May 15, 2014
|Thursday May 15 -- Passau
We had a late breakfast and chatted with Chip and Sharon from Pennsylvania. Even after breakfast around 9:45 we had not yet docked in Passau -- the last city on the German section of the Danube before the Austrian border. We were told that our Viking ship could well be rafted with one or two others at the dockside. Sure enough we were number three in the raft and had to walk across two other decks to get to the dockside.
We disembarked the Idi around 10:30 and had the usual walking tour of the city. Our guide Andrea was born in Passau and was delightful. She wore a traditional Bavarian dress (a dirndl)and looked really pretty.
Passau was an important medieval centre for the salt trade and in the renaissance era became known for its high-quality knife and sword blades. These blades were stamped with the Passau wolf logo. Fires destroyed the city in the 17th century, and many of the present day Baroque churches and patrician houses date from this period. On our tour, we walked through the old town centre and along the Inn River before visiting the Prince-Bishop's residence (with the fresco ceiling) and finished at St. Stephen's Cathedral. The Cathedral was largely rebuilt in1688 after the fire and is extremely ornate inside. It also boasts the largest pipe organ outside of the USA, but it is the largest in the world built into a Cathedral. The organ was built in 1928 and is actually 5 different organs, each with its own sound, that can be played separately or together.
At noon, we entered the Cathedral and sat for a half hour organ concert. The organist was a woman, Brigitte Fruth, and she played 6 different pieces. The Cathedral was packed. Evidently, many people from all over Germany come to hear the Passau organ. The recital was brilliant and quite moving, and the music filled the Cathedral. It was, at times, so loud that it almost hurt the ear drums!
We returned to the ship for lunch and afterwards took a short bus ride up to the Veste Oberhaus (a castle overlooking the entire town from the opposite side of the Danube River). The castle was built in1219 by the Passau Prince-Bishop to control commerce across the rivers. Three rivers converge at Passau: the Danube, the Inn and the Ilz. We went up to the Veste Oberhaus mainly for the views that the castle would provide us from its high lookouts.
Later back on the ship we relaxed before dinner.
We will be heading for the gym or doing more exercise when we arrive home. Even though we walk a lot during the day, we have been enjoying good meals three times a day and probably put in a few excess calories more than we burn off during our walks! Did we mention that wine and beer are free with lunch and dinner.
At 9:00, we attended a presentation on Vienna Coffee Houses (more on this later when in Vienna). It was another full day, cloudy, sunny at times and a few spots of rain. We take an umbrella from the ship with us every day.