|Viking River Longship "Tor" and the Bishop's Lair overlooking Passau, Bavaria|
I am now ashamed to admit, I knew something about every place on the list except for Passau. I read of its status as a University town, of its physical position at the confluence of no less than three rivers: The Danube, of course, but also the Inn and the Ilz. Nothing really prepared me for this classically beautiful Bavarian town.
|In Passau, the buildings are color-coded by 'occupation'.|
The pink building means a Patisserie is there,
the green, an apothecary, the yellow a food market.
The three rivers have not always been kind to Passau. Flooding has been an age-old problem: the most recent, and one of the most devastating, occurred just three years ago in 2013. Then the waters rose to extraordinary heights as seen in the high water mark visible on this medieval tower next to the Inn river. But if there’s a silver lining for all us lookie-loos, it is that the German government quickly stepped in with the help needed to bring the town back to life. The whole place looks freshly painted. A comparison to how Superstorm Sandy has been handled is hard not to make. But then, this is Germany and Jersey is Jersey.
|Frau Bachmeier is holding the |
obligatory sign so that we can
locate her if we stray
away from the group
Frau Bachmeier and her fellow guides all appeared in traditional dress, bright, shiny smiles on their faces. But the most wonderful thing about the very pretty Frau was that this is her town (I thank my new friend, David Jackson, for sharing his great picture of her, below.) She was born here, went to the local convent for school, saw her father’s ground level store destroyed in several of the local floods, married here and stayed here.
|The Monastery in question is|
on the hill in the background
behind Frau Bachmeier
|The Bishop retreated to this Palace |
above town where he proceeded
to lob cannon balls from his perch.
Passau is home to yet another spectacular Cathedral and yet another one dedicated to St. Stephen the Martyr. Quite coincidentally, my own Episcopal parish in New York is Christ and St. Stephen’s so for me, this has been a kind of spiritual homecoming. This St. Stephen’s, unlike my beautiful little parish church, is the largest Baroque Cathedral north of Rome itself. And, in an odd bit of irony, it contains the largest pipe organ outside the United States. My Christ and St. Stephen’s proudly replaced our venerable instrument with a spectacular new one just a few years ago. In case you were wondering, the largest pipe organ in the world is the one at the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City, UT.
Included in the tour was thirty minute pipe organ concert held in the vast sanctuary. Sadly, out of the five components that make up the massive instrument, three were not functioning and so we had to make do with a somewhat muted version of what the organ sounds like. The poor organist was effusive in her apologies. But it only gave me a reason to go back to Passau in the future!
If there is any downside to beautiful Passau, it is that the town is a huge tourist draw. Three Longships were tied up here as well as several competitor’s vessels. Despite the best efforts of the guides to vary their routes, the tour groups kept running into each other in the narrow streets. I can scarcely imagine what a tourist deluge must descend on the town during the summer season if what I saw the first week of June is any indication.