Today we were back at one of my favourite stops on the Grand European itinerary: Passau. Although I admit that Vienna is my favourite city in the world to date, Passau is home to what remains my favourite church in the world, St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
We took the included city walk that took us through the gorgeous old city, and the cathedral, and then had the afternoon to ourselves to explore the Veste Oberhaus, a castle stronghold high above the city on the opposite side of the Danube. Founded in 1219, it was the longtime residence of the Prince-Bishops of Passau.
Our guide started along the Danube waterfront and narrow artists’ alley, and then took us through winding streets to the Inn river on the other side of the peninsula that is old Passau. Along the way, we passed many high water markers, and walked on cobblestone streets that regularly end up under water.
We were last here in July of 2013, just 4 weeks after the second-highest flood waters in recorded history (which goes back to the 12th century here!), and remember how amazed we were that the city had already been returned to normal. The water in 2013 rose to the second storeys of buildings nearest the river, and turned the city’s steeply sloped streets into waterways for a few days.
We were able to go into the staircase hall of the old bishop’s residence and marvel at its rococo embellishments, all of which are original, as is the ceiling fresco.
The fountain in the bishop’s palace square was erected in 1903 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Passau becoming part of Bavaria. The three cherubs (2 shown below) on the fountain represent Passau’s 3 rivers: the Danube, the Inn, and the Ilz.
Of course, my favourite stop was St. Stephen’s.
Despite the extensive renovations going on inside the church which obscured many of the beautiful angels that I remembered so well, the church still made me gasp in awe as we entered.
The pipe organ, which when it was installed was the world’s largest, was still visible, but the organist is on vacation in November in preparation for the busy Christmas music season, so we did not get a noon hour concert as we’d had on our previous visit.
Since we’d never been up to the castle/fortress, that was our afternoon goal. We climbed the 200-plus terraced stone stairs and then hiked the half-kilometre hillside path to the restaurant at the east end of the fortress.
After delicious draft beers (from an Augustine brewery established in 1325) and excellent currywurst and pommes (fresh crispy fries), we bought our €5 tickets and explored the Veste Oberhaus (Festung/fortress upper house).
The fortress has been turned into a really interesting museum, focussed mainly on the middle ages, dealing with lifestyle, religion, weaponry, art, and architecture.
From the western overlook of the Veste we had a view of the confluence of the 3 rivers that meet in Passau: the blue Danube, greenish Inn, and almost black Ils. If you look closely, you can see the three colours at the point at which they flow into each other.
As the sun started to set, which happens around 5 p.m. here in November, Ted got some beautiful photos of Passau and our docked ship.
Since this is our last stop in Germany (tomorrow we’re in Austria), Chef Olaf prepared an absolute feast of German food for us: 2 kinds of sausage, crispy pork knuckles, fried chicken, pan-fried fish, bread dumplings, red cabbage, sauerkraut, spätzle, and salads. Our tables were bedecked in red and white checked tablecoths and had cheeses, cured meats, pickles and bread pretzels waiting as our “appetizers”. Our bar and wait staff delivering beer and schnapps were also decked out in red and white checked shirts, with our program director and hotel manager in very fetching lederhosen. Our head of housekeeping sported a lovely green dirndl.
After all that food and drink, there was still dessert: Kaiserschmarren with warm plum and vanilla sauces, pflaumenkuchen (plum cake), cheese crepes/blintzes, gingerbread, chocolate cake, cherry cake, and more.
We’re not leaving Germany hungry!
Passau was my favorite stop on our 2017 GE trip for the amazing cathedral and glorious pipe organ concert! Glad you got to hear it in your 2013 trip.
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I dont think anyone leaves Germany hungry…lol
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