“I thought there’d be booze. Shouldn’t there be booze?
“It’s not the real Valhalla, mother. I mean, we didn’t even have to cross the Bifröst or anything.”
“Climbing this monster of a hill doesn’t count?”
“Is there a manager I can talk to?”
“Regarding what? The unconscionable lack of feasting and mead and general mayhem, or that hauling ourselves up here doesn’t warrant the former?”
“I think I could manage a little mayhem,” elder Valkyrie interjects mildly. Kind soul, she can’t bear to see mother moping.
“You two go on wreaking and havocing. I’m going to check out this view!”
“Oh, alright then. I didn’t bring my horse and shield anyways.”
Not the real one, as established above, but still a pretty neat little place high above the Danube River, just a hop and a skip from ancient Regensburg. A neo-classical hall of fame for Germans and sort-of-Germans, built between 1830 and 1842 because king Ludwig, First of His Name (no, not the guy with the Disney castles), thought it would be more fun than getting involved in another stupid war to reap glory. Can’t fault the old boy there.
The place is accessible by boat or road – you can book a little roundtrip cruise right in downtown Regensburg, and enjoy floating down the mighty river while the white marble framed by lush shades of green grows larger and larger in your view … until you realize a lot of this marble represents stairs. Mother Valkyrie and her Shieldmaidens learned a lot of interesting new German epithets that day.
Slightly less harrowing, though requiring the skill to navigate roads where two donkeys can scarcely pass (and a good GPS system!), is the approach from the rear. Skirting the beautiful town of Donaustauf and its medieval charm, one gets lost once or twice and eventually enters a dense forest. There one climbs a winding, narrow road until a friendly German in an orange vest appears out of nowhere and directs one to a fine spot in the shade of a giant oak. How those buses ever manage it up there in one piece remains a mystery.
At least the gravel parking lot is halfway up the hill, and any climbing that remains to be done is over shady forest paths. Unpaved paths, as a vexed fellow tourist in heels had to find out.
The view alone is worth the hike, as youngest Valkyrie so succinctly pointed out. Off to the west there was Regensburg basking in the spring sunlight, the towers of the famous cathedral barely visible in the distance. Villages scattered between fields south of the river, and dense forest to the east. A few sailboats were trying to catch a breeze on the big blue ribbon cutting through all that green.
Having strolled around the premises and looked their fill, the Valkyries decided to enter through the hallowed gates.
“Definitely no carousing and throwing of axes.”
“I think that’s why they have beer gardens. For the carousing at least.”
“Is that a not so subtle hint, mother?”
“I wish. Driving and Bavarian beer do not mix so well. Oh look, Mozart!”
There are Germans, quasi Germans, nabbed Germans, and people who happened to speak something similar to German. Warriors and poets and scientists (of this, the Valkyries heartily approved!), men and women. Plaques commemorate people whose likeness is long forgotten, busts line the walls for the younger additions. Sophie Scholl has a place of honor all by herself, representing all the resistance fighters against the Nazi regime. She’s in fine company, her marble eyes surveying heroes such as Kepler, Heine, and Einstein, next to movers and shakers of history like Catherine of Russia, Martin Luther, and old Arminius the original superhero with a shaggy cape, havoc wreaker against the Romans and rabble-rouser of Teutoburg.
For all the marble weight of history it’s a lovely place. Bright and airy, with intricate details for the visitor to discover. If the Valkyries felt that some fine spirits and rousing songs to commemorate the fallen wouldn’t go amiss, it wasn’t because the great hall was lacking splendor.
- What kind of a dream is it,’ said Óðinn,
- in which just before daybreak,
- I thought I cleared Valhǫll,
- for coming of slain men?
- I waked the Einherjar,
- bade Valkyries rise up,
- to strew the bench,
- and scour the beakers,
- wine to carry,
- as for a king’s coming,
- here to me I expect
- heroes’ coming from the world,
- certain great ones,
- so glad is my heart.
“Take me to the beer garden or lose me forever!”
“Look, I know I forgot the water bottles. No need to keep rubbing it in!”
“Really? Of all the movies to quote from, you pick that one?”
“I blame the heat. What’s the legal beer-ing age in Germany again?”
“Now who’s doing the rubbing?”
Perhaps some people manage peaceful walks. Quiet, serene strolls, listening to bird song and smelling the flowers. I wouldn’t know, because all we ever manage is to be entertainment. Sure, we smell the flowers- we even call out to each other and show off a particularly pretty or exotic find. From above, it would likely look like three cats joined by an elastic band. Traveling in a general direction, but each following her own trajectory, occasionally converging in a pile, then moving off again. All accompanied by a good deal of meows and playfighting.
Somehow we made it back to the car, and down the hill. We had spied a charming beer garden on the way up, but had not counted on the German automobilist’s bane – nowhere to park, unless you want to back up traffic all the way to Stuttgart. The beer garden’s tiny parking lot was crowded with cars nearly sharing paint at this point (yes, Germans have been spotted exiting their vehicles through sunroofs if it meant securing a good parking spot). If not for youngest Valkyrie’s eagle eyes spotting a narrow gap near the church that left a whole two inches for us to exit on either side, we might still be circling (say what you will, this country teaches you how to drive).
Positively parched by now, we crossed the distance like lionesses with a juicy zebra in sight. And were rewarded by a pint-sized but utterly delightful beer garden. The premises, we learned, had been a poor house and hospital once, lovingly renovated and converted into a restaurant and cafe.
As it was early in the afternoon, they served only “Brotzeit“, the Bavarian equivalent of snacks, though that hardly does the savory dishes justice. Brotzeit is designed to complement the center of the Bavarian Universe – the beer – and it does so magnificently. While only elder Valkyrie indulged in a Weizen (mother and youngest stuck their heads into a bucket of water instead), we all sampled some traditional cuisine and emerged ready for new adventures…