Passau was one of those cities that, frankly, I’d never heard of before packing my bags for this cruise. I’m not saying that that is due to Passau not being quite a nice city—it’s more the fault of my (typical?) lack of detailed awareness of other countries than my own. But really, if someone from Germany were plopped down on the edge of Columbus, Ohio, I’m thinking they might be similarly city-challenged.
But I digress.
Passau is a nice little city and we spent a nice little morning and afternoon here. And we had a nice little time.
Our guide, a student in Passau (evidently 20% of the town are students at the local university) shared the town’s history (confluence of three notable rivers, great location for trade) as well as a more personal history (living through the exceedingly high floods of Passau in June 2013).
I’m pretty sure, after speaking with guides in cities from Amsterdam to Passau, that every community has some claim to fame; a little tender bit of knowledge that your guide tosses your way for you to gobble up so you will always remember at least that element of that city (or, I suppose, you could memory tag cities by the beer garden you enjoyed and the type of yeasty brew you had there, but there are so many of those, too, for most tourists…).
In Passau, I’ll remember the momentous floods, the organ concert in the city’s cathedral and the lovely view from the fortress overlooking the town.
Passau is still rebuilding from the floods. Our walking tour passed construction workers painting, plastering and bringing the lower part of the city (which is truly almost all of Passau) back into shape after the destruction of the flood. Our guide pointed out the highest river level from the flood as it is marked on a building near the river promenade. Yep, that was definitely a lot of water.
We tramped through the town’s very narrow streets (the narrowest of any I’ve seen in the past 10 days), eventually reaching the cathedral in the square at the top of the narrow peninsula which forms Passau (rivers on both sides of this city; I guess you’re not surprised that it gets flooded, are you?). His explanation of the difference between gothic, baroque and romanesque architecture will definitely stick with those of us who had him for a tour guide.
He bid us adieu at the cathedral and our program director, Caspar, spotted all of us Atla passengers (how could you miss us, really?) and gave each of us a ticket to the organ concert to be held in the cathedral at noon. Mom and I opted to head in to get our seats on a wooden pew right then, even though the concert was 35 minutes away.
Good move. The cathedral, though huge, filled up as the noon hour approached. We sat quietly, studying the gold accents, the paintings and (for me at least), the people who streamed in the tall doors to listen to the concert. It was a doozy, indeed. While the “set list” for the 30-minute concert didn’t seem terribly well-integrated, the variety of songs did demonstrate the monster organ’s capabilities. Tinkling bells, seemingly tumbling down to our pews from high up in heaven’s crystal air blended with bellowing, deep tones that I felt right through my Naturalizer shoes and into my toes.
I really enjoyed watching the faces of listeners. Many tucked their chins into their chests and appeared to doze, others looked upward, eyes fixed on the tall ceiling, seeing something I did not but which certainly looked as if it delighted them. I heard from others, later, that some thought the concert was twice as long as it “needed” to be, but that wasn’t my opinion. After days of absorbing ideas, facts and feelings about different cities, it was wonderful for me to just sit and open my ears to nothing involving words. The music left me relaxed as well as refreshed—and in awe that mere man can create such a sound and a way to deliver it throughout the entire sandstone cathedral.
After a lunch on the plaza, I popped into a bakery and bought a single serving of apple strudel. I posed Mom’s hands so I could take my now-requisite photo of an edible treat in front of an old European building. This treat was a disappointment; too much apple, not enough crust and seasoning. I’m not thinking I’ll return there to buy another 😉
Walking back to the Atla, we met up with two shipmates, Gary and Marla. They were headed up to the Oberhaus fortress which clambered up the hill above the river into a mass of stone towers and walls. We joined them, climbing into the local bus that offers one-way or round-trip rides up the steep hill (1,70 euro each way). We figured we’d walk back down; I needed to do something to work off that apple strudel.
The view from the top—and the treats at the cafe perched alongside the old stone buildings—was lovely. The Bavarian town unfolded below us, punctuated on all sides by a dark green carpet of trees and bisected by the mighty Danube.