a nice little cafe and were just thankful we hadn't taken the later train we'd originally planned on, because if it had been delayed we might have been stuck there all night...
In all it was an interesting day, and I can definitely say that Regensburg is a city worth the visit :)