The city of Regensburg, at the Danube's northernmost point and its confluence with the Regan River, was founded by the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius in AD179. The fortress he built there included an area of 25 hectares with a wall eight metres high and two metres thick.
In 739, the Anglo-Saxon Irish missionary St Boniface made the city a bishopric. Five-hundred years later it became a free imperial city, the capital of Bavaria and an important medieval centre and hub of European commerce.
Emperor Maximilian I stated in 1571 that the city surpassed every German city with its outstanding and vast buildings. The beautifully preserved centre of Regensburg has changed little since then and gives wonderful insight into the size and feel of a prosperous medieval community.
Regensburg is often referred to as Italy's northernmost city. Its grandiose patrician houses with Italian-style towers are set amongst gently rolling hills, reminiscent of the land of its founders.
Mozart was a frequent visitor to the city for its music and wine. The heroic Oskar Schindler made Regensburg his home. More recently, it has been highlighted as the home of Pope Benedict XVI's family.
Pope Benedict was not born in Regensburg, but lived there for quite some time. He was the director of the Domspatzen (Cathedral Sparrows) boys' choir which sings every Sunday at St Peter's Cathedral.
St Peter's is Bavaria's finest Gothic church. Its limestone and green sandstone construction began in 1250 and ended around 1520. Its spires and transept gables were completed in 1869. The superb stained glass windows were made between 1220 and 1370 and to this day are an enormous drawcard. It holds very important 13th-century sculptures, crosses, chalices, vestments and reliquaries.
Acid rain has taken its toll and important restoration works are ongoing. In fact, the entire town is under strict conservation laws. Historically, authentic pigments are used for painting and a stone masonry workshop is kept busy. Medieval techniques have been passed down the generations, but as a safeguard, the Bavarian Government has created a cathedral stonemason school. In summer, visitors can watch the masons plying their trade in the cathedral gardens.
The stone bridge across the Danube was the only crossing for hundreds of years. It was completed in 1146 and praised as the eighth wonder of the world. It was a huge achievement to span the 308 metres of river with 16 arches. Narrow openings between the pillars cause strong eddies which can be dangerous.
Beside the 17th-century salt store is Regensburg's oldest restaurant, Historische Wurstküche
(Historical Sausage Kitchen). It churns out thousands of sausages every day, served between 7am and 7pm, usually with sauerkraut. The owners say there is documentary evidence linking the establishment to the time when the bridge was built.
Unlike many German towns, Regensburg was spared from WWII bombing, which makes it an even more remarkable place. Just being there is like walking through a museum. Original structures oozing history take you back in time.
You could be jolted back to the 21st century with a visit to one of the student haunts. Strand Gut is a riverside pub with 300 tons of imported sand to give a beachside feel. It's loud, busy and fun and they serve a variety of beers and cocktails.