Dateline: Passau, Germany and Northern Austria
I woke up this morning to find the boat tied up quayside in the lovely little university town of Passau, just over the border from Austria, located where the Danube meets two major tributaries, the Inn and the Ilz. As it was 7 AM and we weren’t due to arrive in town until after 9 AM, we obviously made good time last night, A lot of other river boats made good time too as we were tied up three abreast at the docks. We weren’t going to be in town very long so I decided to skip the formal guided tour and set out exploring on my own.
The main part of the town is basically built on a sandbar between the Danube and Inn rivers. The Romans, who originally settled the area, had wisely not placed their city their due to the propensity to flood, but later, during the Holy Roman Empire, they had better flood control systems and people moved off the high ground and onto the river plain. There was a flourishing medieval town for hundreds of years that grew quite rich from the river trading routes. The local pooh-bah, an archbishop I believe, decided that the gothic architecture of the middle ages was far too old fashioned for someone of his wealth and stature. A mysterious fire then happened in the mid 1600s leveling pretty much everything and when it came time to rebuild, they went for baroque. The central city on its spit of land is a jewelbox of baroque architectural styles, all painted various candy pastels and culminating the cathedral whose baroque lines and rococo interior must be seen to be believed.
It didn’t take me more than a few hours to explore town (it’s not very big). I happened upon a large used book store which occupied me for a while. I bought a couple of prints. I can read a little German so I perused, picking out words here and there and bought two books about the structure, politics, and art of the German Kabarett (which will be useful for a couple of upcoing projects. I’ll have to get Diane McNaron to do some translating.
At noon, the cathedral had an organ concert showing off their enormous organ system (actually five interlocked organs playable from a single console , nearly 18,000 pipes and ranks in the nave, both transepts and the ceiling. When everything is going at once, it’s very much surround sound. The concert started with Tocotta and Fugue in D minor by Bach (of course) and included a few other pieces as well. Then it was back to the ship for yet another sausage lunch and then one more last walk before weighing anchor and heading into Austria.
The little towns along the river all look like shots from the title sequence to the Sound of Music as we continue to glide by and run through the occasional lock, down stream this time. Our entertainment tonight was a piano/violin/cello trio playing three centuries of Austrian music. They weren’t very good (and I wasn’t about to tell them that Edelweiss is about as Austrian as Chevrolet). I’d had a third cocktail so someone convinced me to sing with the lounge pianist (a very nice Australian lady named Margie). I think I made it through Night and Day.
And so to bed. First Austrian stop in the morning. No story tonight. Too tired.