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Dear Noa Noa…you might not know the effect you’ve had on me; to you it was probably just a chance encounter we had those many years ago, just one more customer shuffling through your goods on a Saturday night in 2004.  But to me, it was love at first sight.  For six years I have yearned to return to your racks, to brush through your silks and cottons, and buy something truly luxurious to wrap myself in on those cold winter nights in the States when I can’t reach you, no way, no how.

My yearning took me to Regensburg today after work – I had no idea you were so close, so very close to me!  I had to find my way to you, through the crooked streets of the best-preserved Medieval city in all of Germany, and I was almost there…almost…and then like a slap in the face, suddenly there you were.  Closed.  Closed at 1900!  Silly American, I forgot to check your hours.  Oh, the sweet agony.  So close, and yet so far.  You broke my heart, Noa Noa.  But I’ll be back.


Heart-broken but only a bit, I decided to poke around the old town of Regensburg anyway.  I was not disappointed!  This is the real deal, folks.  The kind of ancient Bavarian city that Disney loves to turn into backdrops for its fairy tales.  Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, perhaps?  Regensburg might be the oldest settlement I’ve ever visited, and the history is palpable.  First a Celtic settlement in 500 B.C. called Radespona, the Romans took it over in the 1st century A.D. and renamed it Castra Regina; its position at the northernmost point of the Danube River made it a powerful stronghold for Marcus Aurelius during his Roman reign.  After falling to a German family in the 5th century, it served as the capital of Bavaria for about 700 years.  So basically, it’s kind of a big deal of a city, and beautiful to boot.

I wandered past the Dom (in the slideshow with spiky spires), walked out onto a bridge over the Danube (sunset shots – I probably missed a really spectacular sunset by about 30 minutes), dashed in and out of narrow, crooked streets that take you this way and that.  Everywhere there is beautiful, unique architecture spanning 2000 years of time, and the city blends old and new very gracefully.

Tomorrow is the Ironman Regensburg, so pre-race festivities were underway throughout the old town, especially in the Haidplatz where tents were set up and fancy racing bicycles were everywhere.  It was startling to see this ancient and regal spot outfitted like a flea market for buzzed, buffed triathletes.

Surprisingly, I felt a bit intimidated about eating in a restaurant tonight; every place posted a menu solely in German, and I didn’t trust my language skills to order me something that wouldn’t mess with my system.  Finally, though, hunger took over and I stopped in at the Regensburger Weissbrauhaus, established in 1620.  That would be the year the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, folks.  Just for a bit of perspective.  Haltingly I asked for a table for one, and the waitress had trouble hiding her horror at my massacred German but she kindly seated me outside and enquired, “English menu?”  Um…ja, bitte.  There were a fair number of choices, but in the end I made the predictable choice: the würstlplatte, with 3 kinds of sausage, sauerkraut, potato salad and a pickle.  Sad to forego the no doubt fine and gluten-y brews of the Weissbrauhaus, I washed down my dinner with another Schweppes Bitter Lemon drink instead.

For some reason this meal got me thinking about local food, and suddenly I could see the history of agriculture in Bavaria: thousands of years of farming the land for what it would grow, which I’m guessing would be cabbage, potatoes, pickling cucumbers, and pork.  I have a tremendous respect for Michael Pollan (author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other books) but I do think he’s a bit short-sighted and, well, spoiled when he talks about the importance of eating a wide variety of vegetables.  Many peoples across the planet lived healthy, robust lives for millennia eating what their locale could support – for some there was plentiful vegetation, for others it was scant and seasonal.  That said, I had a big ass salad earlier in the day, so I’m not saying I would want to live on cabbage and potatoes alone.  But I could, especially when it comes to the way the Germans prepare it.  The Irish too, for that matter.  Mmmm, Colcannon…wait, that will surely be in another post.  Check back in two months for Colcannon.

On the way back to my car I noticed many storefronts advertising the traditional Bavarian dress, presumably getting an early start on the Oktoberfest shopping.  I was told today that if I go to Oktoberfest (and I am going) that I really need to buy a dirndl and do it up right.  Totally!!

This weekend: Stuttgart, with old friends and new friends.