Tuesday, 10 July 2012


A bus and a brace of trains take me to Regensburg station. With only one embarrassing moment. One that took me back to the happy days of communism.

I change trains in Nürnberg. The gap between them leaves a window of opportunity to open. An opportunity to get to a kisk and stock up with the liquids that make train travel so much fun: beer and impulse schnaps. As the train pulls out, I pop the crown cork of the first bottle and sploosh! Beer shoots everywhere, but mostly on me. As I'm wearing shorts and short sleeves, quite literally on me. My clothes get off lightly.

Paper towels from the bog get everything dried off. But there's still that stale beer smell. The one ventilators pushed from the pubs I walked past as a kid. It's not the most appetising smell. The student girls sitting over the way agree. They sniffily move to new seats as I finally get to drink rather than just bathe in my beer. They lob me the "you sad, pathetic, old, drunken bastard" look as they depart.

The eau de old pub scent still hangs to me when I hit Regensburg and search for my hotel. But hang on a minute. I promised a happy recollection from the fun days of socialism.

In 1985 I went to Czechoslovakia for a Czech language summer school. I flew into Prague, then took a train to Brno, where the course was held. I didn't have much time at the station. And much of that was spent tracking down where I could buy a mistenka (a seat reservation, obligatory on long-distance trains). I'd had no time to stock up on essential train travel supplies such as beer and, er, more beer. There was a kiosk on the platform from which my train was due to leave. Frustratingly, it came with a long queue. And I'd only 7 or 8 minutes before my train left.

I spent the next few minutes cursing the slow bastards in front of me and nervously watching the hands tick around on my watch. I hit the head of the queue with fewer than two minutes to go. Just enough time to grab four bottles of beer and dash for the train door. Seconds after I leapt on, it chugged off. Sweaty but relieved and happy, I headed off in search of my seat.

Then it happened.

Not sure why to this day. One of by bottles of beer exploded. Beer went everywhere. But mostly all over me. There were big wet stains on the parts of my trousers you don't want big wet stains on.

I couldn't give a toss. Who cared if it looked like I'd pissed myself and I stank like an alcoholic. Just being in Czechoslovakia with three bottles of beer to drink transported me to ecstasy. I'm easily pleased.

I'd tell you all about booking into my Regensburg hotel but it's a really dull story. So dull I'd fall asleep writing it, I fear.

I have only one thought on my mind. Other than how can I get cool. Go to Spitalgarten. The riverside situation might help with the cooling, too.

Regensburg is a beautiful town, I think as a stumble and sweat through it's ancient alleyways. I'm heading for the river. And the Steinbrücke that will take me to Spital. "I can see why they call it the blue Danube" I think to myself as I look at the swirling brown mass of the river, whirling and waltzing like a deranged funfair ride. I wouldn't want to drop in that.

Unsurprisingly, given the stifling heat, Spitalgarten is busy. But not so busy that I can't find a seat at the garden's fence, not far from the cooling tug of the river. Soon a busty dirndled waitress bustles up. The motherly type of German waitress. Always order vegetables from such waitresses. Unless you want scolding. (A waitress in Leipzig told me to stop reading a book once. Not sure what she had against books. But she didn't look like someone you'd want to argue with. I put down my slim volume Mallermé and stared blankly into space until the dumplings arrived.)

What beer to order? It's so difficult to decide. I know - a Dunkles. Despite the extortionate price: 3.30 euros. It's quietly malty, in the unassuming way of many a Bavarian Dunkles. Whilst knocking the edges off my thirst it also knocks a few degrees of my temperature. It's still bloody hot, even in the shade.

Taking a snap of my beer, I realise that I'm recreating the cover of "Decoction!". It's a strange feeling. I must be sitting in almost the exact spot I did four or five years ago.

The Fleischpflanzerl I get to soak up the Dunkles is amazingly good. Like homemade. It's the best meal I've had so far. Proper German oma food. As good as the meatballs Dolores makes.

Soon it will be time to head for the city's other highlight, Kneitinger. But for now I'm going to enjoy the shade and perhaps indulge in another Dunkles. Kneitinger isn't going to run away.

Gaststätte Spitalgarten
St. Katarinenplatz 1,
93059 Regensburg.
Tel: 0941 - 847 74
Fax: 0941 - 890 3168

1 comment:

Tandleman said...

Haven't been to Regensburg for years. Appropriately it pissed down.