The town of Passau is located on the tip of a peninsula which is bordered by 3 rivers - the Inn, the Danube and the Ilz. It was originally a Celtic settlement and later a Roman one. It became an important center for the salt trade. It is where Adolph Hitler spent his youth. It is located in the Bavaria region of south eastern Germany. During the morning we attended a delightful lecture and German lesson delivered by Svenja our Cruise Manager and the woman who was so helpful when we lost our luggage. All of the small crew are very versatile often doing a variety of tasks. We have even seen the captain carrying garbage bags from the ship up to the dumpsters that they stop at from time to time.
Passau is a very old village and like many others was burnt and rebuilt several times during its history. Most recently it was rebuilt in the baroque style in the 1700s. Many Italians were brought in to help with the rebuilding and so there is a lot of evidence of Italian architecture and sculpture. It is very beautiful with narrow streets and ornate buildings.
Passau boasts a vibrant shopping district and like so many of these small towns the central business area is all cobblestone streets which are reserved for pedestrians and service vehicles. We saw some very high end stores and lovely stylish clothing.
Dave in front of Shopping Area
One of the highlights of our walking tour was a stop at St. Stephen’s Cathedral where we were able to attend a half hour concert of the massive pipe organ. It was amazing to hear in the wonderful acoustics of the huge cathedral. The organ is actually composed of 5 organs which are now electronically connected so the organist has a 5 tier keyboard to use.
Pipe Organ in the Cathedral
Interior of Cathedral
After the concert we walked back to the ship for lunch before returning to explore Passau a bit more on foot. Our group of eight has now really come together now and we are sitting together for dinner each night now. After dinner we all went up to the main lounge for a fun team trivia game. We retired earlier than last night because we have an early morning tomorrow in Regensburg.
Our itinerary for Regensburg changed from the planned one because there was a triathlon in the area today and they were using the space between 2 of the locks to do the swimming section. This meant that a section of the river would be closed to boat traffic for several hours during the swim. The movement of commercial traffic on the river system is very strictly controlled so closing a section of the river requires significant adjustments. This meant that as soon as we disembarked, the ship was taking off to get past the swim area prior to the shut down of the river. While the ship was making its way past the swim area we would be exploring the town. The plan then called for us to be picked up by busses and dropped off at a preset new rezendevous point. We had an early breakfast and departed the ship for our walking tour at 8:30. Our guide for this tour was truly exceptional and brought the town’s history to life for us.
Old Regensburg on the Danube
Regensburg Cathedral and 1000 year old bridge
Regensburg is the northernmost city on the Danube and has the oldest stone bridge across the Danube – over 1000 years old and still very serviceable. The history is fascinating. The Celts were there before the Romans but there seems to be little evidence of them. The Romans were there at the peak of their power but did not build the bridge. They did stop at the Danube so this river formed the eastern border of their empire. They have found bits and pieces of evidence of the Roman fortifications but most were cannibalized over the centuries as people used the stone in subsequent buildings.
Dave in front of the bridge.
The Italians were very influential in the building of Regensburg and it is known for its many Italian-style tower residences.
One of the major status symbols of the early era was having the wealth to build a small tower attached to the end of your residence. For the very wealthy these towers could extend up five or six stories. Frequently the two or even three levels of these towers were completely empty and not used for anything but bragging rights. Stone was very expensive so if the owner of a tower owed money to someone, that person would require payment in terms of stone. That stone had to be removed from the tower and given as payment. It was therefore evident to everyone how wealthy a person was and if his wealth was growing or diminishing.
This is a picture of the Regensburg town square. Note all the flowers in the window boxes in all the buildings. The balcony in the building was the place where the Emperor would stand when he visited.
This is Oskar Schindler’s house.
This is the exterior of the cathedral
And the beautiful altar with the stained glass behind it.
As mentioned earlier, while we were on our tour of Regensburg, our ship left and continued its way up the river. Once our walking tour was over we boarded a bus to meet the ship in the small town of Kelheim. Well, our three bus drivers found Kelheim but they could not find the location of the ship. We had a hilarious drive through the tiny streets of Kelheim while the guides were madly calling for directions. The drivers were amazing at maneuvering the huge busses down one way alleys and doing turn arounds in impossible places. Interestingly the rear wheels on these busses also turn to some degree to help the busses turn even sharper. They finally found the ship an hour late to encounter a captain who was more than a little displeased. Half of our group had elected to have a longer village tour and were due to meet us even further up river at another meeting point. We set off quickly to reach that destination. When we arrived we found that the second bus was also late – but this time due to a passenger who "got lost" shopping. It was a bad day for our poor captain.
At Kelheim we entered the Main-Danube canal – a 166 km waterway joining the 2 rivers and 16 locks which was only completed in 1992. For the first 66 km we continued to travel upstream – against the current since the Danube flows from west to east. In the locks we continued to go up for these first 66 km. Once we reached the top of the Danube watershed the water changed direction and for the next 100 km of the canal we were travelling down stream and went down in the locks. As you can imagine, this canal was quite an engineering feat and an even greater political feat. It wasn’t until powerful pumps were invented that the canal could be designed and built. Previous attempts dating from the time of Charlemagne failed because of the problematic water levels.
Next stop: Nurenmberg