Germany // The Alps and eastern Bavaria //

The Befreiungshalle and Donaudurchbruch

Southwest of Regensburg at KELHEIM, on a romantic bluff high above the river, the Befreiungshalle (Liberation Hall) was Ludwig’s monument to the wars of liberation against Napoleon and to the idea of German unity. It was begun in 1842 by Friedrich von Gärtner but completed after Gärtner’s death by Leo von Klenze. From the outside, the drum-shaped building looks a little like a Neoclassical gasometer fashioned from painted stucco; the spectacular interior is ringed by 34 winged goddesses of victory with the names of Austrian, Prussian and Bavarian generals picked out in gold above them. A narrow staircase ascends to an internal gallery from which you can better admire the sheer spaciousness of the hall; beyond it, a stone staircase leads to an exterior gallery, well worth the climb for the views over Kelheim and the lovely Donaudurchbruch, a narrow, cliff-rimmed stretch of the Danube to the west of the town that is one of the region’s most beloved excursions.

Kloster Weltenburg

The Donaudurchbruch ends at Kloster Weltenburg, wedged scenically between the river and cliffs. The baroque abbey church is the work of the Asam brothers, but Weltenburg is altogether more famous for its brewery, which claims to be the world’s oldest abbey brewery and produces the excellent Barock Dunkel beer. You can sample it at the Klosterschänke in the main courtyard. The most popular way to reach Weltenburg is on a boat trip from Kelheim, but hiking trails through the gorge allow a more leisured appreciation of the exceptional landscape, which forms the Weltenburger Enge nature reserve. The closest route to the gorge follows the north bank; there’s a simple ferry across the river to the abbey at Weltenburg itself.