IN REGENSBURG

AN OLD CITY

The small German city of Regensburg occupies land that once marked the farthest extent of Roman territory, where the deep Danube River made its sharp bend to the south.  But the place was important long before that, as a Celtic town called Ratisbona.   The Romans called it Castra Regina and set up an army camp. Building went on for several centuries at the outpost, and the Roman walls of heavy stone are easy to spot today among the modern buildings.
In Carolingian times, in the 8th and 9th centuries, activities centered on a big monastery with its huge church of St. Emmean, still standing.   Building and trade reached their height here from the 10th to the 13th centuries, when the finest homes and businesses faced narrow cobbled streets.  Yes, they also still stand.
The first stone bridge went up in the 13th century.  At that time an enterprising family opened a beer and sausage stand on the city side of the construction project, to feed the workers.  Any afternoon, you can get beer and sausage at the little tavern, said to be the oldest continuously operating eatery in Europe.
So much for the setting.  The seeds for my discovery of this unspoiled gem were planted in 1965, when I was using my fresh degree in zoology to perform menial tasks in a laboratory at the University in Freiburg.
My best friends in Freiburg were Klaus and Karin Grossmann, a couple who’d studied in the US and empathized with anyone living in a foreign country and struggling with the language.  They were just what I needed  — a few years older, fun, energetic and inspiring.  Their 3-year-old girl Carol was a lovely charmer.  Klaus, fascinated by animal and child behavior, had his first real job as a professor that year.
We shared meals of bread and sausage, and good stories.  I thoroughly enjoyed the evenings spent in their simple apartment.  When I returned in August the next year for another visit, Karin lent me a pretty dress to attend a dance at the University.
For decades we had no contact, then in the early 90s, an article in the Atlantic named them as experts on early childhood.   I made a promise to myself that I’d see them again.  Once we had internet service, a simple search was all it took to locate people who regularly publish their research.  The psychology department at the University of Regensburg featured photos of both of them and information about their work.
I don’t usually cry over websites, but I broke down in joyful tears seeing those faces again, both of them looking happy and healthy after so many years.  I’d forgotten how attractive they were.   Immediately, I sent off an e-mail titled “Blast from the Past.”  An answer came from Karin the next day.  Of course they remembered me.  It would be great to meet again.  We set up a date for getting together in their town.  Then I did a little research of my own, to find out about the place they’d settled.
Arriving three days early for our appointment made perfect sense, given the history and architecture of Regensburg and the wonderful villages and valleys in the vicinity.   I checked into a hostel attached to the old monastery and set off exploring.

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