Kelheim to Welterburg Monastery: The Danube Gorge, Bavaria
Boats in the Gorge
Flying the company flag, the city flag of Stadt Kelheim, and the blue and white Bavarian state flag, a tourist boat cruises up the scenic Danube Gorge.
When I think of Bavaria, I think of buxom blond women in dirndls (traditional white blouses, laced bodices, full skirts and aprons), and moustached men in lederhosen (leather breeches). I think of medieval castles, charming villages, and beer in copious steins.
But, it is also home to expanses of dark forests that stretch from high up in the Bavarian Alps down to the fertile plains of the legendary Danube.
We were traveling on one of those wonderful, luxurious, floating hotel-rooms: a “Romantic Danube Cruise” from Nuremberg (see: Altered Views of History) to Budapest, and were docked in Regensburg, in the middle of Bavaria.
It was fitting, then, that after a morning of exploring the UNESCO-listed centre of Regensburg, one of Europe’s best-preserved medieval cities (see: Bavarian History and Charm), we set off on an optional afternoon trip to Kelheim, at the southernmost point of the Main-Danube Canal, for a visit to a typical Bavarian beer-garden, before cruising up the magnificent Danube Gorge, through cliffs and forests, to the medieval Weltenburg Abbey.
Children in the Playground
In Kelheim, a little town the banks of the Danube, everyday life continues.
One of the first things that struck me on my first trip to Germany many years ago, was the quirky nature of the public art. This surreal tower of faces on the verge of a Kelheim street was in that vein.
Mariä Himmelfahrt Church
The Assumption of Our Lady Church is one of the elegantly simple buildings on Kelheim’s town square.
A religious diorama is inset into the painted walls of the Mariä Himmelfahrt Church.
The town streets are clean and orderly. The Altmühltor (old mill gate) at the bottom of the road marks part of the old city walls.
Ludwig I (1173-1231)
A statue of Ludwig Kelheim, who was responsible for many of the town’s monuments, stands in Lugwigsplatz.
Stained Glass Window
It is quite lovely inside the Brauhaus, but as it is a beautiful sunny day, we are seated outside.
Inside the Brauhaus
The beer is poured into glass beer-mugs …
… to be delivered to the beer garden …
… where it is enjoyed with fresh pretzels…
… and more beer.
I love the old, elaborate, wood-burning room-heaters that you see all over Europe.
We walk back out into the town, where it is time to make our way to the Danube…
Man in a Bavarian Felt Hat
… where we wait with local tourists …
Die Befreiungshalle from the Danube
… to board one of the many cruise boats that ferry passengers up and down the Danube River. The round structure at the top of the hill is the Befreiungshalle (Liberty Hall), built between 1842 and 1863 by Ludwig I of Bavaria to commemorate the victory over Napoleon in the War for Liberation (1813-15).
The imposing Befreiungshalle tower, sitting high on Mount Michelsberg, affords visitors views over Kelheim and the Danube River.
Villages and churches are tucked between the chalk cliffs of the Gorge and the slow-moving river.
We are not the only boat travelling between Kelheim and the Weltenburg Abbey.
People in the Gorge
Dwarfed by the cliffs – which rise as much as 122 metres (400 feet) around them – people use the gorge area for recreation.
Abbey in the Gorge
As we round a bend in the river, the Weltenburg Abbey church, built between 1716 and 1739 on a peninsula in the “Weltenburg Narrows”, comes into view.
Weltenburg Abbey Church
A monastery was established on this site by Irish or Scottish or of St. Columbanus in about 620, although the Baroque buildings around the perimeter are much more recent. As I said earlier, the monks have been brewing beer here since 1050, and today there are nine regular Weltenburger Beer varieties, plus seasonal specialties.
St George : Weltenburg Abbey
The ornately baroque abbey church is dedicated to Saint George, patron saint of the monastery. The lofty columns are carved from local Weltenburg marble.
Admission into the church is with a guided group. The guides are well versed in the church’s art and history.
St George and the Dragon
At the front of the church is a full size marble and gold depiction of St. George killing the dragon and saving the king’s daughter.
The church’s west niche contains an ornately decorated organ built in 1728 by Konrad Brandenstein, believed to be the only one of its kind surviving.
In a cupola flooded with light, an oval painting in elaborate baroque style draws the eyes from the dark church and up to the heavens.
“Quis ut Deus?”
The Archangel Michael is one of the gilded stucco relief illustrations encircling the cupola.
Chatting with a Monk
Only a few Benedictine monks still live at the abbey today.
Leaving Weltenburg Abbey
The tour group makes its way back to the buses that will take them back to the boats on the canal.
Beautiful scenery, fascinating architecture, and world-class beer ~
it’s an enjoyable area to visit and one I’d love to go back to.