St. Steven's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

We decided to miss the walking tour of Engelhartszell and Engelhartzell Abbey for a couple reasons. First, the weather was cold and rainy. Second, there would be a bus trip to Passau and a one hour wait before the ship would arrive. We decided to stay aboard and do some reading and wash a load of clothes. The River Princess was scheduled to leave at 11 a.m. However, rising water meant that if the ship waited it might not be able to go under a bridge in Passau. Our early departure allowed us to pass under the bridge without incident. Passau, a town in lower Bavaria, Germany, is known as the “City of Three Rivers.” The Inn from the south and the Ilz from the north conjoin with the Danube. As a result of its location at the confluence of these three rivers, the city often floods. We learned that last June the old town suffered from severe flooding, the worst in 500 years. The fortress “Veste Oberhaus” was built in 1219 by Passau’s Prince-Bishop in order to control commerce across the rivers. In the 19th century during the Napoleonic Wars the castle was one of the strongholds against the Austrians. Passau’s magnificent St. Stephen’s Cathedral is located at the old town’s highest point. The cathedral was rebuilt in the baroque style after it was destroyed by fire in 1662. We were told that its organ has 17,974 organ pipes and 233 stops including four carillons. Only four locals are capable of playing this massive instrument that has five separate parts that can be played from the main console. Sculpture above the altar completed after World War II raised controversy because of its depiction of Jews. Interestingly, our guide failed to mention that Adolf Hitler lived here for a time while growing up and that three concentration camps were located in the region. The New Bishop’s residence, a palace built in the early 18th century, showed the splendor of the capitol of the largest diocese of the Holy Roman Empire. The rococo stairways and the fresco “The Gods of Olymp worshiping the eternal town of Passau” were captivating. Our guide pointed out how to look for circular holes instead of windows on the top floors of buildings which indicate a false floor. Such a floor was constructed in order to meet early building code requirements. Likewise the fortress has some paintings that look like windows in order to avoid taxes based on the number of windows. We did not see the local university, founded in the late 1970s, which has about 11,000 students in this city of 50,000. Passau’s history goes back to the Romans. Surprisingly, there was no mention of its importance in the making of swords. Today, Passau’s location on the Danube brings many visitors. Thus, we found many high end retail stores as well as those catering to curios. After dinner we were entertained with local musician Andreas Spranger playing rock-and-roll oldies mixed in with a few sing-alongs. By the end of the night most couples were dancing. Today’s rain didn’t dampen our riverboat experience.