Before going to Passau with Viking River Cruises Blonde knew one thing about Passau; it’s a city somewhere in Germany. Rather surprisingly, she got that right.
But Passau deserves more recognition than merely knowing its country of location.
Passau, like Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania where Blonde grew up, is a city where 3 rivers converge. Pop quiz time!
What are the three rivers that converge in Passau?
- The Danube, Inn and Ilz
- The Allegheny and Monongahela rivers converge to form the Ohio River.
- The Nile, Amazon and Mississippi Rivers
If you guessed #1 you are correct.
If you guessed #2 or #3 then you’re the right intelligence level to read our blog!
Like most cities situated on water, Passau (and Pittsburgh, but I’ll try to stop torturing you with that analogy) became important for shipping and developed a manufacturing base. During the Renaissance Passau’s most sought after products were their blades and swords stamped with the Passau wolf on the city’s coat-of-arms. Superstitious warriors, most likely before they were all stabbed to death, thought the Passau wolf conferred invulnerability on them. Whoops!
The only time our Viking River Cruise group was aware of the Passau Wolf was when we saw it on a gigantic gingerbread mold. As our cruise was in December, Viking took us to a demonstration of gingerbread making at Simon’s Confiserie in Passau.
Simon’s has been owned and run by the same family for over 100 years. The man who gave us the demo was the grandson of the founder. Simon’s gingerbread contains only three ingredients; honey, flour and spices. (OK, maybe there are a couple spices but the main thing is that there are not eggs, milk, butter or a lot of other things you may have been expecting.)
Passau is situated in the Lower Bavaria region of Germany and has the extremely dubious distinction of also having been the home of Adolph Hitler for several years when he was a child. There’s even a story that a priest rescued Hitler from drowning when he fell into one of the frozen rivers. There’s no definitive proof that the child was actually Hitler. But, if he was, it’s a bummer that the priest didn’t let him drown. Another “whoops” in Passau!
Along more pleasant lines, Passau, a city with beautiful Baroque architecture, is home to the green onion-domed St. Steven’s Cathedral. The cathedral, in the Old Town area, was originally built in the Gothic style. However, after being destroyed by a fire in the 1700’s, it was reconstructed using the Baroque style. The interior is breathtaking and has enough frescoes and stucco work to keep a detail-oriented person occupied for a lifetime.
The Cathedral houses a pipe organ that (in carefully phrased language) is said to be the largest Catholic Church organ in the world and the largest, um, organ, in Europe. Wherever it precisely belongs in the record books it’s quite beautiful and musically impressive. It has 17,974 pipes, 233 ringing registers and 5 carillons that can all be played from the same console. (We don’t really know what that means either but it sure sounds impressive!)
Across the Danube River and up a hill (you can cross the bridge and walk the steps up the hill and it isn’t too outrageous) is the Veste Oberhaus fortress. It is now a fortress, castle, museum, youth hostel and a restaurant. (Apparently someone told them to diversify.)
The Veste Oberhaus was built in 1219 and was remodeled by everybody and his kingly brother for several centuries. It was also attacked quite a few times; twice by its own citizens.They weren’t too keen on their bishop who liked to keep prisoners, with religious beliefs that “varied” from his own, in the dungeon. Eventually everyone had had enough drama and the city of Passau was given ownership of the place.
Here are some suggestions for things to do if you are fortunate enough to get to spend some time in Passau:
- Wear walking shoes that can navigate lots of cobblestones.
- Go to a free organ concert at Saint Steven’s. They offer them at noon every day from May through October and weekly in other months.
- If you’re there on a day when they’re having a market in town and you see a pretzel truck, become one of their customers!
- If you’re a morning person (God forbid) get up very early to walk the streets and take pictures. This is a popular river cruise destination and in season can get crowded.
- Walk up the hill to the Veste Oberhaus if you want to see the convergence of the 3 rivers and get some nice views of the city.
- Get some coffee and pastries at Simon’s or one of the other cafes in the city and allow yourself enough time for a proper sit-down to enjoy them.
Peruse Passau persistently.
Do not be passive about Passau.
Avoid annoying alliteration.
FCC Mandated disclosure: My trip to Passau was with Viking River Cruises and they picked up the whole tab. However, this unreliable bit of history and the snide remarks are all mine. For all I know Viking may not even like what I write and have already blacklisted me for future cruises. Are you happy now?